Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Roundup

Great day of basketball on Saturday. I was able to watch four games yesterday:

Duke 82, Xavier 64: This game wasn't as close as the final score says. Duke jumped out to an 18-1 lead out of the gates and cruised to a 55-24 halftime lead. Yes, they were hitting just about everything and yes, Jon Scheyer looked like an all-american, but the key to this game for Duke was their defense. They got out and pressed Xavier, which made the Musketeers rush on offense. They forced shots and penetration early in the shot clock over and over again. Terrell Holloway was one of the guys forcing it too much. I can't tell you how many times in the first half he tried to drive and either threw up a terrible shot or turned the ball over.

As a team, Xavier had 10 first half turnovers. Many of them were forced because Duke played a switching man-to-man defense, and thus were able to jump a lot of passing lanes. A turnover is one thing, but the really bad turnovers are the ones that lead to uncontested lay-ups or 2-on-1 breaks. Xavier had a lot of those in the first half.

The one thing Xavier needs to take out of this game is improving their shot selection and ball movement. When it comes down to it, a bad shot (especially early in the shot clock) is essentially the same thing as a turnover. The Musketeers continually drove the ball at the basket off of one pass and then forced the ball to the rim amongst bigger players. Early in the second half, when X made a little run to cut the lead to 22, it was because they were moving the ball around and taking good shots. They need to realize that their team is good as long as they are playing as a team.

Jon Scheyer was the best player on the floor for the game. He hit shots, he took the ball to the rim, he got some offensive boards, and he was able to set up his teammates. If Scheyer plays like this for the rest of the season, then Duke will have their go-to scorer. Him turning into a star is what it would take for Duke to challenge UNC.

Michigan State 67, Texas 63: I got to watch the last 11:00 of this game when CBS switched away from Duke's blowout, and boy was it exciting. Michigan State took their first lead of the second half at 56-55 before a 6-0 spurt pushed the 'Horns back in front. Texas was up 63-62 after Gary Johnson hit a driving lay-up with 1:30 left. After an empty possession by both teams, Kalin Lucas found Durrell Summers on the wing for a three with 18 seconds left. On the next possession, Justin Mason turned the ball over. MSU missed a front end, but Justin Mason badly missed a three as time expired.

As I said, I only got to see the last 11:00 of the game, but a couple of things really stood out to me during that time. Gary Johnson is good. Coming into the season, everyone knew that Johnson was a workhorse and a scrapper on the glass and the defensive. But did you know about his offensive game? He has an excellent 15-17 foot jumper, but against Michigan State he put the ball on the floor twice and went to the rim (including the bucket that tied the game).

I was also really impressed with Durrell Summers. He's a great athlete, but he showed off a nice stroke as he hit two big three pointers down the stretch (including the game winner). He did take a bad shot and throw a bad pass in the last five minutes, so he has to become a better decision maker. But with his versatility, he could really be a useful tool off the bench for Tom Izzo.

UConn 88, Gonzaga 83 OT: Yup, the Huskies are getting their own post.

Syracuse 72, Memphis 65: Syracuse once again came out sluggish, finding themselves down by as much as ten points early. But the Syracuse zone worked wonders as Memphis started out 1-19 from deep. The key for Syracuse was their transition game. The Tigers still wound up getting 17 offensive rebounds, but Syracuse capitalized on Memphis sending four guys to the offensive glass by getting out and running the floor, especially in the second half. They had four or five fast break lay-ups, and another two or three 2-on-1's where they turned the ball over.

A good sign for Memphis is that Roburt Sallie looks like he will be the shooter that the are sorely lacking. He struggled to break into the line up, but he hit four three's in the second half for Memphis that kept them close down the stretch.

Eric Devendorf will miss at least one more game for his suspension (convenient that his suspension ending coincides with the start of Big East play?), which means that the Orange will rely heavily on Andy Rautins as a secondary ball handler. For Cuse fans, this is bad news. Rautins looked completely over matched against Memphis. He finished 3-9 with two turnovers, but he botched at least two fast breaks and took a couple really ugly jumpers off of the first pass.

If Memphis had a point guard that could create, they would be a very good team even without a shooter. Shawn Taggart, Robert Dozier, and Pierre Henderson-Niles all struggle to create their own shots in the post, but they can all finish really well around the rim.

Kristoff Ongenaet played just one minute. Its clear he's in Jim Boeheim's dog house for some reason. It worked out well for Syracuse as Rick Jackson 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks. That's a good sign for Syracuse. As good as Onuaku is, he has a tendency to disappear during games. If Jackson can be a second option inside, it makes Syracuse that much more dangerous.

The rest of last night's games:

