ATB: On Buzzer Beaters, Murray State’s Road Test, and Indiana’s Legitimacy…Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2012
Tonight’s Lede. What. A. Night. The beauty of college basketball is that you can never quite predict when you’re going to luck into a great evening of hoops. Sometimes you look at the schedule and figure you’ll be riveted to your seat on the couch all night, only to be disappointed with a bunch of blowouts. Tonight the slate didn’t look terribly compelling other than a couple of games, and yet the buzzer-beaters, excitement and even an RTC or two kept pouring in. Let’s jump into a wild and wacky Wednesday night of action…
Your Watercooler Moment. Buzzer, Buzzer, Toil and Trouble. There were a number of last-second shots to win games tonight around the country, and while only one of them involved a ranked team losing, that doesn’t make them any less interesting.
- Hilton Magic. It didn’t carry quite the same weight as Iowa State’s RTF football victory over then-#2 Oklahoma State back in November, but the Cyclones’ basketball comeback resulting in Scott Christopherson’s banked three at the buzzer was no less compelling. The reaction of the Cowboy players after the ball drops through the net tells the story, but more on OSU’s meltdown a little later in this post. For now, just enjoy the dagger from 25 feet.
- Kilpatrick Courage. After UConn’s Shabazz Napier drilled a long three with 9.5 seconds remaining to tie the game, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick calmly dribbled up the right side of the court, crossed over right to left to create some space, and sunk an equally long three to give UC the lead (and the ballgame) with 2.5 seconds remaining.
- RTCing Memphis. Although the RTC was questionable here (and the students’ hesitation proves it), UCF’s Keith Clanton was not. His big night included a three-point play (the clinching free throw and ensuing chaos is shown) that gave the Knights a key C-USA home win over conference bully, Memphis.
- Ninety-Two Years Is a Long Time. That was the last time that Nebraska had defeated Indiana in basketball, and we’d have to question whether there’s anyone on Earth alive who remembers that one. The students who RTC’d tonight surely won’t forget this comeback victory in 2104.
- Close Games. According to ESPN research, there were four overtime games and 19 games decided by two possessions or fewer tonight. Considering that there were only 52 games on the docket, that means more than a third of tonight’s contests really went right down to the wire. With less than two months to Selection Sunday and the conference season now in full swing almost everywhere, we should start to expect more nights like these. But this Wednesday was particularly spectacular, with close games seemingly everywhere you looked.
- Murray State Passes Another Road Test. It may not have seemed like Murray State would have had much of a problem in a road game at Morehead State tonight — after all, Kenneth Faried has already exited the building — but the fact of the matter is that this is a rivalry game and the home Eagles played like it. Early in the second half, Morehead held a nine-point lead and the crowd was rocking with the anticipation of beating a Top 25 team in its building for the first time ever. A 10-0 Murray State run led by Donte Poole (15/5) put an end to that noise right away, though, with the Racers hanging on to survive, 66-60, to move to 19-0 on the season. Ken Pomeroy now gives this team a 43.1% chance to run the regular season table, and a cursory glance at their remaining schedule suggests that possibility might be on target. Thinking back to years past, though, when teams in this position end up losing their first game — think UMass in 1996, Stanford in 2004, or Illinois in 2005, it’s usually to a conference opponent on the road right at the end of the regular season. Murray will travel to face, in succession, Southeast Missouri State, Tennesssee State, and Tennessee Tech to close out the year.
- Post-Brawl Recovery? It’s been a little over five weeks since the Crosstown Shootout brawl that caused so much consternation among the chattering class, but it appears that both teams involved on that fateful Saturday have recovered and moved on. Cincinnati, to its credit, never really wavered much. Even without star big man Yancy Gates in the lineup, the Bearcats reeled off seven straight wins before dropping a home game to St. John’s. No worries — UC just moved on to win at Georgetown and at Connecticut in the span of nine days to move to second place in the Big East race at 5-1. Xavier, on the other hand, suffered considerably more effects from the brawl, losing five of its next six games before getting its legs back under it as Atlantic 10 play began. Now 4-1 after tonight’s win versus St. Joseph’s and with its sole conference loss at La Salle, it’ll be interesting to see if XU can continue to surge forward with four of its next five games on the road (against the likes of Dayton, St. Louis and Memphis). As of now in mid-January, though, both teams appear to have recovered nicely from a really bad afternoon in early December.
… and Misses.
