Game of the Night
No. 4 Louisville 80, Kentucky 77: With realignment destroying old rivalries left and right, thank goodness for the river of localized vitriol that keeps this wonderful annual matchup alive. Last time, it was an unplanned Final Four meeting, won by Kentucky on the way to a national title. This time, it was just one non-conference win for the Cardinals, but that didn’t make the joy any less sweet for Louisville fans, nor the taste any less bitter for Wildcat partisans. Russ Smith went all Russdiculous with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 turnovers (natch) in the win.
Tennessee 51, Xavier 47: The Vols will grind it out and kill the tempo in every major matchup they have this season. So far, results have been mixed. Against Oklahoma State, Georgetown and Virginia, that approach ended in barely-watchable losses. Recently, the road grader strategy has been working, leading to a win over Wichita State two weeks ago, and tonight’s triumph over a game Xavier squad. Sophomore swingman Josh Richardson shot 5 of 6 from the floor to lead the Vols with 12 points.
No. 2 Michigan 88, Central Michigan 73: Trey Burke had 22 points and 11 assists to lead the Wolverines to 13-0 against a feisty Chippewas squad. Nick Stauskas kicked in 19 and Glenn Robinson III had 20, and Michigan has an unblemished non-conference record to celebrate. A Big Ten opener at Northwestern is next.
No. 14 Florida 78, Air Force 61: Forgive the Gators if they shudder a little bit at the name “M. Lyons” in the starting lineups. This time, fortunately for them, it was Michael Lyons of Air Force, not Mark Lyons of Arizona. Still, the Falcons gave Florida a game, going into the half down by just two points. This time, the Gators wisely spent more time feeding the post, leading to a 21 point game for Erik Murphy and a complementary 13 for Patric Young.
No. 18 Butler 68, Vanderbilt 49: Vandy ain’t what they used to be, but this is still a road win in the difficult environs of Memorial Gym, and it’s exactly the kind of game Butler must continue to win in order to get back to the Big Dance. It’s easy when Rotnei Clarke puts up 22 points, but you’d like to see a little more from his supporting cast.
Jerrelle Benimon, Towson: The former Georgetown Hoya single-handedly willed the Towson Tigers to an overtime road win over the Oregon State Beavers. His line speaks for itself: 20 points, 21 rebounds, 2 assists and one block. Benimon played all 45 minutes of the contest and logged only three personal fouls.
Kevin Ollie, UConn: It’s been a pretty decent week for Kevin Ollie, the former UConn player who took over for hoops icon Jim Calhoun on a seven-month contract in September of this year. Ollie and the Huskies visited Newtown in an emotional show of solidarity with the town’s shooting victims earlier this week. Then, as the East Coast Huskies prepared for a visit from the Washington Huskies, Connecticut announced a 5-year contract extension that should ease Ollie’s mind for a while. Then his team beat Washington 61-53 to run the team’s record to 10-2 just in time for Big East play to begin (the beginning of the end?) on New Year’s Day at Marquette.
KU’s power couple: Fans of other schools have long been secretly jealous of Kentucky’s ‘special relationship’ with Ashley Judd. One rival is starting to feel a little smug these days, as the brand new hotness is now housed in Lawrence:
For those who may not have seen yet, Jason Sudeikis & Olivia Wilde are in attendance again. Yes, she’s wearing the stocking cap… #KUbball
— KUsports.com (@KUsports) December 30, 2012
Syracuse: Sure, they won by 21 points, but this one begs for a closer examination. They scored 57 points against a 2-12 Alcorn State team that gift-wrapped 86 points in a loss to Fort Valley State earlier this year. The Braves fumbled away 25 turnovers, but also snatched 19 defensive rebounds against a team that towered over them at every position. Worst of all, the Orange shot just 37.5% from the floor and a miserable 20% from behind the arc. All this in the Carrier Dome after losing to Temple there last week. This team needs to clear out the cobwebs, and quickly.
Kentucky at the line: “Hack a Willie Cauley-Stein” doesn’t have the same ring as “Hack a Shaq”, but it’s a platinum-plated strategy for future Kentucky opponents. Louisville put Cauley-Stein on the line four times in the waning minutes of a tight game, and Cauley-Stein missed all four of his charities. He was hardly alone. The Wildcats as a team were just 47.8% from the line.
Mike Moser, UNLV: Moser’s return from injury was anything but glorious, as he played 12 minutes, picked up five quick fouls, and went back to the bench with just 3 points, one board and one turnover.