ATB: Kevin Murphy’s 50 Points, Pitt Keeps Surging, and Mizzou’s Dixon From Goat To Hero…Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2012
Tonight’s Lede. It was a standard Big Monday around college basketball nation tonight, but the biggest news from the evening did not come from two pretty good games between Big East and Big 12 rivals in Morgantown and Austin. No, an unknown player from the OVC ended up with tonight’s headlines after waltzing into the night of his basketball life in an otherwise mundane game played in the nation’s midsection. Let’s jump in…
Your Watercooler Moment. Kevin Murphy’s Half-Century.
Somewhat reminiscent of last year’s 52-point explosion from Lamar’s Mike James, Kevin Murphy, a 6’7″ senior guard from Tennessee Tech, dropped a career-high and NCAA season-high 50 points against SIU-Edwardsville tonight. The wiry wing was on fire from everywhere, hitting 16-21 from the field, including 6-9 from behind the arc and 12-14 from the line. Murphy has always been a gifted scorer, sporting a four-year average of 15.5 PPG and moving into second place on the all-time scoring list at TTU this evening, but he’s never approached this kind of rarefied air. His half-century worth of output tonight was six points more than the 2011-12 season’s previous high game of 44, held by Creighton’s Doug McDermott in a game against Bradley earlier this month. Interestingly, OVC and mid-major darling Murray State’s most likely road loss according to KenPom (at 24%) is its season-ending game versus Tennessee Tech on February 25 — maybe Murphy will have another blow-up left in him to perform the major upset.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Backyard Brawl Win Establishes Pitt. We’ll discuss the larger context further in tonight’s Night Line feature, but Pitt’s win at West Virginia was the win that announced that the Panthers were not going to simply slide off into obscurity for the rest of this season. Since Tray Woodall’s return to the starting lineup, Jamie Dixon’s team is 3-1, but home victories against Providence, and yes, even Georgetown, do not carry the same weight of winning a rivalry game against WVU in Morgantown. Rather than dropping dimes as he had in the last two wins with 19 assists, Woodall tonight took it upon himself to score, going for 24/4/3 assts on 8-12 shooting. Now at 3-7 in the Big East, the Panthers have a lot of work left to do, but the next five games are all winnable, and a 9-9 record with a positive trend line would probably be enough to earn Pitt the unlikeliest of NCAA Tournament bids we’ve seen in a long time.
- Frank Haith’s Last Possession Defense. With the way that the Texas offense reacted to Missouri’s zone defense on its last possession, you’d have thought that Rick Barnes had never shown his young team the scheme in practice. To say that the Longhorns panicked in seeing the zone is putting it kindly. The objective was to get the ball to J’Covan Brown (20 points on the night), but after messing around with the ball near halfcourt for a bit and then nearly turning the ball over on a wild skip pass, Texas’ Myck Kabongo drove baseline and missed a short jumper with five seconds remaining (to be fair, he was probably fouled on the arm). Missouri then held on for the one-point win, having now earned key road victories at Iowa State, Baylor and Texas so far this season. Does anyone remember when the mild-mannered Haith went from a ho-hum coach to a pretty darn good one? Yeah, let us know when you figure that one out.
… and Misses.
- ESPN’s Writeup of Kevin Murphy’s 50-Point Game. Wait, who the hell scored 50 tonight — the guy from the Sacramento Kings? Oh, he plays for the Rockets now? Tennessee Tech? What’s going on?
- Michael Dixon’s ‘Bow. Dixon was the hero for the Tigers on Monday night with his game-winning drive for a soft kiss off glass that fell through the net with 31 seconds to go. But immediately prior to that play, he was very nearly the goat after swinging his arms and the ball to clear space and in so doing, elbowed Texas’ Julien Lewis in the head. Dixon was whistled (as Frank Haith said after the game, correctly) for a flagrant foul, allowing Texas an opportunity to score two points from the foul line (UT made both), and two points in the ensuing possession (J’Covan Brown hit a jumper). Suddenly a three-point lead was a one-point deficit, which led to Dixon’s heroic drive to save the game. Still, despite a night where he did almost everything else perfectly (9-10 FGs), he needed to use better discretion there to ensure that he didn’t put his team in a position to blow the game.
- Kevin Murphy, Tennessee Tech (NPOY). If you drop 50 in a collegiate game, you win the night. Period.
- Michael Dixon, Missouri. Dixon’s game-winning drive to the left side of the lane provided a hard-fought win against Texas in Austin. He only missed one shot on the evening in a 21/4 assts night.
- Tray Woodall, Pittsburgh. Woodall’s return to the Panther lineup has provided a tremendous boost for his team, and his 24/5/4 assts tonight helped Pitt win its third game in a row.
- Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State. We hate to reward players on losing teams, but it’s a light night and a line of 27/18 on 11-14 shooting in the post will earn you consideration. His nine offensive rebounds more than doubled Coppin State’s total (four).
- Zack Rosen, Pennsylvania. Rosen contributed 28/5 assts in a bitter rivalry game against Princeton that went his team’s way for the first time in six tries.
Tweet of the Night. Leave it to Andy Glockner (@andyglockner) to find jewels like these in the bracketology numbers.