ATB: Weekend Cheers & JeersPosted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2009
The sports world may have told us that this was a college football weekend, but we know better, right?
That Kentucky vs. UNC is Meaningful Again. Now that John Calipari is at Kentucky and his Cats are ranked in the Top 10 with a legitimate shot at postseason glory for the first time in a long while, it’s good to have this game on the early-season schedule. UK rode a masterful 28-2 run to build an early 19-point lead behind John Wall’s 16/5/7 assts even though he spent much of the game cramping up, and the record crowd of 24k+ at Rupp Arena loved it… until UNC got their young legs settled in the second half, and a late 12-1 run got the Heels within one bucket with 0:33 remaining. Eric Bledsoe and John Wall made five pressure-filled FTs to close it out 68-66 and UK moved to 8-0 on the season while UNC fell to 7-2. One thing was clear, though — both of these teams are going to get a lot better before March – can we set a rematch in Indy on Semifinal Saturday four months from now?
Oregon State. For putting an end to the discussion that was already gurgling (ahem) about the Pac-10 getting swept in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. The Beavers defeated Colorado 74-69 on Friday night to give the Pac-10 its first win in the Series, and through the weekend games, only Cal’s dominant home victory over Iowa State was the other. The Big 12 now leads 8-2 in the matchup, and with two games remaining at Pac-10 venues, we’re still not coinvinced that the league will get another win (Oklahoma State @ Stanford & Texas A&M @ Washington).
Reggie Jackson. It didn’t count, but lordy… Jackson damn near brough the entire world down with this ridiculous dunk (below) at the end of the BC-Miami (FL) game on Sunday. Still, Jackson dropped 18/9 in a conference opener for both teams that showed both of these teams will be heard from in the ACC this season. BC dominated the glass 43-19, but it was Jackson’s FTs (not a dunk) with three seconds remaining that gave BC the home win to go to 1-0 in league play.
Dunk to Win. How about a dunk that did count? On Saturday afternoon, Ole Miss’ Eniel Polynice broke free for a throwdown right before the buzzer that ended up being the winning margin, 81-79, over Southern Miss. This was the capper on a wild game that saw the 7-1 Rebels come back from six pts down in the final minute to take the lead and win the game on that dunk. We’ve yet to find online video of this play but it’s really impressive, so if someone finds it a link to the dunk only, please let us know. Chris Warren added 20/6 assts for Ole Miss, while Gary Flowers contributed 20/8 for Southern Miss. Afterwards, USM coach Larry Eustachy found time to throw Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury under the bus for not playing his team. Good times.
Gravity. If you haven’t heard by now, Ohio State superstar Evan Turner took a nasty spill after attempting a dunk in the first few minutes of the Buckeyes’ 111-60 mauling of Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon. He landed on the small of his back and broke two vertebrae which will shelve the early-season leading candidate for NPOY for at least eight weeks. Ohio State will undoubtedly have trouble recovering from his loss during that time. For a more detailed description and video of the fall, see our report from Saturday.
A 22-point Half. You probably missed this on Friday night, but we didn’t. Pitt and New Hampshire tried their best to set the game back fifty years with a wretched offensive performance during a 15-7 first half. You read that right. 15-7. The 22 combined points was the lowest for a half in the shot-clock era, which began in 1985. It may as well have been 1955, though, as Pitt won 47-32 with the two teams combining for 31% shooting and Pitt in particular getting almost all of its points from two players — 23 from Ashton Gibbs and 19 from Brad Wanamaker. In fact, the entire Pitt front line contributed a total of three points. We’re not sure what exactly caused this, guys, but let’s please not let this happen again, ok?
