Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Wild, Wild East: Villanova Falls to UConn
With the post-season staring them in the eye, the UConn Huskies had their head coach, Jim Calhoun, back from medical leave and a trip to Villanova standing between a lost season and respectability. The Huskies had lost 8 of their last 11 games and needed a road win over the Big East leaders to salvage any hope of making it to the Big Dance come March.
What they got was a career-best game from point guard Kemba Walker and a resounding 84-75 triumph that signaled to the rest of the Big East that the Huskies were not yet dead. Walker scored 29 points, hitting 14 of 16 free throws in the process, to go with 9 boards, 3 assists and a pair of steals. The sophomore guard's frequent forays into the lane turned into baskets, free throws and 11 offensive rebounds (4 by Walker) while the swarming Husky defense limited Villanova's shooters to just 40% from the field and a 40-29 rebounding edge.
Villanova's loss was just their second in the conference, dropping them into a tie with Syracuse at 11-2 for the Big East lead.
Where the Huskies tread from here is a matter of the calendar. At 5-8 in the conference, but 15-11 overall, they still are not under the radar of the selection committee. They have an upcoming road game vs. Rutgers, then host West Virginia and Louisville before finishing off the regular season at Notre Dame and South Florida. Winning at least four of their final five games looks to be essential, ensuring that UConn would finish up at least .500 in the conference. A good showing in the Big east tournament then might get them into the field of 65.
What should concern the Huskies is the overall depth of the Big East. Only two teams - DePaul and Providence - have losing records, meaning there are 14 Big East teams eyeing post-season fun. UConn will likely have to get some help.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Longhorns Corralled by Huskies, 88-74
The Big 12 is a tough conference, but the Big East is even tougher, proven, in distinctive fashion by the Connecticut Huskies, as they thumped the Texas Longhorns, 88-74, at the XL Center in Hartford.
Texas entered the week ranked #1 in the polls, but since then has suffered two straight losses, the previous one at Kansas State on Monday, where the Wildcats bumped them, 71-62. Five days and another long road trip later, Jerome Dyson and the Huskies took them down again. Dyson led all scorers with a season-high 32 points, hitting 12 of 23 shots from the field, including 4 of 8 3-pointers. Down 42-34 at the half, the Huskies rallied in the second stanza, outscoring the Longhorns, 54-32. Texas drops to 17-2 on the season, while UConn, during a week in which they lost head coach Jim Calhoun to a medical leave and dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time in 36 weeks, improved to 13-6 with their second straight win over interim head coach George Blaney.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Huskies Improve to 9-2 on Robinson's 29
Senior leadership is what Stanley Robinson brings to the Connecticut Huskies, along with plenty of buckets. Robinson, who has tallied in double figures every game this season, scored a season-high 29 points as the Huskies blew past the Iona Gaels, 93-74, improving to 9-2.
In their final tune-up before Big East play begins - at Cincinnati, Wednesday - the Huskies mushed out to a big early lead and held it as they emptied the bench in the second half. Robinson played 35 minutes, hitting 13 of 18 shots from the field and converting 2 of 2 free throw attempts. He also pulled down 5 boards, blocked a shot and had a pair of steals.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Robinson's 26 Sparks Huskies
Ten days off took its toll on the Connceticut Huskies, who found themselves trailing little UCF, 25-20, at the half. Since their loss to Kentucky on December 9, the Huskies hadn't had a game, and it showed.
The second half was a different story, at least for senior forward Stanley Robinson, who put the team on his back and rallied them, scoring 23 of his game-high 26 points over the final twenty minutes. As a team, Connecticut shot just 44%, while Robinson hit 9 of 13 from the field (69%) and converted 7 of 11 free throws. Jerome Dyson hit 4 of 6 3-pointers as the Huskies pulled away late for the 60-51 final, outscoring the Knights, 40-26, in the second half.
Robinson's point total was his best of the season. He's scored in double figures every game this year for the 7-2 Huskies.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Morris Lights Up Bruins as Jayhawks Go 7-0
Markieff Morris led all scorers with a career-high 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting as the Kansas Jayhawks improved their unbeaten record to 7-0, fending off a UCLA team in obvious rebuilding mode, 73-61 at Pauley Pavilion in LA. Cole Aldrich continued to be a rebounding machine for Kansas, pulling down 12 boards, 6 of those on the offensive end.
The Bruins have not gotten off to a very promising start in 2009, with the loss to Kansas their 5th in just 7 games. Scratch the Bruins from the PAC-10 contender list this season as their talent from the past two years has been badly diluted by graduation and players going to the pros. The Bruins shot just 36% on the night, while the Jayhawks, who led the entire game, were held to a season-low 44%, but still easily prevailed.
