Rushed Reaction: #2 Kansas 63, #10 Purdue 60

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Sticking Around. It felt like Purdue was going to win this game throughout the evening, but the Jayhawks stuck around. Kansas shot 29.4% in the first half and they were lucky to be only down by six points at halftime. In the second half the shooting woes hit Purdue down the stretch where the Boilermakers only shot 28.6% in the second half to allow KU back into it. Through the final three minutes, Purdue had some real struggles to run its offense. It was the Kansas defense that forced turnovers in the final possessions.  Defense, so they say, wins championships (or at least third round defensive battles).
  2. Robinson shut down. The Boilermakers did everything they could to keep Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson out of the game. He was absent for most the game only having a single point at halftime and shooting 1-of-5 from the field. Robinson ended up with a double-double –11 points and 13 rebounds — but he had to earn every single one of them. Most of it came from the free throw line where he went 7-of-11 from the charity stripe. On the opposite end he finished 2-of-12 from the field. Still, Robinson recorded his 25th double-double this season, tying the school record held by Drew Gooden.
  3. Hummel-ized. Purdue needed a big game from Robbie Hummel if it wanted a chance to win the game tonight and he provided one, though a big share of it came in the first half. Hummel had 22 points before halftime on 7-of-8 shooting, including 5-of-6 from three including a shot clock buzzer-beater from downtown Omaha. Kansas did a good job containing him in the second half, but down the stretch, the Boilermakers went back to Hummel and he hit a couple more key baskets He ran out of gas in the final minute when Purdue needed a score, though, thanks to Kansas’ suffocating defense. He finished with a game-high 26 points. The loss was a sad way to end his career after making his way back from two devastating knee injuries.

Star of the Game. Elijah Johnson, Kansas. With Thomas Robinson basically ineffective in the scoring column, Johnson helped drive the Kansas comeback scoring 13 of his 18 points in the second half, including the basket to lead the Jayhawks to the win.  He also was 3-of-8 from behind the arc. 

Quotable. “I don’t think he has a McDonald’s All-American on his team so give Bill Self some credit.” Purdue head coach Matt Painter on recruiting a player to Purdue.

Sights & Sounds. When you get to the NCAA Tournament, the game tonight between the Jayhawks and Boilermakers is exactly what you are looking for in March Madness.  It was a full arena with teams battling each other from the beginning to the end, and fans and bands creating a great atmosphere.  With the announced crowd of almost 17,000 in the arena, the game was made even more special.  It was a great way to end Omaha’s weekend of hosting.  The event should eventually make its way back to Omaha, where it’ll find a hyped up crowd ready to support the Tourney.

What’s Next?. Kansas now heads to St. Louis to the Sweet Sixteen for a date with North Carolina State next week.  Although the Jayhawks are the #2 seed in the region, many see the Jayhawks as a favorite over the #1 North Carolina Tar Heels due to Kendall Marshall’s injury and the proximity of St. Louis to the KU campus.

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Rushed Reaction: #7 Florida 84, #15 Norfolk State 50

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Three-point shooting was the killing blow. The biggest difference between Friday and today was the three-point shooting by Florida. Against Virginia the Gators were completely cold behind the arc, only hitting one three before halftime. Against Norfolk State, the Gators hit seven before the half that effectively led to their 28-point lead. For the game the Gators shot 10-of-28 from three, a far cry from the four they made on Friday. Florida set a school record with made three-pointers this season and they will need those to go down as they progress through the tourney.
  2. Ball movement. Florida has done a great job in Omaha with its ball movement. Despite Norfolk State playing zone for a large part of the game, Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and the rest of the Gators were moving around and looking for the open man when the Spartans would shut off drives to the basket.  They were obviously quicker than Norfolk State, but they will have to keep up their intensity for the whole game. After getting out to a large lead on the Spartans, their intensity fell off quite a bit in the second half. But the Gators only turned the ball over eight times for the game. Constant ball movement is a big part of the Billy Donovan offense.
  3. Balance will win games. Florida doesn’t have a dominant player like Thomas Robinson or Anthony Davis, but their team is really balanced. Walker (15), Boynton (20), Bradley Beal (14), Mike Rosario (10), and Erik Murphy (10) all scored in double figures for the Gators. Patric Young didn’t even score his first field goal until early in the second half, as he finished with only six points.  It will take a combination of players having a good game for Florida to continue to advance.

