Game of the Night. #4 Kentucky 72, Miami (OH) 70. Heeeeeere’s Johnny! As if the mystique and hype surrounding John Wall already wasn’t enough, in his official college debut the freshman not only becomes an on-court leader and contributes 19 points, 2 boards, 5 assists, and 3 steals (and five turnovers); he also hits a game-winner from 15 feet with less than a second left. Miami (OH) hit 15 of 26 three-point attempts and deserves all the credit in the world for pushing Kentucky to the limit in its own building. They actually led by as many as 18 points, and the man most responsible for that was junior forward Nick Winbush. Despite the loss, Winbush will remember this game for the rest of his life. He bewildered the Kentucky players, coaches, and the Rupp Arena crowd with his 3-point shooting ability, going 8 for 10 from beyond the arc, and they were of all types, folks. Fall-aways. Off the dribble. Contested. Open. It didn’t matter to Winbush. He went into halftime having hit his first SIX, and the fans in Lexington won’t forget his name anytime soon. In the post-game press conference, Winbush described playing so well in Rupp Arena as “the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball,” and said of his three-point prowess on the night, “I shot the first one, and it went in. So I shot another one. It went in, too, so I kept shooting. It just kept going from there.” His teammate (and MAC Player Of The Year contender) Kenny Hayes chipped in 16/4/5 including 4-6 from three-point range, the most impressive being a 27-footer to tie it with just a few seconds left. Kentucky was able to slowly erase the RedHawks’ lead behind double-doubles from Patrick Patterson (16/10) and freshman DeMarcus Cousins (10/10) and trio of threes by sophomore Darnell Dodson. But it was Wall who had the final say. After Hayes hit his long three to tie it, Wall quickly took the in-bounds pass, saw that the lane was clogged after a speed-dribble up the court, and pulled up from 15 feet. After the game, I asked him if he knew it was good when it left his hand. He smiled and said, “I was hoping so. But it felt good.” I just bet it did.
RTC Live. #6 Villanova 103, Pennsylvania 65. When the Villanova Wildcats beat the Penn Quakers at the Pavilion at Villanova tonight it was not just another out of conference basketball game between two local schools. These two competitors have a history, a history that binds them together with three other Philadelphia D1 schools, in the City Series, a rivalry known as the Big 5. This game opened the 55th season that La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova have played for the bragging rights to the City of Brotherly Love. In the 5+ decades of the rivalry, the Penn teams of the 1970s have set the standard for domination in the series. Those teams, coached by the legendary (and recently deceased) Chuck Daly racked up a 29-11 record from the 1971 to the 1980 seasons. No team has matched that win total over a decade… until tonight. Villanova won their 30th game of the decade, ironically beating Penn team to do it. For Coach Jay Wright, this, his 26th win moves him into a tie in 6th place for wins by Big 5 coaches. His record, 27-7 (0.788) sandwiches him at second between the aforementioned Chuck Daly (19-5, 0.792) and Saint Joseph’s legendary coach, Dr. Jack Ramsey (34-10, 0.773) for winning percentages in Big 5 games. Tonight a freshman, Maalik Wayns, led Villanova with 16 points, while Penn off guard Darren Smith led all scorers with 21 points. Wildcat forward Antonio Pena recorded his first career double-double, corralling 10 rebounds while scoring 12 points in 25 minutes of play.
ESPN’s 24 Hours of John Stevens Hoops. For recaps on the late games involving UCLA-Cal State Fullerton, St. Mary’s-SDSU, Hawaii-N. Colorado and more, check out John’s liveblog here.
Other Games of National Interest.