After the Buzzer: On 800 Wins, Internet Humility, and Fantastic FreshmenPosted by jstevrtc on November 24th, 2010
Your Watercooler Moment. Yeesh, take your pick. On Wednesday morning the two games the majority of hoop aficianados were most looking forward to from Tuesday night will yield the headlines to a so-called undercard matchup between #3 Michigan State and Connecticut, the latter a team slated to be foraging for leftover scraps in the Big East this year. Jim Calhoun beamed after the effort shown by his players in knocking off the Spartans, saying after the game, “We proved to the world that we can play.” Also in Maui, the Kentucky vs Washington matchup was so intense they played through a freaking 4.7-on-the-Richter scale earthquake that nobody in the building seemed to notice centered 30 miles south-southwest of the island, and four time zones away, Duke gave Kansas State false hope for a half before turning out their lights and inscribing Mike Krzyzewski into the 800 victories book for a single school. Oh, and a game between Appalachian State and Tennessee Tech was cancelled because the former forgot to provide refs. All of this, a feast before the feast…on the day the Spectrum died.
Tuesday’s Quick Hits…
- Connecticut Has A Pulse. And it’s strong. And its name is Kemba Walker. In 38 minutes of floor time in the Huskies’ capsizing of #3 Michigan State, Walker went 10-19 from the floor, 6-7 from the line, and added three boards, four assists, and three steals to his 30 points. Who cares that a kid’s getting up a shot every two minutes of game time when he’s producing like this?
- Kyrie Lays It On. Kyrie Irving smoked Jacob Pullen as if the latter were a finely aged Cohiba Siglo. He took Pullen to the bucket several times, scored or got to the line, twice producing and-ones. Irving saw other defenders, but it was Pullen in front of him a good deal of the night; this matchup saw the freshman wood-shedding the senior to the tune of 17/5/6 asst/2 steals.
- Unsung Wildcat Heroes, Take One. The talk will be about Terrence Jones‘ 16/17 (4-13 from the field) and Brandon Knight’s 24 points (he also had zero assists and eight turnovers), but the best line on the Wildcats’ side may have come from Josh Harrellson, the backup center many UK fans felt could barely qualify to be Enes Kanter’s personal assistant before the season. Harrellson had troubles with his handle, but in 34 minutes he contributed nine points on 4-6 shooting (one of those a trey), blocked two shots, and pulled in 14 rebounds, seven of them on the offensive end. DeAndre Liggins only added seven points and four rebounds, but he smothered UW’s Isaiah Thomas for most of the second half, frustrating him to no end (on which more in a bit).
- Unsung Wildcat Heroes, Take Two. The only bright spot from KSU’s defeat was the play of their reserves. Four players — namely Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels, Martavious Irving, and Will Spradling — played at least 13 minutes (three of them were in for 20+), and they accounted for 47 of K-State’s 68 points, shooting 18-29 (62%) from the field. Could there be lineup changes in store for Frank Martin’s squad?
- Kalin, Not His Usual Ballin’. No particular player could be singled out as really letting MSU down, but Kalin Lucas would love another crack at this one. The Spartans actually shot better than UConn, but Lucas’ head-scratcher of a night consisted of a 4-12 shooting night, five turnovers and but a single assist. There won’t be many nights like this for Lucas this season.
- The Sprint Center Floor. We had the privilege of being in the Sprint Center for the Big 12 Tournament last year. It’s a great arena for college basketball. Plenty of press seating, helpful staff, and even the distant seats in the stands aren’t bad. But for the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic tonight, its floor had ten temporary logos on it, causing it to resemble one of those NASCAR automobiles (I guess they do race for the Sprint Cup, don’t they?) or a jersey from an Australian pro league team.
- Smeared the Beard. Jacob Pullen not only got schooled by a freshman in terms of how many times he got taken to the hole, but he couldn’t hit an elephant with a handful of rice on Tuesday night. Pullen will not have many 1-12 nights this year, and likely none in which he also throws in a defensive clanger like he did on Tuesday. But big games like this are not the time for these rare occasions to occur for the facially hirsute and usually excellent senior.
- Isaiah Was No Prophet. When the Maui brackets were released a few months ago, Isaiah Thomas tweeted that he was hoping his squad would run into Kentucky, a sentiment fueled by the bolting of recruits Kanter and Jones to UK after committing to UW. The Wildcats’ DeAndre Liggins intercalated himself into Thomas’ DNA on Tuesday, and as a result the UW guard was flummoxed into a 4-14 shooting night, two of those buckets coming as cosmetic late layups when UK let its defensive intensity slip a notch in hopes of not fouling.
Tweet of the Night, Take One… This is Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger (as if you couldn’t have figured that out) talking about being a Buckeye this week, specifically about the OSU vs Morehead State game on Tuesday (he turned in 8/8, plus two blocks and two steals in 25 minutes in a 64-45 win over a tough Eagles side ), followed by the Mirror Lake Jump. Mirror Lake is a small lake on the OSU campus that, as tradition dictates, thousands of OSU students jump into on the Thursday preceding the Saturday of the Michigan football game. Because this year that particular Thursday is on Thanksgiving, they moved it to Tuesday. We want to know if Sullinger actually plunged himself into the waters — not exactly a fun (read: warm) proposition for late November in Columbus.
…AND, Take Two. This is Isaiah Thomas on May 20th after Terrence Jones decided to attend Kentucky. We love your game, Isaiah, but — heh heh — you knew this was comin’, man!