Star of the Game. Kenny Boynton, Florida. Although the Gators were balanced, it was Boynton who got things going for Florida with his 20 points and seven rebounds.  His physical play got Norfolk State out of sync and they could not recover. 

Quotable. “I’m extremely proud of my team, we did things that have never happened before at our university.” – Anthony Evans, Norfolk State head coach

Sights & Sounds. The Norfolk State band again was in full force, this time on the total opposite end of court than Friday. However, they were still very powerful and the fans in the stands enjoyed their enthusiasm.  Even the Purdue band that was right next to me waiting for the next game, all they could say was “wow.”

Wildcard. A #15 seed has never advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Still, Norfolk State won the hearts of fans in Omaha during this trip as there were pockets of fans wearing their green St. Patrick’s Day shirts to show their support for the Spartans.  The Gators have now advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time in school history, six of which have occurred under head coach Billy Donovan.

What’s Next? The Gators now head to Phoenix to take on Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen, where the Golden Eagles will try to slow down this quick Florida offense. The Florida guards look like they might be a little quicker than those from Marquette, but the Golden Eagles have a bit more inside. It should be a great game Thursday night.

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Four Thoughts from Omaha…

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 18th, 2012

In 2008, Omaha hosted NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games.  To be honest, none of those games that year were very significant.  All the teams that were supposed to win did, and they did so in large margins.  The great thing about the games this week four years later, it was the total opposite.  Each game played a significant part of the day — although some more than others.  Here are some thoughts from all four of Friday’s’ games.

  1. Norfolk State wins the folks of Omaha. Norfolk State got its first taste of the NCAA Tournament on Friday against Missouri.  What they didn’t know was that they were supposed to lay down for the Tigers to let Missouri get to the next round. You could tell right away just by the spirit squad and pep band came into the arena.  One thing about schools from the MEAC and the SWAC is that they have awesome bands. The advantage I had was that I was pretty much right next to them the whole game.  They were a vocal bunch as well.  That energy was also seen then from the players on the court. Kyle O’Quinn nailed a three-pointer midway through the first half from the top of the key. On his way back on defense he had this huge smile on his face. He knew that there was something special happening. The thing about Omaha is that the people there love big events.  The College World Series in baseball has been a mainstay for over 50 years and will be here for at least another 20. Big name concerts come to town and they fill the CenturyLink. The United States Swimming trials four years ago made such an impression that they will be back in Omaha again this summer, which is unprecedented. The Omaha community has also embraced the NCAA Tournament by selling out all sessions in the two most recent years it has come to town. Omaha fans took Norfolk State under their wing and helped create some history by facilitating something that had happened only four times in 109 tries before heading into the day. After Friday that win number went to six. Norfolk State had to wonder where they would stay since their hotel was booked for the rest of the weekend, but I guess that was a good problem to have.  What I am interested to see on Sunday is whether the Omaha crowd again embraces the Spartans in their game against Florida. If they do, it could be a very interesting environment.

    Kyle O'Quinn Became America's Favorite Player Overnight (AP/L. Hey)

  2. Kansas stomps its foe. After seeing Missouri lose earlier in the day and Duke losing to Lehigh soon after that, there was a buzz in the arena on whether the #2 seeds in the tournament were jinxed on Friday.  In the first 10 minutes of the Jayhawks’ game against Detroit, it looked like it could be another upset brewing.  But then after a timeout by head coach Bill Self with just under nine minutes left, Kansas got things going and went on a 34-7 scoring run over the next 16 minutes.  After that it was game over for the Titans, who really struggled to make any baskets much less getting any good looks in that stretch. While Duke and North Carolina get to play in their back yard most years, Kansas is beginning to like Omaha with its two trips here over the past four years. Other than Kansas City, Omaha is pretty close to being in their own backyard. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reaction: #2 Kansas 65, #15 Detroit 50

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Thomas Robinson is good. Robinson is everything as advertised and it is pretty obvious why he is at the top of most people’s Player of the Year ballots.  He almost had a double-double before halftime and scored 12 points in the first half pretty much all on dunks.  He finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.  The one thing that could become a factor on Sunday is if he gets into foul trouble.  He finished this game with four fouls.
  2. Physical play. Kansas used their physical advantage to overpower Detroit.  Looking on the court, it was obvious how much bigger Kansas is, not only with their body size, but in speed as well translating to points in the paint.  The paint produced a 34-24 advantage for the Jayhawks. In addition, Elijah Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor and Robinson combined to go 18-of-26 from the field for 41 points. 
  3. Crowd advantage. North Carolina and Duke usually get good crowds for their opening games with their po so close to campus.  Here in Omaha, it appeared that Kansas had that type of advantage today.  Other than the Detroit pep band and a small section of Detroit followers, the rest of the crowd was all Kansas.  At times they made it pretty known.  There are likely going to be over 16,000 Kansas fans at the CenturyLink Center on Sunday.

