Rushed Reactions: #22 Notre Dame 81, Purdue 68

Posted by WCarey on December 15th, 2012

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed some quick thoughts from this afternoon’s showdown between Notre Dame and Purdue

Three Key Takeaways.

Jack Cooley and Notre Dame Handed Purdue Easily Today

Jack Cooley and Notre Dame Handed Purdue Easily Today

  1. Purdue Is Definitely In A Rebuilding Season. In his eighth season as the head coach of the Boilermakers, Matt Painter has faced the tall task of attempting to replace Purdue legend Robbie Hummel. Thus far, the task has proven to be quite difficult. The Boilermakers sit at just 4-6 on the season and have already suffered losses to two mid-major programs (Bucknell and Eastern Michigan). Throughout the season, Purdue has struggled mightily with turnovers and its shooting percentage. Its struggles in both areas have thus far prevented the Boilermaker offense from establishing an identity on offense. Today’s starting lineup featured a redshirt freshman and two true freshmen, so it is easy to understand why the Boilermakers are battling through some pretty significant humps.
  2. Jack Cooley And Garrick Sherman Provide Notre Dame With A Formidable Frontcourt. Both the senior Cooley and the junior Sherman had productive afternoons with Cooley tallying 18 points and nine rebounds and Sherman pitching in 11 points and three rebounds. While Cooley starts and Sherman comes off the bench, there are many instances where the two are on the court together. Those instances provide the Irish with an interior-size advantage that has not been too common during the tenure of Mike Brey. The Big East is always a fairly rugged league, so this size advantage will undoubtedly help the Irish when conference play commences.
  3. Notre Dame’s Experience Helps The Irish Greatly. This season’s Irish returns all five starters from last season’s team and that gives them an experience advantage in almost every game it will play this season. You can sense this team’s experience while watching them play. Purdue went on a 16-2 run in the middle of the second half and the Irish never once became rattled. The Irish tri-captains — junior Eric Atkins, senior Jack Cooley, and senior Scott Martin — have seen a little bit of everything during their collegiate careers, so it is pretty easy to see why the team does not get rattled no matter the circumstance.

Star of the Game. Pat Connaughton, Notre Dame. While Jack Cooley put up another workmanlike effort for the Irish inside, it was the sophomore Connaughton that stood out on both ends of the court. Offensively, the swingman contributed 16 points, including a late three-pointer that put the late Purdue surge to rest. Defensively, Connaughton was in the face of Purdue sharpshooter D.J. Byrd all night and never allowed the senior to get into a groove offensively.

Quotable.

  • “We are flowing really well right now. No one is being selfish, which is great to see.” – Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley, acknowledging the strides the Irish offense has taken in its recent games.
  • “I thought that was really business-like by us today.” – Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, referencing his team’s steady effort in the victory.

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Rushed Reactions: Butler 88, #1 Indiana 86 (OT)

Posted by WCarey on December 15th, 2012

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed some quick thoughts from this afternoon’s showdown between Indiana and Butler

