Thursday, March 11, 2010
James Guides Longhorns to Win; Two More Bids Resolved
On January 18, the Texas Longhorns were 17-0 and ranked #1 in the nation. From that point through the end of the regular season, they went 6-8 and as of the most recent poll had dropped right out of the Top 25, finally settling in the "other teams receiving votes" category.
Wishing to put the latter part of their schedule behind them, the Longhorns found new life as the Big 12 conference tourney began on Wednesday, getting 28 points and 16 rebounds from their floor leader, Damion James, as the Longhorns snuffed Iowa State, 82-75, advancing to a second round game against #21 Baylor, a team that's beaten them twice.
How Texas will do against the Bears and in the NCAA tourney (at 24-8, they're still considered a lock for an at-large bid) will depend largely on how short their memories are. If the Texas players can put the latter half of their season behind them, they have enough talent to reach the Sweet 16 and maybe beyond. Most teams have their ups and downs, but Texas has been particularly aberrant this season.
As for James, a senior forward, his game is still incomplete. Even though he was the game's high-scorer and rebounder against Iowa St., his play was faulty, as he hit just 9 of 20 shots (3 of 8 3-pointers), but was magnificent on the boards. His 28 points matched his season high. Still, Texas still needs to find more scoring options, and time is working against them.
Notable: Notre Dame got 20 points and 10 boards from Luke Harangody as the Irish topped Seton Hall, 68-56, winning their opening Big East tournament game and 5th overall. The win put the Irish on the list of teams that will almost surely receive an at-large bid to the Big Dance.
Also in the Big East was the upset of the day, as Cincinnati stormed back from a 41-32 half time deficit to knock off Louisville, 69-66, and advance to the quarterfinals.
Even though the Bearcats shot only 38%, they outrebounded the Cardinals, 54-32 (21-8 on the offensive end), and scored on numerous put-backs in the paint. Cincy can get after it on the boards and will face #7 West Virginia in the last of four games Thursday at Madison Square Garden. A win would almost surely put Cincinnati into the NCAA tournament. With an 18-14 record, they are still considered to be on the bubble.
Two more teams found their way into the main event on Wednesday by winning conference tournaments. Robert Morris held off a determined Quinnipiac squad, 52-50, to capture the Northeast Conference Tourney, and Montana got 42 points from senior Anthony Johnson to slip past Weber State, 66-65. Johnson brought Montana back from 22 points down early in the second half, scoring their last 21 points, but, even though the Grizzlies earned a trip to the NCAAs by winning the Big Sky tourney, they will probably be a one-and-done team against a probable #1 or #2 seed.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Longhorns Break Out of Funk with 40-Point Win
Losers of 5 of their last 7 games, the question marks popping up around the texas basketball program were almost too numerous to mention.
Why can't they hit free throws? What's wrong with Dexter Pittman? Who's going to score after Damion James? Are they an elite team or just another Big 12 also-ran?
A few of those queries were put to rest on Saturday when the Longhorns posted their biggest conference win of the season, a 91-51 embarrassment of visiting Nebraska, spearheaded by 25 points from freshman guard Avery Bradley. Bradley smoked in the first half, hitting all five of his three-point attempts. After hitting one more in the opening minutes of the second half, Bradley missed, but by then, the Longhorns were already up by more than 30 points. Bradley finished 9-for-12, hitting 6 of 7 3-pointers.
As for the other questions, Texas made 20 of 33 free throws (73%), Dexter Pittman only played 16 minutes (he's too slow and clogs up the offense), and beyond James, who only scored 13 points, a trio of freshman will need to continue to produce. There was Bradley's 25, J'Covan Brown's 12 points and Jordan Hamilton's contribution of 16.
Whether Texas returns to elite team status will be determined over the next three weeks. The Longhorns play four of their final six games away from home, and after that, the conference tournament, which should provide more answers.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Hamilton's 27 Saves Texas
With Jordan Hamilton slicing through the Oklahoma State defense for a career-high 27 points, the obvious question is, "Where have they been hiding this guy?"
The Texas Longhorns overpowered Oklahoma State with a 40-24 second half, cruising to their 19th win against 3 losses, 72-60.
A freshman out of Dominguez High in Los Angeles, Hamilton played just 19 minutes, but put on a dazzling show of offensive skills, hitting 11 of 16 shots, including drives, dunks, jumpers and treys. He was 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and was generally unstoppable in the second half as Texas pulled away from the Cowboys after trailing 36-32 at intermission.
