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Jordan Sibert’s 23 leads Dayton to a win over No. 11 Gonzaga

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Dayton overcame a horrendous shooting start, catching fire from beyond the arc in the second half as they erased a 37-28 halftime deficit to beat No. 11 Gonzaga, 84-79.

Ohio State transfer Jordan Sibert led the way, scoring 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting while hitting the biggest shot of the game, a three with about a minute left that put the Flyers up 78-72.

Dayton is a good basketball team. They have some size and versatility up front, and their back court was talented before Sibert’s addition. With Sibert in the mix, the Flyers have their go-to scorer, their guy that can get them 20 points on any given night, and that should be enough to get them into the race for the Atlantic 10 title. With VCU struggling, the league is wide-open and the Flyers, along with UMass and St. Louis, should be able to slide in and make a push for the top.

The bigger story here, however, is Gonzaga.

The lack of depth on the Zags’ front line was front and center on Monday night, as both Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski fouled out of the game before the final TV timeout. Those two also happen to be Gonzaga’s only true front court players which creates a problem.

Without them on the floor, the Zags are going to be very, very small even when Angel Nunez gets eligible. Now, generally speaking, small lineups can work, but not where the issue lies is in Gonzaga’s miniscule back court: David Stockton and Kevin Pangos have enough trouble defender quality guards when they can be as physical as they like. Now that hand-checks aren’t allowed?

This should have been expected. We knew this Gonzaga group was going to be a bit up and down this season, particularly on the nights when the big guys can’t stay on the court, and it was on full display in the quarterfinals out in Maui.

Dayton will advance to face Baylor, guaranteeing themselves a bump in their RPI come tournament time. But for Gonzaga, whose non-conference schedule is already fairly weak, this loss could end up costing them an at-large bid, depending on how things play out. They get Chaminade tomorrow and then either Arkansas or Minnesota on Wednesday. They visit West Virginia and host Kansas State, but the only other quality non-conference opponent they face is Memphis on the road. The same Memphis that got drubbed by Oklahoma State.

Missing out on a chance to play Baylor and Syracuse or Cal could end up hurting quite a bit.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.