Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Morning Shootaround

Three ranked teams went down on Sunday afternoon. The first to lose was USC, who got knocked off by Missouri. The Tigers were down 53-43 in the second half, but used a pair of 12-2 runs to beat the Trojans. DeMarre Carroll led Mizzou with 29 and 11, but he also added 3 steals. All told, the Tigers forced 19 Trojan turnovers with their 40-minutes-of-hell pressure, and 13 of those (8 by Daniel Hackett, 5 by Dwight Lewis) came from USC's starting back court.

These two teams have started out the season very differently. USC was supposed to challenge for the Pac-10 title, but they have struggled in the early going. Demar Derozan is a great athlete, but he does not quite understand how to play the game when he is going up against guys that are his size that can run and jump with him. They have question marks at the point, and are still waiting for someone to emerge along side Taj Gibson (who has been nothing short of fantastic). Missouri, who was expected to be a middling Big XII team at best, has been very impressive. They start out the season 4-1, with their one loss being a nail-biter to Xavier. Carroll is averaging 20 and 7, while front court mate Leo Lyons is putting up 17 and 6. The Tigers have a lot of long athletes, which is what makes their press so effective. When it is working right, they can play with anyone in the country.

Other ranked teams in action:

  • UConn 76, Miami FL 63 - UConn finally looks like the #2 team in the country. The Huskies got 19, 14, and 7 blocks from Hasheem Thabeet and used a 16-0 run early in the first half to break the game open. The 'Canes kept fighting, cutting the lead to four a couple of times, but never really made it interesting. AJ Price added 13, 11 boards, and 5 assists while Kemba Walker continued his hot start by scoring 11. Jack McClinton broke out of his two game shooting slump, going for 27 and 5 three's.
  • Xavier 63, Memphis 58 - Real hard-fought game on both ends of the floor. Xavier was ahead for most of the game, but really had to battle the Tigers pressure down the stretch. Once again, it was free throws and poor decision making that cost Memphis a title. The Tigers were just 15-30 from the line, going 1-6 and missing two front-ends in the final minutes. Tyreke Evans has a ton of talent and potential and will one day be a very good player, but until he learns what is a good shot and what isn't, he is going to hurt Memphis. For example, Memphis was down six, but on three straight possessions ran a two-man game with Robert Dozier in the post and Doneal Mack on the wing. The result of those three possessions were a basket and two fouls, and in the process Memphis cut the lead to three. On the fourth possession, Evans brought the ball up the floor and jacked up a quick three-pointer off the dribble. He bricked it, and Xavier got the rebound and scored at the other end. Doneal Mack has been one of the bright spots for Memphis early on. He's their best perimeter shooter (although he has been inconsistent early on), but he's also added a very nice mid-range game and is attacking the basket more than ever. 
  • Louisville 81, South Alabama 54 - Samardo Samuels scored 24 points in the win, his second straight game leading the Cardinals in scoring. More importantly, after struggling in the Morehead State win, Terrence Williams, who is coming off of a knee injury, had 12 points, 7 boards, 7 dimes, and 5 steals.
  • Duke 78, Montana 58 - Duke improves to 6-0 with the win, but played without Greg Paulus who missed the game because of the arm injury that has been bothering him.
  • Arizona State 61, Pepperdine 40 - James Harden has 33 and 12 in the win, but the Sun Devils really need people around the sophomore to step up. Jeff Pendergraph has 23 points on the season.
  • Wisconsin 64, San Diego 49 - Trevon Hughes has flown under the radar for most of his career at Wisconsin, but the kid is proving how good he is this year - he's scored 20 in back-to-back games. It will be interesting to see him go up against the hyped back court of UConn.
  • Seton Hall 77, Virginia Tech 73 - Another tough loss for the Hokies, who got 23 from Malcolm Delaney, 22 from AD Vassallo, and 17 and 17 from Jeff Allen. Bobby Gonzalez is not well-liked in coaching circles, but he is doing an impressive job with this Pirate team. They are now 4-1 on the season with wins against Tech and USC. Jeremy Hazell is blossoming into a go-to scorer (22.8 ppg) for the Pirates, who are also getting double-digit production from three other starters. The two wins in this tournament put the Pirate's in very good position to earn an at-large berth if they can manage to finish in the top 9 of the Big East.

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