ATB: St. John’s Announces Relevancy to Astonished NationPosted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2011
The Lede. There were a good number of games around the college basketball landscape this evening, but few held any real interest. There was a Big East matchup in Madison Square Garden, though, that was more than interesting; in fact, it was arguably more compelling than the other 49 games tonight combined.
Your Watercooler Moment. We’ll have more on this topic later this morning, but tonight’s watercooler moment came courtesy of Justin Brownlee’s putback of Dwight Hardy’s missed layup attempt that gave St. John’s the final lead over Georgetown in a game that they typically would have lost in recent years. Much will be made of the shifting zones that the Johnnies employed to stifle the long-range threats of the Hoya guards (4-17), but the overall inspiration and confidence that Steve Lavin has enabled in this group of (mostly) seniors to make a run at the NCAA Tournament in their final season is remarkable. Already at 3-0 in Big East play with three tough games under their belt, SJU has an opportunity to all but seal a postseason berth with a .500 record through the rest of January. Their upcoming schedule is a bear, but with their current momentum and some newfound confidence, we’re starting to believe in those cats from Queens. Can we just make the Big East Tournament the East Region and let the other regions handle the rest?
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- The Binary Triple-Double. We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a perfect triple-double of 10/10/10, but that’s what Milwaukee guard Kaylon Williams gave us tonight in the Panthers’ blowout win over Butler. Williams is a guy that seems to do everything well, but nothing great. His season averages in this, his transfer sophomore year, are 8/5/4 APG, but he’s had a handful of double-figure assist games in his career and has come close in rebounds a few times. Kudos to the young fella on a big night for his school.
- Maybe Florida Should Join the A-10. Two of the Gators’ four best wins of the season have come in the last week against Atlantic 10 teams, with Florida defeating Rhode Island at home tonight and Xavier in Cincinnati last week. The key to tonight’s blowout win over URI is that the multifaceted Chandler Parsons finally got his offensive game back on track, going for 18/12/5 assts for his first double-figure scoring performance in a month. With so many poor shooters on this team, the Gators must have the usually-efficient Parsons higher than fourth on the team in scoring average (9.9 PPG) for Billy Donovan’s team to come anywhere near its SEC and national goals this season.
- Return of the Beard. Jacob Pullen returned from his three-game suspension tonight and put in a business-like 24/5 assts on 9-11 shooting in an easy win over Savannah State. Most everyone has written off Kansas State so far this year as an overrated fraud, but there’s a lot of season left and perhaps a re-focused Pullen coming out of the time off is exactly the medicine that Frank Martin’s team needed. His teammate Curtis Kelly will not be back for another couple of weeks.
… and Misses.
- Dear NCAA: Never Trust Florida State. And this is why — Auburn 65, FSU 60. Yes, the same Auburn team who has found a way to beat only a single team higher than #300 in KenPom’s ratings (Middle Tennessee at #210), picked apart the Seminoles tonight for without question one of the most shocking scores of the season. FSU might be the second or third best team on paper in the ACC, and they couldn’t beat a historically awful Auburn team? Please, NCAA Selection Committee, take note of this when Leonard Hamilton’s squad is on the bubble in March and the ACC offices are lobbying for their inclusion into the Dance.
- Northwestern Excuses No More. After tonight’s close-but-still-not-close-enough loss to Michigan State in Evanston, the Wildcats are now 0-2 in the Big Ten with a loss to Purdue in addition to the Spartans. We certainly get it — the Big Ten is a very tough conference this year. Everyone is going to lose games in this league. But at a certain point, Northwestern is going to have to win some games that it probably shouldn’t in order to break through and get to that elusive NCAA Tournament. Tonight the shooting was horrible (31%) with the three stars combining to go 11-40. A trip to Champaign is next on Thursday, and Northwestern could serve itself very well in stealing that one. If not, the pressure keeps building.
- Butler & Shelvin Mack. Wow, the Bulldogs got smoked by Milwaukee tonight, 76-52, ending Butler’s 22-game Horizon League winning streak in the process. We’re sure there was a lot of pent-up aggression on the part of the Panthers for this game, but the size of this margin is disturbing along with the puny numbers that presumptive star Shelvin Mack put up — just three points on 1-7 shooting, four rebounds and zero assists. This is the latest in a number of poor shooting performances from Mack (39.7% on the season) that makes it clear that he’s struggling with the role of primary scorer this year. It’s particularly surprising given the unbelievable reviews that he got coming out of the summer camps from scouts and industry insiders — perhaps he will loosen up in the second half of the season and show us what those exceptionally kind words were all about?
Tweet of the Night. It’s a college football tweet relating to Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh’s flirtation with Michigan, but it’s still hilarious (and relevant!).
RTC Live. We definitely found our way to the game of the evening in MSG, but UK continues to impress with its easy win over Penn.
St. John’s 61, Georgetown 58. St. John’s moved to 3-0 in Big East play with a thrilling 61-58 win over Georgetown tonight at Madison Square Garden. Dwight Hardy led the Red Storm with 20 points on 5-10 shooting in addition to a perfect 10-10 from the line. Coach Steve Lavin used three players for all 40 minutes: Hardy, D.J. Kennedy and Justin Brownlee. All three have been key players for the Johnnies over their winning streak, now at five in a row. Georgetown outrebounded St. John’s 35-24 but it wasn’t enough for the win. The Hoyas shot just 4-17 (23.5%) from three and star Austin Freeman shot just 2-10 from the floor. St. John’s held the Georgetown trio of Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark to 20 points combined, well below their season averages. Clark had a couple of big buckets down the stretch but it was too little too late for Georgetown as 14 turnovers to only four for St. John’s did them in tonight. Each team will be back in action on Saturday with the Hoyas looking to bounce back against West Virginia on Saturday and the Johnnies looking to keep rolling at Notre Dame.
Kentucky 86, Pennsylvania 62. Penn took the Rupp Arena floor with serious confidence and slapped Kentucky around for the first 15 minutes of this one, hitting 7-9 from behind the three point arc and looking generally fresher than the Wildcats. UK appeared to be still a little groggy and in the grip of a hangover from their New Year’s Eve win over Louisville, and when they left Penn’s shooters open in the corners, guys like Tyler Bernardini (22 pts on 7-11 FG, and 3-4 from three) took advantage. The real Kentucky team eventually arrived, though, and went on a 12-0 run at the end of the half to erase Penn’s double-digit lead and take a one point advantage into the locker room. In the second half, not only did Kentucky defend the three, they didn’t even let the Quakers SHOOT them. Penn started the game 7-9…but ended it just 8-12. The defense of DeAndre Liggins (7/4/2 asst) and Doron Lamb (16 pts on 6-11) made a rumor out of Zack Rosen, the Ivy League’s leading scorer for the past two seasons, holding him to six points — all on free throws. Kentucky is known for its fantastic trio of freshmen, meaning Lamb, Brandon Knight (22 pts on 8-12), and Terrence Jones (10/8). But the contributions of junior Darius Miller (11pts/7rebs/6 asst/2 stls) and, the newly-anointed SEC Player of the Week, senior center Josh Harrellson (12/11/6 blks) cannot be underestimated. The latter was considered a huge liability in the pre-season, and the only reason people acknowledged him then was to point out how he was not Enes Kanter. Now he’s putting up double-doubles. You can count on Harrellson keeping perspective, though. When asked in the post-game interviews by several hovering writers about his new SEC POW award, he smiled broadly and said, “A few months ago if you’d have told me I’d be an SEC Player of the Week, I’d have laughed at you. And so would you guys.”