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. It Is Very Possible That Brad Stevens Is The Best Coach In The Country. How many other coaches could have led their team to victory against the number one team in the country with three players fouled out? If any others, the answer to that question is a very small number. Butler entered the overtime period against Indiana with swingman Roosevelt Jones and center Andrew Smith already disqualified due to fouls; then, early in the extra time, forward Erik Fromm picked up his fifth foul. With these three relegated to spectator status, Butler used a much smaller lineup consisting of Alex Barlow, Rotnei Clarke, Kellen Dunham, Chase Stigall, and Khyle Marshall. This lineup proved to be very effective for Butler, as the Bulldogs made five of their seven shots in the extra period. Reserve Stigall and rarely-used Barlow, who only recorded one field goal during the entire 2011-12 season, made the two biggest shots of the game for the Bulldogs. Well-coached teams are squads that never step down in the face of adversity and that is what Butler did this afternoon. You also have to credit the coaching staff for having players like Barlow and Stigall ready to contribute in the late minutes.
  2. Butler Is A Very Balanced Team. While Rotnei Clarke deservedly draws most of the national praise, this Butler team can hurt you in a variety of ways. Before fouling out, Andrew Smith more than held his own against Cody Zeller, who is without question one of the best players in the country. Smith finished the afternoon with a very workmanlike 12 points and nine rebounds. Roosevelt Jones had a huge afternoon for the Bulldogs too, as he finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. Khyle Marshall and Erik Fromm were also double-figure scorers for Butler, finishing with 12 and 10, respectively. Alex Barlow, Kellen Dunham, and Chase Stigall all contributed to the scoring column down the stretch with huge field goals that helped contribute to a truly “team” victory. Butler’s balance this afternoon had to have been a great sign for Brad Stevens, as he now knows he can rely on other guys if and when Clarke has an off night.
  3. Indiana Certainly Did Not Play Like The Best Team In The Country. This might be a little obvious considering the fact that the Hoosiers lost the game, but they did not play a very good game. Standout sophomore Cody Zeller was stymied inside all afternoon by Butler’s interior defense and only managed nine field goal attempts. It is usually not a good sign when your National Player of the Year candidate only takes nine shots. Senior forward Christian Watford was a non-factor for most of the afternoon, as he was saddled with early foul trouble. Watford finished the game with 10 points, but did so while only converting one field goal. Senior guard Jordan Hulls had a rough day shooting the ball, as he converted just four of his 11 field goal attempts and did not make a single three-pointer. Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell and junior swingman Victor Oladipo each made terrific plays down the stretch in regulation to force overtime, but both players battled turnover issues all game long – each finishing with six. If Indiana wants to be in the top team discussion this season, it is going to need more efforts where it plays like a great team consistently throughout the game.
Butler Deserves to Celebrate Another Huge Win

Butler Deserves to Celebrate Another Huge Win

Star of the Game. Roosevelt Jones, Butler. A case could be made for Rotnei Clarke or Andrew Smith, but I just have to go with Jones. The scrappy sophomore filled up the stat sheet for the Bulldogs by finishing with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. Throughout many stretches of the game, Jones was the best player on the court for either team. Jones’ strong play in the first half kept Butler very much in a game that Indiana could have ran away with early.

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Rushed Reactions: NC State 69, Connecticut 65

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC correspondent. He filed these thoughts from NC State’s victory over Connecticut in game two of the Jimmy V Classic. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

  1. NC State made the winning plays. Give Connecticut a lot of credit for its tenacity and scrappy style of play but NC State made the plays you need to make down the stretch in order to win big games. Whether it was huge offensive rebounds or Scott Wood’s pick-and-roll, the Wolfpack did what they had to do in order to come out on top. That’s a sign of a good basketball team and this is a win that should boost NC State’s confidence after a shaky start to the season.
  2. Connecticut just didn’t shoot the ball well enough to win. The Huskies made a bunch of threes early in the first half but that proved to be fool’s gold, as hot three-point shooting out of the gate usually does. Connecticut wound up shooting only 40.3% for the game while NC State finished seven percentage points higher. Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier took the most shots for the Huskies as usual but they were not efficient (14-34 combined). This overreliance on two players is going to win Connecticut some games this season but also cost them, especially against top notch competition like NC State. The Huskies can be good but they need to share the ball more.
  3. NC State’s rebounding helped it win this game. When you look at the rebounding numbers you see NC State was only +4 overall on the glass. However, a lot of the rebounds pulled down by the Wolfpack were on the offensive end and/or at key points in the game. Richard Howell in particular did a great job working for position on the offensive glass and earned his team a bunch of extra possessions. Connecticut had not been a good rebounding team coming into the game and, while it held its own, NC State took advantage of that at critical points in the game.

CJ Leslie’s Late Dunk Helped NC State Finish Off the Game (E. Hyman/RNO)

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Rushed Reactions: #11 Georgetown 64, Texas 41

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC correspondent. He filed these thoughts from Georgetown’s victory over Texas in game one of the Jimmy V Classic.

Three Takeaways:

