Wednesday, March 31, 2010
NCAA Cranked Up: Four for the Final
Butler Bulldogs (32-4) vs.
Michigan State Spartans (28-8)
6:07 pm EDT
Butler enters the Final Four for the very first time in school history, but does so with a flourish, sporting not only the best record of all participants, but also the longest winning streak in the nation, a solid 24 straight.
The Bulldogs will have the advantage of playing just 7 miles from their campus, in what amounts to a short home tournament. They will benefit from having many of their fans n hand, though that could also work as a distraction leading up to the Saturday games and possibly a final game showdown for all the marbles.
Butler is led by Gordon Hayward, the Horizon League Player of the Year, who brings size and talent to the front court. In the big games, Hayward has stepped up. He scored 17 points with 5 rebounds against Syracuse and had 22 and 9 in the reginal final win over Kansas State. A lean, 6'9" forward, he's a nightmare to defend.
Shelvin Mack is the scoring guard for the Bulldogs. He too has been on his game in the tournament. Ouside of his 1-for-10 3-point effort against Syracuse, Mack has nailed 12 of 18 from beyond the arc. His scoring will be essential, but Butler wins with defense, mostly in the form of a 2-1-2 zone.
The Spartans have become accustomed to playing under big lights in big pressure games, so Tom Izzo will have his players ready for action. Michigan State has been hobbled by injury, most notably the loss of point guard Kalin Lucas, who is out for the duration of the tourney but has been admirably replaced by Korie Lucious, who staved off elimination with a last-second three-pointer to shock Maryland in the regional semi-final.
Forwards Raymar Morgan and Durrell Summers will be called upon again to carry the scoring load for the Spartans, while Delvon Roe and Draymond Green will do the dirty work under the rim. Summers has carried the team through the tournament, all of which have been close calls for the Spartans. He's scoring at a 20 points per game clip, nearly double his seasonal average. Michigan State comes with grit and determination, but the Bulldogs display much the same attitude. This game will be a war. Butler is a slim, 1 1/2 point favorite.
West Virginia Mountaineers (31-6) vs.
Duke Blue Devils (33-5)
8:47 pm EDT
After the Butler - Michigan St. melange, this game will look like the Varsity kids following the JV game onto the floor. While the previous two teams will be engaged in what may look, at times, like a cage fight, the two more polished squads out of the Big East and ACC bring more finesse and subtlety in their games, especially the Blue Devils.
It's not likely that West Virginia will hold Duke's regular season leading scorer, Kyle Singler, to the 5 points he had in his prior game. Expect Singler to take his shots from the perimeter (he's a 38% three-point shooter) and also bang away inside, though the Mountaineers inside presence should slow him down a little.
Duke's other two top scorers - Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith - both have been on the money during the past two games of the tourney. Smith had a career-high 29 points in the win over Baylor which got Duke on its way to Indianapolis. Scheyer scored 18 against Purdue and poured in 20 against Baylor, hitting 5 3-pointers in the process.
Of the many edges Duke has in this game, their front court size and free throw shooting should serve them well. Brian Zoubek goes 7'1", starter Lance Thomas stands 6'8" and the two Plumlees - Miles and Mason - each go 6'10" and should see plenty of floor time. At the foul line, Scheyer hits at an 88% clip; Singler, 79%, Smith, 78%, and all three get there with stunning regularity.
West Virginia appears to have destiny on their side. Coach Bob Huggins, who played for the Mountaineers from 1975-77, is in his third year with the school, and has developed a great rapport with his players, many of whom he personally recruited. The go-to guy is slick DaSean Butler, who has made a case for himself as tournament MOP. After seeing limited action - and just 9 points - in the opening round win over Morgan St., he put up 28, 14 and 18 points in wins over Missouri, Washington and Kentucky, nabbing 27 rebounds along the way. Butler, a senior, is the floor leader and, if the game comes down to one shot, he will be the one taking it.
Up front, the Mountaineers can keep fresh, tall bodies flowing into the game. Deniz Kilicli, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones can all rebound and defend, though they, like most of the West Virginia squad, are not particularly deadly on the perimeter. Point guard Joe Mazzula played a pivotal role in the win over Kentucky and he'll need to step it up again. The condition of Darryl "Truck" Bryant, who was the regular point guard until suffering a broken bone in his foot, is still up in the air. He hasn't practiced as of Tuesday, though it was announced that he would play against Duke. Having him back would be a boost.