She Looks Different With the Lights On. Nouveaux-riche WCC powers Portland and San Diego are learning what it’s like to be Gonzaga after all these years. Just one week after one of the most successful weekends in both schools’ basketball history, the giant red target that was placed squarely on their backs is weighing down both teams. On Sunday, both teams took blowout losses at the hands of schools that were clearly fired up to get a shot at a team playing with the big boys into their arena. Portland, the media RTC darling of a week ago, lost its second straight game to a middie after finishing as the runner-up to West Virginia in the 76 Classic. Idaho ran out to a 16-pt first-half lead and never looked back, holding Portland to 32% shooting and 6-22 from deep. Things have been even worse for San Diego since returning as the runner-up in the Great Alaska Shootout. The Toreros have dropped three straight games, including Friday night’s loss to UC Riverside and a 37-pt (19% FG) stinker on Sunday at Fresno State (note: Brandon Johnson did miss the game for disciplinary reasons, but SD was still down 38 pts in this one at one time – ugh). It was Idaho’s first win over a ranked team in 27 years and Fresno’s first win in five tries. Both of these WCC teams are going to need to right the ship in home games this week (Denver and New Mexico, respectively) or be considered irrelevant by Christmas after such good starts.
- Wake Forest 77, #16 Gonzaga 75. Wake used a thuggish play by Gonzaga’s Elias Harris in the first half to get themselves back into the game and force the smaller Zags to defend their imposing size (instead of vice versa) in the second half. Harris struck his forearm into Chas McFarland’s neck with just over two minutes remaining in the first half and Gonzaga with a nine-pt lead, and was given a flagrant and immediately ejected (Harris’ interesting take: “I don’t know what happened.’) from the game. Wake then turned that mistake into a seven-pt trip and was able to regain the lead heading into halftime with all the momentum. In the second half, the Deacs built a sixteen-point lead behind two freshman — CJ Harris (19/4) and Ari Stewart (17/3) — even though star Al-Farouq Aminu was struggling (9/5 on 4-11 FG while in foul trouble). Gonzaga came back thanks to Matt Bouldin’s 22/4/5 assts, but it wasn’t enough as Wake hang on for the fourth all-time victory at the Kennel by an opponent. This came one week after Wake lost at home to William & Mary, but the Deacs are an interesting team if their freshmen continue to play at a high level.
- Charlotte 87, #18 Louisville 65. Charlotte thoroughly dominated the injury-depleted Cardinals in their house on Saturday, running out to a 15-pt halftime lead and never seriously being threatened by the home team in the second half. Louisville’s backcourt depth of Peyton Siva, Preston Knowles and Jerry Smith were all on the bench with injuries, but that doesn’t explain why Edgar Sosa and Reginald Delk combined for 4-15 from the field for a total of 11 points and gave up ten threes on the defensive end. Or why the UL frontcourt was dominated (-11) on the boards. This was Rick Pitino’s worst home loss while at Louisville, and we’re convinced that there are fundamental issues with his team this season that will not be solved even with every player healthy. Charlotte, who lost by 42 to Duke earlier this season, got 21/14 from Chris Braswell and 20 pts (including four treys) from Derrio Green in the convincing victory.
- NC State 77, Marquette 73. This is as surprising a win as we had all weekend, with as well as Marquette has played so far this season. The Pack forced tough shooting nights out of Lazar Hayward (6-16) and Jimmy Butler (6-14), however, and were able to shred the MU defense for 54% shooting in a landmark road win for Sidney Lowe’s program. There haven’t been many of these over his tenure. In fact, only two in the last two years (at New Orleand; at Georgia Tech).
- Troy 81, Auburn 77. Auburn lost to Troy 81-77 at home on Friday night by allowing the Trojans to shoot 54% and rain thirteen threes (seven from Brandon Hazzard) on the Tigers’ heads. Can Jeff Lebo survive this season? Should he? Is this an upset?
More Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.
- #1 Kansas 73, UCLA 61. UCLA definitely showed signs of coming out of its tailspin, especially with freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt coming off the bench to provide energy (3/6), if not much else. Still, Kansas was never truly threatened despite a poor offensive game from Cole Aldrich (7 pts on 1-6 FG). Markieff Morris picked up the slack, coming off the bench for a career-high 19 pts and 6 boards in the win. One thing we’re getting tired of hearing is excuses for UCLA’s troubles this year in terms of NBA personnel losses. It’s absolutely true that the Bruins have lost players, but the bottom line is that if the Ben Howland’s sophomore class of HS all-americans was as good as people expected, UCLA would be in the top 10 right now. They aren’t, and UCLA is struggling. Period.
