ATB: Not So Super Weekend in College Hoops WorldPosted by rtmsf on February 7th, 2011
The Lede. It might have been a Super Weekend elsewhere in the American sports universe, but this weekend’s college hoops slate left a lot to be desired. There were few good matchups on paper, and even fewer in practice. It’s hard to get through approximately 165 games, though, and not have something worthwhile to talk about, so we’ll of course ferret out the best of the weekend here.
Your Watercooler Moment. Game of the Year? Arizona Beats Cal in a Regular Season Classic. RTC Live was lucky enough to be there for the 107-105 thriller, and we’re not sure we’ve seen a more back-and-forth, exciting game in a random regular season setting. Certainly not in person. The comparison that immediately comes to mind was the 2007 Texas-Oklahoma State game, another game where nobody outside of certain local viewing areas actually saw the action. With around ten minutes to go, in what had to that point been a fun high-scoring game that visiting Arizona appeared to be in control of, the Wildcats’ Solomon Hill elbowed Jorge Gutierrez on the break, drawing an intentional foul and handing the momentum back to Cal. From that point on, with the score 59-54, both teams punched and counter-punched each other in a classic final twenty-five minutes of action with more twists and turns than Highway 1 up the Big Sur coast. The game ultimately changed hands seventeen times and was tied fourteen other times, including after regulation and a first and second overtime. So many players stepped up for both sides, including Pac-10 FrOY candidate Allen Crabbe (27/7), POY candidate Derrick Williams (12/18), but the star of stars on this night was UA’s sophomore guard Lamont “MoMo” Jones. The brash New Yorker hit a tough runner (and-1) from behind the basket to send the game into the first overtime, then drained a 22-footer with six seconds to go in the second overtime to tie the game, then made the go-ahead layup with a minute left in the third overtime. “Just a day in the life of MoMo Jones,” he said afterward, but with Arizona now at 9-2 in the Pac-10 and a game ahead of UCLA in the loss column and two games ahead of league favorite Washington, people around the country should do themselves the favor to learn that Sean Miller’s desert rats are more than simply a dominant post player on the blocks in Williams. This Wildcat team is a year or more ahead of schedule, but should anyone who has tracked Miller’s career to this point be surprised?
This Weekend’s Quick Hits…
- Buckeyes Roll On. After Ohio State’s Sunday win over Minnesota in Minny, the Buckeyes are 24-0 with its next game scheduled on Saturday, February 12, in Madison. The last time any team has gone this late in the year with an unbeaten record was Memphis in 2007-08, a team that didn’t lose until February 23 that year. The last time a power conference team went undefeated this late was the 2005 Illinois Fighting Illini, who ran out to a 29-0 record before losing in the final regular season game against none other than Ohio State. That Illini team also went to the national title game before losing a close one to North Carolina. Certainly with a diversified offense that includes Jared Sullinger as its centerpiece (18/13 against the Gophers), OSU has designs on a similar or even better track than their conference brethren from a half-decade ago.
- A Wildcat Sort of Saturday. We mentioned the Arizona Wildcats above, but a couple of other sets of Cats had pretty a pretty good weekend as well. The Northwestern Wildcats kept what little NCAA pulse they have alive with a nice win over Illinois in Evanston, and the Kansas State Wildcats did likewise with a one-point road win over Iowa State. Jacob Pullen used the bounce to get to the rim for the game-winning layup with three seconds remaining. Neither of these wins are blockbusters, but they’re the type that you simply must have if you have designs on making a final push. The Big 10 Wildcats next five games are against unranked teams, while the Big 12 Wildcats face similar in three of the next four — does either team have the guts to save its once-promising season? Other Wildcat teams — Davidson, New Hampshire, Villanova and Weber State — also won on Saturday. Apologies to Kentucky and Bethune-Cookman, though, the sole losing felines.
