ATB: Iowa State’s RTC, Syracuse’s Goaltend That Wasn’t and Robbie Hummel’s Game Winner…Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2012
This Weekend’s Lede. In the season’s first non-football weekend (if you were watching the Pro Bowl, sorry, we can’t help you), we were left with a bunch of ho-hum games this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that they were unimportant. As of right now, there are approximately 60-70 teams that have a realistic shot at putting a run together the rest of the season to earn one of those elusive 37 at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Right now, it’s easier to find teams that don’t deserve an at-large than those that do, but that will probably change as teams separate themselves over the next six weeks. For the time being, here’s what we experienced this weekend…
Your Watercooler Moment. Iowa State RTCs Kansas.
In one of the more predictable situations of a hot team playing great basketball facing a hungry, up-and-coming team needing a statement win in its own building, Iowa State took it to Kansas in the last few minutes of their Saturday matchup, resulting in a major RTC and one of the biggest wins in recent Cyclones basketball history. The Mayor suffered an avalanche of criticism for his lack of coaching experience upon his hire two offseasons ago, but sporting a 5-3 Big 12 record and looking every bit the part of an at-large NCAA team for the first time since 2005, it now appears that it is he who will have the last laugh. The other takeaway from this game is that NPOY candidate Thomas Robinson may have met his Kryptonite, at least at the college level, in the form of ISU’s Royce White. The beastly Cyclone big man outplayed Robinson in both of their matchups this season (18/9/5 assts vs. 13/7 yesterday; 18/17/4 assts vs. 11/14/3 blks two weeks ago), and that’s not an easy task to perform. For our money we’d love to see a Round Three in March in Kansas City at the Big 12 Tournament.
Five More Weekend Storylines.
- The Goaltend That Wasn’t. With Syracuse up two in the closing seconds of a hard-fought game with West Virginia on Saturday, the Mountaineers’ Truck Bryant fired up this wayward shot from the outside:
WVU’s Deniz Kilicli grabbed the airball and proceeded to go up for what appeared to be an easy game-tying layup. Syracuse center Baye Keita had other ideas, however. He got his hand on the ball a millisecond too late, just after it had made contact with the glass. All three referees stood silently as the WVU players and bench blew up in outrage. Syracuse hung on to win the game afterward, and in the postgame press conference, Bob Huggins crystallized his thoughts in his own eloquent way: “Do I think it was [a goaltend]? No. I know it was.” Of course, he was right. There was much discussion after the game as to whether any one play such as this one could be game-changing (as in changing the outcome), and in our view, it’s tough to make a case that this situation was anything but. Maybe Syracuse hits a shot to win in regulation, or maybe they don’t. But WVU should have had an opportunity to play it out.
- Robbie Hummel Knocks Out Northwestern. Given the two brutal knee injuries that Purdue’s Robbie Hummel has suffered in the last two seasons, it’s an open secret around here that we’re rooting for the guy to have nothing but success from here on out. He’s had some struggles with his shot this season (39.5%), but with 12 seconds to play against Northwestern in a tie game, the redshirt senior did what stars do — he located his spot from the baseline, and his shot was pure. You can see it at BTN.com, and although Purdue is unlikely to make a run at the top of the Big Ten, the Boilermakers sit at 5-4 halfway through the conference slate and will more than likely have another shot for Hummel to find postseason glory in March Madness.
- Pitt Turning Its Season Around? Jamie Dixon’s team has been nothing short of a disaster over the last month of action, losing eight games in a row from Christmas week to last week. An 11-1 team ranked in the Top 25 quickly became an 11-9 team with an 0-7 Big East record. The Panthers finally broke through when Providence came to town, but much more impressive was the methodical way in which Pitt handled a tough Georgetown team at home Saturday. Much is being made about Tray Woodall’s return to the lineup from injury impacting the Panther offense (19 assists vs. five turnovers in the two wins), but what was lost in the discussion was just how dominant defensively Pitt was against Georgetown. The Panthers looked like their old selves in that game, making the Hoyas work for every open look, and challenging those that remained. The Panthers have a long way to go to even see the outline of the bubble in the distance, but there are unwinnable games left on their schedule, so who knows?
- Murray State Remains Unbeaten Prior to BracketBuster Release. The nation’s lone unbeaten team won it’s 21st game in a row on Saturday, beating Eastern Illinois 73-58, in a game that featured the return of its leading rebounder, Ivan Aska. The senior forward admitted a few nerves in playing for the first time in a month but his 8/3 in 21 minutes of action was good news for Steve Prohm as the Racers set a new OVC record for consecutive wins. The team will find out Monday who it will host in the February 18 BracketBuster event, and all signs point to another excellent mid-major such as Wichita State or St. Mary’s making the trip to western Kentucky.
