Oh no! We didn’t just see that!
(h/t to our buddy N-Bug for the link)
Game of the Day. #8 Texas 63, #2 UCLA 61. One thing lost amidst last year’s undoubtedly deserving Kevin Durant hype at Texas was that Rick Barnes brought in five other talented freshmen in the class of 2006 who accounted for nearly half of UT’s points and rebounds in their 25-10 campaign. Everyone already knows about the head point guard capabilities of DJ Augustin, but players such as Damion James and Justin Mason have been largely overlooked. No longer. Tonight the Horns, led by those three sophs + juniors Connor Atchley and AJ Abrams, went into Pauley Pavilion and earned a far more impressive win than the Durant-led Horns had all of last season. Midway through the first half, UCLA went through yet another of those confounding Howland-era droughts, going almost nine minutes without a field goal, and in the process allowed Texas to take a commanding lead during a 17-0 run. Augustin (19/4) in particular shredded the vaunted UCLA defense, repeatedly showing his Steve Nash-tutelage in the form of stepback jumpers and blow-by abilities. The expected UCLA run came in the second half, as Mbah a Moute (14/7) and Shipp (11/7/4 assts) led the charge. UCLA took back the lead at the 12-minute mark, and had a three-point lead as late as 1:15 remaining. Then the unexpected occurred, as Connor Atchley made a clutch three to tie the game with 1:00 left, and UCLA missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on its next possession. After forcing DJ Augustin into a horrible leaning airball from the right side, Kevin Love & Co. didn’t block out, allowing Damion James (19/10) to rise over the top for a strong throwdown and a 2-pt Texas lead with 0:09 on the clock. UCLA ran it upcourt and got a great look for Mbah a Moute from three, but it was off the mark and Texas secured a tremendous early-season win against the #1 team in the ESPN/USA Today Poll, breaking UCLA’s 25-game homecourt winning streak. We don’t have the database to check this, but we gotta figure this is one of the only times in Texas basketball history the Horns have beaten a #1 team on the road. More importantly, this win announced to the college basketball world that a Texas without Kevin Durant will be dealt with this season. Right now, no other team has two quality wins as impressive as their neutral court dismantling of Tennessee and this road win at UCLA. As for the Bruins, the key stat Howland should be worried about is rebounding (+2 Texas) – considering the size and prowess of Love, Mata-Real, Mbah a Moute in the paint, they simply got outworked tonight on the boards, and it came back to bite them hard on the putback by James that won the game.
More Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. Arizona 78, #9 Texas A&M 67. With seven minutes to go in the first half, TAMU was already up twenty on Arizona and we were making plans to go get our Xmas tree. Arizona was once again showing absolutely no signs of life, letting yet another team brazenly come onto their court and push them around. That’s when UA freshman Jerryd Bayless (26/3/6 assts) decided to step up and make his presence known, sparking a late first-half run and leading the way in the second half for Arizona to get back and ultimately win the game. Will this game act as a turning point for Arizona? #4 Kansas 59, #25 USC 55. We admit that our expectations for this game were pretty low. Even though the game was at the Galen Center, we thought KU was way too disciplined, experienced and talanted to let USC’s young freshmen take this game. We were wrong in the sense that USC was able to hang with the Jayhawks the entire way. But we were right in that
Kansas Mario Chalmers made the plays it needed to win the game. Chalmers’ 26-footer with 24 seconds left to essentially salt the game away was one of those shots where you initially think “he must have panicked” until it falls through the bottom of the net (which it did, dead center). Still, USC didn’t even play very well and was right there at the end – OJ Mayo was 6-21 from the field, Taj Gibson pulled another disappearing act (2 pts and fouled out again), but only Davon Jefferson (17/3) had a good game. We’re still not sure whether that tells us more about Kansas or USC long-term, though. Stanford 67, Colorado 43. Um, so much for Stanford having trouble with another road game, as someone in this space implied yesterday. Nebraska 62, Arizona St. 47. We obviously didn’t watch this game, but an eight-minute scoring drought by ASU that finished them off sounds an awful lot like Herb Sendek to us.
Big 12/Pac-10 Final Thoughts. The final tally was 6-5 in this matchup, with road teams winning five of the games. What did we learn? Probably not much, but looking at this slate beforehand we probably would have predicted the Pac-10 to win a couple more of these games, which may suggest that the league is a tad overrated from where pundits were projecting. Obviously, the bottom-dwellers of Oregon St. and Arizona St. are terrible teams. Washington and Cal are probably NIT-worthy. That leaves USC, Arizona, Stanford as NCAA first-weekend teams, with Oregon, Wazzu and UCLA as the likely second-weekend teams. In the Big 12, we see more talent at the top level with Texas, Texas A&M and Kansas. K-State, Baylor, Missouri and the Oklahomas will sort themselves out as NCAA/NIT-worthy, while Colorado, Texas Tech, Iowa St. and Nebraska look to be pretty bad teams this year.
On Tap Today (all times EST). Probably a night better spent doing something else, like, we dunno, talking to your wife/girlfriend.
The clock struck December today, which meant that the last day of the college football regular season coincided nicely with the first big Saturday of college hoops. Although today’s menu looked better than the actual meal tasted, there were still quite a few interesting results today.
