College Basketball by the Tweets: Some Good Tuesday Night GamesPosted by David Harten on December 11th, 2013
“Quality over quantity” might be the best way to describe Tuesday night in college basketball. A majority of schools are in finals week, and as a result, players need their study time. So that means rest. Or easy opponents. Or both. But that wasn’t the case with No. 13 Kansas and No. 19 Florida yesterday. It’s safe to assume that these two schools aren’t in finals prep this week, so they took the opportunity to play each other in Gainesville. Jayhawks coach Bill Self went with four freshmen in the starting lineup. It perhaps wasn’t the greatest of ideas against the Gators’ dual point guard system, but it was the Gators’ zone that stifled Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis and most of the rest of the Jayhawks, leading to a 67-61 win. This prompted a short debate about KU’s offense versus the zone.
Part of the situation with Self seemed weird. Why start four freshmen? It almost seemed like a move that Chuck Daly would make, a la the 1992 Dream Team’s scrimmage against that college all-star team (although I’d be willing to bet Self wouldn’t throw the game.) Maybe it was a move to prepare the Jayhawks’ youth for the conference season, when trips to Manhattan, Stillwater, Ames and Norman await.
That youth showed early for Kansas, who allowed the Gators to go on an blistering 21-0 run. Andrew Wiggins keyed a near comeback, bringing his team back to within range before Florida held them off. For the most part, Kansas was sloppy with the ball, couldn’t shoot and was horrible defensively.
It all added up to a 67-61 loss.
Despite it being the lone match-up between Top 25 teams, there were a few other marquee programs in action last night. Indiana, which has been near the Top 25 since the start of the season, took on Oakland. It really wasn’t much of a game, with the Hoosiers rolling the Golden Grizzlies, 81-54. They can thank a hot shooting start to their performance, but the biggest story of the night was one-year wonder Evan Gordon, continuing to make the most of his lone season in Bloomington by scoring 26 points in 26 minutes.
In what might have been the coolest sight of the night, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, forever a father, took a trip to Minneapolis to watch his son, Richard, in his first season at Minnesota, take on South Dakota State. It’s not noteworthy until you realize that the elder Pitino was in full Golden Gophers garb. While some fans would be upset by this, it’s cool to see a dad who happens to be a Hall of Fame coach support his son, regardless of if that means donning a few other colors (It’s not like the elder Pitino hasn’t worn a bunch of different colors in his career, anyway).
And in one of the more underrated games of the night, Evansville traveled to Cincinnati to take on Xavier. The Musketeers got a great performance from Matt Stainbrook, but what’s more amazing is that the Purple Aces didn’t get a single double-digit scoring effort from their starters but still managed to keep it close.
Normally, this column is reserved for what one may call “elite on elite” games. But when a player drops 41 points and 12 rebounds in a game — even if it was against Division II Hiwassee — it merits some love. Z. Mason (not an initial, that’s his name) did just that. Also, in keeping with the night of big stat lines against less-than-competitive opponents, Towson’s Jarrelle Benimon put up a triple-double against D-II Central Pennsylvania.
To cap the night, two teams with national title hopes entertained with Kentucky hosting Boise State and Gonzaga heading on the road to take on West Virginia. As far as the Wildcats were concerned, there was one thing they had to stop, the Broncos’ hot-shooting trio of Jeff Elorriaga, Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic. Elorriaga was held to just three points, but Drmic and Marks combined for 32 and Boise State stuck with Kentucky for much of the game. James Young scored all 17 of his points in the first half and the newly blonde-cropped Willie Cauley-Stein sent away nine shots in the win. It was also a big night for the Bulldogs, who got 19 from Pzemek Karnowski and 18 from Kevin Pangos. Free throws became huge down the stretch to preserve the win, with the Zags hitting 19-of-23 on the game.