ATB: DeMarcus Cousins Laughs Last, Laughs Best…Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2010
Kentucky Survives in Raucous Starkville. #2 Kentucky 81, Mississippi State 75 (OT). After several days of fielding phone calls from Mississippi State fans who ranged in temperament from delusional to deranged, DeMarcus Cousins and his team had the last laugh tonight in Starkville as water bottles and sodas rained down on the court in the closing minutes of this one. Coach John Calipari was so giddy afterward that he even played up the hostility of the situation in his interview with Jeannine Edwards, ducking for cover at one point and running over to corral his players at another (wow, consider just how different things were last year at this time with respect to UK’s head coach and Miss Edwards). The story of this game, however, was in the way that Kentucky was able to overcome a seven-point deficit in the last three minutes after having looked shaken and stirred in the previous few as MSU built its lead with inside star Jarvis Varnado on the bench fouled out. Cousins held up his end of the bargain with MSU fans by dropping 19/14/3 assts, including seven huge offensive rebounds, several of which he converted at key points in the second half to keep the Cats afloat. Patrick Patterson added a dub-dub himself (19/10), while John Wall ended up just shy of a triple-double with 18/10/8 assts/3 stls. Come March, when the rest of the country decides to tune back into college basketball, all anyone is going to hear about is the mercurial Wall; but to those of us who know better, it will be Cousins that makes the difference if Kentucky is to make a serious run at the national title. He has a knack for corralling the ball on the offensive end of the court (the #1 offensive rebounder in America), but he’s probably just as effective at converting those extra possessions into points with his soft touch around the bucket (note: if anyone has hard stats on this, we’d love to see them). MSU had numerous chances to put a signature win on their NCAA resume, but like much of their season this year, they were close but not close enough. The Bulldogs played the game without leading scorer Ravern Johnson, who was suspended for conduct detrimental prior to his team’s biggest game of the season, and Varnado had at least two silly fouls that would have allowed his presence to stay on the court longer than 23 semi-effective minutes (10/5/2 blks). If any one of those decisions were different, perhaps MSU wins the game and we’d have a photo of their fans RTCing underneath this writeup. But as it happened, Bulldog fans will instead by remembered for their unsportsmanlike behavior, and they’ll have to settle for screaming into DeMarcus Cousins’ voicemail as he moves on to the more important things like winning SEC titles and gunning for the Final Four.
Regular Season Champs. Two clinchers tonight…
- #24 Northern Iowa 70, Creighton 52. No Jordan Eglseder, no problem. Even without the big man who was suspended for three games after his arrest for DWI over the weekend, UNI clinches its first outright MVC regular season title with an easy win over the Bluejays. The Panthers hit thirteen treys for the game, including a 5-10 effort from Ali Farokhmanesh. It will be a very interesting Bracketbuster game on Friday night when UNI hosts the co-leader of the CAA, Old Dominion.
- Murray State 80, Southeast Missouri State 62. Murray moved to 16-0 in the OVC tonight, clinching their 21st regular season title and the top seed in the OVC Tournament next month. The Racers now have the nation’s longest winning streak (at sixteen) and put twelve players into the scoring column this evening. This is a team that has six players averaging between 9.5 – 10.8 points per game that nobody will want to see as their first round opponent on March 14.
Other Games of National Interest.
- #11 Michigan State 72, Indiana 58. It’s hard to believe that there could possibly be fan sniping about Tom Crean in only his second season in Bloomington after the Kelvin Sanctions fiasco, but there is some murmuring to that effect after IU lost its seventh straight game in conference play tonight. MSU moved a half-game ahead of Ohio State and a full game ahead of Purdue with a performance that saw the Spartans hit 59% from the field and hold Indiana to a mere 35% on the other end.
- #22 Baylor 88, Texas Tech 70. Remember earlier this season when Texas Tech was ranked? That’s the danger of early rankings, as the Red Raiders moved to 4-7 after Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn blew up their defense for 30/5 and Ekpe Udoh very nearly had a trip-dub with 13/11/4 assts/9 blks. The Bears, on the other hand, moved to 7-4 in the Big 12 and won their twentieth game for the third season in a row with this win. There’s a logjam between BU and four other teams for the second position in the standings, but with how Scott Drew’s team is playing lately, they’re just as likely as anyone else to take that spot.
- Virginia Tech 87, #25 Wake Forest 83. In the battle for second place behind Duke in the ACC standings, it was Tech that stood taller tonight, using a late second-half 15-4 run to seize control of the game and move to 8-3 in conference play. The VT defense slowed down Wake’s Al-Farouq Aminu (25/11, but only 4 pts in the second half), while Malcolm Delaney (31/9/3 assts) continued to show why he’s one of the most unstoppable players in the league with his continual forays into the lane for fouls (7.2 per game). Wake has arguably the lighter schedule the rest of the way, but Tech will own the tiebreaker.
- Georgia Tech 68, UNC 51. UNC put up a Roy Williams low of 51 points tonight in Atlanta, continuing what has without question become the most epic meltdown of the 2009-10 season. Carolina has beaten only NC State (twice) in its last ten games, and nobody seems willing to say what they would be saying for any other coach — Williams has completely lost this team.
- South Florida 65, Cincinnati 57. These two teams are going to give the NCAA Committee fits in three weeks. With USF’s win tonight, both teams are now at 6-7 in conference play with five to go. Dominique Jones bounced back from two subpar performances (both Ls) with a 26/5 night, including 19 in the second half, to help his team put away the Bearcats.
- William & Mary 63, George Mason 60. Huge win in the CAA race tonight as W&M continues to make its case for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. This win puts the Tribe into a tie for third with Mason at 11-5, two games behind co-leaders Northeastern and Old Dominion. Why do we care? Like Northwestern, W&M is one of the few original members of the NCAA to have never made a trip to the NCAAs.