Montrezl Harrell, James Michael McAdoo

No. 3 Louisville was not happy about the way they played at Mohegan Sun

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From Nov. 20th thru Dec. 1st, I’ll be on the road, hitting 21 games in 11 days. To follow along and read my stories from the road, click here.

UNCASVILLE, CT — Generally speaking, this is how the post game works at a neutral site event like the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic: around 10 minutes after the final buzzer, the winning coach, and maybe a player or two, will head to the podium for a press conference while their locker room is opened up for media access.

The press conference with the winning coach will usually last around 10 minutes, and maybe five minutes later the losing coach will come out to answer his questions for the TV cameras while their locker room is opened to the media. That generally goes a bit quicker, as most of the media will be looking to get interviews for stories on the winning team.

Assuming we aren’t dealing with an event like the Champions Classic or the Final Four, where the crush of the media reaches into the 100s, the teams are finished with their post game obligations in roughly 35 or 40 minutes, which is usually about the time it takes to get everyone showered and changed, all the gear packed up and the athletes themselves herded to the bus to leave the arena.

(MORE: UNC’s big men, point guards will determine their success)

On Sunday afternoon, Rick Pitino got his team the hell out of town. By the time I finished talking to the UNC players in their locker room, I managed to make it down to the Louisville locker room in time to see Rick Pitino heading out the door in a track suit. The locker room was already empty, the players already gone. I didn’t have a watch out or anything like that, but I’d guess that the Cardinals were gone within 25 minutes of the buzzer going off. I say that because I made it back out to the court before the first TV timeout of the Richmond-Fairfield game, which included 20 minutes to warmup, introductions and a trip that I made to the media hospitality room for some coffee (and a couple cookies) after realizing I missed out on talking with the Louisville guys.

This came a day after Louisville struggled to knock Fairfield. I wasn’t at that game, but the media members that were at Mohegan for the entire weekend said that Louisville’s locker room after that game did not look like a winning locker room. They weren’t jovial or celebrating. They looked like they had just gotten screamed at.

I think it’s safe to say Pitino was pretty unenthralled with his team’s play this weekend.

And could you blame him?

The Cardinals were a long, long way from impressive on Sunday. They looked nothing like a national title contender, mainly because their front court was useless for 40 minutes. Montrezl Harrell was active on the offensive glass in the first half, but he committed a couple of dumb fouls in the second half that got his disqualified. Chane Behanan was able to carve out space and get some loose balls on both ends, but he looked lost trying to figure out what to do once he got a rebound. Stephen Van Treese and Mangok Mathiang are solid, but they’re not ready to be playing starter’s minutes.

And all this was happening while seemingly everyone on North Carolina’s front line was having a career day.

There’s another issue at play here as well: Louisville’s transition defense was downright apathetic. Credit where credit’s due, UNC’s guards played really well. They weren’t flustered by Louisville’s pressure and were able to protect the ball fairly effectively.

But the Cardinals got into a bad habit of overpenetrating and failing to rotate back into defensive balance. What that means is that the Louisville ball-handler, either Russ Smith or Chris Jones, would try to break down the defense off the bounce. Both of the other wings would sit in the corner and wait for a kick-out for a spot-up three. The bigs would head to the rim to rebound the ball.

This becomes a problem because the point guard is generally supposed to be the safety valve, the last line of defense against leakouts. When the point guard drives, one of the two wings is supposed to rotate back. But with the wings spotting up in the corner and the big men crashing, the Tar Heels were able to pick UNC apart with easy layups.

That was ticking off the Louisville fans sitting behind me and leaving the beat-writers sitting next to me scratching their head.

Imagine what that did to Rick Pitino’s blood-pressure?

And you wonder why he wanted to get out of that building as quickly as possible?

Brunson scores 18 points, No. 8 Villanova beats Stanford

Jalen Brunson
Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) Villanova struggled to score and rebound on Thursday night.

The Wildcats’ defense was good enough to still get a win.

No. 8 Villanova compensated for offensive and rebounding struggles by forcing 23 turnovers in a 59-45 victory over Stanford in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tipoff.

“We played pretty good defense but couldn’t rebound with them,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It was one of those nights we couldn’t make shots but hung in there defensively. Their rebounding was almost a difference maker but thank God it wasn’t.”

The Wildcats (5-0) advanced to face Georgia Tech in the championship game Friday.

