Ronald Roberts, Melvin Johnson

No. 22 VCU survives upset bid from St. Joe’s in overtime

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St. Joseph’s shot 52.3% from the floor. VCU was 7-32 from beyond the arc. Tay Jones and Langston Galloway were both playing as well as they have all season. St. Joe’s have a four-point lead with 14 seconds left as the grabbed a defensive rebound.

So it should only make sense that No. 22 Rams beat the Hawks 92-86 in overtime, right?

That’s what happens when the two players grabbing that defensive rebound travel as they fight for the ball, Troy Daniels buries a three, Ronald Roberts hits one of two free throws and Darius Theus ties the game with a driving layup.

And when you’re playing VCU — especially when you’re a St. Joe’s team that lacks depth, is missing a starter and has a star, Jones, dealing with cramping issues — you don’t want to go to overtime.

Because that’s the story with this group. There isn’t a team in the country that is more difficult to play than VCU. They press for 40 minutes, they are physical defensively, they make you run up-and-down and they beat you up and they take your legs out of the game. As entertaining as VCU is for someone like me or you to watch on TV, they are twice as miserable for someone like St. Joe’s to play against.

Think about that.

St. Joe’s, for the first time since they beat Harvard a couple of days before Thanksgiving, finally lived up to their talent level. They finally played like a team capable of winning the Atlantic 10. They outplayed VCU on the road. They made big shots down the stretch.

And they still lost.

There is a reason that Shaka Smart calls his system ‘Havoc’.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.