NCAA Regional Diary From NewarkPosted by rtmsf on March 28th, 2011
After another weekend of scintillating and shocking NCAA Tournament results, it’s time to check back in with our various correspondents who were in Anaheim, San Antonio, New Orleans and Newark reporting on the games this weekend.
To read all the diaries throughout the NCAA Tournament, click here.
Location: Newark, NJ
Round: Regional Final
Teams: Kentucky, North Carolina
Date: 27 March 2011
Correspondent: Joe Dzuback
And the word at the Rock all afternoon was “matchups.” This is a game of matchups. A strong team on Friday can look very bad on Sunday…why? The matchups. Kentucky Coach John Calipari found a way to neutralize Carolina’s heretofore dominant frontcourt trio. He did it by calling on veteran DeAndre Liggins to start the game – “It wasn’t no big deal. Coach say he was going to start me, no disrespect to Doron or anything like that,” replied Liggins to a question about the switch-up – and told the junior veteran to shut down freshman point guard Kendall Marshall. Liggins embraced his assignment, giving the freshman little room to pass or drive, forcing him to take shots when the clock ran down, or resort to the basketball equivalent of sending the puck into the corner and letting the wings – or in this case UNC’s forwards — dig it out. Though it worked on occasion, as Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes were able to score on a few put-backs, that tactic, combined with John Henson’s foul trouble, disrupted the Tar Heel offensive rhythm to the point where the Heels went into the locker room at the half down eight, 38-30, and their high octane, highly efficient offense, in shambles. So disruptive was Kentucky’s guard and forward pressure that North Carolina turned over 24.5% of their possessions and converted 28.6% of their three point attempts (2-7). Matchups.
At times the Heels appeared confused, falling back on attempted threes to draw iron and extend their possession. Barnes and Marshall combined for 14 three-point attempts, uncharacteristic for North Carolina Coach Roy Williams’ offense, and converting on only three (21.4%), unfortunately very much a characteristic of this Tar Heel team this season. “Their team (Kentucky) averages 39.6% from the three-point line and we don’t have anybody shooting better than 39.6%…it’s hard trying to overcome some things that are that big advantage. They scored 36 points from the three-point line and we scored nine.” When asked about the Kentucky game plan, Josh Harrellson responded, “the first five minutes of each half really dictates the game, you know, the first five minutes of the game we came out and we played aggressive, played together as a team…and I think we did a good job…running our stuff and keeping them out of their basketball game.” Keeping them out of their game involved keeping Zeller out of the low post – trapping big-to-big, “but the whole point was Josh (Harrellson)…you have to play this guy and don’t expect help,” and when Zeller posted on the left side, a guard would slide over to double. Matchups.
Location: Newark, NJ
Round: Regional Semifinals
Teams: Kentucky, Ohio State, North Carolina, Marquette
Date: 25 March 2011
- Sunday’s game between North Carolina and Kentucky will pit two of the most storied programs in Division 1 basketball to decide who goes to the Final Four out of the East. If North Carolina seemed to have the easier time, underestimating Kentucky is a prescription for disaster… or at least disappointment. In a Battle of the Williams, Roy’s North Carolina delivered a virtual knockout on Buzz’s Marquette even before the intermission. The Golden Eagles however did not throw in the towel, even when down by 30, but they simply did not have an answer for North Carolina’s three frontcourt players, Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson, who combined to score 61 of North Carolina’s 81 points and grabbed a combined 33 of the Tar Heels’ 48 rebounds. The 6’8 Barnes can step out for a three or drive the basket and function as a very tall guard. Zeller is mobile enough to bolt and finish a fast break, while Henson is extremely versatile for a 6’10 player.
- More than a few in the press corps looked at Ohio State and saw maturity and experience, while in Kentucky they saw youth. The nightcap game was a heavyweight match as the two stood center court and exchanged blows for two halves. The Buckeyes ran out to a seven point lead early, but the Wildcats did not fold. After closing the gap and taking the lead, the two teams were not separated by more than a basket for the rest of the game. When asked if a string of conference road losses helped the Wildcats mature, Coach Calipari agreed, “If it didn’t hurt we never would have changed.” When asked if “the Youth Factor” was put to rest, the Wildcat mentor responded “It will never go to rest. And I mean, we all have young players, it just seems that I am the only one with the young players, but we all have young players. And I would tell you, it never enters my mind. But that being said, the veterans won this game,” and in that the Kentucky coach was right. It was Josh Harrellson, a senior forward who scored 12 first half points to keep Kentucky in the game and give the Buckeyes something to worry about in the low post. Junior DeAndre Liggins hit two free throws to put the Wildcats up by one with 1:36 on the game, then followed with a jumper a minute later to give Kentucky a three point cushion. Young indeed, “kind of like what we say about our freshmen” replied OSU’s Jon Diebler when asked about Kentucky’s youth — “they are not freshman anymore when you get to this point in the season.”