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?

No. 25 West Virginia secures big road win at No. 6 Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - DECEMBER 03: London Perrantes #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers dribbles the ball against Jevon Carter #2 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the first half during a game at John Paul Jones Arena on December 3, 2016 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
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Coming into Saturday afternoon’s game both No. 6 Virginia and No. 25 West Virginia were trying to figure some things out offensively while sticking to recent identities.

The Cavaliers could rely on their trademark stingy defense to squeeze opponents into low scores while the Mountaineers wanted to press and use their length, athleticism and depth to wear down opponents and force turnovers.

Neither team had a real go-to scorer.

And despite Virginia dictating the game’s tempo, West Virginia was able to hang around long enough and deliver the final blow to capture a 66-57 signature non-conference road win on Saturday.

West Virginia (6-1) responded after Daxter Miles Jr. was ejected in the first half for throwing an elbow at the head of Isaiah Wilkins as the Mountaineers forced enough turnovers to outlast Virginia.

With the game tied at 55 with under two minutes left, Esa Ahmad (nine points) buried the go-ahead three as the Cavaliers went cold in the final minute.

Guard Jevon Carter paced West Virginia with 11 points while Nathan Adrian finished with 10 points. West Virginia forced 14 Virginia turnovers, which isn’t a particularly high amount, but in a game with fewer possessions as Virginia tends to play (61 possessions in Saturday’s game compared to West Virginia’s averaged of 75) that is a good amount.

This is a potential signature victory for West Virginia’s NCAA tournament hopes. It also gives West Virginia a leg up as a bunch of teams are trying to jockey for position in the Big 12 as Kansas and Baylor have looked like the top two teams early in the season.

Winning at Virginia at least puts West Virginia in the conversation among the Big 12’s best teams. With the Mountaineers playing a pretty easy schedule this win was nice to have going into a stretch of winnable buy games that should inflate West Virginia’s record heading into conference play.

Virginia (7-1) jumped out to a 16-6 lead and looked like they might be able to run away with it early, but West Virginia was able to settle in and make it a slugfest. With the loss of Austin Nichols, this team is still struggling to find a guy who can get them easy buckets.

London Perrantes is more equipped to be a setup guy and Darius Thompson had some nice stretches to finish with 14 points, but he was also inconsistent and scored in bursts when the team needed a consistent shotmaker.

We know Tony Bennett’s team is going to defend all life out of you, but if the game is close and they need someone to take over the offense, they’re still seeking a go-to guy. In a deep and rugged ACC that should feature a lot of close games, this will be something to monitor.

No. 11 UCLA upsets No. 1 Kentucky in Rupp Arena

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Steve Alford of the UCLA Bruins directs his team during the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats at Pauley Pavilion on December 3, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Coming into the season, the thinking on UCLA was pretty simple: This is either going to be Final Four-good team or they’re going to end up crashing and burning in the NIT.

I think we have our answer.

Isaac Hamilton scored a team-high 19 points and Lonzo Ball shook off a horrid start to the game to finish with 14 points and seven assists as the No. 11 Bruins picked up the biggest win of the Steve Alford era, beating No. 1 Kentucky in Rupp Arena, 97-92.

It’s the second-straight season that the Bruins have beaten Kentucky. The Wildcats lost to UCLA in Pauley Pavilion last season.

The Bruins dug themselves a hole early, as Ball committed five of his six turnovers in the first nine minutes of the game. UCLA’s biggest and brightest star struggled early in his first true road game as a collegian. He looked rattled, making uncharacteristically bad decisions and getting lit up by De’Aaron Fox on the defensive end of the floor, and the result was that Kentucky was able to get out in transition, get some easy baskets and get themselves an early 23-14 lead.

The difference in the game ended up being a pair of overlooked players.

Sophomore guard Aaron Holiday changed the course of the game. He had all of his 13 points and each of his four assists in the first half, keeping Kentucky from getting too big of a lead and allowing Ball to grow into the game.

But the star, and the guy that could end up being what takes this UCLA team to another level, was T.J Leaf. He finished with 17 points, 13 boards and five assists. He posted a steal and a block, numbers that aren’t exactly representative of the impact he had on the interior defensively, and he and freshman Ike Anigbogu provided a toughness and an athleticism up front that we haven’t seen from UCLA in recent seasons.

“You know going into Rupp it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere and a great team. We knew that,” Leaf said after the game. “We came in, gave it our all, did a good job on the backboards and got the win.”

Anigbogu finished with a loud six points and six boards, including one sequence where he blocked Bam Adebayo’s shot at one end and threw down a put-back dunk at the other. Thomas Welsh added 14 points and eight boards. All told, the Bruins controlled the paint all afternoon, and while they gave up 92 points, their performance on the defensive end was impressive.