  1. Texas is brutal offensively.  Most of this can be attributed to the Longhorns missing Myck Kabongo (eligibility) and Jaylen Bond (injury) but man, are they bad. Texas had just 33 points with less than four minutes remaining in the second half and finished the game with a total of only 41. Rick Barnes’ club shot 29.2% for the game and made just two three-pointers all night. Georgetown was a bad match-up for Texas because of its basketball IQ and strong defense but that’s no excuse. This was a pathetic effort by Texas offensively. In addition to the poor ball movement and poor shooting, Texas displayed incredible ineptitude with the ball. Twenty-two turnovers gave Georgetown plenty of extra shots, many more than it needed to win the game. This team needs Kabongo and Bond back in the worst way or else it’s going to be a long Big 12 season in Austin.
  2. Georgetown is steady seemingly every game. I saw the Hoyas take Indiana to the wire a few weeks ago in Brooklyn and while this game was as boring as that one was good, Georgetown’s style of play remains incredibly consistent. Not many teams in America can go out night after night and excel in a system that requires so much knowledge and discipline. It’s a tribute to John Thompson III’s coaching acumen and the willingness of his players to embrace the team concept. It’s not the most exciting style but no matter the opponent, Georgetown plays the same way every time out. You don’t see that too often in college basketball today.
  3. The Longhorn defense did not impress me. Texas is going to have to win games with incredible defense because of its inability to score points. Holding teams under 65 or even 60 points is not easy but that’s what Texas must do to win games this season. This team entered tonight’s game ranked third nationally in defensive efficiency but did a poor job containing Georgetown’s deliberate offensive attack. Georgetown shot 41% for the game but the Hoyas built a 13-point halftime lead (it didn’t feel that close) thanks to 48.3% shooting in the first half. Texas can’t win games without playing good defense for a full40 minutes, it’s that simple.

Barnes Faces Perhaps His Toughest Season in Austin (photot credit: F. Franklin)

Star of the Game: Otto Porter, Georgetown. Porter is a stat-sheet stuffer and did it again tonight. He was all over the floor on both ends, posting 14 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Georgetown’s best player didn’t have a great shooting night but he still managed to lead all scorers. Only a sophomore, Porter is one of the most versatile players in the country. John Thompson III knows exactly how to utilize him and Porter plays within himself — that’s a dangerous combination for Georgetown’s future opponents.

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Rushed Reactions: Notre Dame 64, #8 Kentucky 50

Posted by WCarey on November 29th, 2012

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed some quick thoughts from tonight’s showdown between Kentucky and Notre Dame

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The Atmosphere At The Purcell Pavilion Was Electric Tonight. And the electricity began way before the game even tipped off. Notre Dame distributed black t-shirts to all fans in an effort for a blackout at the Purcell Pavilion. The blackout effort was successful (even though there was some Kentucky blue scattered throughout the crowd). The Irish basketball team did its part in the blackout by unveiling brand new black jerseys. Big Blue Nation is known for its road presence, but the Notre Dame faithful were successfully able to drown out the voice of the visiting fans. The Irish are now 41-1 in their last 42 non-conference home games and the electrifying atmosphere of the Purcell Pavilion continues to play a key role in that strong mark.
  2. Notre Dame’s Defensive Effort Was Outstanding. The Irish held Kentucky to just 50 points, which is 18 points lower than its previous season-low. Kentucky shooters were frustrated early and often by the stingy Irish defense, as the Wildcats only managed to finish the game at 40.4% from the field. The Irish defense was particularly tough in the first half, holding Kentucky to just a 37.5% shooting mark. Notre Dame’s terrific defensive pressure also forced Kentucky into a number of abysmal possessions, some of which led to 12 Wildcat turnovers. Wildcat freshmen Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel were stymied all night, as they combined to convert just 5-of-17 field goal attempts. Goodwin, in particular, had a very frustrating night as he was held to just three points, which was 16 points below his season average.
  3. Notre Dame’s Captains Provide Great Leadership. In a game where Notre Dame had the definite advantage in terms of experience, the Irish veteran captains stepped up and willed the team to victory. Junior guard Eric Atkins led the way for the Irish with 16 points and four assists. Atkins’ defensive effort on Kentucky point guard Archie Goodwin was also notable, as he frustrated the talented freshman all night. Senior forward Jack Cooley put up another double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Cooley’s interior defense left Nerlens Noel frustrated and Alex Poythress in foul trouble. Senior swingman Scott Martin also put forth a steady effort for the Irish with eight points and four rebounds. If the Irish can consistently get great efforts from these three guys, they will be a tough team to beat when Big East play commences.

Star of the Game. Eric Atkins, Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s offensive effort was rather balanced tonight, but it was Atkins, who really set the tone early for the Irish. Scoring 13 of his 16 points in the first half, Atkins helped the Irish take an 11-point lead into the half, which allowed them to control the pace of the game in the second half. While Cooley, junior guard Jerian Grant, and freshman guard Cameron Biedscheid put together impressive performances, it was Atkins who emerged as the best player on the court for the winning team. Quotable.