NOTABLE: The Connecticut Huskies barely escaped their trip to the Ivy League with a 79-73 win over the 6-2 Harvard Crimson and their outstanding senior guard, Jeremy Lin. Lin scored a season-high 30 points, nailing 11 of 18 shots from the field (2-3 on 3s) and 6 of 8 from the foul line. Nine boards, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots rounded out Lin's memorable performance.
Senior guard Jerome Dyson led the Huskies with 24 points, 14 rebounds and 9 assists. Dyson has carried the Huskies to a 6-1 record, averaging 20 points per game, but even UConn coach Jim Calhoun thinks Dyson - who is playing more than 34 minutes per game - needs help, saying, "we don't have a bench."
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Final Four Analysis (Part 1) Michigan St. vs. Connecticut
Ford Field, Detroit, MI
(1) Connecticut (31-4) (-4, 131 1/2) (2) Michigan State (30-6) 6:07 pm - Hoops fans could not have asked for a more balanced Final Four, with two teams from the nation's best conference, the Big East, and one each from the Big Ten and ACC. Interestingly, two of the three Big East #1 seeds did not make it to Detroit, as Louisville - the #1 overall seed - and Pitt were ousted in their respected regional finals. However, Villanova picked up the Big East slack, by beating Pitt but still representing the conference.
In the matchup between UConn and Michigan State, the player which stands out most prominently is the Huskies' 7'3" man in the middle, Hasheem Thabeet, who is a terror to anyone who dares drive to the tin, swatting away would be layups with alarming regularity. Keeping Thabeet out of foul trouble will be coach Jim Calhoun's main concern. For Tom Izzo, finding a way around, over or through the big guy is the challenge.
Izzo used an interesting ploy in his win over Louisville, spotting his own big man, Goran Suton, at the high post offensively. Suton responded with key jumpers, three of them 3-pointers, four assists and 10 boards (4 offensive). He proved to be the absolute key to beating the Cardinals by sticking to the coach's plan and executing to perfection. Should Izzo determine to employ the same tactic, Connecticut will be not caught unaware. They can either choose to send Thabeet out to play man-to-man on Suton, though that would open up the inside, where Michigan's slashers and drivers, particularly point guard Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan (shut out against the Cardinals) might just find a happy place in the lane.
Calhoun has other options, however, one being keeping Thabeet in the low post and putting the more athletic Stanley Robinson on Suton to limit his effectiveness by contesting his shots or denying him the ball. Robinson is a good match for Suton, being just an inch shorter than the 6'10" Spartan.
Besides Suton, Michigan State has some limitations when it comes to offense, though the play of Lucas during the late regular season and into the post-season has been a real boost for Michigan State. He is speedy and a deft ball-handler, though he's prone to hoisting treys more often than coach Izzo might like. Almost as comic relief, Lucas has been hitting at a respectable 40% during the tournament, including 2-of-4 against Louisville.
The other Spartan player who's been a boost during the tournament is Durrell Summers, who filled in the scoring nicely over the past three games, scoring 11 against USC, 9 against Kansas and 12 against the cardinals. His contribution and ability to bury a number of treys (4 of 6 during the tournament) will be another key to Michigan State's success.
For the Huskies, they cannot rely heavily upon Thabeet for scoring because he does so much work on defense, though sending the ball into the low post and trying to get Suton in foul trouble is a ploy Calhoun no doubt has under consideration. The bulk of the scoring will come from A.J. Price (averaging 20 ppg in the NCAAs), point guard Kemba Walker (who exploded for 23 against Missouri) and Robinson (15 ppg). Craig Austrie has been inconsistent, missing all 6 of his three-point attempts in the Huskies' opener against Chattanooga, but going 3-for-3 beyond the arc and scoring 17 points against Purdue.
Getting points against the stingy Spartan defense will not be easy for Connecticut. All of their players are hard-nosed defenders, and Lucas is probably a bit of an overmatch for Walker at the point. Though Walker should hold his own, don't expect him to blow by Lucas more than a couple times. The Michigan State point guard is the embodiment of quickness and speed.
If the pace of the game is to Michigan's liking, forcing the Huskies to work hard for every basket, they may be able to get out on the break on a number of occasions. Suton is especially good at getting up and down the floor in a hurry, while Thabeet is not. Expect the Michigan State big man to be on the receiving end of a number of passes to the post or the happy trailer on the break.
The real kicker in this game is UConn's Jeff Adrian and his ability to hit jumpers from inside 15 feet. When he's on, the Huskies are virtually unbeatable. When he's not, which is often enough to raise concerns, UConn is vulnerable.
