Immediately prior to the Florida State – Cincinnati matchup in the round of 32, there was another game that happened. Only this one was little watched. It was Oregon vs Iowa in the NIT, and the teams combined for 205 points (the Ducks won 108-97). Somewhere, someone watched that game and thought that it was beautiful basketball. Then they turned to the Seminoles vs the Bearcats and watched what appeared to be a completely different sport.
It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t flow. There weren’t flurries of points. But it was impressive.
From the tip until the buzzer these two teams dared the other to score. Florida State’s switching screens kept a hand in the ballhandlers’ face the entire night. When Cincinnati did escape the perimeter ball pressure they were swallowed up inside by the Seminoles swarming defense. The Seminoles seemed to grow more offended the closer Cincinnati got to the basket. Inside of 15′ everyone was double-teamed. Every shot was contested. Cincinnati scored over half their points on fast breaks or from the line. In half-court sets they were just a disaster.
And the refs swallowed their whistles. These two teams want to kill each other? So be it.
Cincinnati’s defense was all about trapping. Whichever FSU player had the ball inevitably had two defenders flying at him. Every entry pass was met with weakside defenders slipping in and slapping at the ball. It was fascinating to watch. FSU ended up turning it over 17 times, and 13 of those were steals which sent the Bearcats into transition. When FSU did score, Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin went ballistic. Twice he stormed onto the court to get into a player’s face. A couple of times his words were caught by the broadcast but they can’t be repeated here.
Whenever a team scored it seemed like an event.
In the end, it was Cincinnati’s trapping and quick hands which won out. The Seminoles turned it over on key late possessions, and Cincinnati capitalized. Fittingly, it was an FSU defender slipping on a sweaty floor that left Cashmere Wright open for the dagger.
During those final moments you could see it on the player’s faces. Every player’s breathing was ragged. Their eyes were bloodshot. They looked like they just walked out of a boxing ring.
When I watched the end of the Oregon – Iowa game, that’s not how players looked. They were smiling. They hardly broke a sweat.
Cincinnati vs FSU may not have been pretty. But in watching the effort by the players it wasn’t hard to see why FSU and Cincinnati were in one tournament, and Oregon and Iowa were in another.
(This will be updated throughout the day.)
GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67
The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?
No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.
Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: Not only did the Shockers drop their second straight at the AdvoCare Invitational, but they also saw Anton Grady leave the game on a stretcher after being involved in a scary second-half collision. He was awake and alert shortly after leaving the court. While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.
Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.
Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.
Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
- Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
- No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.
OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS
- Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.
UNLV sophomore Goodluck Okonoboh is transferring out of the program, a source told NBCSports.com.
The 6-foot-10 center was the No. 31 recruit in the Class of 2014, but he never was able to find a place in the UNLV rotation. He averaged 2.9 blocks as a freshman, but is a career 34 percent free throw shooter that never proved he could be more than just an athlete.
With Ben Carter getting eligible and UNLV landing Stephen Zimmerman this season, Okonoboh’s minutes dried up. He played just 19 minutes total against UCLA and Indiana.