In order to win this game, West Virginia will have to challenge Duke's outside shooters and maintain a solid presence inside, easier said than done. The match-ups favor Duke in many regards and the Mountainers are not a good free throw shooting team. Of the starters, Butler is the leader, at 78%. Not surprisingly, Duke is favored by 3 points.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Shock and Disbelief: Bulldogs, Mountaineers Skin 'Cats
5 Butler 63
2 Kansas St. 56
The Butler Bulldogs stunned the Kansas St. Wildcats and advanced to the Final Four out of the West region, employing a scrambling defense and timely offense spearheaded by Horizon League Player of the Year, Gordon Hayward, who had game highs in scoring and rebounding with 22 points and 9 rebounds. The Bulldogs shut down the wildcat guards, Jacob Pullen and denis Clemente, holding the backcourt duo to a combined 32 points. Pullen was 4-for-13, Clemente, 7-for-17.
Butler took an early lead and held on throughout, though the wildcats did take a brief one-point lead midway through the second half, but the Bulldogs beat Kansas St. in most of the important categories: shooting percentage, 3-point shooting, free throws and rebounds. Butler, the #5 seed, knocked off both the #1 seed, Syracuse, and now the #2 seed in the region.
2 West Virginia 73
1 Kentucky 66
In an even more shocking development, West Virginia derailed John Wall and the Kentucky express, beating the Wildcats with a combination of first-half three-point shooting and second-half defense and canniness. The Mountaineers, not known for long-range shooting prowess, hit 8 3-pointers in the first half and took a 28-26 lead into intermission.
In the second half, West Virginia worked the ball inside more often and stymied the Wildcats with their 1-3-1 zone defense. Frustrated by their inaccuracy from long range, Kentucky didn't hit a shot from beyond the arc until the game was in its final minutes, finishing an embarrassing 4-for-32 on 3-point tries. Kentucky also damaged its own chances, connecting on just 16 of 29 free throw attempts. The Mountaineers, meanwhile, were 10-for-23 from 3-point land and 23 of 34 at the charity stripe.
As usual, Da'Sean Butler led his team in scoring with 18 points, but the performance of the night came from Joe Mazzulla, who posted a career-high 17 points, even though he missed most of the final six minutes due to foul trouble and then, after a brief return, fouling out. Mazzulla handled the ball and directed the offense most of the night, which led to, at one point, a 16-point edge. Kentucky tried to crawl back into it late, but did not have the shots nor the time to make a significant run.
In a tournament that has been chock-full of upsets and surprises, these two are remarkable, as is what's left of the high seeded teams. At this juncture, with just 6 teams left in the tourney, three #1s, #2s and #3s have already been eliminated. After tomorrow's games, either all of the 1s or 3s will be gone, as the South region final features #1 Duke vs. #3 Baylor. The Midwest, already decimated by losses to #1 Kansas, #2 Ohio State and #3 Georgetown, features a 6-5 match-up between Tennessee and Michigan State.
Regardless of tomorrow's results, this years Final Four will consist of just 2 of the top 12 seeds, pretty much an unprecedented event and certain to have blown up all the bracket pools around the country.
Another piece of history: West Virginia has reached the Final Four for just the second time in school history. The last time was in 1959 when California defeated West Virginia 71-70, though basketball legend Jerry West just missed a desperation heave from half court that would have won the game. Despite the loss, West was named tournament MVP. Today, 51 years later, West's son, Jonny West, plays for the Mountaineers.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
3rd Round Winners: Butler, W. Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas St.
5 Butler 63
1 Syracuse 59
Andy Rautins and Wes Johnson hit back-to-back 3-point shots to bring Syracuse all the way back from a 35-25 half time deficit and take a 40-39 lead just six minutes into the second half. From there, the lead changed hands 3 times and the game tied twice, but Syracuse wrested a 54-50 lead with 2 minutes left. Butler would not be denied, however, scoring ten straight points to hold a 60-54 lead with 37 clicks remaining. Syracuse extended the game by fouling, but could only draw to within 4 before time expired and Butler moved on to Saturday's regional final.
The top-seeded Orange fell behind early, with lethargic play and 11 first half turnovers. Gordon Hayward led the Bulldogs with 17 points. Shelvin Mack added 14 and Willie Veasley had 13. Butler went to the free throw line 21 times and made 15. Syracuse was just 10-for-14.