- The Jimmer Settin’ Records. Jimmer Fredette’s 29 points against UNLV on Saturday didn’t come easy, but he got to the line sixteen times (with sixteen makes) to ensure his team’s win and became the Mountain West’s all-time leading scorer in the process. Fredette now has 2,194 points in his nearly-four year career for the Cougars, and with at least nine more games ahead of him, he’s projected to blow Brandon Heath’s previous record (2,189) out of the water. With Kemba Walker’s continuing struggles, it’s looking more and more like a two-horse race between the BYU guard and Jared Sullinger for the NPOY award. It’s always difficult for a non-BCS player to beat a power conference one, but it’s not unprecedented at all. Look no further than another local product, Utah’s Andrew Bogut, who defeated players such as Duke’s JJ Redick, Kansas’ Wayne Simien and Illinois’ Dee Brown in the 2005 race.
- The Kendall Marshall Experiment Appears to be Working. Will the weird and abrupt departure of Larry Drew II from North Carolina be the start of something special in Chapel Hill after a season-and-a-half of disappointments? It certainly seems possible after freshman Kendall Marshall shredded the FSU defense (one of the nation’s best, remember) for sixteen assists in a variety of ways during an 89-69 win on Sunday. It set a new record for assists in a game by a freshman, and harkened back to the days of Ed Cota taking the reins of a struggling Tar Heel squad (all the way to the Final Four) in 1997. Three of Carolina’s six most efficient offensive performances have come since Marshall was inserted into the starting lineup, and the Heels are now 5-0 in that span. A trip to Cameron awaits on Wednesday — how will the youngster perform in that environment?
- Kemba’s Continuing Struggles. UConn was this close to dropping a third straight Big East game at Seton Hall on Saturday, but Jim Calhoun’s will to win inspired his team to turn on the afterburners and close on a 15-3 run to finish off the game and avoid the bad loss to the Pirates in Newark. NPOY candidate Kemba Walker continues to struggle with his shot, though, going 7-19 from the field and 2-7 from the line including a horrid three-miss series when he was fouled on a trey late in the second half. In his past six games, Walker is hitting only 32% from the field and 27% from beyond the arc, making it all the more amazing that the Huskies have managed to go 4-2 over that span. Make no mistake, though, as we plow through February and head into March, UConn is going to need its star guard to regain the stroke that he has in November and December, or it will be an early exit in both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments this season. We think he’ll find it, but confidence is a curious thing, and it’s not easy to turn it on and off when you want to.
- Michigan State and Minnesota Dangerously Close to Making Big Ten a Four-Bid League. How ridiculous would it be if the Big Ten ends up with four NCAA teams and the vastly inferior ACC or SEC ends up with five or more this season? Yet after Michigan State’s beatdown at the hands of Wisconsin and Minnesota’s home loss this weekend, the Big Ten is looking more and more like a four-bid league — Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Illinois. We hate to do it, but we think it’s time to go ahead and write off the Spartans for good. This team has quit on Tom Izzo. Allowing 59% from the field and 65% from three is unheard of for a Michigan State team, but it’s rather understandable when the Spartans don’t care.
Photo Fav. From the best current student section in the country (sorry, Crazies), the Utah State Aggies.
RTC Live. RTC Live covered a number of interesting games this weekend. Here are those recaps.
