Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Morning Shootaround: The Three Big East Schools and Missouri Advance

Last night was fairly similar to the rest of the tournament as there was not a ton of nailbiting while the better teams advanced (and trust me, Mizzou and Villanova are the better teams). That's not to say there wasn't some great basketball played. Pitt was dominant in the second half, UConn and Villanova overpowered Purdue and Duke, respectively, and Missouri showed off what may be the best press since Nolan Richardson's Arkansas in the mid-90's.

UConn 72, Purdue 60: Purdue's defense was as stingy as advertised, as the Boilermakers were able to hang in with the bigger and more talented Huskies. UConn never trailed in this one, but Purdue kept in interesting after falling behind 14-3.

In the first half, it was on the strength of Robbie Hummel's shooting. UConn opened the game with Jeff Adrien guarding Hummel, which was quickly apparent as a mismatch. Hummel scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half (Purdue had just 25 at the break) on a variety of jumpers. But with the rest of his team ice cold, Purdue was not able to take the lead. In the second half, UConn put Stanley Robinson on Hummel and slid Adrien over onto the much-less offensive-minded (don't you love hyphenated words?) Chris Kramer. The result was that Hummel had just one field goal in the second half.

Hasheem Thabeet was too much in the middle for the Huskies.
(photo credit: Chris Carlson/AP)

Purdue had an answer for just about everything UConn threw at them on the defensive end ... except for Hasheem Thabeet. The co-Big East player of the year was a force in the second half, as he scored UConn's first eight points, on a series of lay-ups and baby hooks, and had a block and a tipped-out defensive rebound lead to fast break buckets. The surge gave UConn another 11 point lead at 42-31. Purdue wouldn't get closer than four the rest of the way as Thabeet finished with 15 points, 15 boards, and 4 blocks.

Craig Austrie finished with 17 points to lead the Huskies, while Stanley Robinson added 10 points and 11 boards.

Pitt 60, Xavier 55: Xavier dominated the first half of this game. They were able to get penetration, thus getting good shots near the rim and on kickouts. The Musketeers outworked the Panthers on the glass, and basically beat Pitt at their own game. Derrick Brown was the best player on the floor, scoring on a couple perimeter jumpers and two beautiful drives to the rim.

That all changed in the second half. Pitt was more active defensively, forcing a number of turnovers by the Musketeers (a number by Kenny Frease, who looked intimidated by DeJuan Blair the entire game), and was much more dominant on the boards (Blair grabbed 13 of his 17 boards in the second half). As a result, Xavier went stone cold in the second half, missing their first ten shots, finishing the half 7-29 from the floor. They would score just 18 points in the half.

But Pitt was just as bad in the second half, and Xavier found themselves up 54-52 with under a minute left. That's when Levance Fields came to the rescue again. Against Oklahoma State, Fields hit a three and scored on a tough drive in the lane to give the Panthers a lead they would not relinquish. In this one, Fields hit a very tough step-back three in Dante Jackson's face with 50.9 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, he got his hands on a lazy pass and took that the distance for a lay-up with 23.9 seconds left. After Xavier missed a three, Pitt would hit their free throws to seal the win.

Levance Fields celebrates after scoring a lay-up to give Pitt a late three point lead.
(photo credit: Winslow Townson/AP)

It was a familiar formula for the Panthers, as they rode the (very) broad shoulders of their three stars - Fields, Blair, and Sam Young. Fields would finish the game with 14 points and 6 assists, Blair added 10 points, 3 steals, and 2 blocks to his 17 boards all while Sam Young scored a team-high 19 points. Brown had 14 points and 9 boards while BJ Raymond finished with 15 points to lead Xavier.

Missouri 102, Memphis 91: Did anyone predict that the Tigers would put up 102 points on the best defense in the country?

We didn't.

Missouri jumped on Memphis from the tip, breaking down the Tigers defensively and forcing them into an uptempo game that they just didn't have the horses for. JT Tiller was the catalyst at the start, has he had 15 of his team-high 23 points in the first half, getting to the rim almost at will. After Marcus Denmon hit a 3/4 court shot to beat the halftime buzzer, Missouri would take a 49-36 lead into the break.

