Game of the Day. #8 Texas 63, #2 UCLA 61. One thing lost amidst last year’s undoubtedly deserving Kevin Durant hype at Texas was that Rick Barnes brought in five other talented freshmen in the class of 2006 who accounted for nearly half of UT’s points and rebounds in their 25-10 campaign. Everyone already knows about the head point guard capabilities of DJ Augustin, but players such as Damion James and Justin Mason have been largely overlooked. No longer. Tonight the Horns, led by those three sophs + juniors Connor Atchley and AJ Abrams, went into Pauley Pavilion and earned a far more impressive win than the Durant-led Horns had all of last season. Midway through the first half, UCLA went through yet another of those confounding Howland-era droughts, going almost nine minutes without a field goal, and in the process allowed Texas to take a commanding lead during a 17-0 run. Augustin (19/4) in particular shredded the vaunted UCLA defense, repeatedly showing his Steve Nash-tutelage in the form of stepback jumpers and blow-by abilities. The expected UCLA run came in the second half, as Mbah a Moute (14/7) and Shipp (11/7/4 assts) led the charge. UCLA took back the lead at the 12-minute mark, and had a three-point lead as late as 1:15 remaining. Then the unexpected occurred, as Connor Atchley made a clutch three to tie the game with 1:00 left, and UCLA missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on its next possession. After forcing DJ Augustin into a horrible leaning airball from the right side, Kevin Love & Co. didn’t block out, allowing Damion James (19/10) to rise over the top for a strong throwdown and a 2-pt Texas lead with 0:09 on the clock. UCLA ran it upcourt and got a great look for Mbah a Moute from three, but it was off the mark and Texas secured a tremendous early-season win against the #1 team in the ESPN/USA Today Poll, breaking UCLA’s 25-game homecourt winning streak. We don’t have the database to check this, but we gotta figure this is one of the only times in Texas basketball history the Horns have beaten a #1 team on the road. More importantly, this win announced to the college basketball world that a Texas without Kevin Durant will be dealt with this season. Right now, no other team has two quality wins as impressive as their neutral court dismantling of Tennessee and this road win at UCLA. As for the Bruins, the key stat Howland should be worried about is rebounding (+2 Texas) – considering the size and prowess of Love, Mata-Real, Mbah a Moute in the paint, they simply got outworked tonight on the boards, and it came back to bite them hard on the putback by James that won the game.
More Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. Arizona 78, #9 Texas A&M 67. With seven minutes to go in the first half, TAMU was already up twenty on Arizona and we were making plans to go get our Xmas tree. Arizona was once again showing absolutely no signs of life, letting yet another team brazenly come onto their court and push them around. That’s when UA freshman Jerryd Bayless (26/3/6 assts) decided to step up and make his presence known, sparking a late first-half run and leading the way in the second half for Arizona to get back and ultimately win the game. Will this game act as a turning point for Arizona? #4 Kansas 59, #25 USC 55. We admit that our expectations for this game were pretty low. Even though the game was at the Galen Center, we thought KU was way too disciplined, experienced and talanted to let USC’s young freshmen take this game. We were wrong in the sense that USC was able to hang with the Jayhawks the entire way. But we were right in that
Kansas Mario Chalmers made the plays it needed to win the game. Chalmers’ 26-footer with 24 seconds left to essentially salt the game away was one of those shots where you initially think “he must have panicked” until it falls through the bottom of the net (which it did, dead center). Still, USC didn’t even play very well and was right there at the end – OJ Mayo was 6-21 from the field, Taj Gibson pulled another disappearing act (2 pts and fouled out again), but only Davon Jefferson (17/3) had a good game. We’re still not sure whether that tells us more about Kansas or USC long-term, though. Stanford 67, Colorado 43. Um, so much for Stanford having trouble with another road game, as someone in this space implied yesterday. Nebraska 62, Arizona St. 47. We obviously didn’t watch this game, but an eight-minute scoring drought by ASU that finished them off sounds an awful lot like Herb Sendek to us.
Big 12/Pac-10 Final Thoughts. The final tally was 6-5 in this matchup, with road teams winning five of the games. What did we learn? Probably not much, but looking at this slate beforehand we probably would have predicted the Pac-10 to win a couple more of these games, which may suggest that the league is a tad overrated from where pundits were projecting. Obviously, the bottom-dwellers of Oregon St. and Arizona St. are terrible teams. Washington and Cal are probably NIT-worthy. That leaves USC, Arizona, Stanford as NCAA first-weekend teams, with Oregon, Wazzu and UCLA as the likely second-weekend teams. In the Big 12, we see more talent at the top level with Texas, Texas A&M and Kansas. K-State, Baylor, Missouri and the Oklahomas will sort themselves out as NCAA/NIT-worthy, while Colorado, Texas Tech, Iowa St. and Nebraska look to be pretty bad teams this year.
- Miami (FL) 66, St. John’s 47. Is Miami for real this year?
- East Carolina 68, George Mason 65. Tough home loss for GMU today – let’s hope this doesn’t bite them come March.
- VCU 85, Maryland 76. Eric Maynor blew up for 25/8 in the upset of the Terps. What’s going on, Gary?
On Tap Today (all times EST). Probably a night better spent doing something else, like, we dunno, talking to your wife/girlfriend.
- Florida (NL) v. Jacksonville (ESPN FC) 7pm – Florida continues its quest to dominate the Sunshine State.
- Arkansas (-10) v. Missouri St. (ESPN FC) 8pm. this border war game should be intriguing.
- Wisconsin (-23) v. Wofford (ESPN2) 9pm - ESPN was obviously hurting for programming opposite MNF tonight.