After the Buzzer: Lavin Returns on an Otherwise Yucky Night

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Say It Ain’t So, Joe! On the second night of games of the opening week of college basketball, we’d be completely remiss if we didn’t comment on the insane evening that took over the airwaves while the Coaches vs. Cancer games were going on in the background. The number of stomach-turning things about this entire sordid Penn State affair are too many to count, but the absolutely shameful response by PSU students more concerned with protecting their beloved coach than recognizing the basic simplicity of right from wrong is beyond incomprehensible. Where have we come to as a society when the middle 80% of this great land are only moved to demonstration when our sports heroes are under duress or we’ve killed an enemy of the state? Why not take the streets in outrage over the numerous children whose innocent lives were destroyed by the selfish and criminal actions of a powerful few? That folks would care when it matters, and matter when they care. Mistakes were made at Penn State; it doesn’t mean that Joe Paterno is a horrible person, but it does mean that he has to go.

Lavin Returned Early From Medical Leave and Led His Team to a Victory (NYDN/A. Theodorakis)

Your Watercooler MomentLavin Returns, Surprises His Team.  How about some good news in an emotionally rough night? St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin, not someone we would characterize as a man content with sitting around at home, made an early return from his recent prostate cancer surgery and surprised his young team so much that they forgot to play the first half. Truthfully, despite a surfeit of talented parts, St. John’s is going to have evenings when the Red Storm will fall behind by 16 points in the opening stanza because players are still figuring out how to play with each other. But, as Lavin’s interchangeable pieces learn to synergize and feed off one another as they did for the game-changing run in the second half against Lehigh, the ceiling for his team this year appears fluid. And we referred to this angle the other night, but it bears repeating — cancer is an insidious disease, so we love the fact that Lavin was able to make his season debut during one of the Coaches vs. Cancer games. Even before his own diagnosis of prostate cancer, Lavin was a vocal supporter of the various anti-cancer charities related to college basketball. We wish him nothing but the best on his road to complete recovery (having a God’s Gift on hand doesn’t hurt!).

Upset of the Night. Akron 68, Mississippi State 58. With around four minutes left in the first half of tonight’s game at The Hump in Starkville, the Bulldog offense found a posting Renardo Sidney with a pass underneath for a wide open dunk. The 6’10” center elevated, pulled his arms back, and proceeded to shank the ball off the front of the rim before watching it rattle around and pop out. The collective groan among the nearly 7,000 fans in attendance was palpable. Jimmy Dykes made reference to the play being indicative of the struggles of Sidney since he stepped foot onto the MSU campus. We can’t disagree, honestly. The burly big man went for a modest 12/5 in 25 mostly uninspiring minutes, and as Dave Ryan shows with his clips here and here, Sidney just plays nonchalantly far too often. The Akron defense regularly confused and mystified the Bulldogs, who shot a chilly 34.5% from the field, committed 19 turnovers, and made only two threes on the evening. Dee Bost and Arnett Moultrie, so brilliant in MSU’s first game on Monday, combined to shoot 4-22 tonight. Needless to say, these are the kinds of early losses that kill bubble teams later, and Mississippi State is proving itself quite adept at these stinkers in the early going (Florida Atlantic, Rider, and ETSU have all won early games in Starkville the previous two seasons). At what point do we as the media who cover the sport stop considering Sidney as anything more than another nice player on an otherwise average team — the evidence this year suggests we should have already done that.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • TAMU Turner Time. Texas A&M’s Ray Turner and Elston Turner combined for 36/12 (on 15-22 shooting) in their rout against Liberty for the school’s home opener. It was a career high for the junior, Ray, while Elston, a junior transfer from Washington, showed a strong all-around skill set in his first game as an Aggie (16/6/4 assts/2 stls). Their contributions were particularly important because star guard Khris Middleton went down with a hamstring injury in the first half (it is not expected to be serious).
  • Big Zeke. Goodness, for much of tonight, the seven-foot Akron junior, Zeke Marshall, appeared to be a rawer version of Greg Oden at Ohio State. He certainly gave the Mississippi State guards fits in that he rejected and altered numerous forays into the paint tonight. The official stat line says that Marshall only had five blocks this evening, but his impact on the game was far more apparent than that if you saw how much trouble MSU had getting past him. Marshall could be ready for a breakout year in the MAC.
  • God is Perfect, After All. So they say, and St. John’s forward God’s Gift Achiuwa certainly played like his name on Wednesday night. The junior transfer knocked down every shot he threw at the basket — six FGs and nine FTs — for a perfect 21/8 evening that no doubt has the efficiency folks wetting their pants. After two games, Achiuwa could be said to have blown up — he’s averaging 19/9 while shooting a simmering 71% from the field and 88% from the line.

… and Misses.

  • SEC Basketball. If you want respect, your teams have to earn it. There have been way too many of these kinds of non-conference home losses out of middling SEC teams in the last few years, and Mississippi State’s latest home meltdown against another mid-major illustrates the problem. Not enough fans of some of these programs care enough to demand better.
  • CJ McCollum.  One of the country’s best mid-major players, McCollum didn’t use his opportunity to play a Big East team to raise his national profile, going for 19/9/3 assts in 39 minutes but committing four turnovers and shooting only 6-17 from the field. For a Patriot League player that only will have two more shots at a power conference team (Iowa State; Michigan State), McCollum will need to make the most of those opportunities to justify the preseason national pub that he’s gotten.
  • Josiah Turner. Showed up late for the shootaround, didn’t start, took one shot (a three) that missed, and committed three TOs (to match three assists) in his 21 minutes of action against Duquesne tonight. His slow start is somewhat reminiscent of Abdul Gaddy’s two seasons ago (another highly regarded point guard). Right now Sean Miller seems more comfortable with Jordin Mayes running his offense, and why not — the junior dropped 19 points including four threes in getting the start tonight. Turner sounds like he has a little maturing to do in Tucson.
  • Hamstrung. Big things are expected by Texas A&M this season, and they program has already been struck by the news that its new head coach, Billy Kennedy, has Parkinson’s Disease. Naturally in the first game of the new season, A&M’s best player, Khris Middleton, had to leave the game with a tweak to his hammy. TAMU won easily tonight, but having your best player gimpy and your brand-new head coach dealing with major health problems obviously puts a major damper on the pending season.

Tweet of the Night.  Leave it to Nate Silver to bring a little levity to a night that left everyone around the college sports world feeling rather nasty.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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