- Indiana’s Legitimacy. We were willing to forgive road losses to Michigan State and Ohio State, but a recent home loss to Minnesota and tonight’s blown game at Nebraska — IU had a 13-point second half lead — have us wondering if Tom Crean’s team is about to implode again in Big Ten play. After all, the Indiana coach is a horrific 2-29 in Big Ten play at the school, and three of the Hoosiers’ next five games are roadies to Wisconsin, Michigan and Purdue. Right now, we’re not sure that they win any of those games. One of the hesitations among folks about IU early, even after the win over then-#1 Kentucky, was that they hadn’t proved themselves on the road yet — with its sole road victory to date coming only at Penn State, it appears as if those concerns had some validity, didn’t they?
- Oklahoma State’s Meltdown. OSU has been a major disappointment this season, but after battling to a late lead on the road in Ames tonight, it appeared that the Cowboys would get its first Big 12 road win over Iowa State if they could simply take care of the ball. Instead, a missed three by Keiton Page led to an Iowa State three to tie the game with 17 seconds remaining. Then, Tyrus McGee knocked the ball off of Markel Brown’s leg with five seconds remaining, allowing ISU to get one shot to win. You saw what happened above. For a team that Travis Ford has had all kinds of trouble getting to come together, this is the kind of devastating loss that can cause a snowball effect with Kansas State and Missouri coming to town in the next week.
- The Pits. New Mexico’s home court was anything but as San Diego State visited tonight and once again left Albuquerque with a huge road win. For the second straight season, the Aztecs walked out of what is billed as one of the nation’s toughest home courts (and it is) with a big Mountain West victory. After a 10-o start to the game from the home team, SDSU worked itself back into the game behind a big night from Xavier Thames (22 points) and eventually wore down the Lobos with their athleticism and cuts to the basket. For a while in the second half, it appeared that a dunk contest had broken out among the players in dark uniforms. New Mexico’s Tony Snell, entering the game averaging nearly 13 points per game and on fire (42.4%) from behind the arc, was held to 1-6 from three and a measly three points. SDSU, with its home win over UNLV last weekend, and this win on the road, has served notice that it wasn’t just a one-trick pony last season. This is a basketball program.
Dunkdafied. Just… nasty. South Florida’s Victor Rudd crushes on Godsgift Achiuwa during a fast break tonight.
- Rodney McGruder, Kansas State (NPOY). McGruder saved K-State from a 1-4 Big 12 start with a career-high 33/8 night on 11-17 shooting against Texas in Manhattan. Perhaps even more importantly, he harassed UT’s J’Covan Brown into an 8-28 disaster, ensuring that his team won the game.
- Colt Ryan, Evansville. Ryan hit for a career-high 39 points that included eight threes in a blowout win over MVC rival Bradley tonight.
- Keith Clanton, Central Florida. The Knight forward went for 23/8 on 9-12 shooting from the field that featured a game-winning three-point play with four seconds left in a big one-point home win over C-USA rival Memphis.
- Anthony Marshall, UNLV. Marshall blew up the stat sheet tonight with 27 points, five rebounds, nine assists and three blocks against TCU. It’s uncertain whether he also sold tickets and live-blogged the game, but we’re going to assume that he probably did that too.
- Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss. The no-offense Ole Miss big man outplayed the more heralded duo of Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie tonight by going for 19/15/3 blks in a character-building home win over its bitter rival.
Honorable Mention. There were so many great performances tonight that we’re bringing back the honorable mention section.
- Toure’ Murry, Wichita State. Murry dropped a big 24-point, three-steal night on 8-10 shooting (including two key buckets down the stretch) in a key MVC road win over Northern Iowa.
- Kevin Jones, West Virginia. The nation’s most underappreciated player dominated Marshall to the tune of 25/7/3 assts on 8-12 shooting tonight.
- JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova. The best game of the young forward’s VU career couldn’t have come at a better time, as his 23/11 outperformed Seton Hall’s Herb Pope and helped his team to a key home win.
- Shabazz Napier, Connecticut. Despite the Huskies’ loss, Napier contributed 27/5/7 assts including back-to-back threes in the last minute that brought UConn back from six-point deficit within the final minute of action.
- Xavier Thames, San Diego State. Thames was the brightest star in the Pit tonight, leading SDSU to a huge road victory at New Mexico by knocking down 22/4 assts on 7-11 shooting.
Tweet of the Night. Jason McCallum at ESPN Stats & Information crystallize just how much great basketball went on around the country tonight.