6 Xavier 96
2 Kansas St. 101
The Musketeers took the Wildcats into double overtime, but Kansas State emerged with the win as Jacob Pullen was magnificent the entire game, but especially in the overtime periods, nailing important three-pointers with deadly accuracy. Pullen scored 28 points for K-State, hitting 6 of 13 shots from long range. Xavier's Jordan Crawford led everyone with 32.
11 Washington 56
2 West Virginia 69
Washington's Quincy Pondexter got into early foul trouble, but the Huskies managed to lead at the half, but West Virginia's overall size advantage eventually produced defensive stops, easy baskets and a double-digit lead. Washington got as close as 8 points with under 6 minutes to play, but could not produce any semblance of a rally.
Playing without point guard, Darryl "Truck" Bryant, who broke a bone in his foot during a practice and is out for the remainder of the tournament, the Mountaineers still proved to be too much for the undersized Huskies. Kevin Jones led all scorers with 18 points on 7-12 shooting, including 3 of 4 3-pointers and 8 rebounds.
1 Kentucky 62
12 Cornell 45
Kentucky's length and tenacious defense stifled Cornell's outside shooting, maintaining a lead established after the Big Red had opened the game with a 10-2 start. DeMarcus Cousins was a tower of power inside, leading the Wildcats with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Kentucky held Cornell to 33% shooting, with a 24% mark from beyond the arc. Cornell's fonal score was by far its lowest point total of the season in a losing effort. Their previous low was 64 points in a loss to Penn. The Big Red did score 48 points in a three-point victory over Princeton.
NCAA Tourney: Thursday Night Previews
Obviously, the level of competition in the Horizon League wasn't strong this season, as the Bulldogs ripped through the regular season and the conference tournament unscathed and unfazed, tearing up Wright St. in the final, 70-45. Butler easily won their opening round game over UTEP, 77-59, but survived a scare against Murray State, winning 54-52. The win over Murray State put Butler's determination and game-ending abilities on display against a very capable team. The Bulldogs trailed much of the game, but stepped up as time wound down, making key buckets and finally stopping the Racers - with a chance to tie or win - from getting off a final shot. Besides their obvious talent on offense, Butler can defend as well.
Syracuse seems to not miss Onuaku at all, winning their tourney opener against Vermont by 23 points and pounding Gonzaga by 22. The Orange 2-3 zone defense seems to be all its cracked up to be, allowing 56 and 65 points respectively in the first two rounds.
Even without their center, Syracuse appears likely to advance due to their explosive offense. They will have four or five players on the floor at any time who can single-handedly run up the score. Wes Johnson is coming off his best game of the season and has seemingly unlimited upside. Andy Rautins is one of the best pure shooters left in the tourney, and Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson can all fill it up. Butler will be racing to keep up with the expected Orange scoring onslaught. Butler beat Xavier by a point and topped Ohio State earlier in the season, though the Buckeyes were without Evan Turner at that time, a difference-maker. Losses to Georgetown, Minnesota and Clemson might be more indicative of their true quality.
11 Washington (26-9) vs. 2 West Virginia (29-6), 7:27 pm EDT - Both teams won their conference tournaments and received automatic bids. The Mountaineers have won 8 straight, the Huskies 9 in a row. Washington relies heavily on Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas, their only players who average in double figures, though Elston Turner has stepped up in their first two tourney games and is their best 3-point shooter.
The Mountaineers sport more balance on offense, though their key player, Da'Sean Butler is a big-play guy with ice in his veins. If any game comes down to the wire, Butler is sure to have the ball in his hands, and he usually produces a winning play. Tourney play usually produces a number of stars, and Butler looks like one. He only scored 9 points in the opening round win over Morgan State, but wasn't really needed as West Virginia won by 27 points. Against Missouri, he was unstoppable, scoring 28 points and helping out on the boards with 8 rebounds.
West Virginia has a distinct size advantage over the Huskies. Pondexter, Washington's best inside player, is only 6'6", but plays bigger. Butler, who lines up as a guard, goes 6'7". Kevin Jones is 6'8", Devin Ebanks, 6'9" and Wellington Smith stands 6'7". If the size doesn't get to Washington, the Mountaineers can bring on their outside gunners, John Flowers and Jonnie West, son of West Virginia and NBA legend Jerry West.