Villanova won despite shooting 30.6 percent and getting outrebounded by a 55-35 margin against an opponent starting three players 6-foot-8 or taller. The Wildcats started one player taller than 6-6 but compensated for the size differential by holding Stanford to 26 percent from the floor.

“I didn’t think it would be this ugly on the boards but if we could have made a couple of shots it might not have been as ugly,” Wright said. “But I was proud the guys really grinded defensively.”

Freshman Jalen Brunson was one of few Wildcats not to struggle offensively and scored a career-high 18 points. Josh Hart added 10 points but was 4-for-13 shooting and combined with Ryan Arcidiacono to shoot 6 of 24, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range.

“I was doing what I always do,” Brunson said. “I try to play aggressive all the time. I saw they were backing off me a little bit so there is time for me to shoot and time for me to make other plays.”

Leading scorer Marcus Allen had 12 points but was 3 for 12 for Stanford (2-3). Dorian Pickens added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Stanford lost its third straight by double digits and will face Arkansas in the consolation game. The Cardinal missed their first 15 shots of the game and their first eight attempts of the second half while falling behind by 16.

Stanford was within seven on a basket by Reid Travis with 6:34 remaining, but Villanova scored the next six points and finished the game with a 13-6 run.

“They’re a very good defensive team, they’re active and they made a lot of plays,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “The thing we did most was we turned the ball over 23 times, so that was disappointing.”


Villanova: Seven of Villanova’s school-record 33 wins came in New York last season. The Wildcats won twice in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center, beat St. John’s and Illinois during the regular season at Madison Square Garden and won three games there for the Big East Tournament championship. … Guards Arcidiacono and Hart combined to miss their first 11 3-point attempts. Arcidiacono came into the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range while Hart entered at 45 percent. … Darryl Reynolds tied a career high with 19 minutes, getting most of those in the second half after Daniel Ochefu picked up his fourth foul.

Stanford: Thursday was Stanford’s 13th game in New York since 2011-12. Last year, the Cardinal appeared in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, beating UNLV and losing to eventual national champion Duke. … Stanford faced Villanova for the second time. The other meeting was a 96-70 Cardinal loss on Dec. 23, 1970. … Stanford missed 12 layups and tip-ins during the first half. … Allen hit his head on the court trying to deflect the ball on a layup by Hart. Dawkins said Allen was a little dizzy but didn’t think the junior would miss any time.


Villanova: Georgia Tech in the championship game on Friday.

Stanford: Arkansas in the consolation game on Friday.

Justin Robinson, Monmouth knock off No. 17 Notre Dame

King Rice
Associated Press
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Less than two weeks after they opened their season with an upset win at UCLA, Monmouth picked up its first-ever win over a team ranked in the AP Top 25.

Two Justin Robinson free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as King Rice’s Hawks upset No. 17 Notre Dame at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, and the diminutive point guard was a problem for the Fighting Irish all night.

Robinson scored 22 points, with 14 of them coming from the foul line as Notre Dame’s guards struggled to keep the quick guard contained off the dribble. He was one of three Hawks to score in double figures, and their combination of depth and athleticism proved problematic for Mike Brey’s team. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, with Demetrius Jackson’s 20 leading the way, but the lack of depth proved problematic as the game wore on.

Notre Dame didn’t get a single point from its bench, with Matt Farrell and Matt Ryan combining to play 28 minutes. That lack of depth not only cost Notre Dame Thursday night, but it’s something they’ll have to figure out if they’re to be a contender in the ACC. Jackson and Steve Vasturia ran into foul trouble against Monmouth, and the lack of a bench option capable of picking up the slack led to Monmouth building up a ten-point lead in the second half.

Notre Dame tried to account for that by slowing down the tempo, but in doing so they struggled to find quality looks against the Monmouth defense. And given the players at Rice’s disposal, it’s tough to slow the game down against a team that can get after you on both ends of the floor.

Monmouth entered this season with expectations of contending for a MAAC title alongside the likes of perennial favorites Iona and Manhattan, and their start to the season backs up that belief. With two players in Robinson and Deon Jones who have earned all-conference honors during their careers and a host of contributors that includes guards Je’lon Hornbeak and Micah Seaborn, this is a group to keep an eye on as the season wears on.

Because if they can earn a bid, Monmouth’s non-conference schedule will have them prepared for the NCAA tournament.