  • “What disappointed me is that we did not compete. We did not execute. We did not play together.” Kentucky head coach John Calipari in response to what he thought went wrong for his squad tonight.
  • “We really prepared like an experienced group the past two days and we played like an experienced team tonight.” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey when asked how much of an advantage his team’s experience gave them in tonight’s game.

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Rushed Reaction: Miami 67, #12 Michigan State 59

Posted by nvr1983 on November 28th, 2012

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A few takeaways from Miami‘s impressive eight-point win over Michigan State tonight:

  1. The Hurricanes should be near the top of the ACC. This isn’t so much a reflection of the Hurricanes being a great team as it is of how weak the ACC is this season (outside of  Duke). North Carolina and North Carolina State have the pieces to be very good (particularly the Wolfpack), but we haven’t seen any indications of that so far this season. The Hurricanes are a step below the Blue Devils and likely the Wolfpack too when they get their act together, but they should be in the next tier competing against UNC, FSU, and Maryland. This win should also be a resume-booster when Selection Sunday rolls around as the Spartans will probably pick up plenty of solid wins in the Big Ten making this win even more impressive for the Hurricanes. The improvement Miami has shown from its embarrassing loss to Florida Gulf Coast can be explained in large part by the return of Durand Scott, but he didn’t do it by himself tonight as he was helped out by Trey McKinney Jones and Shane Larkin, who both had big games in scoring 33 of the team’s 67 points.
  2. Michigan State is still going through growing pains without Draymond Green, who was a huge part of the Spartans’ success last season, and it has been evident early in the year even if they were able to pull out a last-second win earlier this month against Kansas. In his postgame press conference, Tom Izzo stressed the difficulty he has had finding a rotation with the injuries the team has had so far this season. He also harped on his team’s inability to guard ball screens and after initially trying to go with the “unnamed player” line, he called out Keith Appling, who he said had his worst game as a Spartan. As always we expect this Spartan program to be around in March, but they still have quite a bit of work left before they are ready to compete against Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State and even then they may not have enough to be a serious threat to those three.
  3. He went through some rough patches tonight as you would expect from a freshman returning from injury, but it is clear that Gary Harris will become the go-to guy for this Michigan State team if they are going to approach their typical lofty standards. Travis Trice and Keith Appling are solid players, but Harris is the one with the potential to become a star and is the only Spartan who has the ability to get to the basket when the team needs him to do so. As Izzo pointed out in the postgame press conference, Harris is not at 100% as he recovers from a shoulder injury, but when he does he should be a force in the Big Ten. Harris is one of the most highly touted players to come to Michigan State and while it is still early in the season all signs are indicating that he will live up to the hype.

Miami Students Rush the Court.

Offered without comment…

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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: Illinois 78, Butler 61

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2012

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Some quick thoughts from today’s first Maui Invitational championship game between Illinois and Butler

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The Illinois Guards Played Like a Weight Has Been Lifted From Their Shoulders. The old joke goes something like this: Former Illinois head coach Bruce Weber happened upon a Champaign bank robbery a while back, but the suspects got away because he wouldn’t let the guards shoot. Hey, we didn’t make it up — we’re just repeating it. But regardless of the joke’s origin, the fact is that John Groce has unleashed the creativity and talents of his senior guards, Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson, as well as sophomore Tracy Abrams, in a way that we haven’t seen from these players previously in their careers. As a result, they’re confident and they’re producing — Paul was the MVP of the tournament, while Richardson was on all the all-tournament team. As Brad Stevens said about Paul in particular after the game — “he’s a big-time pro” — we’re finally getting to see what he can do on a regular basis. He averaged 20/4/3 APG over the three days — nobody was able to really figure him out.
  2. Butler Struggles When It’s the Rotnei Clarke Show. It probably goes without saying, but in three games here in Maui this week, the Bulldogs were at their best when Rotnei Clarke was acting as distributor while also picking his spots to shoot. When he found open teammates tonight, the shots simply weren’t falling — there were several in particular with Kellen Dunham (0-9) and Chase Stigall (0-2) where it was clear that their legs just weren’t under them after three games in three days. Clarke finished with 27 points on 10-19 shooting, but at the under-four timeout, he had accounted for exactly 50% of Butler’s points. None of the other players who had been so effective in the North Carolina game — Khyle Marshall, Andrew Smith, Dunham, Stigall — were able to do much tonight. Without their contributions, Butler won’t win many games relying solely on Clarke’s shooting prowess.
  3. Long-Term Prognosis of Both Teams. It says here that Illinois and Butler are both NCAA Tournament caliber teams, but they have obvious weaknesses that will be exploited during conference play. We’re guessing that the Illini have the higher ceiling, though. They’re not going to win the Big Ten without a legitimate big man inside (where have you gone, Meyers Leonard?), but the guard play should be enough to push John Groce’s team into the top of the middle of that league behind the likes of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. Butler is on a bit more shaky ground, though. So much of the offense needs to flow through Rotnei Clarke that the ceiling for the Bulldogs will largely depend on the ongoing development of players like Khyle Marshall, Andrew Smith and Kellen Dunham. The pieces are there for Butler to make a run at the top three in the Atlantic 10, but the margin for error seems considerably large this year.

