ATB: Blake Griffin Wasn’t Using Those Anyway*Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2008
Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Challenge. We’d hoped to have gotten a preview up on these games this afternoon, but we were epically busy today, so it didn’t happen. Nevertheless, we probably would have chosen UCLA, USC and Oklahoma St. But we have to say that the two marquee games tonight were considerably more interesting than the premier games of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge the last two nights (Duke v. Purdue and UNC v. Michigan St.). We had the good fortune to watch both of these game in their entirety.
- Oklahoma 73, USC 72. As soon as you’re prepared to completely right off Tim Floyd and his Trojans, they have a game like this where it makes you reconsider every lackadaisical stereotype that you held about his team. Of course, the stereotype for punkish behavior – yep, still got that one. We’re sure you’ve already seen it, but in case you haven’t, USC freshman goon forward Leonard Washington introduced himself to all-world Blake Griffin with a rogue elbow to the family jewels as they ran upcourt in the second half (see below). He was ejected for the manuever, but Griffin was forced to leave the game for a while, whereupon USC immediately started cutting into the 6-8 pt lead. The game remained tight until the very end, when OU made just enough FTs to hang on. USC competed well in the hostile environment, though, shooting 50% from the field and 8-11 from three; Dwight Lewis had 25 and Taj Gibson chipped in a double-double (12/10). Most importantly, even though Griffin still had 25 pts, OU kept him off the boards to the tune of 6 total (13 below his average) and only 1 offensive, so limiting those second-chances helped keep the Trojans in the game.
- Texas 68, UCLA 64. When these two teams get together, you can count on physical defense, high-flying athletes, and (usually) a bricklayer’s convention. That was pretty much the case tonight, as the two teams combined for 50-122 (40.9%) from the field and 16-29 (55.2%) from the line. Still, the duel between all-american guards Darren Collison and AJ Abrams was well worth the price of admission. Early in the game it appeared that Collison was going to shoot 70% for the remainder of the season, as everything he threw up was hitting the bottom of the net. But it was Abrans who had the last laugh again this year, as his huge three with just under three minutes remaining gave Texas a more comfortable six-point lead and forced UCLA to begin rushing possessions. Damion James added 13/13 for Texas, but UCLA is going to have to get more help for its upperclassmen from their uber-hyped freshmen (1-12) tonight. Their rookie quintet will ultimately determine the success of their season.
- Washington 83, Oklahoma St. 65. UW is difficult to figure this year. They’ve looked downright awful at times, and like a tournament team others. Tonight was the latter, as Jon Brockman dropped 16/11 in the home win. What has happened to OSU’s James Anderson? Big things were expected for this sophomore guard, but in his last four games he’s put up only 11ppg on 14-44 shooting.
This is Why We Don’t Trust UConn. Connecticut 68, Buffalo 64. As Hasheem Thabeet put it, his guards couldn’t hit anything, and he was essentially correct. UConn’s starting backcourt of Jerome Dyson, AJ Price and Craig Austrie were a combined 9-29 from the field tonight while the frontcourt was keeping the Huskies in the game (15-23). There’s just something about this team that we don’t like. We can’t place our finger on it yet, but we simply cannot buy into the idea that a group of players with a collective zero NCAA wins is supposed to somehow figure it all out and take on North Carolina and whoever else next April for the national title. Nope, it just doesn’t feel right. In this game, Thabeet was the difference-maker; his 21/18/4 blks enabled the way-too-close-for-comfort victory. How close – well, if a better decision had been made here, we might have been talking about the Upset of the Year right now.
Others Scores of Interest to Nobody of Consequence.
- Arizona St. 81, Jackson St. 60. We guess ASU thought Jackson St. was a Big 12 team? James Harden had 22/8.
- St. Mary’s 75, Kent St. 69. This was a necessary mid-major road win for SMC if the Gaels are serious about an at-large bid next March. Patty Mills had 26 and Diamon Simpson contributed 15 boards.
- Butler 50, Cleveland St. 48. This game is another reason we wish we had the U. This was actually a key conference matchup for the Horizon League. Check the video below for the insane finish.
On Tap Friday (all times EST). Really only one game of national interest, from the Hardwood Series.
- Texas A&M v. Arizona (ESPNU) – 9:30pm