Bryce Cotton

Late Night Snacks: Rhode Island rivalry and VCU’s overtime

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Providence 50, Rhode Island 49

I bet you didn’t realize the Ocean State had a hoops rivalry like this, did you? The Rams and the Friars did battle on Thursday night in a game that turned into a dogfight pretty quickly. How emotional was it? At one point, Ed Cooley and Danny Hurley both drew technical fouls as they had to be separated at mid-court during an argument.

Bryce Cotton led the way for Providence with 15 points, but URI was able to erase an early nine-point lead and, eventually, tie the game on an E.C. Matthews runner with 53 seconds left. Kadeem Batts was fouled at the other end and hit 1-of-2 from the foul line, and Matthews missed a 17-foot fadeaway at the buzzer.


1) No. 24 San Diego State was 97-0 under Steve Fisher in games they led with five minutes left, but San Diego nearly ended that streak. The Aztecs had a 57-47 lead in the final minutes, but Johnny Dee brought the Toreros back. Fisher decided to foul up three in the final seconds two times, and it almost backfired. With 3.2 seconds left, SDSU turned the ball over on a jump-ball. USD got a great look at a three to win it, but it bounced harmlessly off the rim.

2) VCU hung on to beat Eastern Kentucky in overtime, 71-68. I went a little more in-depth on VCU’s struggles here.

3) Vanderbilt blew a 13-point second half lead, but they managed to hold on as Marshall nearly came all the way back in Nashville. Damion Jones had 15 points off the bench for the ‘Dores, who held high-scoring Elijah Pittman to just 17 points. Kareem Canty led the way for Marshall with 18. The bad news? Josh Henderson has reportedly torn his ACL and MCL.

4) Seton Hall beat LIU 92-81, but it came at a price: Fuquan Edwin went down with an injury to his right ankle.


1) With Edwin out, Brian Oliver had himself a day, finishing with 26 points to lead the way for the Pirates.

2) Anthony Myles went for 28 points on 7-for-10 shooting as Rider beat Monmouth.

3) Georgetown’s back court of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks combined for 35 points and nine assists, hitting 5-for-11 from three, in a blow out win over High Point.


1) Marshall Henderson was 4-for-18 and 2-for-13 from three in a 61-58 loss at Kansas State. He airballed a step-back, 28-footer with a couple of seconds left on the clock that could have given Ole Miss the lead.

2) West Virginia entered the night as the No. 4 three-point shooting team in the country at 46.5%. They finished the night 4-for-19 from deep in an 80-71 loss to Missouri.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.