- Missouri 106, Oregon 69. For the people out there who actually thought Oregon might compete in a down Pac-10 this year, here’s exhibit A as to why not. They quit when they’re down. Missouri used two huge runs totaling 32-1 in the first half to dominate the turnover-prone Ducks, and this one wasn’t ever a contest. Interestingly, TaJuan Porter came off the bench and only played six minutes (scoring zero points). Missouri was scorching hot, hitting 58% for the game and raining fourteen threes over the course of the game.
- Kansas State 86, Washington State. 69. Same story, different venue, as K-State ran all over Wazzu from the opening tip, building a 20-pt first-half lead and forcing their star Klay Thompson (22/6 and NINE turnovers) into a 5-15 shooting night. KSU nailed ten threes compared to Wazzu’s one, and Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen each had 21 in another easy win for the Big 12. This K-State team is good, folks.
- Oklahoma 79, Arizona 62. Oklahoma jumped all over visiting Arizona from the opening tip and Willie Warren played like the all-american we all think he is, dropping 25/4 assts on 10-14 FG in this one on Sunday. Arizona lost its third straight as Sean Miller will try to right the ship this week against Louisiana Tech and San Diego State.
RTC Live. Our correspondents caught games on both coasts and the midsection this weekend.
- Xavier 77, Kent State 61. Back from a disappointing trip to the Old Spice Classic, Xavier looked happy to be back in the friendly and familiar confines of the Cintas Center Friday evening as they survived an early challenge from Kent State but pulled away in the second half to win, 77-61. The Golden Flashes got up by as much as 12 deep into the first half, keeping Xavier under wraps by switching defenses frequently and relying primarily on a 3-2 zone that appeared to confuse the Musketeers, but Xavier head coach Chris Mack dispelled that notion, saying afterward that “the first ten minutes of the game were a direct result of our guys trying to over-share the basketball. But that’s good. That means they’re listening to their coaches and they trust us.” In the midst of KSU’s changing defenses, Mack called guard Terrell Holloway “a calming influence for our team.” Holloway contributed 13/5/2 steals to the Xavier cause and center Jason Love had a double-double with 10/10, but the star tonight was Jordan , whose 21 points came on 8-13 shooting from the floor, including 5-7 from three-point range. KSU was still within a point six minutes into the second half, but a 9-0 Musketeer run put this one away. Xavier will need all the calming influences they can get over the next couple of weeks, given the rest of their brutal non-conference schedule. But don’t we always see this from Xavier? They hover on the fringes of the rankings early, then overachieve at the end of the season and surprise everyone. This is a win Xavier had to have…because they were “supposed” to win. But if they keep winning the ones they’re supposed to win, and they learn from this tough early schedule…you never know. Most of the basketball talk in Cincinnati these days is about the Bearcats. Might want to keep an eye on this “other” Cincinnati school, too.
- California 82, Iowa State 63. In a game where the home team didn’t appear to have the best players on the court, Cal used a second-half run fueled by hustle and grit to put away the Cyclones. Patrick Christopher (20/11) broke out of his slump, while Jorge Gutierrez contributed with an efficient 12/4/3 assts, but it was the play of Omondi Amoke that really got Mike Montgomery’s attention in the postgame media interviews. Monty said that the team got a little bit of their “swagger” back in this one, and it was apparent that the Bears were really concentrating on a Montgomery staple, rebounding, as Cal outboarded the bigger Cyclones to the tune of +19. Iowa State got 21/6 from its star Craig Brackins and 17/10 from Marquis Gilstrap, but only nine FGs from the rest of the team, as the Bear defense took away all other options. This was only the Pac-10′s second win in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series over the weekend.
- St. Mary’s 68, Utah State 63. St. Mary’s broke Utah State’s 37 game home winning streak as senior Omar Samhan used his 22 points and 17 rebounds to power the Gaels (6-1) past the Aggies (4-3) 68-63 in Logan, Utah, . Samhan’s partner in the frontcourt, Ben Allen, consistently got open at the top of the key and was able to hit four deep threes and ended the game with a stat stuffling line of 14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and a block. Nobody was bigger for the Gaels then freshman reserve forward Clint Steindl. One of head coach Randy Bennett’s many Australian recruits went 3-4 from behind the arc including what turned out to be the game winner, breaking the 63-all tie with 36 seconds left on the clock in front 10,000+ screaming Utah State fans. Pooh Williams lead the Aggies with 15 points and had the ball in his hands following Steindl’s clutch three but was whistled for a charge that was questionable at that point in the game. St. Mary’s became the first non-conference team to win a regular season game at Utah State since BYU in January of 2001.