Villanova 66, West Virginia 50. The Mountaineers might have trailed 30-19 at the half in their Big East matchup with Villanova Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, but there was little panic coming out for the second half. West Virginia trailed Villanova 29-16 in this same building nearly a year ago, and had won that game with a great, 44-31 second half. When Dalton Pepper hit his second three-point shot at 15:12 of the second half to cut Villanova’s lead to five, 36-31, a déjà vu feeling started to settle over the crowd. When Mountaineer forward John Flowers hit his 11-foot jumper to take two more off of the Wildcats’ lead at 36-33, the chants from the 16,106 attending became thin and desperate. Villanova then did something completely unexpected. When games tightened up this season the Wildcats would look to their three-guard backcourt for offense and points. Today with the game hanging in the balance and in the face of a surging West Virginia team the Wildcat guards put the ball in the hands of their frontcourt, and sophomores Mouphtaou Yarou and Isaiah Armwood did not disappoint. Over the next six possessions the Wildcats scored 11 points on 5-7 shooting, with the frontcourt pair accounting for six points that included a rebound and a put back of a missed shot from Maalik Wayns. Guards Corey Stokes and Wayns scored the other five points on a three-pointer and a jumper. Though West Virginia tried to keep pace, the Mountaineers were trading two goals for a single goal through the stretch, as they watched their three point deficit stretch back out to five. The Wildcats then throttled West Virginia’s offense for the second time in the game, launching a 19-3 run over the next 8:17, pushing the score out to 64-43 and effectively ending any chance for a West Virginia comeback. “When we rebound we win,” said West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins, and few could argue with the Mountaineer mentor. For a team that shoots 43.8% from the field, offensive rebounding is a necessity. When Villanova Coach Jay Wright scanned the box score in the postgame press conference he did a double-take when he saw Villanova’s rebounding margin,“35 to 29?!” he said almost under his breath — “Wow.” In a season where West Virginia’s scoring has often been Kevin Jones and two others from John Flowers, Darryl Bryant and Casey Mitchell (or Dalton Pepper), today it was Jones and Flowers. And only 10 second chance points as Villanova held West Virginia to a season-low 50 points. Villanova guards Maalik Wayns and Corey Fisher (“I would not trade my three guards for anyone, said Jay Wright) paced all scorers with 17 and 16 points apiece, as the pair combined to go 5-8 from beyond the arc. Kevin Jones led West Virginia with 16 points with 8-16 overall shooting. John Flowers chipped in 15 and Dalton Pepper scored nine points. Two Villanova frontcourt players, senior Antonio Pena and Yarou scored double figure points, 10 and 11 respectively. Wing man Dominic Cheek paced the rebounders with nine.
Boston College 58, Virginia Tech 56. With the game on the line and under a minute to play, utter chaos broke out at Conte Forum. Malcolm Delaney had just cut the lead back to two. Jeff Allen blocked Reggie Jackson’s lay-up straight into Cory Raji’s arms. After running off the rest of the shot clock, Reggie Jackson missed a jumper and Delaney corralled the rebound. For some reason, Raji decided to foul him despite the fact that Delaney is Virginia Tech’s best player and shoots over 85% from the line on the season. And Delaney was 90 feet from the basket. Regardless, Delaney proceeded to miss the front end of the one and one, but Jeff Allen pulled down another offensive board (his eighth). Trapani stuffed Delaney’s lay-up attempt so the Hokies reset for the final shot. Delaney, feeling pressure from Boston College’s defense, whipped a pass to the wide open Erick Green who bricked his eighth straight shot to essentially seal a Boston College win. How does Delaney not take that shot? If you’re putting up a three for the win, he has to take the shot. And why did Greenberg use the Hokies’ final timeout with 56 seconds left? As for the rest of the game, Jeff Allen kept Virginia Tech within striking distance with 25 points, 19 board and three steals. Manny Atkins and Erick Green combined to go zero for 14 from the field. Boston College got much more balance getting a little bit from everyone, but Joe Trapani was the difference maker with 14/9. Looking forward, both of these teams still have a lot of work to do. Boston College has some really bad losses, and Virginia Tech needs to find some decent wins. That said, I think the ACC gets at least four bids and these two teams are in the best place to snag that fourth spot. In the end I think the Hokies need to split with Duke and Maryland, and Boston College needs needs at least one from North Carolina (on the road, it will be almost impossible), Maryland and Virginia Tech. This was a huge win for the Eagles, who needed to get back on track after losing four of five.
