Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sunday Roundup

I got a chance to see three games yesterday, none of which were all too exciting. The day started with Washington State losing at LSU 64-52. The Tigers were down 47-40 with eight minutes to play, but finished the game on a 24-5 run, getting a lot of east buckets off of Cougar turnovers. LSU put the game away when Marcus Thornton hit a three, then on the next possession Bo Spencer made a steal and got an and-1 lay-up at the other end to put LSU up 60-52 with under two left. To be honest, I was not impressed by either team, especially Washington State. The Cougars, as always, as a tough defensive team, but they look lost and timid on the offensive end. I can't tell you how many bad passes were picked off by Tiger defenders (crazy stat of the day: LSU had 13 steals in the game, led by Garrett Temple with six, while Wazzu had exacty zero).

LSU looked a little bit better. Trent Edwards definitely has some talent to play with. Their starting five (Tasmin Mitchell, Garrett Temple, Bo Spencer, Chris Johnson, and Marcus Thornton) is not all that big, but they are quick, athletic, and they play hard. I'm not completely sold on them being a tournament team just yet - they don't have much depth - but they play in a very weak SEC, and if they can make a run through the league and finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-6, they are going to get a long look from the committee. Winning this game will only help their cause.

The second game that I got to see was Louisville knocking off UAB at home 82-62. This is the fourth time I've had a chance to see the Cardinals play, and this was probably their best performance. I know UAB has just six scholarship players (nine total), but they still have their big three of Robert Vaden, Lawrence Kinnard, and Paul Delaney. While it will be a mini-miracle if they reach the tourney, this is still a decent UAB team, and Louisville beat them by 20.

Pitino shook things up yesterday. He started freshman Jared Swopshire over Earl Clark and sophomore Preston Knowles over senior Andre McGee. He said it was because he wanted to make sure Swopshire and Knowles had experience playing big minutes in case a starter was in foul trouble, but more likely he was trying to send a message to his team. Louisville is a top 10 team in terms of talent, but they have not played up to their potential. Pitino has said before that Earl Clark is a great player in games, but not in practice, so what better way to send a wake up call than to revoke a starting role.

Regardless of why he was doing it, the move worked. Swopshire was really effective in his 14 minutes, finishing with 8 points and 4 boards. The same goes for Knowles, who had 8 points and 5 boards. Coming off the bench, Clark has 12, 4 boards, 3 assists, and 4 blocks while McGee finished with 13 and hit 3 three's.

The biggest reason for this Louisville victory was the play of Terrence Williams, who proved why he is one of the best all-around players in the Big East. Williams finished with 21, 10 boards, 7 dimes, and 3 blocks and hit 5-8 from deep. Williams has struggled a bit offensively this year, especially with his shooting. He still took some ill-advised shots yesterday, but since he forced the UAB defenders to respect his jump shot, it was much easier for him to get into the lane.

Louisville really shot the ball well yesterday, finishing 11-27 from deep. The Cardinals rely so much on the three-ball this year, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles are both hitting well over 40% on their three's, while Terrence Williams and Andre McGee both are streaky, but have shown an ability to knock down two or three in a row. The question becomes how they get their three's. Louisville has a tendency to get lazy on offense, settling for contested three's after swinging the ball on the perimeter. They are much better, however, when they get the ball into the paint, whether via penetration or a post touch, and then kick it out to open shooters. The problem this year is that Samardo Samuels is no where near the passer that David Padgett was. But Samuels was effective getting rid of the ball when he got doubled yesterday, which opened up a lot of good looks for the Cardinal shooters. Samuels finished with 17 and 11 boards.

The last game I got to see yesterday was West Virginia at Ohio State, where the Mountaineers blew out the Buckeyes 76-48. OSU just never showed up. They looked listless the entire game, and just never got into a rhythm. They finished with only three assists on 18 field goals.

The game had a weird feeling to it. West Virginia never really seemed like they were playing all that well themselves. Alex Ruoff was just 6-15 from the field (17 points) and Da'Sean Butler finished with 16, but picked up his fourth foul with 14 minutes left up 45-36. The Mountaineers proceeded to make a huge run, outscoring OSU 31-8 over the next 13 minutes of play (the majority of which was done with Butler on the bench), eventually leading by as much as 32.

WVU did it with defense. They just simply did not allow Ohio State anything easy. OSU only turned the ball over 12 times, but they shot a miserable 31% from the field and 2-18 from deep. West Virginia, on the other hand, finished the game shooting 47% from the field. They shot 55% in the second half, and during the 31-8 run, it seemed like they were hitting everything. Like I said, it had a really weird feel to it. It wasn't like West Virginia was forcing turnovers and getting easy baskets. For that 13 minute span, all they did was get a stop, come down and score in their half court offense. On a side note, I couldn't tell if the Mountaineer offense looked so good because they were playing well or if it was because the Buckeyes were not playing any defense. West Virginia was moving the ball beautifully against the OSU zone, routinely getting wide open jumpers and easy lay-ups.

The bottom line is that West Virginia was just the tougher team yesterday. Huggins had his guys ready to play, especially on the defensive end, and Ohio State just did not have an answer.

The rest of the action from Saturday:

  • Miami FL 70, St. John's 56: Jack McClinton led the Hurricanes with 20 points, 6 boards, and 4 dimes and hit 5-7 from deep.
  • Kentucky 76, Florida Atlantic 69: Patrick Patterson had 27 and 14 as the Wildcats held off a pesky FAU team. The biggest stat of note for this game is that UK only had seven turnovers on the game.
  • UMass 64, IUPUI 57: Ricky Harris had 23, 7 boards, and 4 dimes and Tony Gaffney added 11, 11, 5 blocks, and 3 steals as the Minutemen won their fourth in a row.
  • Missouri 107, SIU-Edwardsville 57
  • Michigan State 82, Oakland 66
  • St. Mary's 87, San Jose State 78: The Gaels are now 11-1 and seem to be flying a bit under the radar. Patty Mills (19.7 ppg), Omar Samhan (14.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and Diamon Simpson (12.6 ppg, 12.1 rpg) are as good as anyone out west.
Sunday's games:
  • 2:00 PM: Presbyterian (5-7) @ Marquette (10-2)
  • 2:00 PM: Eastern Michigan (2-9) @ Illinois (11-1)
  • 3:00 PM: Louisiana Tech (6-6) @ UCLA (9-2)
  • 4:00 PM: Western Kentucky (7-3) @ Florida State (11-2)
  • 4:00 PM: Valparaiso (3-8) @ Purdue (10-2)
  • 5:30 PM: Virginia (5-4) @ Georgia Tech (7-3)
  • 6:00 PM: Iowa State (7-4) @ Houston (7-1)
  • 6:30 PM: Winthrop (1-9) @ Florida (9-2)
  • 7:00 PM: High Point (4-7) @ Minnesota (11-0)
  • 7:00 PM: Siena (6-4) @ St. Joe's (5-5)
  • 7:45 PM: Rutgers (9-3) @ North Carolina (11-0): Crazy fact of the day: Rutgers next three games are difficult, to say the least. They head to Chapel Hill today to play #1 UNC, host #3 Pitt on Wednesday, and then head up to Storrs to play #2 UConn on Saturday.
  • 10:00 PM: Texas Tech (9-3) @ Stanford (9-0)

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