If there is one big key or stat it's this: Michigan is 30-0 when holding opponents under 70 points. While Connecticut can generally put up 75 points or more, they do have 9 wins (and 3 losses) when they have scored in the 60s, so they are capable of playing the defense-first game as well. It would not be a surprise for the Huskies to score 65 points and win, though a final score in that range surely works in Michigan State's favor.
Both coaches have been here before, and Calhoun has a pair of championship rings to Izzo's one, so there's no advantage when it comes to sideline smarts. Bottom line, this could go either way. Giving Michigan State points at this juncture might just be a mistake, as they've turned back the critics with crisp play thus far and have shown incredible heart and desire, key factors in tournament play. Take the points and hope nobody scores for the first five minutes. That will help Michigan State's confidence.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 67 Connecticut 63
Tomorrow: Part 2: Villanova vs. North Carolina
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Regional Finals, Elite Eight Picks
University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, AZ)
(1) Connecticut (30-4) (-6, 150) (3) Missouri (31-6) 4:40 pm EDT - Don't believe that Missouri's win over Memphis was a kind of fluke or that Memphis wasn't a high quality team. Nobody wins 27 straight without doing something right, but the Memphis Tigers ran into a bengal of another stripe in Missouri, one which pressed and contested every pass and dribble, throwing Memphis off their game. Even then, Memphis hung in, finally succumbing, 102-91, the highest-scoring game of the tournament, which says plenty about the quality of both teams.
Missouri can click on offense when it gets contributions outside of Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll, which it did Thursday as J.T. Tiller whipped and whizzed through the Memphis defense like a gyroscopic genie out of its bottle. Tiller led Missouri with 23 points on 10-16 shooting and his slashing style will be paramount in getting to the tin against UConn's shot-swatting Hasheem Thabeet.
Missouri must push the ball into the lane in order to be successful against Connecticut, hoping to get Thabeet into foul trouble. That seems to be just about the only way to slow down the 7'3" center - limit his playing time to under 25 minutes - and Missouri, with Tiller, Lyons (who will be on Thabeet's hip through most of the proceedings), and Carroll, all of whom love to mix it up underneath, possesses the right kind of offense.
The Tigers should create havoc for the Huskies on defense as well, their pressure style making it difficult for UConn to get into their offense early. The Huskies are basically inept from beyond the arc, so Missouri may find some opportunity to mix up the half-court defense with box-and-one, man to man and maybe even a 2-3 zone look. That will clog the lane, and the Tigers will be a force on the boards against the statuesque Connecticut big men.
UConn's win over Purdue was an ugly thing, despite the statistical edge in most categories. While the Huskies shot a respectable 45% from the field, A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien, the two players who took the most shots, were a combined 8-for-28 and only Craig Austrie was able to hit a three-pointer, canning all three of his attempts. He's not likely to repeat that against Missouri. The Tigers will likely allow Adrien to shoot form anywhere beyond 10 feet, as he has all of the touch of a sledge-hammer on a railway line.
Long story short, Connecticut simply doesn't have enough quality pure shooters to remain competitive for long at this level. Consider their pair of losses to Pittsburgh an early warning sign that they may not be the best fit for a Final Four jumpsuit. Missouri is on a mission, and the Huskies will find their timing thrown completely off and their shooting to be wanting.
PREDICTION: Missouri 85 Connecticut 82
East Regional Finals, Saturday, March 28
TD Banknorth Garden (Boston, MA)
(1) Pittsburgh (31-4) (-2, 142) (3) Villanova (29-7) 7:05 pm EDT - Every game for Villanova seems to provide matchup difficulties and tough-to-call scenarios, but the Wildcats keep winning, increasing their margin of victory with each successive foray into the tournament - 13 over American, 20 over UCLA and 23 over Duke, possibly their most dominant performance of the season. Jay Wright's Wildcats are peaking at the right time and are ready for a real cat fight with the Panthers.
The Panthers and Wildcats met once during the Big East regular season, in the last game played at Philadelphia's Spectrum, and besides home court, the Widlcats also had the luxury of keeping Pitt insider DeJuan Blair on the bench with foul trouble for most of the game, coming away with a 67-57 win. The Wildcats won't likely find the same fortune on Saturday. Blair has been amping up his inside game and will be a rock in the lane.
Pitt has not been impressive in their first three wins, beating East Tennessee State by 10, then Oklahoma State by 8 and finally getting past Xavier by 5, thanks almost exclusively to point guard Levance Fields' heroic 3-pointer and steal and layup in the final minute. That kind of storybook ending is also not probable against the Wildcats and their steady stream of upperclassmen. All of their starters are juniors or seniors.