This could turn into a coaching clinic as well. Washington's Lorenzo Romar is arguably the best coach in the PAC-10 and a brilliant tactician. Bob Huggins is coaching at his alma mater. This is his dream team.
6 Xavier (26-8) vs. 2 Kansas St. (28-7), 9:37 pm EDT The Xavier Musketeers have flown somewhat under the radar all season even though they've been ranked in the top 15 or 20 most of the season. They've won 9 of their last 10, the only loss coming to Richmond in the A-10 tourney final, which put three teams from that conference into the tourney. Xavier is the last one standing as Richmond and Temple were wiped out in the opening round.
Jordan Crawford is Xavier's go-to guy, scoring at over 20 points per game on average and coming up big in the tourney with 28 against Minnesota and 27 in the second round win over Pitt.
While Crawford is a one-man highlight reel, K-State offers an abundance of talent, especially in their back court, where Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente have ruled all season. The front line of Curtis Kelly, Dominique Sutton and Jamar Samuels can get after as well. Their combined 30 points per game, with Pullen and Clemente's combined 35, gives the Wildcats unusual scoring balance and plenty of options.
K-State's record down the stretch may be a little misleading. After winning 7 straight in the Big 12, they ended the regular season with losses to Kansas and Iowa State, and then lost to Kansas again in the conference tourney final, but they remained motivated, easily handling North Texas and BYU in the first two rounds. They will be further energized by the departure of Kansas from the tourney field, knowing that they were the second-best team in the Big 12 all year and now have a shot at the Final Four. A meeting with #1 seed in the West region, Syracuse, seems inevitable.
1 Kentucky (32-2) vs. 12 Cornell (29-4), 9:57 pm EDT - This game could be a shocker or a Kentucky rout. It depends on whether the upstarts from upstate - the Cornell Big Red - can continue their torrid shooting pace against the tallest - and possibly the best - team in the nation.
Cornell bombed Temple, 78-65, and blistered Wisconsin, 87-69, shooting 56% against the Owls and an incredible 61% against the Badgers. The Big Red has shocked higher seeds - Temple was 5, Washington a 4 - but Kentucky poses other problems. Still, any team that shoots over 50% is going to be in any game, and the Cornell offense, predicated on ball screens, three-pointers and back-door cuts is extremely disciplined and they carry a nine-game win streak into the fray.
Kentucky comes into the game with about as much swagger and confidence a young, 34-2 team can offer. Guard John Wall has been touted as the NBA's next big thing, forward DeMarcus Cousins is a true powerhouse inside and the balance of the team is absolutely loaded with talent. The Wildcats can, and have, done damage inside or out, in transition or in their half-court sets.
The only knock on them - if there is a legitimate one - is their youth. They will put four freshman on the floor at any given time. Along with Wall and Cousins, guard Eric Bledose and forward Daniel Orton are also freshmen, but they will be aided by junior Patrick Patterson, a blue chip player in his own regard, who could prove to be the wild card for the Wildcats. Cornell simply doesn't have a player who can match up to his size and speed.
Cornell counters with plenty of experience, the biggest man on the floor, center Jeff Foote, Ivy league player of the year, Ryan Wittman and a bevy of 3-point bombers. The Big Red owns the top percentage from beyond the arc in the nation, and, if they're on the mark, will make this game much closer than many expect.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Moving Day: Orange, Buckeyes, Spartans, Big Red, Mountaineers Advance
10 Missouri 59
2 West Virginia 68
The Mountaineers held off a scrappy Mizzou squad, but eventually wore them out. DaSean Butler led the charge with 28 points, including 12 of 13 from the foul line.
12 Cornell 87
4 Wisconsin 69
Cinderella Cornell established an early lead and expanded it to as many as 24 points in the second half, completely dominating their Big Ten rivals. Louis Dale had 26 points and Ryan Whittman scored 24 to pace the Big Red, improving their season record to 29-4. Cornell will face the region's top seed, Kentucky, in a regional semi-final game.