That’s a dangerous and talented Kentucky team, one that entered Saturday having reached triple-digits in three straight games.

And the Bruins more than held their own, getting stops when they mattered the most.

“I was really proud of the defensive stops we got when we had to get them,” Alford said in the postgame interview.

Last season, the Bruins finished 119th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric. They were 58th in the country entering Saturday. That’s where their Achilles’ heel is going to be. That’s where their success this season is going to be determined. Will they consistently get stops? Are they going to be better on the defensive glass, where they finished 205th last season? Can they stop penetration? Defend the rim when their guards get beaten? Hold their own against the physicality and athleticism of the best teams in the country?

On Saturday, in what could end up being their most significant test of the season, the Bruins passed with flying colors.

And the credit goes to Leaf, Anigbogu and Welsh.

Because we know what this team can do offensively. We know they can put up 97 points in a road game against a team that can defend the way Kentucky can defend. We know how many shooters they have, how they can spread the floor and how Ball can take advantage of that space and create good shots on every possession.

“This is one of the harder places to play,” Alford said. “For us to come in here and do the things we were able to do against a really good defensive team … tells me a lot about what we can do offensively.”

It also tells Alford that his team only needs to be ‘good enough’ defensively to make them a title threat.

And the most important thing that we learned on Saturday is that the Bruins are ‘good enough’.

PHOTO: UMKC drops one of the best special uniforms college hoops will see this year

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 23:  Nelson Kirksey #1 of the Missouri-Kansas City Roos retrieves a loose ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half on November 23, 2012 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated UMKC 91-45.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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UMKC isn’t generally a known commodity in the college basketball world, but if you’re a fan of high-level alternate uniforms, you might want to become aware of the ‘Roos.

During the UMKC basketball doubleheader on Dec. 10 at Municipal Auditorium, both the men’s and women’s teams will wear special uniforms to honor “Kansas City Day” and the jerseys look sick.

The skyline on both the jersey and the shorts is a great touch and fans can snag these uniforms exclusively by going to the UMKC game on Dec. 10.

If you’re a fan of UMKC, or the city of Kansas City in general, this is some gear that you need to have on your radar as these are some of the best college basketball alternate uniforms that I’ve ever seen.

(H/t: Kansas City Star)

No. 13 Indiana rolls over SIU-Edwardsville 83-60

BLOOMINGTON, IN - DECEMBER 02:  Thomas Bryant #31 (left) and Juwan Morgan #13 of the Indiana Hoosiers defend Carlos Anderson #0 of the SIU Edwardsville Cougars at Assembly Hall on December 2, 2016 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Indiana coach Tom Crean doesn’t have a timetable for OG Anunoby’s return from a sprained ankle.

For now, the 13th-ranked Hoosiers are going to have to step up and even overcompensate on some nights to make up for the absence of one of their biggest playmakers. On Friday night, it was Juwan Morgan who answered the call.

“Juwan rebounded for two tonight,” Crean said. “He came out and brought it. When you take OG (Anunoby) out of the lineup, you take so much athleticism, versatility, you take shooting, take the rebounding, the defense out. I thought our guys tried to do a really good job of making up for that. And Juwan did even more there.”

Morgan scored a career-high 18 points on 8-for-8 shooting and finished with 10 rebounds, De’Ron Davis scored 14 points and Indiana rolled to an 83-60 victory over SIU-Edwardsville.

The Hoosiers didn’t start the game firing on all cylinders. Indiana (6-1) didn’t make its first basket until 16:12 remaining in the first half, missing its first eight attempts. Trailing 4-0, the Hoosiers shook off the slow start when Zach McRoberts hit a 3-pointer from the corner that ignited Indiana. The Hoosiers would finish the final 15 minutes of the half outscoring SIU-Edwardsville 40-17.

Led by Morgan, the Hoosiers’ efforts on the glass eliminated opportunities for SIU-Edwardsville (4-4) to score second chance points. Indiana grabbed 30 defensive rebounds. Indiana’s 15 offensive rebounds led to the Hoosiers outscoring the Cougars 17-5 in second-chance points. But the Hoosiers’ second chance points opportunities were non-existent if Morgan was shooting the ball. The sophomore didn’t miss all night, making each of his eight shot attempts and the only 3-pointer he attempted.

“I feel like I’m scratching the surface,” Morgan said. “I think just mentally I’ve been thinking too much about shooting, things like that. My teammates look to give me the ball. And I look to have big games. But it was just a good night for us as a team.”