The Panthers will try to get offense from Sam Young, but the Villanova players have seen Sam's deft ball fakes and he'll not likely have the same measure of accommodation he's had against less-experienced foes. Fields will match up with Scottie Reynolds, who may have an edge over the shorter point guard. The Wildcats role players, Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, Reggie Redding and Corey Stokes also appear to be more in their team's flow and better able to contribute than Pitt's Tyrone Biggs, Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown.
Not that it's going to be easy (though it might be), Villanova simply is playing better than just about any other team right now and should move on to the Final Four.
PREDICTION: Villanova 75 Pitt 71
Midwest Regional Finals, Sunday, March 29
Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN)
(1) Louisville (31-5) (-7, 138) (2) Michigan St. (29-6) 2:20 pm EDT - In what could be either the biggest mismatch or the biggest upset of this round, The Louisville Cardinals, champions of the Big East, tangle with the Big Ten's regular season champion, Michigan State. The Trojans have been underestimated before, but they ranked in the top 10 nationally almost all season, and did what they had to against Kansas on Friday night. Point guard Kalin Lucas stepped up in the second half and outplayed the jayhawks' Sherrod Collins, and he may have the upper hand again against Louisville's Andre McGee and Edgar Sosa, though that is where Michigan's advantages may end.
Louisville is playing at an emotionally high level, matching their outstanding talent and in Earl Clark, Terrence Williams and Samardo Samuels, probably have the best front court in the nation. If Sosa or McGee can get them the ball, they will likely be too much for the Spartans' Goran Suton, Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe to handle.
Michigan State is also very young. Only one regular, Travis Walton, is a senior, while only one of Louisville's starters - Samuls, a freshman - is not an upperclassman. Both teams get after it well on defense, but Louisville is less appreciated for it than are the Spartans. Just in terms of size alone, the Cardinals should control the lane and establish a rebounding edge. If they are able to shoot anything close to 50% from the floor against Michigan State, they'll be on their way to Detroit and into the Final Four. Louisville's 103-64 dismantling of a hopelessly overmatched Arizona team in the regional semifinals sent a clear message to the remaining teams that Louisville is serious.
PREDICTION: Louisville 74 Michigan St. 59
South Regional Finals, Sunday, March 29
FedExForum (Memphis, TN)
(1) North Carolina (31-4) (-7, 164) (2) Oklahoma (30-5) 5:05 pm EDT - In one of the most highly anticipated matchups of this or any tournament, Tyler Hansbrough and Blake Griffin will go toe-to-toe in the low post. Hansbrough was last season's college player of the year, and Griffin is the leading choice for the same honor this season. Whoever survives that encounter may find themselves on the way to more glory in the Final Four.
Carolina is a perennial contender at this level, and it's no surprise that they're seven point favorites. Oklahoma doesn't get to this point often, but they have a dynamic offensive team beyond their superstar, Griffin, and they match up very well with the Tar Heels in every aspect, except possibly at point guard, where Ty Lawson is in a league of his own.
The Tar Heels have an edge in terms of margin of victory, a combined 78-51, and nobody's come closer than 14 points (LSU in the second round). That's important, because it demonstrates just how explosive North Carolina is. Oklahoma is a solid team, but if Hansbrough can keep Griffin somewhat in check, it's hard to see how the Sooners can match up for an entire 40 minutes against the Tar Heels. Besides Hansbrough and Lawson, they also have players like Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and Deon Thompson, who can create their own shots. There's also legendary Roy Williams coaching this squad, which gives North Carolina one more huge advantage.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 91 Oklahoma 78
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Early Tourney Returns: No Bracket Busters Yet
In the first game on the first day of the current edition of "Last Man Standing," LSU struck a blow for the SEC, knocking off a pesky Butler squad that didn't really go away until the final seconds, winning 75-71, to move on to the next round and a meeting with North Carolina in the South Region. Marcus Thornton scored 30 points for the Tigers, adding 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in one of the best opening day performances.
The Tar Heels easily handled Radford, even without point guard Ty Lawson, 101-58. Wayne Ellison paced the Heels with 25 points and 9 boards. Tyler Hansbrough had 22, hitting a 12 of his free throw attempts.
Memphis survived a scare, down by 6 midway through the second half to Cal State Northridge, but nondescript Robert Sallie turned into super-sub, coming off the bench to hit 10 of 15 three-pointers and score 35 points. The Tigers pulled away late, outlasting the Matadors, 81-70. Also in the West region, #5 Purdue put down #12 Northern Iowa, 61-56. Texas A&M, a #9 seed, easily dispatched with #8 BYU, leading all the way for a 79-66 breeze.
