Game of the Night. Michigan 55, UCLA 52. Remember our stat from last week about Ben Howland’s UCLA teams going 1-2 on the eastern seaboard in his five seasons there? After tonight’s semifinal matchup with Michigan, make that 1-3. It’s true that his teams don’t seem to play well back east, but there’s more to it than that. One of the few coherent things that Vitale said during tonight’s game was that we all had rated UCLA based on Ben Howland and his ridiculous freshman class rather than the current experience and skills of players he is actually putting on the court. There’s some validity to that, and it showed tonight. UCLA will end up being a good team, but they have serious offensive flaws in their frontcourt (6-17 tonight). Even though they defended and rebounded well (holding Michigan to 43% from the field), in close games they have to depend on their playmakers Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday to produce points because their frontcourt players simply aren’t reliable in that role (yet). And what about John Beilein’s Michigan team? The backdoor cut by Deshawn Sims (18/5) that led to the dunk effectively ending the game was classic Beilein. Manny Harris also contributed 15/5/4 assts, but the key takeaway here is that Michigan is 3-0 and is showing signs of putting together a good season regardless of what happens tomorrow night vs. Duke (who will likely kill Michigan). The victory tonight over UCLA was the program’s biggest in twelve seasons (#1 Duke in 1997). It is absolutely incomprehensible to us that a program with the prestige and resources of the University of Michigan hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998. With John Beilein’s system already beginning to bear fruit in Y2 of his rebuild, it won’t be long before we see the Wolverines playing in the March again. (Yes, we realize that former coach Tommy Amaker played deep into March several times… in the NIT.) For more detail on the partisan side of things, check the UM Hoops and Bruins Nation writeups.
Tale of Two Halves.
- Duke 83, S. Illinois 58. The other half of the CvC semifinals was a decent game for twenty minutes until Duke’s Gerald Henderson woke up and delivered his best performance of the year (see below) in the form of several timely threes and nasty dunks, and the rest of his teammates stopped throwing the ball to SIU (17 first half TOs). A few things struck us in this game: first, Duke had 17 turnovers in the first half and still went into halftime with a 6-pt lead. How? SIU head coach Chris Lowery had the answer – The Blue Devils spent the final nine minutes of the half parading to the free-throw line, where they had just as many tries (19) as field-goal attempts. “That killed us,” Lowery said. “We felt we had a good game plan going in, we just didn’t expect to be in that kind of foul trouble.” – stop us if you’ve heard this before. Duke shot 47 FTs to SIU’s 19. Maybe this is explained by SIU’s tendency to foul, right? Nah. In their first two games this season, they’ve allowed 49 total free throws. In two games. Next, Duke’s defense continues to be as good as ever. The Devils held SIU to 35% from the field, and only two Salukis made it into double figures. Third, Duke’s presumptive center, Brian Zoubek, will never be confused with Bill Walton, but he doesn’t have to be. What he needs to be, though, is merely serviceable. Tonight he was – 10/6 in 19 minutes was one of the best games of his Duke career. Duke will play the upstart Michigan Wolverines tomorrow night for the CvC Championship. Final comment on this game: Bob Knight’s first shot at commentator was a good effort. His coaching insights are invaluable to students of the game (esp. when he says something like “Duke has only gotten 1 of their last 5 possible points.”), but his demeanor is a little more boring than his role as studio analyst. Perhaps he’ll get a little more animated as he grows into this position.
- Seton Hall 63, USC 61. This also doubles as the Upset of the Night, but we wanted to use both of these screen grabs showing the tale of two halves. Rough night for the Pac-10, losing to two unranked teams, but USC under Tim Floyd has made a habit of these early losses. to unranked teams Seton Hall worked its way back from a late first-half 15-pt deficit when USC seemed to fall asleep (see below). Daniel Hackett missed a three at the buzzer which went along with his otherwise miserable shooting game (0-7), while Taj Gibson had 19/18 in a losing effort. The Hall was led by John Garcia’s 11/18, and at 3-0 might be an early surprise out of the Big East.
Puerto Rico Tipoff. Xavier will meet Virginia Tech and Memphis will play Seton Hall on Friday in the semifinals of the PR Tipoff.
- Memphis 83, UT-Chattanooga 71. Memphis opened the Puerto Rico Tipoff with a late first-half surge to put UTC away. UM shot 52%, led by Doneal Mack’s 19 and Shawn Taggart’s 16/11, but they once again really struggled from long range (Mack hit 5-9, but the rest of the team was 1-14 from three). UTC was led by Stephen McDowell’s 27 pts.
- Xavier 75, Missouri 71. The Muskies came back from a seven-pt deficit with seven minutes to go in the game behind Terrell Holloway’s perfect game (10-10) from the line. DeMarre Carroll led Mizzou with 17 pts. Xavier severely outrebounded Missouri in this game 39-24.
- Virginia Tech 74, Fairfield 57. AD Vassallo had 24/4 in his home ‘state’ and Jeff Allen 18/8 as the Hokies rolled over Fairfield by shooting 56% for the game.
Ridiculous Score of the Year. Texas Tech 167, East Central 116. Apparently Pat Knight decided to beef up his schedule this year with a high school team – what, Riverdale or Poly was already booked? But seriously, a 77-pt first half followed by a NINETY-point second half? The Red Raiders shot 59% while putting an absurd TEN players into double figures tonight. We definitely feel bad for TT freshman guard Tyree Graham, who was the only player of fourteen who did not score for the Red Raiders tonight (0-5 in 18 mins).
Other Games of Mild Interest.
- Florida 64, S. Utah 50. It took 39:37 for Florida to hit a three to keep its streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer (546) alive. The Gators went 1-16 from three, but 22-34 otherwise and managed to stay just enough ahead of S. Utah to avoid an upset possibility.
- Illinois 69, Vanderbilt 63. Another home loss for an SEC team. Illinois shook off a poor shooting night by hitting its threes (10-19) and FTs (11-11) and capitalized on a late 7-0 run to beat Vandy in Memorial Gymnasium, no small task. Good night for the Big Ten.
- Ohio St. 70, Delaware St. 42. We only show this score because we couldn’t believe that the OSU court was doubling as a volleyball court (see below). We know OSU can afford to not do this, so what gives? It looks terrible. Oh, and BJ Mullens had 7/3 in his debut.
On Tap Friday (all times EST):
- Xavier v. Virginia Tech (ESPNU) – 1:30pm (Puerto Rico Tipoff)
- Miami (FL) (-7) v. Southern Miss – 3pm (Paradise Jam)
- S. Illinois v. UCLA (ESPN2) – 5pm (CvC)
- USC v. UT-Chattanooga (ESPNU) – 5pm (Puerto Rico Tipoff)
- San Diego (-6) v. Valparaiso – 5:30pm (Paradise Jam)
- Ole Miss (-2) v. Utah – 6:30pm
- Duke v. Michigan (ESPN2) – 7pm (CvC)
- Syracuse v. Oakland – 7pm
- Memphis v. Seton Hall (ESPNU) – 7pm (Puerto Rico Tipoff)
- Pittsburgh (-21) v. Akron (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
- Davidson v. Winthrop – 7pm
- Connecticut (-16) v. Lasalle – 8pm
- Maryland v. Vermont – 8pm
- Tennessee (-10) @ Middle Tennessee St. – 8pm
- Notre Dame (-21.5) @ Loyola Marymount – 10pm
- UNC (-17.5) @ UC Santa Barbara (ESPNU) – 10pm
- Wisconsin (-16) v. Iona – 10:30pm (Paradise Jam)