- Villanova 95, Maryland 86. Villanova burned up the nets in a spectacular display of three-point shooting by Scottie Reynolds (25/5/8 assts) and Corey Stokes (18/3/3 assts) where the Wildcats lit up the Terps for eleven first-half threes. They finished with sixteen on the evening, but it was really Nova’s overlooked inside play on the boards that consistently held the Terps off of making a big enough run to get back into the game. Villanova was +12 on the glass overall, but even more importantly, +13 on the offensive boards, meaning numerous additional possessions and three attempts. As for Maryland, the enigma known as Greivis Vasquez must be pressing too hard this year because he turned in another weak performance — 12/3/7 assts on 3-9 FG and 7 turnovers. Maryland must have Vasquez playing with fire and confidence to become the team that they were at the end of last season, and sometimes it takes a good portion of the senior year for players such as Vasquez to stop worrying about scouts and just let the game come again. Maryland should be encouraged by its other guards’ play, as Sean Mosely blew up for 26/5 and Eric Hayes for 20/4, but this team will rise and fall with Vasquez this year.
Other Games of National Interest.
- #9 Michigan State 72, Wofford 60. Another lackluster win by the Spartans, according to Izzo, who told media afterwards that some of his players were playiing for the names on the back of their jerseys, not the front. Raymar Morgan’s 19/11 was the lone bright spot for MSU.
- #17 Florida 85, Jacksonville 67. Jacksonville was able to stick around for most of this one until they had a five-minute scoreless drought to end the game, but it was UF’s threes — 12 of 20 attempts — including seven by the Gators’ starting backcourt of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton that kept things just out of reach.
- #22 Texas A&M 74, Akron 62. A&M slogged is way through a defensive battle to move to 7-1 behind Donald Sloan’s 17/3/4 stls and Derrick Roland’s 15/8. Of notable concern for Mark Turgeon’s team is getting outrebounded (-3) by a MAC team in their building.
- #5 Duke 80, St. John’s 71. Duke was tested but never seriously threatened by St. John’s as the Devils won their 73d consecutive game at home against a nonconference opponent. Mason Plumlee got his first start since returning from a wrist injury, but it was Kyle Singler (17/8/3 assts/4 stls), Nolan Smith (16/3) and Jon Scheyer (15/6 assts) who led the way for Duke.
- #6 Purdue 101, Buffalo 65. The Boilers nailed twelve threes in an undressing of Buffalo where they shot 52% for the game, well above their season average of 43% from the field. E’Twaun Moore and Chris Kramer both had 14 pts in the win.
- #7 Syracuse 101, Maine 55. The Orange also hit triple digits after dominating Maine to the tune of 60-12 in the first half of action, holding the Black Bears to a mere 4-31 from the field in that stanza. Brandon Triche led Syracuse with 16 pts, and the team shot a scorching 65% for the game.
- #14 Georgetown 73, American 46. Georgetown used its patented defense to lock up Jeff Jones’ American team to 27% shooting, and Greg Monroe had 9/13/3 assts/4 blks as the Hoyas quietly are showing signs of recovering from last year’s disaster. Their next three games against Butler, Washington and ODU will be telling.
- #20 Butler 84, Valparaiso 67. Butler used a hot second half of shooting (69%) to pull away from Valparaiso and got a well-balanced effort from its stars Gordon Hayward (18/4/5 assts) and Matt Howard (16/5) to knock out Valpo despite allowing 53% shooting from the Crusaders.
- #21 UNLV 66, Santa Clara 63. UNLV had to come back from an 8-pt halftime deficit in order to keep its perfect record intact, as Santa Clara fought and clawed itself into a lead despite the loss of star player Kevin Foster, who will miss the rest of the season with a broken foot. Tre’Von Willis had all fourteen of his points after the break as the Runnin’ Rebs are off to their best start since the 1990-91 season.
