Rushed Reactions: #2 Kentucky 69, #13 Michigan State 48

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 15th, 2016

RTC’s Brian Otskey (@botskey) and Justin Kundrat (@justinkundrat) are providing on-site coverage of the Champions Classic this evening.

Three Key Takeaways.

Malik Monk (USA Today Images)

Malik Monk (USA Today Images)

  1. Kentucky’s defensive ceiling is very high this season. John Calipari has had plenty of elite teams over the years but it was typically the offensive prowess of his players that grabbed the headlines. This group of Wildcats is long and athletic across the board, and Calipari seems truly energized about coaching this team and watching it grow. After the game he complimented his players for all their hard work and unselfishness, saying how excited he is to come to the gym every day and work with them.
  2. Michigan State needs to find its offense. Sparty’s 0-2 start to the season is not cause for concern for Tom Izzo, who noted after the game that he has lost a bunch of games in the non-conference and still made seven Final Fours over the years. Still, an average of 55.5 points per game against top competition in Arizona and Kentucky is not going to get the job done. Izzo is happy with his defense, which held both sets of Wildcats to only 38 percent shooting, but he added that the Spartans need to find an offensive spark somewhere. Miles Bridges can’t do it all by himself, so he needs to look to Matt McQuaid and Eron Harris for complementary scoring. Michigan State’s November schedule will provide ample opportunities for growth, as trips to the Battle 4 Atlantis and Cameron Indoor Stadium to face Duke still loom before the calendar flips to December.
  3. This game was a snoozer. Let’s be honest here. Given the fair amount of hype that this annual event generates, everyone in the building expected better. One could argue that the travel hangover for Michigan State — after playing a hard-fought game against Arizona in Honolulu on Friday night — played a major role, but the Spartans just had nothing in the tank offensively. Kentucky’s defense certainly played a part in that, but it was also clear that the Wildcats were a step quicker than the Spartans all night.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 North Carolina 88, #6 Notre Dame 74

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 27th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion, @RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

North Carolina Heads to Houston as the Favorite (USA Today Images)

North Carolina Heads to Houston as the Favorite (USA Today Images)

  1. It will take a monumental defensive effort to beat North Carolina. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, that simply wasn’t its style. The Irish were one of the worst defensive teams in the NCAA Tournament this season, winning games with an ultra-efficient, spread offense that exploited mismatches with shooters. Against conservative, defensive-minded teams, the strategy worked. But against a team with an even better offense that the Irish were forced to defend, the outcome was far different. Notre Dame shot 27-of-49 from the floor, including a lights-out 50 percent from beyond the arc, but it simply couldn’t generate enough stops on the other end of the floor. The result was a shootout where the team with the better firepower won.
  2. North Carolina’s hot shooting remains an anomoly, but its impact cannot be ignored. The Tar Heels ranked 284th nationally in perimeter shooting (32.1%) coming into Sunday’s game, but the sneaky-hot shooting of Marcus Paige and Joel Berry has taken a lot of teams by surprise: Paige went 6-of-9 from three-point range against Indiana on Friday night and started 2-of-2 against Notre Dame before cooling off this evening. Making jump shots forces defenses to respect the Tar Heels’ perimeter game — something Tom Crean and Mike Brey didn’t expect — and it completely changes the dynamic of its offense. When the jumper is falling, Paige can more easily navigate into the lane and create high-percentage shots for himself and his teammates.
  3. Notre Dame was a deceptively good team this season. Tucked within a loaded conference, Notre Dame didn’t exactly stand out with an 11-7 record and sixth place finish. But along the way the Irish snagged some quality wins against Duke, Iowa, North Carolina and Louisville. Over the course of the season, with Zach Auguste –– one of the best rebounders in the country — manning the paint, Brey figured out how to best spread his players along the perimeter and run dangerously effective pick-and-rolls. The graduation of Auguste will undoubtedly hurt this team going forward, but assuming there are no other NBA Draft declarations, the remaining core will return next season in search of another nice NCAA Tournament run.