Oregon 81, Washington 76. Washington came into Eugene as the losers of two straight contests, and it left with losses to its three biggest Pac-10 rivals in the span of one calendar week. Oregon, on the other hand, continued its hot play and beat up on the slumping Huskies, winning its fifth game in its last seven attempts. The Ducks won their first game against a ranked opponent since Jan. 2, 2010, at Washington. The stars of the game were Washington forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Oregon forward Joevan Catron. Bryan-Amaning went for 21 points to lead the Huskies, but he only scored five points after leaving the game late in the first half after Oregon reserve guard Teondre Williams hit him across the nose while attempting to block a shot. Catron nearly duplicated his performance against the Huskies in Seattle, this time going for 20 points and nine rebounds, in lieu of the 20 points and 10 rebounds he had in the teams’ first matchup. Although it had a massive size disadvantage inside, Oregon stifled the Huskies with a sagging 2-3 zone, forcing 15 turnovers. The Ducks also did an appreciable job containing pint-sized dynamo Isaiah Thomas, who had 13 points and six assists. Oregon’s offense again had four players in double figures. Joining Catron was stunningly-good-looking-in-comparison-to-his-brother E.J. Singler with 16, Tyrone Nared with a career-high-tying 14, and Jay-R Strowbridge with 12 off the bench. The game leaves two storylines for fans: One is whether or not the Huskies have played themselves onto the bubble with this losing streak to mediocre teams. The other is whether or not Dana Altman can turn his team into an above-.500 team in his first year on the job.
BYU 78, UNLV 64. The lore of Jimmer Fredette gained another chapter in Provo on Saturday afternoon. On a driving layup and free throw late in the game, Fredette became the Mountain West’s all-time leading scorer. It was a ho-hum game for Fredette, but would have been a fantastic performance for most everyone else. Fredette finished with 29 points, including a perfect 16-16 mark from the free throw line. More importantly for Cougar fans, Jackson Emery broke out of his taking advantage of the open looks created by the double teaming of Fredette. For UNLV it was a game that got away. Fredette struggled from the field most of the night, but the Rebels could not get over the hump after falling behind early, costing the team a marquee road win against a conference rival. The race for the Mountain West Championship is now down to just two teams, San Diego State and BYU. The two meet again, likely for all the marbles, on February 26th in San Diego.
UConn 61, Seton Hall 59. When Kemba Walker was fouled shooting a three and proceeded to miss all three foul shots, the Seton Hall fans in the crowd of 10,001 at the Prudential Center on Saturday evening had to be thinking this was their night. After all, the Pirates held a seven-point lead with a little over six minutes to play at home against a team they haven’t beaten in ten years and a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate had just bricked three free throws. When the same Kemba Walker poured in a three-pointer with 2:32 left, those same fans had to be thinking, “here we go again.” They’ve seen the Pirates blow countless leads against good teams over the last couple of years and the script was no different this time. Connecticut (#5 RTC/#6 AP)used a 15-1 run (minus a Seton Hall layup at the buzzer) over the final eight minutes to escape Newark with a hard fought 61-59 victory, improving to 18-4 (6-4 Big East) on the year. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was miffed at his team’s effort and wanted them to get after it down the stretch, telling his players during a timeout that this game was winnable and he didn’t want to hear any excuses. Consider that message sent as the Huskies outscored the Pirates 25-9 after Seton Hall (10-14, 4-8) held a 50-36 lead with 13:52 to play. Walker led the Huskies with 19 points but needed the same number of shots to do so, finishing 7-19 from the floor. Freshman Jeremy Lamb added 10/7 on 5-10 FG, continuing his recent surge. The Huskies managed to overcome 57.1% shooting from the charity stripe as well as a 42-33 rebounding disadvantage. Seton Hall grabbed 17 offensive rebounds to Connecticut’s nine, a surprising figure given the Huskies’ prowess on the offensive glass over the years. Jeremy Hazell led the Pirates with 20 points and 11 rebounds, one short of his career-high 12 set against VMI last season. Much like Walker however, he struggled with his shot, going 7-22 from the floor for the game. Seton Hall didn’t make a three pointer after intermission and the Huskies held them to 29.4% shooting overall in the second half. Jeff Robinson added 15/11 for the home team but some questionable shots down the stretch by the senior forward will undoubtedly be a topic of conversation over the next few days for Pirate fans. The win was the eleventh in a row for Connecticut over Seton Hall but also prevented a third loss in a row for the folks from Storrs. The Pirates’ last win over Connecticut came in March of 2001 and the Huskies have now won 18 of the last 19 games and 25 of the last 27 in this series dating back to December of 1993. Seton Hall has a week off before getting back to the Big East grind at Rutgers while the Huskies play St. John’s on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.