10 GA Tech 66
2 Ohio St. 75
The Buckeyes advanced past Georgia Tech to the regional semi-finals on the strength of Evan Turner's all-around floor presence. Turner tallied a game-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
5 Michigan St. 85
4 Maryland 83
Greivis Vazquez hit a jumper to give Maryland a one-point lead with 6.6 seconds left, but Cory Lucious nailed a three as time expired, enabling Michigan State to advance. Durrell Summers single-handedly kept the Spartan hopes alive with 26 points, hitting 6 of 8 threes and 10 of 15 overall. Durrell's game-high total also equalled his career best.
1 Syracuse 87
8 Gonzaga 65
Once Syracuse had established a lead early in the first half, there was no looking back as the Orange, led by Wesley Johnson's game-high 31 and 14 rebounds and Andy Rautins' 24 points, throughly disabled the Gonzaga offense with the 2-3 zone defense and demoralized Gonzaga players by bombarding them with 3-pointers and an up-tempo offense. Syracuse shot 55% for the game, hitting 12 of 25 from beyond the arc.
The Orange advance to the regional semi-final against Butler.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Advancing: West Virginia, Cornell, Xavier Pitt
15 Morgan St. 50
2 W Virginia 77
Kevin Jones canned 7 of 8 shots and finished with a game-high 17 points and Devin Ebanks scored 16 to go with 13 rebounds, as the Mountaineers easily disposed of Morgan State in their opening round win.
12 Cornell 78
5 Temple 65
Louis Dale tallied a game-high 21 points and Ryan Wittman went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc as the Ivy league chalked up a win over A-10 rival, Temple. The owls trailed virtually the entire game, much of the time by double digits. Cornell advances to the second round where they will likely face Wisconsin, if the Badgers win their opening round game with Wofford. Cornell's win was the sixth by a double-digit seed in the tournament.
11 Minnesota 54
6 Xavier 65
The only Xavier player in double figures, Jordan Crawford poured in 28 points to lead all scorers as Xavier opened up late to hold off Minnesota, the first Big Ten team to see action in the tournament. Crawford has scored in double figures in 32 of Xavier's 33 games this season. It was his second-highest point total of the campaign.
Pitt put six players in double figures, exemplifying the kind of team effort the Panthers have relied upon all season, to leave no doubt against long-shot Oakland. The Panthers meet Xavier in the next round.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Mountaineers Hammer Georgetown
Led by senior forward Da’Sean Butler's 22 points, the West Virginia Mountaineers pummeled Georgetown, 81-68, in a game that wasn't nearly as close as even the lopsided final score would suggest.
The #10 Mountaineers, playing their final home game of the season, jumped all over the defense-challenged Hoyas and quickly opened a double-digit lead which expanded to a 43-27 score at the half. As the second half ensued, it got worse, as the Hoyas played sloppily on the offensive end (20 turnovers) and West Virginia extended the lead of as many as 27 points.
Georgetown eventually brought the advantage down to single digits, but by that time, it was too late. The Mountaineers made their free throws and scored key buckets late in the game. Butler, in addition to his 22 points, added six rebounds and six assists, helping the Mountaineers improve to 23-6. Their 12-5 Big East record also secured byes in the first two rounds of the conference tournament which begins next week. The Mountaineers join Syracuse, Villanova and Pitt with double byes in the upcoming tourney.
Villanova will host West Virginia on Saturday in the regular season finale for both teams. A West Virginia win would secure second place in the conference and an opportunity to play against the #1 Syracuse Orangemen in the final, if both teams reach that game.
The Hoyas, in free-fall since mid-February, lost for the 4th time in their last 5 outings and have dropped to 9-8 in the conference with a final home game against Cincinnati on Saturday. Another loss and an early exit from the conference tourney might endanger Georgetown's NCAA bid, though they are currently in 7th place, a half-game ahead of Notre Dame, who topped the Hoyas, 78-64, last week.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Mountaineers Top Seton Hall, Remain Undefeated
Apparently, Bob Huggins never heard the phrase, "you can't go home again," or, if he did, hasn't bothered to take its message to heart. Born in Morgantown, West Virginia, Huggins made a long coaching journey - with great success - through places like the University of Cincinnati (1989-2005) and Kansas State (2006-2007), but finally made it back to his home, and since last season has been the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Experts figured it would take Huggins a couple of years to reshape he program into a national contender, something he did at Cincinnati, but Huggins appears to be ahead of schedule. After opening the Big East season with a 90-84 overtime win at Seton Hall Saturday, the Mountaineers are 10-0, one of just six unbeaten college basketball teams.