Star of the Game–Thomas Robinson, Kansas. The Jayhawks went right back to Robinson to start the second half and gave a big blow to the Titans to put the game out of reach.  He filled the middle and kept Detroit out of the lane, causing Titan junior Doug Anderson to foul out of the game with just under 12 minutes to go.  He seemed unstoppable at times and got his NCAA leading 24th double-double of the season tonight.

Quotable–“We saw the game earlier in the day with the other 15 seed.  We heard that Duke was beat by Lehigh and we hoped that we could do the same.”–  Ray McCallum, Detroit guard.

Sights & Sounds. With about three minutes to go in the game, the crowd broke out into the traditional “Rock Chalk KU” chant until the end of the game.  There were so many Kansas fans there, it probably almost felt like you were at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

Wildcard. With 9:04 left in first half, Kansas went on a 34-7 scoring stretch during the next 15:55.  During that same stretch, Detroit only shot  2-of-21 from the field.

What’s Next?. The Jayhawks head into Sunday with a Purdue team that is likely more physical than Detroit to get to the Sweet Sixteen.  The Kansas frontcourt, however, would appear on paper to have an advantage to keep the Boilermakers out of the lane compared to St. Mary’s soft interior defense.  The game will tip off 30 minutes after Norfolk St. vs Florida which is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. central time on TNT.

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Rushed Reaction: #10 Purdue 72, #10 St. Mary’s 69

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Exploiting interior defense. Purdue took advantage of one glaring weakness for St. Mary’s — its lack of interior defense. The Boilermakers continually exploited the middle with guard Terone Johnson leading the way with 21 points. He took advantage of the openings in the first half and the rest of his teammates got involved after that as Purdue scored 36 points in the paint. They can be successful further into the NCAA Tournament by attacking the basket.
  2. Key Outside Shooting. Although Purdue didn’t shoot very well from three, the ones that did go down were at critical points in the game. Both of DJ Bird‘s three pointers and the lone Robbie Hummel three made in the second half came when St. Mary’s was trying to make a run. The ability of Purdue to get to the paint so easily made the few outside shots Purdue attempted in the second half count.
  3. Gaels will miss Jones. Rob Jones is a 6’6″ forward that is basically playing the job of center while also being a threat outside. He works hard underneath and plays bigger than he really is. St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett must have told his team at halftime to get the ball to Jones because he was a lot more involved after halftime. He scored the first five points of the half and seemed to be involved in every play throughout the rest of the game including the shot at the end of the game that could have sent it into overtime. He finished with a game high 23 points. The senior will be missed after this season.

Star of the Game–Lewis Jackson, Purdue. Although Terone Johnson set the example for Purdue to attack the basket in the first half, it was Jackson who took advantage of the St. Mary’s interior defense that led the Boilermakers to the win. The point guard got the final field goal of the game that was huge for Purdue.

Quotable. “The thing is about this team is that they will let you take three point shots. You have to make shots. We finally hit some at the end, but we didn’t do good enough.” — Randy Bennett, St. Mary’s Head Coach.

Sights & Sounds. The atmosphere at the CenturyLink was still buzzing over the Norfolk State upset of Missouri in the previous game. Since they also had to clear out the arena for the evening session, it took a while for it to get full again, but by the end of the game the stands were packed to enjoy the finish of this one. When St. Mary’s took the lead 69-68 with 44 seconds to go, the crowd was clearly behind the Gaels.

Wildcard. With the win, Purdue has now won their fourteenth straight opening round game in the NCAA Tournament. They are also now 3-1 as a #10 seed.

What’s Next?–The Boilermakers now head to Sunday with a trip to St. Louis on the line against either Kansas or Detroit in the next game tonight. With two #2 seeds already going down today, you are never quite sure what is going to happen.