Hamilton's previous high was 17 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. After Monday night's performance, expect him to receive a lot more playing time and more attention from opposing defenses.
Texas, in desperate need of a win after dropping 3 of their previous four games, got a real lift from the frosh, whose exploits couldn't have come at a more-needed time. Adding him to the offensive arsenal will open things up inside for Damion James and slumping Dexter Pittman, who's averaged just over 6 points per game in his last 8 games.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
James Matches Career High as Texas Returns to Winning Form
Even though Texas only managed to stay #1 for a couple of hours before losing - first at Kansas State last Monday, and then at UConn on Saturday - they still came in at #6 in the most recent poll and have now gotten off their losing skien with a 95-83 home win over a pretty solid bunch from Texas Tech.
As usual when the Longhorns are rolling, forward Damion James led the way, matching his career-best (also against Texas Tech, last season) of 28 points on 12-for-20 shooting while also helping out on the boards in a big way with 13 rebounds (4 offensive). It was the 11th double-double for james this season, in 20 games.
The 18-2 Longhorns host #24 Baylor on Saturday before back-to-back road games at Oklahoma State (Feb. 1) and Oklahoma (Feb. 6).
NOTABLE: With the possibility that the Mountain West Conference could send more teams to the NCAA Tournament than the PAC-10, the New Mexico Lobos have regained some of their swagger with their 5th straight conference win after dropping their first two. Wednesday's 76-72 win over high-flying #12 BYU was spurred by Dairese Gary's career-high 25 points. The win was the Lobos' third against ranked opponents this season and has them settled into a second-place tie in the Mountain West with UNLV, at 5-2. BYU still leads the pack, at 5-1.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Longhorns Deserve #1 Ranking; James Powers Texas Past Spartans
Having pounded two of the better teams in the country - North Carolina and Michigan St. - in consecutive outings, the Texas Longhorns have the look of a #1 and merit serious consideration of making it all the way through the field in March to a national championship. Whether they should be ranked #1 right now would be a value judgement weighed against the current #1, Kansas, and a very small number of other candidates - Kentucky, Syracuse and Purdue - all of which have, like Texas and Kansas, unblemished records.
What compels one to consider Texas begins with the play of future-NBAer Damion James, who put together another highlight reel with 23 points and 13 boards in the Longhorns' 79-68 win over Michigan State. James dropped in 10 of his 18 shots and was the steadiest player on the floor in addition to being the most durable: his 38 minutes was a game high. His effort followed a 25-point, 15-rebound performance just three days earlier against the Tar Heels, so with back-to-back high quality games over ranked opponents, James could be looking at player of the year honors somewhere down the road.
Texas has won all 11 of their games by a minimum of 11 points, have exceeded the century mark three times and they are also one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Besides Carolina's 90 and Long Beach State's 78, Michigan State's 68 points was the most they've allowed all season. One of the reasons Texas defends so well is the play of Turkish-born guard, Dogus Balbay, who demonstrated his denial skills by holding Spartan point guard, Kalin Lucas, to 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting, and just 2 assists. Lucas averages 15 points on 48.5% shooting and 4.3 assists. Balbay was instrumental in forcing Lucas into 6 turnovers and 22 total for the Spartans. He had 3 steals of his own.
The Pollsters probably won't elevate Texas to #1 until somebody beats the Jayhawks, or, if Texas does when the Big 12 foes meet on February 8. Prior to that a stretch from January 16-27 will be crucial for the Longhorns, as they host Texas A&M and Texas Tech and play at Kansas State and UConn during that span. All four of those opponents are currently ranked in the Top 25.
NOTABLE: North Carolina's offense is beginning to take shape in big ways, and they look like the team to beat in the ACC. With Tuesday's 98-61 trampling of the Marshall Herd, the Heels have put up their three highest point totals of the season back-to-back-to-back. After dropping a 68-66 decision at Kentucky, Roy Williams' kids have scored 103, 90 and 98. That's big-time production, no matter who you're playing.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Longhorns Gore Tar Heels 103-90; Duke Defense Prevails over Gonzaga
Of all the teams across the nation, North Carolina probably has more height than any with a slew of 6'8" and taller players occupying the floor at any given time, but their size was no match for the intensity brought by the Longhorns big men as Texas thumped the Tar Heels, 103-90, in the first game ever at Cowboy stadium. Forward Damion James scored 25 points and had 15 boards and center Dexter Pittman posted season highs with 23 points and 15 rebounds (12 offensive).