- Towson Ends 41-Game Losing Streak. It took more than a full calendar year — from December 29, 2010, to January 27, 2012 — but Towson’s long year of discontent finally came to an end on Saturday afternoon. After an NCAA-record 41 consecutive losses, Pat Skerry’s team broke through with a 66-61 win over UNC Wilmington. Whether it was the result of a strange premonition involving Skerry’s wife and a hawk, or simply facing an equally youthful team with its own struggles defending people — no matter. The important thing is that the streak is now over and the team can focus on continuing to improve without that albatross around their neck. And in case you’re shaking your head wondering if anyone thinks this is important, take a read of this letter to the editor from 90-year old QD Thompson, Towson University Class of 1942.
This Other Interesting Thing. Texas Tech’s Starters Set New Theshold For Ineffectiveness. We’re not sure we’ve ever heard of a more pathetic offensive performance from a group of starters in a power conference league, but Texas Tech’s five may have set a new low against Missouri on Saturday. The quintet of Robert Lewandowski, Jordan Tolbert, Terran Petteway, Javarez Willis and Kevin Wagner combined to hit a grand total of six field goals for the entire game, converting that into 14 measly points. Luckily (or unluckily) for Billy Gillispie, his four bench players were able to do enough to keep TTU competitive with the Tigers, although they still came out of the contest with another road loss.
And Another One. Creighton’s Pink Out. As part of the ongoing Coaches vs. Cancer campaign, Creighton fans packed the house wearing pink t-shirts on Saturday in the Bluejays’ 73-59 win over Bradley. Doug McDermott did his typical thing (24/6), but the story of the night was the outpouring of support to fight cancer, one survivor of whom is Doug’s mother, Theresa. Both teams also had pink trim on their uniforms and shoes to support the initiative.
OK, One More. Which Way To Athens, Again? Michigan’s John Beilein, after his team’s 64-49 loss at Ohio State on Sunday: “I was really impressed with Ohio today. Their defense was really suffocating at times.” And again, later: “When Ohio comes [to Ann Arbor], we’ll work our tails off to get as good as we can against them.” This clearly wasn’t a mistake, as Michigan football coach Brady Hoke has made reference to “Ohio” on occasion as a way to get under the skin of Buckeye fans in their rivalry. Hey, we love college rivalries where teams, coaches, players and fans really don’t like each other, so we’re all for it. Can’t wait for the rematch in Ann next month.
- Royce White, Iowa State (NPOY). White (18/9/5 assts) outplayed his Kansas counterpart, Thomas Robinson, for the second time this season in leading Iowa State to the Mayor’s defining win of his short tenure in Ames.
- Terrence Jones, Kentucky. Jones finally played like the All-American we expected this season, ripping LSU for 27/9/3 blks in a spirited effort that might have been #1 Kentucky’s best of the year.
- Moe Harkless, St. John’s. Normally we don’t reward losing players in this space, but most players don’t go into Cameron Indoor Stadium as freshmen and drop 30/13 on 13-21 shooting against Duke either, as Harkless did on Saturday.
- Perry Jones, Baylor. Jones dominated the Texas front line for 22/14/3 assts Saturday as Baylor won its fifth game of six close (five points or less) ones this season — a sign of maturity and experience.
- Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette. DJO led a Marquette comeback from 18 points down at Villanova, using his 26/6/5 assts as the straw that stirred the drink in a game that the Golden Eagles probably should have lost.
- Steven Pledger, Oklahoma. Pledger went off for 30 points and five rebounds on 11-17 shooting as Oklahoma knocked off Kansas State in another disappointing loss for the Wildcats.
- Matt Dickey, UNC Asheville. Dickey tore up the stat sheet on Saturday with a 31/4/3 assts/7 stls evening against Campbell, as his Bulldogs moved to 11-1 in the Big South conference race.
- Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts. DoMo’s 28/4 on 10-14 shooting helped the Golden Eagles move to 12-0 in Summit League play, two full games in the loss column ahead of its nearest competitor, South Dakota State.
- Will Barton, Memphis. Barton’s career-high 29/8 against Marshall gave the Tigers its ninth win in its last 10 games, and allowed Josh Pastner’s team to remain in a tie at the top of the C-USA standings with Southern Mississippi.
- Cody Zeller, Indiana. The Hoosier freshman had the best scoring game of his young career against Iowa Sunday, hitting for 26/4/4 assts/3 stls on 11-12 shooting from the field.