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Rushed Reaction: #15 Norfolk St 86, #2 Missouri 84

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. A fight and not a show. Missouri might have come into the game as the favorite today, but Norfolk State was not going to stand by lightly, putting up a fight and taking it to the Tigers early.  Missouri players looked frustrated throughout the game in trying to stop the Spartans, but the shots kept going in. Kim English was held to only two points on 1-7 shooting and 0-5 from three, 12 off of his season average.  At one point in the game, you could see Missouri guard Michael Dixon showing his frustration at the free throw line telling his team to, “c’mon guys.”
  2. Three point shooting vital. The Spartans and Tigers both had better shooting from the three-point line than the previous game with Florida and Virginia.  The two teams combined to shoot 23-of-58 from behind the arc.  Marcus Denmon and Dixon from Missouri were the big keys in the Tigers going 8-16.  But it was Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin that combined for 8-of-12 for Norfolk State that kept them in the game throughout.
  3. Three headed monster. Norfolk State had balanced scoring  with four players in double figures. MEAC offensive and defensive Player of the Year Kyle O’Quinn led the way with 26 points and 14 rebounds while Williams and McEachin each had 20 points.  Each player stepped up at different times during the game. The Spartans had 16 second chance points.   They will need this heading into their next round against Florida.

Star of the Game. Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State. O’Quinn knew things could be in the cards for the Spartans early in the first half when he hit a three-pointer from the top of the key.  After that play he smiled, running down the court and gave quite a fist pump to let the crowd know he was having fun.

Quotable–“I never thought it would be an upset alert until that buzzer went off.” Norfolk State Center, Kyle O’Quinn.

Wildcard. If you know anything about Omaha, they embrace big events that come to the city. The NCAA Tournament is one of those big events.  As the game went on, Omaha residents that bought tickets to this event embraced Norfolk State and started adding to the overall environment. Then if you add in the Kansas fans who had all-session tickets getting ready for the Jayhawks to take the court later in the evening, it created for an electric afternoon.

Wildcard x2. With Norfolk State getting the win, the #15 seeds are now 5-105 in NCAA Tournament history.  Out of those five wins, three of those came from the MEAC conference.

What’s Next? Norfolk State will now face Florida for the chance to go to the Sweet Sixteen in Phoenix on Sunday.  Can the Spartans bring the magic back to the CenturyLink for one more game?

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Rushed Reaction: #7 Florida 71, #10 Virginia 45

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The lane is open. To open the game, Florida relied too heavily on the three-point shot.  After getting down early 10-2, the Gators rallied back to make a 28-10 run into halftime and an eight-point lead of their own thanks to driving the ball into the lane and Florida’s Erving Walker slicing between the Cavalier defense.
  2. Three point shooting woes. Both teams struggled from the three-point line in the first half, going a combined 1-of-22 from behind the arc.  The second half was a little better as Florida went 3-of-7, but Virginia struggled only going 3-of-10 in the second half.  Florida needs the three pointer to be on for them to get through their next opponent. 
  3. Second Chances. The Gators had several second chance opportunities in this game outscoring the Cavaliers 12-0 in that category.  Virginia didn’t protect the lane at the right times and the lack of defense allowed Florida to shoot almost 70% in the second half.

Star of the Game–Bradley Beal, Florida.  Beal came up big in the second half scoring 10 of his game high 14 points and then grabbed 11 rebounds.  The freshman guard from St. Louis didn’t play like a guard, with that rebounding ability.   Patric Young and Casey Prather also came up big going a combined 12-of-13 from the field.

Sights & Sounds–There were concerns from Omaha officials about the attendance for this game due to the local school Creighton taking on Alabama at the same time as this game.  But by the middle of the second half the arena mostly filled in but you could hear periodic cheers out of nowhere due to fans in the arena seeing the Creighton game on the concourse TVs.

Quotable–“You saw a team that really took it to us and we didn’t have an answer,” Tony Bennett, Virginia Head Coach.

What’s Next?–The Gators now wait to see if they will face Missouri or Norfolk State in the round of 32 on Sunday.  The likely pick here will be Missouri as they have the fan support at the CenturyLink Center and have been pretty dominant this season.   The key for Florida will be to hit more three pointers than they did in this one.  If they go cold again, it will be tough for them to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

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