Led by sophomore Devin Ebanks, who matched his career high with 22 points, the forward also nabbed 17 rebounds, his high of the season. Aiding in the effort were Kevin Jones (19 points, 14 rebounds) and Da'Sean Butler (21 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists).
Holding off the Pirates was no easy task as junior guard Jeremy Hazell poured in 41 points, though he hit only 4 of 19 shots from 3-point range. West Virginia rallied from a late ten-point deficit to force overtime, finally putting the Pirates down in the extra session. Seton Hall is 9-2.
NOTABLE: On Friday, USC downed UNLV, 67-56, to capture the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, led by Marcus Johnson's 19 points and 9 boards. The Trojans, who began the 2009 campaign 2-4, have now won 6 straight, including solid victories over quality foes: Tennessee, Western Michigan, St. Mary's and UNLV.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Butler Does It for Mountaineers
Da'Sean Butler matched his season high with 26 points, as the West Virginia Mountaineers downed Portland, 84-66 in the championship game of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Ca.
The Mountaineers are ranked #8, which is the highest they've been this early in a season since well before Bob Huggins took over as head coach three years ago. They may be as good or better than their ranking, winning their fifth straight by a large margin. The average margin of victory in those games has been an even 20 points, with the closest game being a 73-66 win over Texas A&M to reach the 76 Classic finals.
Butler, who is averaging 13.5 points per game, pulled in 6 rebounds in his 33 minutes.
NOTABLE: Previously-ranked Minnesota was beaten for the second straight time, this time losing, 66-65, to Texas A&M.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Big East Stunner: West Va. Rocks Pitt
If they don't win another game at Madison Square Gardent, the West Virginia Mountaineers have made their case for inclusion in the NCAA tourney field, whipping #2 Pitt in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
Freshman Devin Ebanks scored a career-high 20 points and led the team in rebounds with 7 as the Mountaineers took a 2-point lead at half time and extended it to a double-digit advantage which they maintained throughout most of the second half. The Mountaineers' defense did a number on Pitt's DeJuan Blair, limiting the forward to 14 points and 5 rebounds in just 18 minutes as the All-American candidate was in foul trouble throughout. Pitt's point total was one of their lowest of the season.
Alex Ruoff scored 18 points, and Da'Sean Butler chipped in with 16. Pitt and west Va. had spilt home and home games during the regular season.
The Mountaineers can get to the finals by beating Syracuse tomorrow night.
In other quarterfinal action, Villanova slipped by Marquette, 76-75, on a last second layup by Dwayne Anderson. It was Anderson's only basket of the game. The Wildcats meet the winner of the Syracuse-UConn game in the other semifinal Friday.
Scottie Reynolds led all scorers with 21 points and Corey Stokes added 20.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Big East: Notre Dame Dumped
Notre Dame's Luke Harangody scored 27 points, but the Irish were outplayed, outmuscled and outrebounded by Devin Ebanks and the West Virginia Mountaineers. Ebanks came off the West Virginia bench to dominate the boards, wiping the glass for a game high 18 rebounds.
Alex Ruoff scored 25 points and Da'Sean Butler had 20 for West Virginia.
The Irish, who have been fighting inconsistency demons all season were never really in the game. The Mountaineers scored the first 7 points of the game and never trailed, building up a 17-2 lead just 8 minutes in. With 7 minutes remaining in the first half, the Irish were down 26-6. The closest they got in the second half was 7 points, but they were turned back by the Mountaineers every time they made a run.
Notre Dame bested Rutgers in the opening round of the Big East tournament, but are now 18-14 and likely will not receive a bid to the NCAA tourney. West Virginia will play Pitt in the quarterfinals tomorrow night.
Elsewhere in the Big East, Providence held off DePaul, 83-74 and Marquette beat down St. John's, 74-45, getting 20 points from Wesley Matthews and 17 from Lazar Hayward.
Providence gets Louisville and Marquette will match up with Villanova in tomorrow's games. Tonight, Syracuse faces Seton Hall to determine which will play Connecticut in the next round.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Illini Fall to Penn St.; Top 25 Wrap-up (part 1)
In one of the uglier games of this - or any - college hoops season, Penn State pulled off the upset of #18 Illinois, 38-33, in a game in which neither team shot 30% from the floor. Illinois was 15-52, 29%, going 3-17 from 3-point range, while the victors were 13-47 (28%), and 3-18 beyond the arc.