Star of the GameBrice Johnson’s 25-point, 12-rebound effort says it all. He was often paired with another UNC big man, allowing Johnson to slide to the four where he capitalized on a significant height advantage. At other times, with the Irish’s Auguste in foul trouble, the 6’10 forward shot over defenders and finished around them on his way to a 10-of-15 shooting performance. Most importantly, he proved difficult to keep off the glass, acting as a major factor in UNC’s 23 second chance points and 42 points in the paint.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Notre Dame 76, #14 Stephen F. Austin 75

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 20th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Rex Pflueger’s only basket of the game sent Notre Dame to the Sweet Sixteen. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports)

  1. One Shining Moment. Welcome to the montage, Rex Pflueger. The California kid tipped in Zach Auguste‘s missed shot with one second remaining to send Notre Dame to the Sweet Sixteen. It was a classic example of this tournament creating an iconic moment for a player not many people have heard of. It was Pflueger’s only two points of the game and his first made field goal since Notre Dame’s regular season finale against North Carolina State on March 5. For the time being, Pflueger saved Notre Dame’s season. We will see his one shining moment on video for years to come.
  2. Notre Dame won this game in the paint. The Fighting Irish scored 52 of their 76 points either in the paint or from the foul line as they took advantage of a substantial size edge. Auguste led the way, but the Notre Dame guards did a fantastic job getting into the paint and creating for both themselves and teammates. It is incredibly difficult to win games in this tournament when a team is passive offensively, and the Irish were the antithesis of passive this afternoon. Notre Dame was aggressive and efficient en route to shooting 56.9 percent from the floor for the game. A lot of that had to do with Auguste and his team’s dominance around the rim.
  3. What more can you say about Stephen F. Austin? The Lumberjacks put on quite a display this week in Brooklyn. On Friday night they took out a West Virginia team that many experts said could contend for a spot in the Final Four. They beat the Mountaineers at their own game and today they were one missed defensive rebound away from making the first Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history. Thomas Walkup is a special player who got better in each of his four years in Nacogdoches. He had 21 points today after scoring 33 two nights ago against West Virginia, performances that nearly carried his team to the second weekend. With the Lumberjacks losing Walkup, Demetrious Floyd, Clide Geffrard, Trey Pinkney and Jared Johnson to graduation, the focus now will turn to head coach Brad Underwood and whether or not he stays with the program. He will likely be mentioned as a candidate for the open Big 12 jobs at Oklahoma State and TCU. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: Villanova 76, Providence 68

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 11th, 2016

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

Villanova Continues to Drive to Another Championship (USA Today Images)

Villanova Continues to Drive to Another Championship (USA Today Images)

  1. Kris Jenkins’ role on this team continues to be downplayed. The junior marksman struggled with his shot earlier this season, but he has caught fire just when his team needed it most (21 points tonight, including two three-pointers). His shooting has forced defenders to actually play him on the perimeter; last year he might have deferred and swung the ball back around. This new and improved Jenkins uses his pump fake to get past his man and attack the rim. Additionally, the forward has developed a crafty post-up game against smaller players. Jenkins’ obvious growth this season has given Villanova yet another option in its diverse offensive attack.
  2. Villanova’s resiliency proved again why this team is primed for a deep run. Despite a 29-4 record, the doubts around this team’s ability to do significant damage in the NCAA Tournament linger. Given recent results, that’s certainly understandable, but each year’s painful loss is also another notch in the belt for the players. The Wildcats have played plenty of close games this season and have shown an incredible ability to prevail by taking care of the basketball and hitting big shots. Just one day after a shaky 30-minute stretch against Georgetown, Villanova battled until the very finish in putting away Providence. These are exactly the kind of games that Jay Wright’s team needs, serving to erase any of the remaining jitters that surround the big-stage environment.
  3. The key to solving Providence is solving Ben Bentil. Few teams have successfully limited Bentil’s production this season, but doing so completely takes the Friars out of their rhythm. After exploding for 38 points against Butler yesterday, the 6’9 sophomore was held to just three points on 1-of-5 shooting, all the while amassing several careless fouls. Needless to say, Providence is a well-below average offensive team without him, lacking both shooters and an inside presence. With Bentil sidelined, Villanova controlled the glass and continuously worked the ball inside for a number of easy scoring chances. It was a concerning and undoubtedly frustrating sight for Friars fans.