Mizzou would extend their lead to 64-40 just four minutes into the second half, finishing off a 43-15 run. But that is when Memphis finally woke up. In the last 16 minutes of the game, Cal's Tigers would score 51 points, but it was too little, too late, as Memphis never got closer than six.

DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons, the versatile forwards, were a tough match-up for the less-mobile Memphis bigs, as the two combined for 32 points, 18 boards, 8 assists, and 3 blocks. Robert Dozier had 19 points and 16 boards for Memphis, but the best player on the floor tonight (on either team) was Tyreke Evans, who may have just played his way out of Memphis. Evans finished the game with 33 points, slicing and dicing the Mizzou pressure throughout the game. He showed an incredible ability to penetrate, and despite not being overly explosive, he was able able to finish at the rim. Given his height (6'6") and wingspan (7'0"), if he can develop a consistent perimeter shot, Evans will be a heckuva scorer at the next level.

Villanova 77, Duke 54: For the sixth straight season Duke has lost in the tournament to a lower seed (and the fifth straight season the Devils have been eliminated from the dance before the Elite 8). This year, it was the result of a dominating defense performance from Villanova (who, coincidentally, won their 14th game over a higher-rated team in the tournament, a record). Nova held Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer to a combined 4-32 shooting, and as a team Duke shot just 26.7% from the field.

It was a snowball effect. The Wildcats frustrated Duke early on in the game, making buckets hard to come by. But Duke was also playing some terrific defense, as the team's headed into the break with the score 26-23. But in the second half, Nova went on a 12-1 run after Duke scored the opening basket, taking a 38-26 lead. As the Wildcats kept pushing their lead bigger, Duke kept forcing the issue. Bad shots and turnovers led to quick, easy baskets on the other end for Nova.

Villanova also was much more aggressive going to the basket. Duke has a penchant for struggling against teams and players that can penetrate, and that was more than obvious tonight as Nova was able to get to the rack just about whenever they pleased in the second half. And when they weren't scoring on their first shot, they were getting the offensive boards. Nova won the rebounding battle 49-34, including 12 on the offensive glass.

Dwayne Anderson and company held the Blue Devils to 26.7% shooting.
(photo credit: Elise Amendola/AP)

As usual, it was a team effort from the Cats (you notice I have yet to mention a Villanova players name - that is the norm for this team). They were led by 16 points form Scottie Reynolds, but Dante Cunningham added 14 and 11 boards and Reggie Redding had 11 points, 9 boards, and 4 assists. Four other players added between six and eight points.

Dwayne Anderson is fast becoming one of my favorite players in the country. He is a gritty defender that can, literally, defend every position on the floor (most everyone needed to be able to tonight, as Nova was switching everything for the majority of the night). He can also knock down threes, score in the post, and take his man off the dribble. My favorite aspect to his game is how hard he goes to the glass. He always seems to be in the middle of every scrum for a rebound, and is good for at least one put-back per game.


Tmachir said...

OK, I have a question/comment. Remember when Levance Fields hit the step-back three pointer then stole the sloppy pass for the fast-break layup which put Pitt up 3 I believe? Well After he scored he knocked the ball out of play and nearl into the 5th row. Then, before a timeout was called, you could see him barking in one of Xavier's players ear.

I think what he did was fine and dandy, I men he was caught in the moment, but arent both of those actions: knocking the ball out of bounds after a made basket and jawing in another players face worthy of a technical foul?

I mean, those types of plays ussually get a technical foul called. When Christoph Onegenaet hacked G'Town's DaJuan Summers on a lay-up, he got up and screamed in his face, and he got a technical foul.

What Fields did, along with throwing the ball out of play, should have warrented a technical foul. I only say this because I have seen these actions result in technical fouls before, so shouldnt all instances of this warrented with a tech?

look at the play again, and I think you might see what Im talking about. If not, just ignore me, as ussual.

Rob Dauster said...

I definitely noticed that too. I thought for sure they were going to give Fields a delay of game warning for throwing the ball (yelling in the player's face didn't deserve a tech as much as just pulling Fields away - Summers got the tech because he literally just about bit off Ongenaet's face). Anyway, I was also very surprised that nothing was done by the refs.

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