#10 Maryland embarrassed #7 Cal (why were they seeded so high, when USC, winners of the PAC-10 tourney, is a 10?), blowing away their West Coast hosts, 84-71. The Terps look ready to give Memphis a tussle, though it's hard to determine whether Maryland is really good or the Bears were that bad. Looks like the latter.
The Connecticut Huskies, the region's #1 seed, made quick work of #16 Chattanooga, 103-47, more than doubling the Mocs' scoring in each half. So much for 1's losing to 16's this season, unless Louisville's starters oversleep tomorrow. The Huskies looked about as good as a #1 can without actually causing physical harm to their opponent.
More tonight, with late game coverage.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Syracuse Outlasts UConn in 6 OT Big East Classic
Jim Boeheim's Syracuse Orangemen and Jim Calhoun's Connecticut Huskies staged one for the ages late-night at the Garden with the longest game in Big East history and the second longest game in college basketball history.
The upset-minded Orangemen stayed right with highly-regarded #4 UConn every step of the way, leading through most of the first half, but trailing by as many as 6 points in the second in the nightcap of a wild Big East quarterfinal day at Madison Square Garden.
After a frenetic first 32 minutes, Kristof Ongenaet tied the score with a pair of free throws at 51-all and Andy Rautins gave the Orangemen the lead with a 3-pointer with under 8 minutes left to play. Craig Austrie quickly retied the game with a three of his own, but then Eric Devendorf answered with a trey for Syracuse.
After Jeff Adrian hit a two-point bucket, Syraucse point guard Jonny Flynn hit a driving layup, was fouled and hit the ensuing free throw to put Syracuse up 60-56 with 6:35 to play.
The Huskies had their chances, but Stanley Robinson missed 2 free throws and Haseem Thabeet converted only one of two and missed the front end of a one-and one as time wound under 5 minutes to play. The Orange took a five-point lead on Eric Devendorf's jumper, 62-57 and when Jonny Flynn fed Arinze Onuaku under the rim the Orange had a 7-point bulge with under 4 to go.
UConn responded with a 7-0 run, punctuated by Stanley Robinson's lay-in at 2:25 which tied the game at 64-all.
Arinze Onuaku, one of the worst free throw shooters in the nation at just 30%, made two clutch foul shots with under 2:00 to give the Orange a 2-point edge. Jonny Flynn added a pair, but UConn's Craig Austrie hit a big 3-pointer to cut the lead to 1, with 1:08 to play.
Devendorf was fouled and hit a pair to give Syracuse a 70-67 lead at 0:49. Thabeet cut it to one again with 31 second left.
Ongenaet gave the Orangemen a 2-point edge with 27 seconds left when he made one of two from the line. Kemba Walker scored a tip-in with 1.1 left to tie it at 71-71. Eric Devendorf's 23-foot bomb at the end of regulation was disallowed by the referees after a video review and the two teams headed to overtime.
Stanley Robinson, who hit only one 3-pointer all season, hit his second with 1:37 left in OT to give UConn a 80-76 lead. Rautins responded with a lazar 3-pointer to cut the advantage to 1 point at 1:17. The Huskies missed on their next possession and Syracuse had an opportunity to take the lead with 36 seconds to go, but Rautins missed a three and the Orange fouled Stanley Robinson at 0:15. Robinson hit one of two.
Flynn fed Rick Jackson for a dunk with 8 seconds left and UConn was unable to convert, sending the game to a second OT at 81-all.
With 1:58 to go in the second OT, UConn led by three, 86-83, but Jonny Flynn drove to the hoop, scored and was fouled, and made the free throw to tie the game.
Onuaku then fouled Thabeet on battle for a rebound off a missed Husky shot at 1:18, but Thabeet hit just one of two. At 0:57 Autrie fouled Devendorf, Syracuse's best foul shooter, but he made only one of two for the tie.
UConn could not convert a number of tip-ins on their next possession, and Syracuse has a chance to win it, but could not convert as time ran down sending the game to a third overtime at 87-87.
Syracuse entered the third OT with both of their big men, Onuaku and Ongenaet on the bench, having fouled out. The Huskies took advantage, scoring the first six points of the period. Rautins and Paul Harris each canned a pair of free throws to draw within two at 93-91, but A.J. Price's pair got the Huskies back up by 4. Jeff Adrian's jam at 1:58 pushed it back to a six point edge. Syracuse scored four straight to get back to within two at 97-95 with under a minute to play.