Texas outrebounded North Carolina 60-41, a stat that bears respect, because if the Longhorns can dominate the paint against a team like North Carolina - and all that up front size - there may not be any other squad out there capable of handling them in the post. The win put Texas at 10-0, even with conference rival Kansas, who punched out a 74-65 win over Michigan earlier in the day. The Jayhawks and Longhorns are ranked 1-2 in the polls. North Carolina, which was #10 coming in, will surely drop down, having lost their 3rd game in 11 starts. Their two other losses - to Syracuse and Kentucky - were also on the road.
Notable: Was it the Duke defense or Gonzaga's poor shooting that produced the 76-41 Blue Devil blowout at Madison Square Garden Saturday? On the one hand, the Zags were awful from the field, hitting just 15 of 54 shots (28%), including 1 of 10 from the 3-point area. While nine different players scored for Gonzaga, none hit double figures, but the play closest to the hoop was more than likely a function of inexperience, as freshman forward Elias Harris went 2-for-8 and sophomore center Robert Sacre - who led the Bulldogs in scoring with 9 points - was 2-for-11, mostly on contested shot in the paint. Gonzaga turned the ball over 18 times and were outrebounded 45-35, but they were also just 10-for-21 from the free throw line, and that doesn't involve any defense. Give Duke credit for solid defense, but the Zags just didn't have much zip in their game on this occasion.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Harangody Off to Hot Start for Irish
Luke Harangody missed all three of his three shot attempts, but he did nail half of his shots from the floor (11-22) and drained 7-of-8 from the foul line to post 29 points in Notre Dame's 80-62 romp over Kennesaw State. The 6'8" senior forward also pulled in 15 boards for his second double-double of the season. The Fighting Irish are off to a 5-0 start in which Harangody has scored in double digits every game. His low point was in the season opener, when he only scored 19. In the next four games he put up 27, 29, 32 and 29, for a season average of 27.2.
A four-year starter, Harangody has improved his scoring average in each successive season. Last year he averaged 23.2 and 11.8 rebounds. Playing the majority of his games against Big East opponents, he's a force with which to reckon.
NOTABLE: Texas easily handled Pitt, 78-62, to capture the title game of the CBE Classic in Kansas City. Longhorn senior Damion James led all scorers with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He also grabbed 9 rebounds as the Longhorns improved to 4-0.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Texas freshman Leads Longhorns Over Iowa
Longhorn freshman Jordan Hamilton topped all scorers with a career-high 16 points, propelling Texas past Iowa, 86-60, to move into the final of the CBE Classic in Kansas City. Texas faces 4-0 Pittsburgh in the final, Tuesday night at 10:00 pm ET.
While Hamilton's scoring was his best effort to date, there are certain to be better games ahead. The 6'7" swingman was playing in just his third college game. Hitting 5-of-9 from the floor, Hamilton did most of his damage from beyond the arc, nailing 4-of-8 3-pointers. He also dished 5 assists, grabbed 2 boards and ripped off two steals in his 20 minutes.
The Longhorns are currently ranked #3 in the AP Poll, though that's hardly a convincing argument at this early juncture. Their Tuesday tilt with Pitt should offer a better insight as to just how good they are. The unranked Panthers usually put a solid team on the floor and despite many losses to graduation, this year should be no exception.
NOTABLE: Wayne Chism scored 24 points to lead all scorers, but missed a shot with 2 seconds left that would have given the Tennessee Volunteers the lead, as Purdue held on to win the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, 73-72. One of the few early games between ranked teams, the final result only muddied the waters further. With no truly dominant team on the college hoops landscape, this year's Top 25 will likely be something of a roller coaster ride for those teams involved.
Monday, November 16, 2009
James Leads #3 Texas over Anteaters
Damion James scored 21 points and hauled down 15 rebounds as #3 Texas got their 2009 campaign off to a roaring start with an 89-42 victory over the Anteaters of UC-Irvine.
Dexter Pittman matched James with 21 points, as the Longhorns put 5 players into double figures to just one for the Anteaters. The game was never in doubt, as Texas rolled to a 42-21 half time lead and continued to dominate the rest of the way.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Irish Eyes Aren't Smiling; Longhorns Rebound
Scottie Reynolds scored 23 points and hit 6 of 7 3-pointers, leading the 12th-ranked Wildcats past stumbling Notre Dame. Reynolds had one of his best games of the season, adding a pair of steals, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Running mate Dante Cunningham provided 18 points and 8 rebounds.