The difference was the Nittany Lions' success at the foul line, where they went 9-11. In a statistical oddity, the Illini didn't make it to the free throw line even once throughout.
Penn State's Talor Battle was the only player from either team to score in double figures. He finished with 11 points.
No Curry, No Win for Davidson
Stephan Curry, the nation's leading scorer, sat out Davidson's home tilt with the Citadel, and the Wildcats really missed him, dropping a 64-46 decision in the Southern Conference.
Curry, who is scoring at a 29 ppg clip, sprained an ankle in Davidson's win over Furman Saturday, and was missed by the Wildcats. Despite the loss, Davidson still owns a two-game edge over the Citadel in the South division of the conference. Davidson is 15-2. The Citadel is 13-4.
More Road Blues for Irish
Notre Dame lost another Big East road game, this one at West Virginia, 79-68, as Alex Ruoff scored 24 points for the improving Mountaineers. West Virginia improved to 6-6 in the conference and 17-8 overall, putting themselves in position for a possible NCAA tourney bid.
The Mountaineers beat Villanova, 93-72, on Friday and now have won three of their last four.
The Irish had halted a 7-game skid (5 on the road) with wins over Louisville and Seton hall last week, but seem to be back to their old ways on the road. Notre dame is now 5-7 in the Big East and 14-10 overall, in danger of missing out on a trip to the big dance.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Villanova Uprising Sinks Syracuse
Despite a poor 3-11 shooting performance from standout Scottie Reynolds, the Wildcats got plenty of scoring and hustle from the rest of their roster with five players - including Reynolds' 10 points - in double figures.
Corey Stokes scored 16 points, Shane Clark had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Corey Fisher had 14, Both Stokes and Fisher notched three 3s.
Villanova improved to 19-4 on the season and is now 7-3 in the Big East. Their losses have come against the most solid teams in the conference: Louisville (by one point), Marquette and Connecticut. A 67-57 win at Pittsburgh on January 28 is indicative of the Wildcats' mettle.
Meanwhile, the Orangemen are slipping quickly, having lost five of their last seven, all to Big east opponents. The Villanova loss was the second time this season that Jim Boeheim's troops have given up 100 or more points. Providence beat Syracuse 100-94, also on January 28.
Syracuse is now just 6-5 in league play and seems destined to drop out of the Top 25. That would leave the Big East with just 5 ranked teams: Villanova, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Marquette, and, of course, #1 Connecticut.
While Syracuse struggles, look for Cincinnati to fill the void. On Saturday, the Bearcats dropped Georgetown in overtime, 64-62 and are 6-5 in the conference.
Another up-and-comer is West Virginia, a winner Saturday over Providence, 86-59, though the Mountaineers already have suffered defeat at the hands of UConn, Pitt, Marquette, Syracuse and Louisville. They are 5-5 in the conference and 16-7 overall.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Road Warriors: Florida Prevails, Bruins Can't Climb over Mountaineers
Florida 64 Kentucky 61 - Tubby's troops seem to be rounding into form at just about the right time. Ranked #20 in the nation, the Kentucky Wildcats pushed Florida to the limit on Saturday at Rupp Arena. Randall Morris scored 18 with 9 boards and Ramel Bradley led the Wildcats with 20. Bradley has scored 20 or more in each of his last four games. The Wildcats could not overcome the #1 Gators, however, even though they held Joakim Noah to his second-lowest score of the season - 6 points. Noah was plagued with foul trouble and played only 21 minutes.
It's likely that the Wildcats aren't as good as this score might indicate. Being at home and not having to deal with Noah for almost half the game made this one tighter than it should have been. Kentucky may also have hurt themselves more than the Gators. Both teams went to the foul line 21 times. Kentucky made only 12, Florida 13. When it comes to crunch time in March, neither of those foul-shooting performances are going to get it done.
West Virginia 70 UCLA 65 - Playing without point guard Darren Collison, The #2 UCLA Bruins managed to cut into a 19-point lead and make a close game of it late. Unranked West Virginia scrambled on defense, forcing 15 Bruin turnovers and held on valiantly down the stretch. Alex Ruoff led the Mountaineers with 17 points; the Bruins' Arron Afflalo scored 27 for UCLA.