The Orange had opportunities after two missed Husky shots, but UConn controlled the offensive boards both times forcing Devendorf to foul A.J. Price with 21 seconds to go. Price hit just one of two for a three-point bulge. Andy Rautins lined up a three with 11 seconds to play and canned it to tie the game and force a 4th OT at 98-all.
Rick Jackson, Syracuse's 3rd forward, fouled out in the first minute of the 4th OT, but the Orange got a break when the 7'3" Thabeet fouled out just seconds later. Neither team could gain an advantage, as they traded misses and baskets, eventually getting to 104-all with 0:38 left, but neither team could covert: 5th OT.
A.J. Price scored the only points in the first 3 minutes of the first overtime on a 17-foot jumper and two free throws to give UConn a 4-point lead at 108-104. Devendorf fouled out with 2:01 remaining.
Jonny Flynn scored a layup at 1:55, and, after a UConn miss, Syracuse had another chance to tie with 1:30 to go. Flynn drove to the hoop and drew the foul, stepped to the line and hit both with 58 seconds left.
Scotty Haralson hit a bucket with 35 second left, but Flynn canned another pair with 20 seconds left. UConn could not score on their final possession forcing the 6th overtime.
Rautins gave the Orangemen their first lead after regulation with a 3-ball to open the 6th OT. After a travel by A.J. Price, Paul Harris finally got a layup to go down for a 5-point SU lead. Fatigue took its toll on the Huskies, as they missed badly on their first six shots in the 6th extra session.
Paul Harris made another layup with 2:36 left, was fouled and hit the free throw for a 118-110 lead. Syracuse led by 10, at 122-112 with 1:38 to play and held on for the win as both teams played sloppily the rest of the way.
Syracuse never led in any of the overtime periods except the last. Jonny Flynn scored 34 points, handed out 11 assists, was a perfect 16 of 16 from the foul line and played a Syracuse, Big East and probably a college basketball record 67 minutes. Paul Harris missed at least 6 layups in the last 3 OTs but still finished with 26 points and 22 rebounds. Devendorf had 22 points and Rautins scored 20. The game lasted 3 hours and 46 minutes, beginning just at 9:36 pm and ending at 1:22 am ET.
A.J. Price led the Huskies with a career-high 33 points before fouling out with 2:58 left in the 3rd OT. Four different Huskies had had 10 or more rebounds, led by Jeff Adrien's 16.
The game was the second longest in NCAA history, falling just one overtime short of the Dec. 21, 1981, 75-73 Cincinnati win over Bradley.
It was the sixth straight win for the Orangemen, who advance to the semifinals Friday to face West Virginia, a team they beat at home, 74-61, in the regular season. The Orangemen remained perfect in overtime games, at 4-0 this season.
After the long night (and early morning) Syracuse catches somewhat of a break, getting West Virginia at 9:30 pm tomorrow night. The Mountaineers upset Pitt earlier in the game.
Get some rest, guys.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Big East: Hungry Panthers Devour Huskies
The Pitt Panthers probably won't win the Big East regular season title, but after beating down Connecticut for the second time this season, they left the impression that they are the team to watch from the nation's deepest conference.
The championship went to Louisville, though the Cardinals have to thank the Panthers for their good fortune. Louisville (15-2) has only to wrap up against West Virginia at 9:00 pm ET tonight, though the outcome of that game has limited meaning, since the Cardinals beat Pitt in their only meeting of the season, 69-63, January 17 at Lousiville.
If the Cardinals win, there's no argument, as the Huskies and Panthers each have 3 conference losses.
Pitt built up a big lead early thanks to hot shooting and solid defense, keeping the Huskies in catch-up mode throughout the game.
The Huskies led only twice, at 2-0 and 12-11. Brad Wannameker's 3-pointer made it 23-13 with just under 12:00 left in the first half. Wannamaker, a sophomore guard, has been a valuable addition off the bench all season in Pitt's stacked back court, which includes Levance Fields (leads the NCAA in turnover ratio) and Jermaine Dixon, younger brother of Maryland's Juan Dixon, who lead the Terrapins to a national championship in 2002.
UConn's Hasheem Thabeet kept the Huskies in the game with 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in the first half, but Pitt's senior forward Sam Young was more than equal to the task with 16 first half points and five boards. Pittsburgh led by 10 at the break, 38-28, holding UConn to just 34% shooting (11-32).
Pitt led by as many as 14 points twice in the second half, but UConn battled back and when Stanley Robinson elevated for a dunk at 8:26, the Huskies were down by just 2 points, 52-50. Pitt responded with a 9-3 run, punctuated by Sam Young's jam and three-point play at 4:41, to make the score 61-53. After Levance Fields made it 63-53 with under 4 minutes to play, it was all but over.