Star of the Game: Kris Jenkins. When Providence closed the gap to just two points in the closing minutes, the junior forward made all the big plays to answer. He drew an and-one on a post-up and also threw a perfectly on-point entry pass to Daniel Ochefu into the post for an easy layup. Jenkins finished with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting, going 7-of-8 from inside the arc. With Ochefu bothered by an injury and both Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson battling foul trouble, Jenkins was the steadying force for the Wildcats down the stretch.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 Notre Dame 77, #4 Duke 73

Posted by Walker Carey on January 29th, 2015

Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Duke and Notre Dame in South Bend.

Irish Eyes Were Smiling Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Irish Eyes Were Smiling Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Jerian Grant proved that he is one of the best players in the country. The senior guard turned in an amazing performance on Wednesday night, finishing the game with game-highs in both points (23) and assists (12). His dozen assists also set a new career-high. None of those assists were more important than the one he threw to sophomore guard Steve Vasturia for an open three to put the Irish up by four with 22 seconds to play. Points and assists were not the only categories where Grant excelled, though, as he showcased his durability by playing all 40 minutes and picking up six rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Notre Dame is now 20-2 on the season and 8-1 in ACC play, and the biggest reason for the team’s incredible start to the 2014-15 campaign has been the All-America play of the team’s senior leader. The Irish now expect to be an ACC contender for the rest of the season, and if Grant can continue his play at such a high level, that expectation will become a reality.
  2. This was an incredible college basketball game. There has been talk this season about how college basketball has been a bit unwatchable, but that was absolutely not the case on Wednesday night as Notre Dame and Duke completed one of the most entertaining games of the regular season. Swings in momentum came fast and furious. For example: Notre Dame led by seven at the 9:01 mark of the first half before Duke went on a big run to take a three-point lead into the half; Duke then led by 10 at the 10:58 mark of the second half before being outscored 22-8 the rest of the way. Another reason why Wednesday’s battle in South Bend was so entertaining was that two of the best players in college basketball turned in star performances. Jerian Grant’s stat-stuffing game was mentioned above and Duke freshman big man Jahlil Okafor also turned in a performance that has practically become the norm for him during his first year in Durham. The freshman finished the game with 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with a game-high 17 rebounds. Sure, there are some nights where college basketball doesn’t put its best foot forward, but Wednesday night at Notre Dame, those nights seemed very distant. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #3 Virginia 62, #13 Notre Dame 56

Posted by Walker Carey on January 10th, 2015

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday evening’s game between Virginia and Notre Dame in South Bend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Virginia Came Through in the Clutch on Saturday at Notre Dame (USA Today Images)

Virginia Came Through in the Clutch on Saturday at Notre Dame (USA Today Images)

  1. Virginia’s defense is as good as advertised. The Cavaliers entered play Saturday second in the country in both points per game defense and field goal percentage defense. They lived up to those high marks Saturday, as Notre Dame was held to a season-low 56 points and shot just 33.9% from the field. Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon was instrumental to the suffocating defensive effort, as he played lockdown defense on Notre Dame star guard Jerian Grant all night. Grant finished the game with just six points on 2-of-8 shooting. Virginia also did an exceptional job in taking the Notre Dame bigs out of the game, as Notre Dame’s post players  finished with just a combined five points on 2-of-11 shooting to go along with just seven rebounds. The win moved Virginia to 15-0 on the season and if it can maintain this level of defensive intensity, that unbeaten mark may stay clean well into league play.
  2. The Cavaliers saved their best basketball for winning time. After Notre Dame swingman Pat Connaughton hit a three-pointer to give the Irish a 51-50 lead at the 4:53 mark of the second half, Virginia went on a 12-5 run to finish the game. Brogdon and fellow backcourt mate Justin Anderson each hit important three-pointers down the stretch that helped lead to the Virginia victory. In close games, the victor is usually determined by which teams executes better and plays with more poise down the stretch, and that was no different Saturday as Virginia made the right plays at the right times to help secure the win.
  3. Notre Dame needs more out of its frontline if it wants to be a factor in the ACC race. When Notre Dame won at North Carolina this past Monday night, Irish forward Zach Auguste led the way with 18 points. Saturday was a different story for Auguste, as the junior battled foul trouble for much of the game and finished with just four points and five rebounds to go along with a team-high four turnovers in 22 minutes. Virginia forward Darion Atkins was able to take advantage of Auguste’s off-night, as the senior finished with 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting to accompany his team-high eight rebounds. There are plenty of solid big men in the ACC, and if Notre Dame wants to finish near the top of the league, it is going to need Auguste to become a much more consistent post presence on each side of the court.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Florida 79, #4 UCLA 68