Game of the Day. #18 Gonzaga 85, Connecticut 82. We got to see this one, and it was a very fun game to watch. Neither team had much of a lead throughout the second half, but you have to hand it to the Zags for playing two very tough road games against quality teams 3000 miles away and coming away with two wins in the process. We really feel that once Gonzaga gets Josh Heytvelt back healthy this could be their best team in the Mark Few era. The key difference is that Jeremy Pargo (23/4/5 assts) gives them a degree of athleticism and skill at the guard position that they simply haven’t had in past years – usually they had players with one or the other, but rarely both (we’re giving him a pass for that stupid-ass foul on a three that nearly cost them the game). Then you throw in the versatile games that Heytvelt, Matt Bouldin, Austin Daye and David Pendergraft gives them, and you have a tough team to stop. Traditionally, the Zags’ problem has been on the defensive end, but at least so far this season, they’re getting the job done in that area (#13 in defensive efficiency nationally and held UConn to 38% shooting). As for today’s game, Gonzaga made just enough plays down the stretch to get the victory, but we were struck for the first time in two years with UConn’s fight. AJ Price had a nice game (22/3/6 assts), but does anyone else feel that Hasheem Thabeet (6/5/3 blks in 23 foul-plagued minutes) is the most overhyped player in America?
Other Good Games. #6 Duke 79, Davidson 73. ESPNU game, so we didn’t get to see it, but it looked like it went just as expected. Close game until Stephen Curry (20/5) got called for a questionable charging foul in each half, at which point Duke rebuilt its cushion to double digits each time. Davidson once again showed that it can hang with the nation’s elite, but simply has not been able to break through and win one of these things. We expect they’ll get the upcoming game against NC State. Still, give Duke their due – a balanced attack led by Gerald Henderson’s 21/8/4 assts resulted in another quality neutral court win. #3 UNC 86, Kentucky 77. Sticking in the ACC, remember when UNC-Kentucky was a big early-season game? There were several years in a row where CBS began its college hoops coverage for the year with this game – now it’s being shown on ESPN2 of all places. We watched this game too, but it was mostly boring because you knew that UK never really had a chance to win the game, even at home. Carolina didn’t shoot particularly well (43%) or look particularly good, but we could quickly tell that UK didn’t have enough good players to win this game. Two things we noticed – Danny Green (20/6 on 8-11 shooting) is really coming on for the Heels, and Patrick Patterson (19/9) is the real deal for UK. Oh, and we’re already sick of watching Psycho T’s incredibly awkward post game. Providence 98, Boston College 89 (OT). With 14:40 remaining in the second half, Providence was leading BC 62-38. Over the next thirteen minutes, BC outscored Providence 37-8 (incl. a 17-0 run) to take a five-pt lead with just over a minute remaining. Unbelievably, PC’s Weyinmi Efejuku (21/9/4 assts) (yeah, you try saying it) hit two key threes in the last minute to send the game they’d totally blown into overtime. In the extra session, the Friars went on a 13-2 run to finally put the wild game away. Our whipping boy Tyrese Rice had 25/3/6 assts/4 stls for BC, but he did miss the game-winning shot with 5 seconds remaining in regulation.
Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. California 86, Missouri 72. This was a very solid home win for Cal to remain unbeaten, as these were the types of games they typically lost in past years. Down for much of the game, the Bears fought back to finally take a lead with eight minutes remaining in the game on the strength of guards Patrick Christopher (18/4) and Ryan Anderson (15/11) as well as big man Devon Hardin (16/12). Cal is definitely a team with NBA talent to keep an eye on this year. Oklahoma St. 96, Washington 71. Speaking of keeping an eye on someone, we just cannot figure out Washington. A relatively tight game broke open to a 20-pt deficit for UW late in the first half, and they never challenged after that. Jon Brockman (22/13) appears to be the only Husky who showed up, but where’s the defense (UW gave up 58% shooting to OSU). For the Pokes, freshman James Anderson continued his under-the-radar early season stellar play with 22 pts. The Pac-10 now leads the HS 4-2 by our count.
Upset of the Day. Harvard 62, Michigan 51. Poetic justice, anyone? God knows there’s no Tommy Amaker fans around here, but we had to laugh at the fortuitous scheduling that allowed Harvard to play a home game against Amaker’s old employer in the year immediately following his dismissal. Michigan isn’t very good, obviously, but they should never be getting whipped by Harvard down the stretch like they did tonight (Harvard scored the last 11 pts of the game). Good for Amaker – that’s a great signature win for his first year in Cambridge. Good to see the Harvard kids RTC there.
Other Ranked Teams.
Other Notable Scores.
On Tap Today(all times EST). More Big 12/Pac-10 action and little else.
Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. Two games tonight, and the Big 12 finally got one. #7 Washington St. 67, Baylor 64. We had a sneaky feeling that this would end up being a tremendous game, and we were spot on with that call. Baylor’s home crowd inspired the Bears to a 12-pt halftime lead, but Wazzu hung in there and used Derrick Low’s heroics to finally catch up and take the lead for good in the last three minutes. Despite an overall rough game for him, Low (9/3) hit two threes in a row late in the second half to give WSU the lead for good. Robbie Cowgill picked it up for him with 18/5. Scott Drew’s Baylor squad is definitely a team to watch out for in the Big 12 this year. Iowa St. 71, Oregon St. 64. Explain to us how this game was chosen for ESPN FC, while the game involving a top ten team was relegated to ESPNU. Right. Anyway, these two teams pretty much suck, and the only reason we tuned it in the first place was to catch a glimpse of OSU’s CJ Giles before we remembered that he’s not eligible yet.
Other Ranked Teams.
Other Scores of Note.
On Tap Saturday (all times EST). Huge day of hoops as December arrives right on time.