Playing in his final home game, Sam Young was sensational, leading the Panthers with a season-high 31 points and 10 rebounds. Wannamaker pitched in with 13 from the bench and Fields scored 10 while dishing 12 assists.
Pitt's two wins over Connecticut both occurred when the Huskies were ranked #1 in the national polls. It should now be clear to both voters and fans which team is superior. The Panthers will be in search of a #1 seed in the NCAA tourney as they make their way through this week's Big East tournament. Right now, they clearly look like the best team in the country, finishing undefeated at home, handing UConn their only road loss of the season in the process.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
UConn Ousts Irish; ACC: Wake, Seminoles with Key Wins
Senior Jeff Adrian, playing his final home game, led the Huskies with 25 points on 11-15 shooting, past hopeful Notre Dame, whose NCAA hopes continue to fade. Adrian also packed in 9 rebounds.
Close throughout, Connecticut finally took control in the final minute, scoring the last six points after taking a 66-65 lead.
Notre Dame was clinging to faint hopes of getting an NCAA bid, having won 4 of their last five coming in. That streak was preceded, however, by a 7-game losing streak which put the Irish in serious post-season trouble.
Connecticut's win likely sealed the fate of the Irish, dropping them to 16-12 and 7-9 in the Big East. The Huskies, meanwhile, continue to march toward the regular season Big East title. They improved to 15-2 (27-2 overall), stretching their lead over 13-2 Louisville and 12-3 Marquette, who face each other on Sunday.
Pitt, also 12-3, plays at Seton Hall Saturday night.
In the ACC, #13 Wake Forest and #23 Florida State each won key games, topping Virginia and #12 Clemson respectively.
The Demon Deacons won, 70-60, on the road, while Florida State held court at home, 73-66. Both teams improved to 9-5 in the ACC, while Clemson dropped to 8-6.
Toney Douglas led the Seminoles with 23 points as Florida State likely secured an NCAA bid with the win, beating Clemson for the second time this season. Otherwise, the Seminoles are just 1-4 against ranked opponents, the sole win coming against Florida back in December.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Top 25 Roundup (early games): UConn Tops Marquette
A.J. Price scored 38 points to lead the Huskies to a Big East win that left them alone atop the conference.
The premiere game of the evening matched the #2 Connecticut Huskies at the #8 Marquette Golden Eagles with nothing short of the Big East lead on the line. With Pitt having faltered Tuesday night at Providence, the Huskies came into the game tied with Louisville at 13-2, with Marquette a half game back at 12-2.
The Huskies established a lead in the closing minutes of the first half, taking a 43-37 lead into the break, but Marquette, comfortable on their home court, kept closing. When Wesley Matthews hit a pair of free throws at 7:53 in the second half, the Golden Eagles retook the lead, 60-59.
From there, the two teams exchanged leads back and forth, with UConn eventually grabbing a 8-point edge on a pair of Stanley Robinson three-point plays with 4:32 left in the game. Marquette cut the lead to five, but could get no closer.
Robinson scored 19 points, half of Price's total. Price was sensational, hitting 13-20 from the field, including 8-12 on 3's and a perfect 4-4 from the line.
Jerel McNeal scored 26 to lead Marquette.
At 26-2 and 14-2 in the conference, the Huskies host Notre Dame on Saturday and then get a week off before closing out the regular season in a rematch at Pitt. Winning both would give UConn the title, as they have a win over Louisville already in hand.
South Carolina 77, Kentucky 59
South Carolina punched their NCAA dance ticket on Wednesday night with a serious thumping of SEC East rival Kentucky, establishing an instant lead and hitting from everywhere on the floor in a 77-59 win.
Dominique Archie and Devan Downey led the onslaught. Archie had a perfect first half, going 5-for-5 with 2 3-pointers for 12 points. Downey tallied 10 in the opening period. Eight different Gamecocks scored, as they established a 46-28 lead at the half.
Archie scored just one more point in the second half, but Downey totaled 21 for the game, offsetting Patrick Patterson's 28 for the Wildcats.
South Carolina emerged with a one-game lead in the division, at 9-4, with Kentucky and Florida a game back at 8-5. The Gamecocks are 20-6 overall.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Big East: Huskies, Cardinals, Golden Eagles Keep Winning
Thabeet scored a game-high 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Teammate Jeff Adrian huled down 14 boards to go with his 9 points.
#7 Louisville cruised to a 72-63 win at Cincinnati, for their 6th conference road win in seven tries. The Cardinals (21-5, 12-2) kept pace, second in the tight Big East race.
