Mick Cronin

Pregame Shootaround 3.4.13: The calm before the storm

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Game of the Night: Cincinnati at No. 8 Louisville (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The Bearcats finally snapped a stretch of five losses in six games on Saturday afternoon, as they knocked off a depleted UConn team at home. The game was much closer than it probably should have been given the fact that the Huskies were playing without their star point guard Shabazz Napier, which means that while the Bearcats got a needed boost to their resume and their confidence, it doesn’t exactly change the fact that they have struggled since Cashmere Wright injured his knee.

Cincinnati cannot score the basketball right now. They don’t have anyone inside to dump the ball off to, which creates a problem since Sean Kilpatrick is really the only healthy perimeter player that can be trusted to score, and even he is better playing off the ball. Without Wright available to make things easier for his teammates with his ability to create off the dribble, the Bearcats stagnate. That’s not a good thing heading into a game against one of the toughest defenses in the country on the road.

Something to watch for: Russ Smith’s efficiency. He’s been much more selective in the shots that he’s taken over the last month or so. It’s shown; Louisville has won eight of their last nine games.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Montana at Southern Utah (9:05 p.m. ET)

This isn’t exactly a great basketball game, but it is one that could tell us a lot about the Grizzlies moving forward. They are playing without Mathias Ward and Will Cherry right now, and it’s unknown exactly when those two will be back. They just so happen to be Montana’s leading scorer and most talented player. The Grizzlies struggled to a 71-68 win over Montana State on Saturday.

Five Things

1) Baylor visits Texas in what might be the least interesting Big 12 Big Monday game in the history of Big Monday. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2) No. 4 Kansas hosts Texas Tech in another game that the Jayhawks should win in a route. Let’s see if the new Elijah Johnson hangs around for another game. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

3) Norfolk State puts their 14-0 record in the MEAC on the line against Florida A&M. (8:00 p.m. ET)

4) The team chasing NSU, North Carolina Central, is 13-1 in the MEAC and they’ll be hosting South Carolina State tonight. (7:30 p.m. ET)

5) The Following has a new episode tonight, which you should probably watch before catching up on Baylor-Texas on your DVR. (9:00 p.m. ET, FOX)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

Lehigh Virginia Basketball
AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

Follow Hank on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org