The win left Villanova at 24-6 overall, and 12-5, good for 5th in the Big East. For Notre Dame, the loss may have sealed their post-season fate. The Irish are 7-10 and 16-13 overall, records not likely to land an NCAA bid.
Texas 73, Baylor 57
Following a 59-68 road loss at Oklahoma St. on Saturday, Texas solidified its post-season intentions with a home win, improving to 20-9 (9-6 Big 12), while dropping Baylor into NIT territory at 7-10 and 17-12 overall.
The Bears, after a 3-1 start in conference play, have dropped 9 of their last 11.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Top 25 Roundup (late games): Clemson Dumped; Duke Tops Terps
Malcolm Delaney scored 26 points for the Hokies as Virginia Tech (17-10, 7-6) made its case for inclusion in the NCAA field. It was just the second win for the Hokies over a ranked opponent, though both wins came on the road. Back on Jan. 21, the Hokies stunned then-#1 Wake Forest, 78-71.
Virginia Tech's road to the tournament gets tougher, however, as their remaining ACC games are against Duke, North Carolina and Florida State.
Villanova 74 DePaul 72
The Wildcats won for the 9th time in 10 games, holding on for a Big East win over the DePaul Blue Demons. Villanova improved to 11-4 in the conference and 23-5 overall.
Michigan St. 62, Iowa 54
Tom Izzo used his entire bench, getting scoring from 9 different players, as the Spartans maintained their lead in the Big 10 at 12-3. a hame and a half better than 10-4 Purdue.
Delvin Roe scored 16 points on 6-7 shooting for Michigan State.
#7 Duke 78, Maryland 67
Duke's defenders held Greivis Vasquez to just 10 points, as the Blue Devils dampened Maryland's NCAA invitation hopes, beating the Terps,
Maryland dropped to 6-7 in the ACC (17-10 overall), while Duke moved to within a game of league leading North Carolina (10-3), at 9-4. Gerald Henderson had another solid game, leading the Blue Cevils with 19 points.
In Big 12 action, #11 Missouri cruised past Kansas State, 94-74, getting 22 points from DeMarre Carroll, who led 5 players in double figures for the Tigers. Carroll also corralled 13 boards.
#25 Texas topped Texas Tech, 87-81. A.J. Abrams scored 24 and Damion James had 20 and 12 boards.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Early returns: Kansas, Georgetown, Wisconsin close with wins
Durant started off hot, scoring 12 of the Longhorns' first 18 points and finished the first half with 25 points, hitting 5 of 5 3-pointers as Texas raced to a 54-42 lead. Kansas went on a 17-4 run to start the second half, and regained the lead at 59-58. Kansas grabbed a 69-65 lead on Mario Chalmers' 3-pointer, then, Durant, driving the lane, twisted his left ankle and writhed briefly on the floor in pain, but left under his own power, noticeably limping.
Without their star, Texas was not able to stay with the swarming Jayhawks who rolled to an 81-72 lead. Durant returned with just over 7 minutes remaining, but the Longhorns were struggling, hitting only 1 of 10 3-pointers in the 2nd half until Durant hit a long 3 with under 30 seconds remaining, cutting the lead to 5. Following a Kansas turnover, Abrams hit a 3 to cut it to 2 at 88-86 with 23 seconds left. After a Jayhawks free throw, Augustin's attempt for a tying 3-pointer was blocked by Julian Wright. The Jayhawks' Russell Robinson hit another free throw for the winning margin.
A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin scored 18 and 19 respectively for the Longhorns. Mario Chalmers led the Jayhawks with 21.
#9 Georgetown 59 Connecticut 46 - Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green may be the most dangerous frontcourt tandem in college hoops. The dynamic duo scored 18 and 14 respectively, boosting the Hoyas to at least a share of the Big East crown, pending the late-night Pitt-Marquette game result. Hibbert notched his 6th double-double with 12 rebounds. The Hoyas will get a first-round bye in the upcoming Big East tournament.