- #23 Georgia Tech 79, USC 53. This one seemed over early, as Georgia Tech ran out to an 18-0 lead before USC could find the basket, but then the Trojans went on a run themselves to cut the lead to three at 27-24 with 4:30 to go in the first half. At that point, Tech went on another run spanning both halves to blow out the Trojans, who have no quality depth to speak of. Alex Stepheson had 22/7 for USC in the losing effort and Derrick Favors had his second dub-dub of the season (10/11) for Tech.
- Rhode Island 86, Providence 82. The Battle of Brotherhood ended with URI rallying from a 14-pt second-half deficit behind Keith Cothran’s 19/5. Jamine Peterson had 20/11 for PC, but Marshon Brooks struggled (4 pts in 20 foul-plagued minutes).
- Temple 45, Penn State 42. An ugly affair at Temple ended with Ryan Brook (19/8) nailing two late FTs to seal the game in this intrastate rivalry game. Lavoy Allen had 8/12 for the Owls, but it was the play of PSU’s Talor Battle (8/5 on 3-15 shooting and no threes) that was notable here.
- Vanderbilt 67, DePaul 54. DePaul continues to play competitive basketball this year, as Vandy needed a late push to put away the Blue Demons behind AJ Ogilvy’s 19/6 and Jeffery Taylor’s 18/4. The foul line really hurt DePaul (5-14), especially Eric Wallace’s oh-fer (0-5) from the stripe.
- Illinois 84, Boise State 77. Illinois followed up its spectacular win over Clemson last week with a tough home win over Boise State as all five starters put up double figures. Demetri McCamey led the way with 23 pts, and the Illini were able to force 23 turnovers which led to scoring opportunities. They needed it because BSU was able to get the lead down to 2 pts in the last twenty seconds before Illini FTs sealed it.
- Missouri State 58, Air Force 48. Definitely worth noting that Missouri State moved to 7-0 with wins over Auburn and Tulsa on its resume thus far. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with the Bears being picked in the middle of the pack of the MVC by most preseason prognosticators.
- #10 Washington 88, Cal State Northridge 76. UW returned home licking its wounds from the first loss of the season in double-OT at Texas Tech last week to finally put down CSN after a second-half 17-2 run that opened up the game. Isaiah Thomas (21/4/4 stls) and Quincy Pondexter (20/7/4 assts) led the way for the Huskies, who will face unbeaten Georgetown Saturday at the John Wooden Classic in Anaheim, CA.
- #13 Connecticut 79, Harvard 73. UConn continued its trend this year of letting inferior teams hang around, as Harvard was able to push the Huskies all the way into the final few minutes despite a near-triple double from Jerome Dyson (24/14/9 assts) and great games from Kemba Walker (20/4/4 assts) and Stanley Robinson (18/12). Harvard’s Jeremy Lin ran roughshod over UConn’s defense, torching the Huskies for 30/9/3 assts/3 stls in a scintillating performance that must have left Jim Calhoun shaking his head a little bit. Four players scored all but five points for UConn in this one, and Dyson himself said he was exhausted afterwards — UConn will need to find more production to make a run in the Big East this season.
- #19 Clemson 72, South Carolina 61. The tigers continued their hardwood dominance of this series, winning the sixth straight between the two behind Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith’s 14 each. More importantly, they did it without a great game from their star Trevor Booker (7/7), who was routinely triple-teamed by the Gamecocks. South Carolina, still banged up with two starters out of the lineup, hung around until the last few minutes, but they needed a better scoring game from Devan Downey (8/4/3 assts/5 stls on 3-15 FG) to have a realistic shot at this one.
- Notre Dame 90, UCF 72. Notre Dame got 31 points from a player other than Luke Harangody (who had 29/7 himself) as Tim Abromaitis hit for a career-high 31/4 in his first start, which must encourage Mike Brey in looking for another consistent scoring option. ND used a second-half run to pull away, but of serious concern has to be UCF hitting 51% of its own shots. Also notable was Marcus Jordan hitting for 9/6 in twenty minutes off the bench, the best outing of his young career so far.
- Creighton 67, Nebraska 61. Despite being ice-cold from deep (1-10), Creighton was able to ride the 25/10 of Kenny Lawson, Jr., to a hard-fought intrastate victory over a Big 12 team to break a three-game losing streak. This year’s Creighton team is all over the place — not sure what to expect from the Bluejays on a given night.