Posted by David Changas (@dchangas) on March 27th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

David Changas (@dchangas) is the NCAA Tournament’s South Region correspondent. He filed this report after #1 Florida’s 79-68 win over #4 UCLA. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Scottie Wilbekin came up big when it counted most against UCLA. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Scottie Wilbekin came up big when it counted most against UCLA. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Wilbekin Comes Through. Though he struggled for much of the night, when it mattered senior all-American Scottie Wilbekin came through for Florida. Wilbekin shot only 5-of-13 on the night, but finished with several huge buckets down the stretch and showed why he was the SEC Player of the Year. Wilbekin’s ability to lead his team to wins in close games is the difference between this year’s Florida team and last year’s Elite Eight squad. And if coach Billy Donovan has his way, he’ll be a main reason this team takes the next step.
  2. Michael Frazier can Shoot. For whatever reason, UCLA let the Gators’ best shooter have open looks all evening. Frazier made five of the eight threes he attempted, but the ones that didn’t go in were wide open looks. He finished with a game-high 19 points. Earlier this season, Frazier set a Florida record with 11 threes made against South Carolina, and if the sharpshooting sophomore can continue to make shots from the perimeter, it will be tough for anyone to beat the Gators the rest of the way.
  3. Gators Dominate the Glass. Despite a relatively poor first half performance that saw Florida get only three points from Wilbekin and nothing from senior center Patric Young, the Gators led by six at the break. This was largely due to keeping UCLA off the boards, particularly on the offensive end. In fact, UCLA had only one offensive rebound in the half, and it was followed immediately by a Florida block. On the night, the Gators out-rebounded UCLA, 40-30, and gave up only eight offensive boards to the Bruins for the game. It allowed Florida to move on despite getting very little offense from Young and his frontcourt mates. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #11 Dayton 82, #10 Stanford 72

Posted by David Changas (@dchangas) on March 27th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

David Changas (@dchangas) is the NCAA Tournament’s South Region correspondent. He filed this report after #11 Dayton’s 82-72 win over #10 Stanford. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

The entire Dayton program had plenty to smile about Thursday night. (John Bazemore/Getty Images)

The entire Dayton program had plenty to smile about Thursday night. (John Bazemore/Getty Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Taking Care of and Sharing the Ball. Many thought Dayton would struggle to handle Stanford’s size, but the Flyers were able to control the game by taking care of the ball and by moving it on the offensive end and getting excellent looks all night. Dayton ended up with only 10 turnovers and 19 assists on 28 baskets, not to mention the fact that they never trailed after the 9:32 mark of the first half. The Flyers’ performance on the offensive end was a clinic, as they held their own on the glass against the bigger Cardinal, ultimately shooting 48% for the game. Dayton also had a balanced attack, as it had three players in double figures, and 11 players scored overall. Stanford, meanwhile, got only two points from its bench. And while Stanford’s leading scorer, Chasson Randle, ended up with a game-high 21 points, he was held to 5-of-21 shooting and was forced into a number of bad shots.
  2. Size Doesn’t Always Matter. After trailing by 10 at the half, Stanford came out in the second half with a concerted effort to get the ball to Stefan Nastic and Dwight Powell, its low-post stalwarts. It worked, as the Cardinal cut the lead to four early in the half, but Dayton was able to adjust. Every time the Cardinal cut into the Flyers’ lead, Dayton was able to get an easy basket and stop the run. Unlike Kansas, the Flyers did not allow Stanford to take them out of their offense, and they outworked the Cardinal big men for key offensive rebounds when they weren’t making shots. On the defensive end, Dayton held Stanford to only 37.9% shooting.
  3. Dayton Shows it Belongs. Dayton is the only team left in the NCAA Tournament that is not from a BCS conference. The Flyers spent most of the season on the bubble, but have taken advantage of their bid in advancing to the school’s first Elite Eight appearance since 1984. After taking care of two traditional powers in Ohio State and Syracuse, Dayton got a favorable draw with tenth-seeded Stanford, and took advantage. The Flyers clearly were not intimidated by the big stage, and showed they belong. They will now get a chance to advance to their first ever Final Four, and though they will be prohibitive underdogs in their next game, Archie Miller’s squad should not be counted out. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #2 Wisconsin 69, #6 Baylor 52