  • North Carolina 85, Valparaiso 63: Valpo jumped out to a 12-3 lead and kept it interesting for a while, but a 27-5 Tar Heel run spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second half put the game away. Tyler Hansbrough was scoreless through the first nine minutes but finished with 25.
  • Oklahoma 81, VCU 70: Tony Crocker scored a career-high 26 points, including 8 in a run late in the first half the pushed the Sooner lead to 42-33 at the break. Crocker was 5-6 from deep, breaking out of a season long shooting slump. Blake Griffin had 18 and 7 for OU, who pushed the lead to as much as 20. Eric Maynor finished with 15, 5 boards, and 3 assists for VCU, but he also had 8 turnovers.
  • Minnesota 70, Louisville 64: Louisville scored the first basket of the game, but that would be their only lead as the Cardinals could get nothing going offensively. They finished the game shooting 38% from the floor and had 16 turnovers. To be fair, Minnesota played really well as they out-executed the 'Ville. The Golden Gophers used a 12-4 run to start the second half to push their lead to 50-37, and despite being held without a field goal for 9:31 during the second half, hung on to win. Al Nolen had 18, 5, and 5 for the Gophers while Blake Hoffarber added 15. Terrence Williams led the Cards with 18, 6 boards, and 5 dimes while Earl Clark posted his second consecutive double double with 16 and 11.
  • Georgetown 69, Mt. St. Mary's 58: The Hoyas scored the last seven points of the first half to open up a nine point advantage, then went on a 11-1 run early in the second half to push the lead to 47-33. The Mountaineers hung around, however, mainly because Georgetown could not keep them off the offensive glass (MSM had 15 o-boards and outrebounded the Hoyas 39-38). Greg Monroe had just 8 points (4 of those came in the final minute) as Georgetown just finished a two-week exam period. Chris Wright paced the Hoyas with 19 and 4 dimes.
  • UCLA 76, Mercer 59: The Bruins never trailed against Mercer, as they opened up an early 13-3 lead and never looked back. Michael Roll started for an injured Josh Shipp (sprained thumb) and shot 6-7 from the floor (4-5 from deep) on his way to 16 points. Darren Collison led the way for UCLA with 20.
  • Notre Dame 88, Delaware State 50: Luke Harangody had 20 points and 8 rebounds as the game was never in doubt.
  • Ohio State 71, Iona 53: David Lighty was in a boot on the bench with a broken foot, but the play of Evan Turner made up for that. The junior finished with 21 and 6 boards. He had 9 points and 2 blocks during a 13-5 run that blew the game open midway through the second half.
  • Arizona State 76, BYU 75: James Harden hit a free throw with 9.2 seconds left to give the Sun Devils the one point lead. BYU forward Charles Abouo hit a lay-up at the buzzer that would have won the game, but after reviewing the shot, the refs ruled (correctly) that it came after the horn. James Harden finished with 30 for the ASU, while Jonathon Tavernari led the way with 24 for the Cougars. Arizona State trailed for much of the game and was down 10 with under 10 minutes to play in the second half.
  • Tennessee 79, Belmont 77: The Vols struggled against a good Belmont team and hung on as Alex Renfroe, who scored a career-high 30 points, struggled from the free throw line down the stretch. He made just 1-2 with a 7.9 seconds left to cut the Tennessee lead to 78-77, and after Tennessee made 1-2 at the other end, he was fouled with 1.3 seconds left. He missed the first, then intentionally missed the second free throw. Tyler Smith had a season high 23 points and 8 boards for the Vols.
  • Purdue 76, Davidson 58: Chris Kramer helped Purdue hold Stephen Curry to 13 points on 5-26 shooting. The Wildcats were never in this game as Purdue jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first seven minutes. Purdue got a balanced effort as usual. Robbie Hummel led the Boilermakers with 18 and 14, Keaton Grant added 15 and JaJuan Johnson had 14, 7 boards and 2 blocks. As good as Davidson has played, it looks like they are now going to need to earn the Southern Conference automatic bid to make the NCAA's as they have lost to Purdue and Oklahoma. They get one more chance for a statement win against Duke in January. Purdue, on the other hand, really needed this win. They had lost to Oklahoma and Duke, and while beating Davidson isn't like beating UNC, a big win over a good Wildcats team lends some credibility to the Purdue team.
  • Baylor 79, UT-Arlington 76: The Bears were down 41-32 at halftime, but a 10-0 second half run sparked by Curtis Jerrells put Baylor ahead for good 70-65. Jerrells finished the game with 29 and 7 dimes and Kevin Rogers added 13 and 13 boards (9 offensive). Baylor was playing for the first time in a week because of finals.
The rest of the day's games:
  • Kentucky 93, Appalachian State 69: Jodie Meeks went for 46 on 9-12 shooting from deep.
  • West Virginia 82, Miami OH 46
  • Texas Tech 86, New Mexico 78
  • Georgia 74, Wofford 73 OT
  • Cornell 79, La Salle 70
  • Kansas 71, Temple 59
  • USC 61, North Dakota State 57
  • UNLV 79, Arizona 64
  • Boston College 81, Providence 76
  • Texas A&M 72, LSU 61
  • Cal 75, Nevada 66
  • Wisconsin 57, Coppin State 46
  • St. Mary's 65, Southern Illinois 52
  • Cincinnati 85, Eastern Kentucky 77 OT
  • Oklahoma State 86, Rhode Island 82
  • Dayton 75, UNC-Greensboro 44
  • Stanford 65, Northwestern 59
Sunday's schedule:
  • 5:30 PM: Pitt (11-0) @ Florida State (11-1): The Panthers get their biggest test of the season as they travel to Tallahassee to take on an athletic Seminoles team. Florida State has beaten Florida this year, but also lost on the road to Northwestern. If the Panthers can get FSU playing a grind-it-out game, then the Panthers should not have much of an issue.
  • 7:45 Clemson (11-0) @ Miami FL (7-2): The Tigers have started the season on a long, undefeated streak for the fourth consecutive year. They have beaten Temple and Illinois (on the road), but those games are nothing compared to ACC play. If the U wants to win this game, Lance Hurdle, James Dews, and Jack McClinton are going to need to be able to handle the Clemson press. Combined, those three guys are averaging just 4.5 turnovers per game.
  • 2:00 PM: Virginia Tech (7-4) vs. St. John's (9-1)

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