North Carolina v Texas

Suspension of Myck Kabongo means Texas needs Javan Felix to make it ‘his team’

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The big news surrounding Texas’ 85-67 win over No. 23 North Carolina on Wednesday night had little to do with the performances of Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis, but rather the fact that according to a report form Yahoo! Sports sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo would be suspended for the remainder of the season.

McClellan scored ten of his team-high 18 points from the foul line, Lewis added 16 and Jonathan Holmes 15 and eight rebounds in the Longhorns’ most impressive win of the season.

But even with the production of those three against the Tar Heels, Kabongo’s absence (pending appeal) means that Rick Barnes will need freshman point guard Javan Felix to make the Longhorns “his team.”

Felix, who has started all 11 games at the point and is averaging nearly 36 minutes per game, finished with eight points (3-of-12 shooting), eight assists and three turnovers on Wednesday night. For the season the New Orleans native is averaging six assists and just under four turnovers per contest, with an assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5) that sits just outside of the Top 20 among Big 12 players.

But the biggest issue for Felix has been his shooting, as he’s making just 31.3% of his shots from the field and 9.5% (2-of-21) of his attempts from beyond the arc. Given Texas’ overall youth (only freshmen and sophomores played last night) and the inconsistency of scorers like Lewis the Longhorns will need more than just distributing the basketball from Felix as the season wears on.

To this point in the season Felix’s best scoring nights have come with a caveat of sorts: turnovers. In Texas’ loss to Chaminade in the first game of the Maui Invitational Felix scored 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting but he also turned the ball over three times (five assists).

And in a career-best 20 point night in a win over Texas State on Saturday, Felix dished out seven assists but turned the ball over five times.

Can the freshman achieve the proper balance of increasing his scoring output while also taking better care of the basketball? If Texas is to entertain any thoughts of staying afloat when Big 12 play rolls around, that will have to be the case.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.