Star of the Game. Brandon Paul, Illinois. Paul’s numbers were good — 20/3/4 assts — but it was how he set the tone from the opening tip that impressed tonight. He had an assist on a three and knocked down two jumpers of his own before the first TV timeout to help give the Illini a working lead of 13-5, and Butler never got the margin under five points the rest of the way. If he plays this way all year, he’ll be an All-American to go along with his Maui Invitational MVP trophy.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 82, Georgetown 72 (OT)

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from Indiana’s overtime victory over Georgetown on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

Three thoughts on Indiana’s thrilling overtime victory over Georgetown, the best college basketball game we’ve seen so far this season.

  1. Indiana’s defense down the stretch was terrific. The Hoosiers held Georgetown without a point for a five minute stretch late in the second half, a stretch that ultimately allowed them to win the game despite Georgetown’s comeback. Indiana led by eight with four minutes remaining in the game but the Hoyas chipped that away in the final few minutes. If it wasn’t for that scoreless stretch, Georgetown wins this game in regulation and Indiana is left questioning what went wrong. The Hoosiers have work to do defensively but coming up with extended stops like that in crunch time against a quality opponent has to give Tom Crean a lot of confidence going forward.
  2. Georgetown’s help defense allowed it to go toe to toe with Indiana. All night long, Georgetown’s front line defensive helpers made a huge difference against Cody Zeller and any Indiana guard who drove the lane. Georgetown had two or three guys blocking shots and it was hard for Indiana to operate in the lane. Despite all of that, Indiana was able to win the game which speaks volumes about its offensive ability. Jordan Hulls was able to drive and dish or score while Zeller made some nifty moves to evade the Hoya defenders. Georgetown wins with tight defense and for a while I thought they were going to knock off the #1 Hoosiers. The Hoyas defense gave them every chance to win, they just needed a little bit more on offense. 
  3. Both of these teams are going to make a lot of noise. We knew Indiana was good and it will contend for a Big Ten title but Georgetown proved tonight it could contend with the top teams in the nation. The Hoyas were every bit as good as Indiana tonight but ran out of gas in the extra session. Truth be told, it was a very good matchup for Georgetown. The Hoyas will take valuable experience from this one as they move towards Big East play in January. I did not have Georgetown ranked in the RTC Top 25 but that has to change after what I saw tonight even in a loss. John Thompson III gets a ton of credit for developing his players and keeping this program among the best in the nation year after year.
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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: Butler 82, #11 UNC 71

Posted by rtmsf on November 20th, 2012

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Some quick thoughts from today’s first Maui Invitational semifinal game between North Carolina and Butler