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on March 27th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent. He filed this report after #2 Wisconsin’s 69-52 win over #6 Baylor. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

A Wisconsin player scoring at the rim was a familiar sight Thursday night. (Harry How/Getty Images)

A Wisconsin player scoring at the rim was a familiar sight Thursday night. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Soft Baylor Zone. Two possessions in, one of the story lines of this game became clear: there was going to be a ton of space in the middle of the Baylor zone for Badger players to operate. On back-to-back plays, Frank Kaminsky caught the ball in the middle of the lane and turned around to find the Baylor defender, only to discover that there was nobody there. On the first, he wheeled to the rim for a layup and on the second, he settled for a jumper (which he missed), but this scenario played out time and time again: Badger catches the ball in the lane only to be surprised by the fact that there was no Baylor player there to defend him. And credit Wisconsin for continuing to take advantage of that. Of their 29 first-half points, 16 came in the paint. The second half was distorted some by free throws, but still 20 of the Badgers 40 second half points came in the paint. And on every possession it seemed that the Badgers made it a priority to get the ball inside first and work inside-out. And it was deadly.
  2. Wisconsin Perimeter Defense. Baylor’s offense is predicated on being able to shoot the three well; they take 34% of their field goal attempts from deep and knock in 38.6% of those shots. However, the Badgers’ biggest defensive strength is their ability to limit good looks from deep, allowing the opposition to take just 25.9% of their field goals from three coming into the game. Tonight, those stats played out as Baylor was only able to take 26.3% of their shots behind the three-point line. And many of those were bad looks, resulting in a 2-of-15 night from deep for the Bears.
  3. Dunks and Layups. We mentioned Baylor’s awful defense above, but let’s give credit to the Badgers for running great offense. Against a team that plays primarily zone, like Baylor does, it is all too easy to get caught up in launching perimeter jumpers. The Badgers did not settle for that fool’s gold, instead attacking the rim. Of their 26 field goals, 16 were either dunks or layups. And many of the perimeter jumpers they did get (and often make) came as the result of inside-out offense after the ball was worked inside and then back out for a clean look after the Baylor defense collapsed. Really, the whole thing was a clinic for the Badgers. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: Seton Hall 64, #3 Villanova 63

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2014

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.

Three key takeaways from Seton Hall’s dramatic Big East Quarterfinal upset of Villanova.

  1. Villanova’s chances at a top seed took a major hit. Seton Hall isn’t a terrible team but because of some bad losses and a weak non-conference schedule, its RPI is well outside of the top 100. This is only Villanova’s fourth loss of the season, but it means that it won’t be playing any more games until next week after the brackets are announced. The Wildcats are light on big-time wins so their resume will be looked at with more scrutiny after this loss. The general consensus was that Villanova would earn a No. 1 seed with a Big East Tournament title or even just a trip to the championship game, but that won’t happen now and Villanova’s chances of getting the final top seed are significantly lower.
  2. Seton Hall played with a ton of confidence. After surviving a Butler team that beat them twice, the Pirates played with nothing to lose and gave it everything they had today. For a hard-luck team, it finally paid off. Coming into this tournament, Seton Hall had lost an astounding six games either by one point or in overtime. In two games at Madison Square Garden, Kevin Willard’s team has flipped the script with two one-point victories and one massive upset. This win against Villanova, ranked third in the AP Top 25, was Seton Hall’s first ever top-three win in program history. The Pirates had previously been 0-30 against the top three of the AP poll before this afternoon’s win.
  3. Free throw shooting cost Villanova the game, but points off turnovers nearly won it for the Wildcats. Villanova shot 15-of-25 (60 percent) from the charity stripe this afternoon with JayVaughn Pinkston in particular having a very rough game (3-of-10). For as much as free throws eventually wound up costing the Wildcats the game, disrupting Seton Hall’s offense and creating live ball turnovers. Villanova turned those into quick points with most of them coming during a 16-0 run that allowed the Wildcats to turn a 13-point deficit into a three-point lead, a run that seemed to take the air out of Seton Hall’s upset bid at the time. Villanova’s pressure bothered the Pirates for most of the second half, forcing them into wasted possessions and bad shots. However, the free throw struggles proved insurmountable for Villanova.

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