Indiana molded the rest of the basketball game around an aggressive rebounding effort, ball movement and its depth. The Hoosiers dominated the glass, outrebounding the Cougars 45-31. Indiana’s offense revolved around ball movement, as 15 of Indiana’s 28 field goals came by way of an assist with nine Hoosiers recording at least one assist.

And the Hoosiers bench outscored SIU-Edwardsville’s 34-12.

Burak Eslik finished with 18 points for SIU-Edwardsville. SIU-Edwardsville coach Jon Harris was familiar with Crean having played for and coached with Crean while he was at Marquette. Harris called Friday night’s loss, where the Hoosiers led by as many as 33 points, disappointing.

“There’s a reason why they are ranked No. 13 in America,” Harris said. “(Indiana is) a great team. I really think they’re a high level offensive team. We let them get going and that was the difference and the separation early (in the game).”

BIG PICTURE: Anunoby watched the Hoosiers’ victory from the bench, where he sat in a walking boot. He used crutches when he entered and exited the court from the locker room. He sprained his right ankle during the Hoosiers’ 76-67 win over No. 3 North Carolina on Wednesday. On Friday night, Crean told reporters he does not believe the ankle sprain is a long-term injury that could keep Anunoby out well into Indiana’s conference schedule, despite not having a definitive timetable on Anunoby’s return.

POLL IMPLICATIONS: After a thrilling victory over No. 3 North Carolina on Wednesday night, Indiana will have two weeks before it plays a ranked opponent, when Indiana takes on No. 18 Butler at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

UP NEXT:

SIU-Edwardsville hosts Stetson on Wednesday.

Indiana hosts Southeast Missouri State on Sunday.

 

No. 1 Kentucky succeeding with many willing to assist

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 23:  De'Aaron Fox #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball during the game against the Cleveland State Vikings at Rupp Arena on November 23, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) For a team that annually turns over its roster of talented individuals, top-ranked Kentucky is playing like a group that has worked together for a while.

The Wildcats’ unselfish play is reflected in a No. 3 ranking in assists (21.3 per game), helped by a season-best 33 on 44 baskets in Monday night’s 115-69 pasting of Arizona State in the Bahamas. That was Kentucky’s highest total under coach John Calipari, who has emphasized sharing the ball to every crop of heralded freshmen.

While that’s better than he might have expected this soon, Calipari doesn’t seem too surprised.

“There’s a couple reasons,” Calipari said Friday. “They’re really skilled, so you can share. When you’re not skilled, you put your head down and you bounce it and you run people over.

“Second thing is, their minds think quick. So, they can see stuff and recognize quickly. . And it’s hard to figure that out until you coach a guy, so there are guys that I’ve had that you have to know that that’s who they are. OK, they’re going to play a little different. But when you put five guys with nimble minds and are skilled, that’s what you get.”

Selflessness could be in play often when Kentucky (7-0) hosts No. 11 UCLA on Saturday in a matchup of college basketball’s marquee programs featuring similar strengths.

The Bruins (8-0) lead the nation in assists (24.8 per game) and field goal percentage (55.3) and are third in scoring average (97 points), just ahead of Kentucky (95.6). UCLA also features the country’s top distributor in freshman guard Lonzo Ball, who averages 9.6 assists including a school freshman-record 13 on Wednesday against UC Riverside.

Kentucky features several facilitators with freshman guard De’Aaron Fox drawing raves after posting Kentucky’s second triple-double (14 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) and first since 1988. Fox ranks fourth nationally with 7.6 assists per game and appears to have inherited the floor general role handled last season by Tyler Ulis.

But other Wildcats have willingly fed their teammates, with the freshmen in particular arriving in Lexington with some playing history together.

“We know how we played a little bit, so we were comfortable with each other,” said guard Malik Monk, Kentucky’s scoring leader (19.3 points). “We just came here and put the work in. .

“We share the ball naturally. I don’t think he (Calipari) knows that we’re going to share the ball the whole game. When I said we just play basketball and we have fun together, that comes with sharing the ball.”

Monk has two highlight-reel examples of how much the Wildcats enjoy giving.

His off-balance effort to keep a ball inbounds against Arizona State culminated in a one-handed pass to forward Wenyen Gabriel for a two-handed reverse dunk, one of several signature moments besides Fox’s milestone. Last week against Cleveland State, Monk followed up his steal by bouncing the ball off the glass to a trailing Fox for a dunk that brought the house down.

Monk ranks third in assists behind Fox and senior guard Dominique Hawkins (22 assists, two turnovers), a reserve who’s known more for defense. Calipari noted that as proof of the Wildcats’ willingness to share, a trait that could be demonstrated by both teams on Saturday.

Said Monk, “It’s working for us good, so we’re going to keep it rolling.”

More AP College Basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org