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Butler Lives For These Games. And it was apparent in the warmups. Whereas the Carolina guys had a very relaxed — almost too relaxed — attitude in the layup lines (Maui living!), Butler was all business. And from the opening tap, it was clear that if UNC was going to walk out of the Lahaina Civic Center today with a victory, it was going to have to cost the Tar Heels considerable blood, sweat, and tears. This was not going to be another Mississippi State laydown event. Brad Stevens knows that his program, even despite back-to-back national championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011, is still not respected in the same way that, say, even Wisconsin is. As an example, the Bulldogs were not ranked in the Top 25 this preseason. After wins over Marquette and North Carolina this week, they will be now.
  2. Remember Those 15 Threes? Yeah, We Don’t Either. At the 11:30 minute mark of the second half, the UNC guard quartet whom we lauded yesterday had put up a huge stinker. And that’s a problem, because they along with James Michael McAdoo are going to have to carry most of the Tar Heel offense. At that point, they had combined for a measly 13 points and had shot somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-20 from the field (they finished 17-46 with . And the credit goes 100% to the Butler defense, which Brad Stevens had clearly designed to bump, pressure, and challenge the Tar Heel guards. They didn’t like it. Generally, they settled for jumpers in the thinking that since they fell yesterday, so why not tonight? The difference, of course, was that Butler was defending them. By the time Carolina figured out how to speed up the game by returning the favor with full-court pressure on the Butler guards, the game was too far out of hand to matter.
  3. The Comeback. With nearly three-quarters of the game gone, UNC finally got a couple of outside shots to fall and started pressuring the Bulldogs fullcourt. From that point forward, the Heels went on a 37-15 run that included seven Butler turnovers (keep in mind that the Bulldogs committed zero second half turnovers yesterday). Down 28 to begin with, though, and playing a team that typically doesn’t rattle and makes the right play with the ball, it was highly unlikely that Butler was going to completely cave — still, UNC deserves credit for getting back into the game. As Roy Williams said afterward, he’s never had a “team quit” on him, so this will certainly be a teaching point about bringing that same toughness out of the gate.

Star of the Game. Kellen Dunham, Butler. Butler’s attack tonight was rather balanced, but it was Dunham’s five treys (on nine attempts) that really helped Butler build an insurmountable lead tonight. He also provided the assist on one of the Bulldogs’ late threes that stemmed the onrushing UNC tide, while adding five rebounds and a couple of assists in the game. Of course, we all know that the true star here was Brad Stevens’ game plan, but we’ll save that one for later depending on how tomorrow goes.

Quotable.

  • “I love giant killers.” Butler head coach Brad Stevens in reference to a question about Chaminade beating Texas and possibly playing his Bulldogs if they get past Illinois.
  • “I’ve never had a team quit… one possible exception could have been Florida State [last year].” UNC head coach Roy Williams, paging Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, possibly.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 UCLA 60, Georgia 56

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from UCLA’s victory over Georgia on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

Three thoughts from UCLA’s close call against Georgia…

  1. UCLA defended better, but it wasn’t a consistent effort. After last night’s poor defensive showing, UCLA looked much the same in the first half. Georgia came out and was able to get multiple easy baskets in the paint. That led to a five-point Bulldogs halftime lead but Ben Howland’s Bruins reversed the trend after the break. UCLA held Georgia to 30% shooting and just 26 points in the second half. Howland mixed in some zone but played predominantly man defense tonight. After the game he admitted his team couldn’t stop Georgia in the man defense, but prefers that defense as opposed to zone. UCLA’s on-ball pressure was improved and they rebounded better after halftime. It was a tale of two halves for the Bruins, but the second half eventually won out and UCLA leaves Brooklyn with a split, something Howland acknowledged was very important. He didn’t want that long plane ride home to LA to be for naught. It’s not the way they wanted it to happen but a split is what most people expected.
  2. Shabazz had 21 points, but Travis Wear was UCLA’s MVP tonight. Wear posted 10 points and eight rebounds, but it seemed like a lot more. He was everywhere around the rim on both ends of the floor and his rebounding was extremely valuable in the second half when Georgia was missing shots. With his brother David out due to injury, Wear stepped up when others like Josh Smith could only manage four boards. Going up against a strong rebounder in Georgia’s Marcus Thornton is never easy but Wear excelled tonight. Both Wear twins have been described as role players once they transferred from North Carolina but they’re both showing signs of improvement. They will be hugely important players for UCLA because Smith has shown little signs of improvement (or a will to improve) in his time in Westwood.
  3. Georgia is 1-4, but it should improve. I’m not sure what happened in the Youngstown State and Southern Miss losses but I have a hard time believing Georgia is as bad as its record indicates. The Bulldogs aren’t the 22 to 25-win team Indiana coach Tom Crean talked about last night but I don’t think they’re a terrible basketball team. Georgia has pieces to build around, especially Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Thornton. Mark Fox has a very good track record at Nevada and, while it’ll be hard to move up the SEC ladder, Georgia has the potential to do so. The Bulldogs will see their share of rough losses but don’t expect them to be a total doormat for the SEC like, say, Mississippi State.
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Rushed Reactions: Texas A&M 55, Washington State 54

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2012

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Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. He filed this report from the consolation game of the Edward Jones CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.