The Pac-10 - Big East matchup pointed up the relative strengths of the conferences to a degree. While the Bruins were without Collison and on the road, the Mountaineers still won and are unranked and tied for 4th in the Big East standings. The Bruins lead their conference at 10-2.
Top 25 road winners:
#6 Texas A&M 66 Nebraska 55 - Josh Carter equaled his season-high with 26 points, Aggies are now 4-1 on the road in Big 12 action.
#9 Kansas 92, Missouri 74 - Julian Wright blasted off with a season-high 33 points and completed his 4th double-double of the season with 12 rebounds, including 8 offensive boards.
#15 Air Force 60 New Mexico 51 - The Falcons rallied from a 4-point halftime deficit and cruised to a relatively easy win, though they still trail BYU (unranked, why?) by a game in the Mountain West.
#24 Arizona 77 #13 Oregon 74 - the fast-sinking Ducks fell at home to the already fallen Wildcats in the always-exciting-but-never-inspiring Pac-10. Chase Budinger scored 30 for Arizona.
Top 25 home winners:
#3 Ohio St. 63 Purdue 56 - Banged up Greg Oden played only 21 minutes but still managed 14 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. If Oden makes it through the season, he'll be in the top 3 in the NBA draft.
#4 Wisconsin 74 Iowa 62 - Alando Tucker, 21 points, 7 rebounds. Ho-hum, just another day at the office. Iowa (14-11, 6-5 Big 10) looking very bubbly.
#5 North Carolina 104 Wake Forest 67 - 14 different players scored for the Tar Heels as they topped the century mark for the 7th time this season. Randall Terry led with 23.
#7 Pittsburgh 74 Providence 68 - Aaron Gray, 22 points, 7 rebounds. 15-8 Friars still looking like March dancers.
#8 Memphis 95 Tulane 51 - It doesn't get much easier than this.
#14 Washington St. 59 California 46 - Daven Harmeling scored 26 points, including 5-7 3-pointers. The Cougars may be the stealth team of the tournament unless they overtake UCLA for the Pac-10 title. 21-4 overall, with 3 of those losses by 3 points apiece to UCLA, Stanford and Oregon.
#17 Oklahoma St. 93 Texas Tech 91 2 OT - Mario Boggan 35 points, 14 rebounds. Texas Tech drops to 15-10 and is squarely on the bubble. OK St. has struggled against lesser opponents and should make an early exit from the tourney.
#21 Southern Illinois 72 Creighton 68 - Big win for the Salukis over one of the better teams in their conference. The win actually was for first place in the Missouri Valley. Southern Ill. now 12-3, Creighton 11-4. Watch out for 10-5 Missouri State. Matt Shaw, 25 points for the winners.
#22 Georgetown 76, #11 Marquette 58 - The Hoyas are playing as well as any team in the nation. Jeff Green had 25 points and 5 rebounds; Roy Hibbert 23 and 11. For Hibbert, his 5th double-double and 3rd in his last 4 games. Georgetown has won 7 straight and with the win took over sole possession of 2nd place in the Big East at 8-2. Marquette misfired badly from beyond the arc: 4-21 (19%).
Top 25 Losers (not already mentioned):
Wright St. 77 #10 Butler 65 - The boys from Wright State may have taken some umbrage at Butler rising to #10 in the polls and took it out on the visiting Bulldogs. Not only that, but the Raiders took a 1/2-game lead in the Horizon league, avenging a 73-42 thrashing at Butler earlier in the year. The league winner gets an automatic invite to the tournament and this win makes the case for Wright St. if they finish tied or second. Wright State has won 7 straight and has only 3 games left to play.
Mississippi 75 #18 Alabama 69 - The Rebels were unkind hosts, sending the Crimson Tide to their 5th SEC loss and tying them for the SEC West lead at 5-5. The contentious SEC may send as many as 7 teams to the tournament, especially now that Tennessee has Chris Lofton healthy again.
Tennessee 84 #23 Vanderbilt 57 - Freshman forward Wayne Chism recorded his third double-double of the season, with 17 points and 12 rebounds as the Vols ran roughshod over the visiting Commodores. Chris Lofton scored 16 in 26 minutes. It was Lofton's 2nd game back after missing four straight. The Vols are playing well at the right time. They've beaten LSU and Vandy since Lofton returned to the lineup after losing 3 of 4 without him. Look for the Vols to possibly replace Alabama in the Top 25 this week.