Terrence Williams led the scoring with 20 points. He also snatched 9 rebounds.
#10 Marquette survived a tussle at Georgetown, hitting their free throws down the stretch while maintaining a 6 to 9-point lead in a testing 78-72 win.
Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews provided most of the scoring punch for the Golden Eagles, with 22 and 21 points, respectively. Lazard Hayward added 17, with 10 rebounds.
Marquette also improved to 12-2 (23-4 overall) in the Big East. Pittsburgh looks to get to 12-2 when they host DePaul at 8:00 pm tonight.
Ryan Ayers hit 7 of 11 three-pointers and scored 28 points as unranked Notre Dame crushed Providence, 103-84. Both the Irish and Friars remain on the bubble for an NCAA bid.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Pitt Tops Huskies, 76-68, for 6th Straight
The game was close throughout, with the teams changing leads a number of times, but Blair was impressive under the iron throughout, finising with 22 points and 23 rebounds. Sam Young kept Pitt in the game throughout, registering a game high 25 points on 8-14 shooting from the field, including 4-7 on threes and 5-6 from the line.
Down the stretch, Pittsburgh's Jermaine Dixon made a 23-foot three-pointer at 4:31 in the second half, giving the Panther's a 59-58 lead. But the huskies came right back, as Jeff Adrien hit a layup at 4:09.
After a pair of Sam Young free throws the Panthers led again, 61-60.
Hasheem Thabeet hit a free throw for UConn, but Levance Fields responded a pair of three-pointers at 3:10 and 2:22, upping Pittsburgh's lead to 67-61 with 2:20 left.
Fields then hit a couple of freebies with 0:52 left and the Huskies were left with only the opportunity of desperate throws from beyond the arc.
Fields totaled 10. Jermaine Dixon scored 11 points.
The win may vault Pitt back to the top of the heap next week, though the AP Poll was released only today, so there's six more days of games prior to the next voters' decision and they'd have to leapfrog both North Carolina and Oklahoma to get to #1.
Connecticut will likely fall to no further than 6th.
The Huskies still lead the dead tight Big East standings by a half game at 12-2. Pitt improved to 11-2 and 24-2 overall. Louisville and Marquette are another half game back at 10-2.
Pittsburgh won its 6th straight and hosts Marquette on March 4 and Connecticut on March 7 to close out the regular season.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Pitt Rips It Up; Shoots 67% in Win over Bearcats
Led by 7-for-9 shooting by both Sam Young (18 points) and DeJuan Blair (17), the Panthers shot a blistering 67% from the field, hitting 31 of 46 shots. Excluding 3-pointers (5-12), the Panthers were an astounding 26 of 34, for a 76.5% mark inside the arc.
Pitt actually had a better shooting eye from the field than the foul line (67%-61%).
The win was the 5th straight for #4 Pitt (23-2. 10-2). Despite their gaudy record, they continue to trail #1 Connecticut by a 1 1/2 games. The Huskies are 12-1 in the Big East and 24-1 overall. UConn whipped Seton Hall, 62-54 in New Jersey in preparation for hosting Pitt Monday night in a Big East showdown.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Top 25 Roundball Roundup
(1) Connecticut 63, Syracuse 49 - Top-ranked Connecticut buried Syracuse, sending the Orangemen to their 6th loss in their last 8 games. The Huskies won their 12th straight, and are now 23-1 overall and 11-1 in the Big East. UConn looks to be the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tourney, though they have to navigate the remainder of their Big East schedule and the conference tournament. They have six regular season games left, two with Pitt and one with Marquette.
(2) Oklahoma 78 Baylor 63 - Blake Griffin recorded his 21st double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Oklahoma improved to 24-1.
North Carolina State 82 (7) Wake Forest 76 - Unranked NC State knocked off a serious ACC foe in the night's biggest upset. The Wolfpack improved to just 3-6 in the conference and 13-9 overall, while the Demon Deacons lost for the 4th time in their last 6, looking very vulnerable as the season progresses.
(8) Memphis 63 Tulsa 37 - Robert Dozier scored 23 points, as the Tigers humiliated Tulsa. Memphis is 21-3 and undefeated in Conference-USA at 9-0.
Dayton 71 (14) Xavier 58 - Eleven different players scored for Dayton, as the Flyers overmatched #14 Xavier and tightened the Atlantic-10 race. St. Joseph's leads the conference at 7-1, with unappreciated Dayton and Xavier tied at 8-2. Dayton already holds a 69-58 win over St. Joseph's. The Flyers are flying just beneath the national radar, but could make a good deal of noise in March.