Three thoughts from Texas A&M’s one-point victory in the consolation final against Washington State.

  1. Wazzou Defense Improves, But It’s Still Incomplete: Washington State’s defense held tight in a see-saw battle that saw ten ties and eight lead changes, but couldn’t hold on its final possession, as Texas A&M guard Elston Turner sank a three from the top of the key to send the Aggies back to Lubbock with a 56-54 win (more on him later). The Cougars were especially strong in the backcourt, frustrating Texas A&M into bad shots throughout the game. After getting blown away by the Jayhawk offense on Monday, Ken Bone‘s team did a much better job on short rest, but the Turner’s game-winner proves the importance of playing tight defense each trip down the floor. Washington State’s rebounding must also improve, especially on the defensive end as the Cougars allowed the Aggies to clean up 13 of their 33 misses.
  2. The Turners Hold The Keys To A&M’s Season: The aforementioned Elston Turner shook off a cold shooting night to deliver when his team needed him the most. As one of the senior leaders of an otherwise young team, Turner will have to lead by example, and that means stepping up and maintaining poise even when things aren’t breaking right. Turner had missed 11 of his first 12 shots on the night, but kept his confidence on the final possession. Ray Turner bounced back from a passive game Monday, leading the Aggies with 14 points and eight rebounds Tuesday, three of which came on the offensive glass. The Aggies are at their best when the Turners are clicking, as they did in the early part of the second half. Trailing by five at intermission, Texas A&M went on a 13-5 run, and the Turners were responsible for 11 of those 13 points.
  3. Dexter Kernich-Drew Emerges Off The Bench: If the Cougars’ defensive effort tonight proves to be an aberration, WSU can take solace in the potential of the Australian sophomore to compensate with smooth outside shooting. Kernich-Drew scored 13 of his game-high 16 points in the second half, and hit four of seven from distance, his last three coming from NBA range. The Aggies and Cougars traded buckets throughout the second half down to the very last possession, and Kernich-Drew was right in the thick of it as his contributions kept the Cougars close. Wazzou was much more balanced offensively tonight, with Kernich-Drew, Mike Ladd, Brock Motum, and D.J. Shelton each chipping in. As its defense develops, it will be up to scorers like Kernich-Drew to keep Washington State in games.
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Rushed Reactions: Georgetown 78, #7 UCLA 70

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 19th, 2012

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from Georgetown’s victory over UCLA on Monday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

Three thoughts from Georgetown’s impressive win over UCLA and Shabazz Muhammad…

  1. UCLA needs a ton of work defensively. Georgetown took it right to UCLA, getting whatever it wanted around the rim. UCLA’s rotations and help defense were putrid all night long and the frustration was clearly displayed by Ben Howland. The UCLA head man was yelling “hellllllp!” countless times to his defenders but the message didn’t seem to get through. UCLA was 35th in defensive efficiency last season but an infusion of talented freshman could make it hard to match this time around. It’ll take some time for these highly talented offensive players to learn how to play defense that wins games at the college level. Howland’s club sure is talented but it has to get better on the defensive end if it hopes to make a serious move in March.
  2. Georgetown is solid year after year. The culture of winning John Thompson III has established at Georgetown is one of the underappreciated stories in college basketball. Year after year, the Hoyas produce a winning team that displays great fundamentals and a trust between teammates that results in great chemistry and sound execution. Georgetown isn’t as talented as some of its previous teams but if the Hoyas keep playing this way, they’ll contend in the Big East yet again. Talent is important, but it’s not the most important factor at Georgetown. Make no mistake, the Hoyas do have some talent (Otto Porter comes to mind) but they win with basketball smarts and gritty defense.
  3. Shabazz Muhammad. The highly-touted freshman from Las Vegas made his first collegiate appearance in Brooklyn after the NCAA deemed him eligible for competition. The UCLA wing clearly has a lot of talent and athletic ability but it could take him some time to get into a flow. Throwing him into the fire right away against a fundamentally sound Georgetown team (and star defender Greg Whittington) isn’t the best way to see what he really can do. Once Muhammad gets comfortable against lesser competition, he should be more than ready to take on the big boys on UCLA’s schedule. Muhammad will make UCLA better but it’s unrealistic to expect instant gratification with the star freshman.
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