After the Buzzer: Opening Night RecapsPosted by zhayes9 on November 10th, 2009
Welcome back to RTC’s THIRD season covering college basketball with one of our old standbys, the nightly After the Buzzer feature. If you’re new here, the purpose of these nightly updates is to go a little deeper than game recaps. We’ll talk about the key games and storylines of each night of the regular season so that you can join the watercooler crew with some knowledge to throw around the next morning. Tonight we got the season underway with four opening round subregional games in the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. None of the four favorites were every seriously threatened, but there were quite a few good storylines tonight.
Isiah’s debut. #4 North Carolina 88, Florida International 72. For a team picked last in their Sun Belt division and has just eight scholarship players on its roster, Isiah Thomas had his Florida International Golden Panthers putting up a respectable fight against the top-five Tar Heels in his much-anticipated coaching debut. The bright spots for the powder blues in the first post-Tyler Hansbrough era contest: Deon Thompson appears to be in for a fine year in the post, totaling 20 points and 10 boards on 7/11 FG while frontcourt mate Ed Davis used a slew of putbacks and easy buckets to complete his own double-double: 13/11/4 blks on 5/8 FG. The other big question mark heading into the season was whether Larry Drew could provide steady point guard play for UNC, and the sophomore put in a solid performance with 6/2 A:TO in 21 minutes, including a Lawson-esque coast-to-coast layup in the first half and a few pretty dishes to Thompson and John Henson for jams. The bad news: Even with the incredible turnover and rustiness of a season opener, Roy Williams cannot be pleased with a 26-turnover performance from his team against a Sun Belt foe (the most in any game coached by Williams at UNC), especially backup point guard Dexter Strickland’s five turnovers in 11 minutes. Also worth noting is Williams opting to go with a more experienced starting five with Thompson, Drew, Davis, Marcus Ginyard and William Graves getting the nod and Henson, Strickland, Tyler Zeller, Leslie McDonald and the Wear twins coming off the pine. This group is absurdly deep up front and, due to the high-impact departures, shouldn’t be expected to look like a world-beater in early November. They don’t.
Boeheim gets win #800. #25 Syracuse 75, Albany 43. Coming off their embarrassing defeat in an exhibition contest at the hands of D2 Le Moyne, Syracuse needed to come out in their first actual game of the 2009-10 season and make a statement. Their 2-3 zone defense confused the Albany Great Danes all night and was the primary factor in garnering a 75-43 victory for Jim Boeheim’s 800th win, putting him on an esteemed list with only two other active coaches — Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun. Syracuse’s defense and superb athleticism forced Albany into 32 turnovers and only 27% shooting in a primarily ugly game that lacked much flow. Syracuse shot just 2/17 from outside themselves including a clunker from three-point specialist Andy Rautins (0/6, 0/4 3pt) who left the game midway through the 2nd half with a sprained ankle (3am update: doesn’t sound too serious, but he was wearing a walking boot after the game). The good: Scoop Jardine coupled a productive preseason into another stellar performance at the point tonight, totaling 12 points and 4 assists on 5/7 shooting with just one turnover while his main competition, Brandon Triche, had some moments but mainly struggled with six turnovers. Syracuse looks extremely athletic with Wes Johnson (who features a sick one-handed posterization on an unsuspecting Great Dane) around the perimeter and Rick Jackson swatting shots down low.
Evan Turner triple-doubles his fun. #17 Ohio State 100, Alcorn State 60. Can you name the only Ohio State play ever to record a triple-double in their illustrious basketball history? The correct answer: Dennis Hopson. Time to add Evan Turner’s name to the short list as the Ohio State do-it-all guard/forward looked in midseason form nearly recording a triple-double in the first half before completing the task — 14/17/10 — on a Jon Diebler three with just over six minutes left. The Buckeyes slaughtered the sacrificial Alcorn State Braves (ranked 342/343 in RPI last year), hitting 42% of their threes — including 6/9 from the junior Diebler — shooting 53% overall and putting up a cool 100 in their season debut. Sophomore William Buford also impressively shot 8/14 from the floor, 3/7 from deep and totaled 19/3/3 in what could be a breakout campaign, while on the point guard front Jeremie Simmons (12 pts on 5/8) outplayed his competition in P.J. Hill (0/5, 0/4 from three, goose egg in 19 minutes). The story, though, was Turner. I mentioned he could put up a few triple-doubles when discussing Turner in our RTC Impact Series and voting him First Team All-America in our preseason ballot, but nobody thought it would happen this soon. Thad Matta has a special player in Columbus.
Sluggish Cal outlasts Murray State. California 75, Murray State 70. Our first RTC Live of the young season visited Berkeley tonight, and other than an 11-0 run from Cal in the early second half, the teams mostly played even. As we stated on the liveblog, it didn’t appear to the naked eye that Cal was much bigger on the interior than the scrappy Murray State Racers, which is often the key factor of separation at this level. Jerome Randle struggled against the defense of the bigger, stronger DJ Jenkins, but he still managed to go for 18/4 on 4-12 FG (0-1 from 3). His backcourt mate Patrick Christopher was quietly effective, notching 13 pts on 5-10 shooting (2-5 from 3), but neither player seemed ready to take over the game at any point. Head coach Mike Montgomery attributed this to a learning process for the duo, who have spent the entire offseason hearing how great they are and who are now squarely in the sights of opposing defensive schemes. Murray State acquitted itself well tonight, especially after losing control of the game in the mid-second half, finding the mettle to come back and push Cal all the way until the closing buzzer. Ivan Aska (17 pts), Jenkins (16/6/4 assts) and Danero Thomas (12 pts) led the way for the Racers, who in no way were intimidated by their Pac-10 foes. A few things jumped out at us as trouble spots for a senior-laden team such as Cal: 1) MSU shot 50% from the field on Cal’s home floor, which means the defense (a Monty staple) really needs to improve; 2) Cal was outrebounded 30-29, which again shows their interior problems; and 3) the Bears have almost no quality depth beyond Jorge Gutierrez on the perimeter (7/3/3 assts) and Omondi Amoke inside (3/3). If this team has serious aspirations beyond the weakened Pac-10 title this year, they’re going to need to address all three of these issues.
RTC Live Update: we’ll be back at Berkeley on Wednesday night for Cal’s second round game against Detroit.