Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday's Shootaround: UNC bounces back and Illinois falls back

This post is brought to you by the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield, MO.

No. 8 North Carolina 82, Virginia Tech 68: There was a lot of good and a lot of bad to take out of the Tar Heel's 14 point win over Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

The good? After allowing the Hokies to hang around for far to long in the first 24 minutes or so, UNC turned it on in a big way. They used a 19-0 run that they extended into a 31-5 surge to turn a 44-36 deficit into a 67-49 lead. After their debacle at Florida State last weekend, the Heels needed to make a statement in this game. Virginia Tech borders on awful this season, and while Seth Greenberg's teams are always tough at home, UNC needed to come out and show the country that they are not the team that was beaten into submission -- both literally and figuratively -- in Tallahassee.

And while it took them a half to wake up (I would pay a good amount of money to see Roy Williams' halftime speech to his team), when they finally did, the Heels put on a show. Harrison Barnes looked like the guy that is at the top of every NBA Draft board. John Henson and Tyler Zeller were dominant in the paint. As a team, the Tar Heels looked every bit the offensive juggernaut that they were supposed to be all season long, and they were playing some defense, too.

The bad? Dexter Strickland injured his knee. There has been no diagnosis yet, but the way that his knee buckled when he planted ... it looked bad. Strickland is UNC's best perimeter defender, and with Leslie McDonald already out of action with a torn acl, UNC's perimeter depth is at a premium. If Strickland is gone for an extended period of time, it could be a huge blow to UNC.

Penn State 54, No. 25 Illinois 52: After their win over Ohio State last week, I said that the key to the Illini's season was whether or not they would be able to find a consistent way to get production out of Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard. On Thursday night, Illinois got 20 points out of Paul and 15 points out of Leonard on a combined 23 shots. And they still lost. That's what will happen when your supporting cast goes 6-26 from the field and scores all of 17 points.

A couple of things worth noting: Tim Frazier is one of the best point guards in the country you've never seen play. He had 12 points and nine assists, including the game-winner. Also, Brandon Paul hit a pair of tough threes down the stretch, including another ridiculous three off of a curl with a hand in his face. Color me impressed.

Vanderbilt 69, Alabama 59: The Commodores were incredibly impressive in their win at Alabama on Thursday night. They were down by 17-11 midway through the first half when they completely took the game over. They outscored the Crimson Tide 15-2 to end the first half and began the second half with a 15-5 surge. But as good as Vandy looked, I can't help but wonder whether this loss says more about Alabama. I love that team, but they haven't done anything with anything close to a modicum of consistency this season. Is it possible that their offensive woes are a bigger issue than we thought?

No. 4 Duke 91, Wake Forest 73: The story of this game wasn't the 18 point win we all expected and it wasn't the seven threes that Andre Dawkins hit in the first half. It was that Austin Rivers, Coach K's star freshman guard, was benched at the start of the game. He was told on Monday, after a four point performance against Clemson, and Rivers was not happy about it. After the game, he said:

The past three days I haven't slept. I've been thinking. I was so angry. You have no idea how angry I was. … But I realize that I need to mature. That's what (Krzyzewski's) intention was. I mean, he's a genius. He knows what he's doing. He's going to make me better and this team is going to make me better.
Admittedly, I didn't like Rivers body language on the bench. But Coach K's tactics worked. Rivers had 20 points, 14 of which came in the second half. Rivers has the talent to be something special. Whether or not he's able to accept the fact that, the higher the level of basketball he reaches, the fewer the number of shots he is going to get is a different story.

Loyola Marymount 82, BYU 68: There was quite a bit of speculation this season that the six game round robin between Gonzaga, St. Mary's and BYU would determine the winner of the WCC this season, and while that still may end up being true, the fact that the Cougars dropped this game to LMU -- at home, none the less -- is a major blow to BYU's chances of winning the league outright. To be fair, the Lions are finally healthy this season. Anthony Ireland was terrific as usual, finishing with 27 points, five assists and five steals, but Drew Viney showed up with 21 points in this one.


- Cal 69, Washington 66: The Bears are starting to look like the best team in the Pac-12. Allen Crabbe had 16 points and 10 boards and Justin Cobbs went for 14, but the most important player in this game was Robert Thurman. Filling in for the ineligible Richard Solomon, Thurman, a walk-on, went for 16 points and seven boards. Can he keep up that kind of production? I'm not terribly concerned about Washington just yet, but this is a worrisome outcome.

- Washington State 81, Stanford 69: This is a bad loss for Stanford. The Cardinal came into this game tied for first place in the conference with Cal and jumped out to a ten point lead in the first half. But Stanford simply had no answer for Faisal Aden, who finally woke up by coming off the bunch for 33 points.

- Oregon 65, USC 62: What do we make of Oregon? They continued their solid start in Pac-12 play, but struggling with USC at home isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for Dana Altman's team. Garret Sim and Devoe Joseph combined for 36 points.

- Oregon State 87, UCLA 84: Maybe I am expecting too much out of the Beavers this season, but I wasn't surprised by this win over UCLA as much as I was surprised by OSU's 1-5 start in league play. Jared Cunningham has 21 points in the win, but more importantly Devon collier had 20 and got 12 shots from the floor.

- Colorado 69, Arizona State 54
- Arizona 77, Utah 51

Other notable scores:

- No. 17 Virginia 70, Georgia Tech 38
- No. 23 St. Mary's 61, Pepperdine 47
- Davidson 87, Charleston 69
- Charleston Southern 93, UNC-Asheville 88
- NC State 76, Boston College 62
- VCU 69, William & Mary 68 OT
- Butler 57, UIC 49
- Denver 63, Louisiana-Monroe 48
- Weber State 81, Northern Arizona 67
- Gonzaga 74, San Francisco 63

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