#4 Wisconsin 52 Michigan St. 50 - Alando Tucker was the only Badger in double figures, but his 26 points led Wisconsin to a tough road win in their final regular season game. The badgers finished up at 27-4 and 13-3 in the conference, good enough only for 2nd place behind Ohio State. The Badgers will be no worse than a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Gators Roll On as Badgers Fall; Durant hits 37 again
Indiana 71 Wisconsin 66 - The Hoosiers established themselves as a legitimate contender in the Big 10, ending the #2 Badgers' winning streak at 17 and improving to 6-2 in the conference. A.J. Ratliff had 20 and D.J. White, 16 points for Indiana, while Alando Tucker continued his scoring blitz with 23 for Wisconsin. The Hoosiers fell out of the Top 25 on Monday, but will likely be reincluded following next Monday's votes though Indiana faces a tough test at Iowa on Saturday as Wisconsin hosts Northwestern (1-7 Big 10).
North Carolina 105 Miami (FL) 64 - Tyler Hansbrough led 5 players in double figures with 22 points and 13 rebounds as the #3 Tar Heels cracked the century mark for the 6th time this season. North Carolina took over the ACC lead at 6-1 as Virginia Tech lost to NC State. North Carolina ranks 2nd in the nation in scoring at 88.5 points per game.
Ohio St. 78 Purdue 60 - The #4 Buckeyes improved to 19-3 overall and moved into a tie with Wisconsin for 1st place in the Big 10, bombing the Boilermakers with an impressive road victory. Greg Oden played only 21 minutes as Ohio State pulled away in the 2nd half for the relatively easy win.
Texas A&M 73 Iowa State 49 - Joseph Jones scored 21 points for the Aggies as they remained tied with Kansas and Texas for the Big 12 lead at 6-1. The logjam atop the conference should see some resolution in the next week. The #10 Aggies play at Kansas on Saturday and host the Longhorns Monday, Feb. 5.
Memphis 87 Central Florida 65 - #11 Memphis continued to cruise through their Conference-USA schedule with another dominating road win. Joey Dorsey scored 22 points and hauled in 9 rebounds in the one-sided affair. The win was the 10th straight for the Tigers, who improved to 18-3.
Butler 71 Youngstown St. 58 - Mike Green had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists to lead the #13 Bulldogs to their 21st win against just 2 losses, tying them with Wisconsin for the nation's best record. North Carolina, Nevada and Florida are 20-2.
Nevada 79 Louisiana St. 71 - Nick Fazekas and Marcellus Kemp each scored 20 points as the #15 Wolf Pack reached the 20-win mark and remained tied with New Mexico State atop the WAC at 8-1.
North Carolina State 70 Virginia Tech 59 - The Wolfpack won only their second road game of the year, but it was a big one, knocking off #16 Virginia Tech. The win was also NC State's 2nd conference win in 7 tries. They are 0-5 in the ACC at home and 12-8 overall. The Hokies dropped into a tie for 2nd place in the conference with Boston College at 6-2, a half-game ahead of Duke (5-2)
Alabama 73 LSU 70 - The #19 Crimson Tide finally got a road win in the turbulent SEC. LSU's woes continued. Jermareo Davidson scored 31 for Alabama, which had lost all of their conference away games - at Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Auburn - had lost 4 of their last 6 overall and had fallen from #12 to #19 in the current AP poll.
The loss for the LSU Tigers was their 4th in a row, dropping their record in the SEC to 2-5 and 13-8 overall. After a great run in last year's tournament, the Tigers are in jeopardy of not getting an invitation this season.
Texas 76 Texas Tech 64 - Kevin Durant may have had his best game of the season last night in Lubbock, leading the #22 Longhorns to another important road win with 37 points and 23 rebounds. It may have been the best performance by any player in the NCAA this season. Durant was 15-29 overall, including 5-9 from 3-point range. The Longhorns were down 4 at the half, but Durant's heroics helped produce a 38-22 2nd-half drubbing. Earlier this season, Durant had scored 37 against Oklahoma State and again vs. Colorado. The phenomenal frosh scored 34 against both Baylor and Missouri.
Gonzaga 90 Stanford 86 2OT - Unranked Gonzaga reminded West Coast watchers that they are still a team to be reckoned with, pulling off the upset over #23 Stanford on the road. despite their 16-7 mark, the Bulldogs still dominate the West Coast conference, leading it at 6-1. The main knock on Gonzaga is their record against ranked teams, though last night's win was their 3rd road win over a ranked team this season. Previously, the Bulldogs beat North Carolina and Texas, but lost to Butler, Nevada and Duke.
With one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Gonzaga also lost to Washington St., Virginia and Georgia, while beating Washington earlier in the season. With 7 of their remaining 8 games in conference, the focus will be on a February 17 tilt with #11 Memphis which will be played on Gonzaga's home hardwood.