RTC Live. Our college basketball odyssey continued on Tuesday in literal cross-country fashion, coming to you from a great mid-major battle in Loudonville, NY, the O’Reilly CBE in Kansas City, and of course via our founder who somehow pulled a fairly sweet assignment, sunning himself with the likes of Bill Raftery in Maui:
#22 Butler 70, Siena 57. In the end, this battle between midmajors Butler and Siena went to the more experienced squad. The Butler Bulldogs prevailed over the Siena Saints 70-57 on Tuesday night in front of an enthused crowd of 8,444 at Albany’s Times Union Center. Senior forward Matt Howard led Butler with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while teammate Shawn Vanzant had 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Siena benefited from a monster game from big man Ryan Rossiter, who poured in 26 points and pulled 15 caroms. Unfortunately for the Saints, no other Siena player scored in double digits, and Butler’s depth and solid play in the backcourt allowed it to cultivate a double-digit win. In a rematch from last year’s BracketBuster contest, the end result was remarkably similar; last year, Butler won by a margin of 70-53. The Bulldogs lost the services of guard Ronald Nored in the first minute of game play when he collided with Siena’s Rakeem Brookins and opened up a cut on Nored’s head. Nored went down hard, clutching his face. He remained on the floor for several seconds, was attended to by a team trainer, then left the game, not to return.
#1 Duke 82, #5 Kansas State 68. Tuesday night’s CBE Classic final was a tale of two guards, with Duke floor general Kyrie Irving leading the #1 Blue Devils to an 82-68 victory over #5 Kansas State and Jacob Pullen at Sprint Center in Kansas City. Not only did Irving proficiently run the point, picking apart the lane with ease on his way to 17 points and six assists, but he was the primary factor in stopping Pullen. A nightmarish 1-12 mark from the field, including a frosty 1-8 clip from deep by the KSU guard sent the Wildcats on a mostly fruitless search for answers. “I just wanted to stay in front of him. He’s a great player, and I wanted to play with disciplined pressure,” Irving said of his mission in limiting the preseason AP All-American. “I really enjoyed guarding him and it was a great challenge for me.” Curtis Kelly, playing in his second game of the season, picked up some of the slack with 19 points and six boards, but 11 turnovers from Kelly and Freddy Asprilla mitigated the Wildcats’ ability to get close looks. The win for Duke (the 800th at the school for head coach Mike Krzyzewski) cements their status as the nation’s top program. As KSU coach Frank Martin put it himself, “if there’s a team better than them, I don’t want to play ‘em.”
#23 Gonzaga 66, Marquette 63. The consolation game between Gonzaga and Marquette was a hard-fought matchup, with each team desperate to leave KC with at least one win. The Bulldogs switched to a 2-3 zone on the defensive end in the second half to keep Buzz Williams‘ squad at bay, and the move paid off in Gonzaga’s 66-63 gutsy win. The Golden Eagles found momentum by beating Gonzaga down the court, pulling to within three in the closing seconds, but a last-second heave off the mark by Jimmy Butler clinched it for the Zags. The victory put Mark Few‘s squad back on the right track following two early snakebites, but perhaps more importantly, swingman Elias Harris is back to form. Putting his nagging injuries behind him, Harris scored the team’s first six points of the game and finished with 19. With Harris finally producing, a burden was lifted off Steven Gray‘s shoulders. The senior looked far more relaxed than he did against Kansas State’s attack Monday, and the dividends — 20 points, five threes, six rebounds and one turnover in 38 minutes — reflect that. After Gray and Harris, the Bulldogs need to find a consistent third option on offense. Tuesday night, Mani Arop provided a major lift with 10 straight points in the second half.
Connecticut 70, #3 Michigan State 67. Those of us who wrote off Jim Calhoun’s Huskies after a disappointing season in 2009-10 and summer filled with turmoil simply weren’t paying attention. The guy can coach. And with a fearsome duo of Kemba Walker getting off for thirty points again (his third 30+ game in a row) and Alex Oriakhi taking the Pepsi Challenge inside to battle for double-figure rebounds (nearly half of which are offensive), Calhoun is utilizing his personnel in a way that maximizes the team’s chances for success. Tom Izzo recognized as much in the press conference afterward, and even though this vintage of the Huskies may not be as talented as some in years past, we’re not sure we’ve seen a Calhoun team play quite as hard as this one in a while. As for Izzo’s Spartans, it’s no secret that they haven’t played well in Maui so far — after sneaking by Chaminade yesterday, they were not able to contain Walker down the stretch of this one to win the game; but it’s also quite plain to anyone who has been around this game for a while that Izzo doesn’t coach for November, he coaches for March. And although it’s certain that his team will take more losses than anyone expects between now and then, are you ready to bet against them in the spring with the collection of talent at his disposal? Didn’t think so.
#10 Kentucky 74, #15 Washington 67. In a game that carried as much intensity as it did hype and somehow managed to outdo both by causing the ground under the Lahaina Civic Center to lurch and shudder late in the second half (must have been the Basketball Gods), Kentucky and Washington played a superb contest worthy of late March rather than two days before Thanksgiving. Despite the 4.7-Richter Scale earthquake that shook Maui with six minutes remaining in the game, it was UK’s two star freshmen, Terrence Jones (16/17) and Brandon Knight (24/4) who are once again proving that talent more often than not trumps experience. We’re not sure if these two young Cats even realize how good they are yet, but Isaiah Thomas and his Huskies certainly do. Thomas in particular has to be suffering a special form of indignity from talking smack through Twitter over the summer only to throw up a 4-14 FG, 5-10 FT, 13-point night when his team really needed better production from him in order to win the game. In an interesting turn of events with how the Maui Invitational worked out, Kentucky will now play unranked UConn for the championship, while Washington will get to play top-5 Michigan State as the consolation. Insult to injury, much?