Through five games UCSB power forward Alan Williams was near unstoppable, posting averages of 26.8 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots per game for a team that blew out UNLV in Las Vegas last month. Entering Sunday’s game against San Diego, the Gauchos were looking to build on the momentum gained from their home win over Cal last Friday night. Having Williams pick up two quick fouls didn’t help UCSB, but that’s where guard Michael Bryson came into play.
Bryson scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the first half and Mitch Brewe, who was averaging 2.8 points per game entering Sunday, added seven to help the Gauchos take a four-point lead into the intermission. And in the game’s final 20 minutes Williams had a greater impact on the action, accounting for 11 points and seven rebounds in the Gauchos’ 72-61 win over the Toreros.
Duda Sanadze scored 19 points and Johnny Dee added 18 to lead the Toreros, and big man Dennis Kramer tallied his second consecutive double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Given how much USD struggled rebounding the basketball last season Kramer’s recent play is something to keep track of as the Toreros approach the start of WCC play, and thus far he’s been one of the most improved players in the conference.
But if Bill Grier’s team is to make a charge into the top half of the standings Jito Kok, who was a WCC All-Freshman Team selection last year, has to be more productive than he was against UCSB (zero points, five rebounds). While Kok has increased his scoring average by three points per game (from 3.2 to 6.2), he’s certainly capable of more than what he produced against UCSB and that has to be the case when the Toreros face the cream of the WCC crop.
As for UCSB, the win illustrates what those who follow the program closely have known for some time. While Williams is an incredibly difficult matchup for opponents he’s not the only talented player at Bob Williams’ disposal. Three Gauchos are scoring in double figures, and sophomore forward Taran Brown (9.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) was the fourth prior to Sunday’s scoreless effort.
The Big West race will be a wide-open affair, with reigning regular season champion Long Beach State going through yet another rigorous non-conference slate and adding UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb next weekend and UC Irvine being the preseason favorite. UCSB will be a contender as well, and Sunday’s effort was a reminder that Williams isn’t the only player on the roster capable of doing the heavy lifting offensively.
Sindarius Thornwell will not play on Monday against Seton Hall, according to a report from ESPN. South Carolina will be playing the Pirates in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Thornwell was suspended indefinitely from the team last weekend. Frank Martin discussed the suspension on the radio on Thursday.
“He’s been with us at practice, he’ll travel with us, he’s excited about our team, his role on the team,” he said. “Sindarius is one of my favorite guys I’ve ever come across. He messed up and it is what it is. He’s like a son to me. He messed up and he’s owned up to his mess up.”
“Outside of that, I’m not going to get into anything else. He has my full support. Our job is to prepare our team to play, we don’t prepare individual players to play. It’s no different to someone rolling an ankle. We’re down because of a bad decision. We’ll be fine.”
Josh Hart put on a show on Saturday as the senior willed No. 1 Villanova to a 74-66 win over No. 23 Notre Dame.
The matchup of unbeatens in New Jersey was tight throughout, but Hart put together one of the best performances any player will have all season, finishing with a career-high 37 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as Hart looked completely unstoppable.
With most of Villanova’s roster struggling on the offensive end, Hart took it upon himself to take over the second half. The Wildcats (10-0) only shot 25 percent (4-for-16) from three-point range but Hart’s aggressiveness attacking the basket was the difference. Hart finished 10-for-14 from the field and went 14-for-14 from the free-throw line as he put together the signature performance that could eventually help land him Player of the Year honors.
Notre Dame (9-1) put together a strong first half to jump out to a 41-36 halftime lead but the Irish’s offense didn’t perform at the same level in the second half. The first half saw a tremendous effort from junior point guard Matt Farrell as he torched the Villanova defense for 12 points and six assists in the game’s opening half.
Villanova’s defense made halftime adjustments and did a much better job of defending ball screens and forcing turnovers as Farrell and Notre Dame’s offense was slowed down in the second half. Farrell finished with 18 points but he didn’t pick up any assists in the second half as he finished with six. Steve Vasturia also added 18 points for Notre Dame while Bonzie Colson chipped in 11 points.
This win was a good one for Villanova because they were able to beat a tough opponent when most of the roster wasn’t performing up to standard expectations. The Wildcats definitely don’t want to rely on Hart that much during most games but the Villanova defense deserves credit for performing better in the second half after looking very poor at times during the first. Eric Paschall also provided a really nice lift for Villanova off the bench as he went 4-for-4 from the field, finishing with eight points and giving good energy on the defensive end.
Free-throw shooting was also an important factor in this one as Villanova was 20-for-22 from the charity stripe. With their ability to close out games at the line while having perhaps college basketball’s best closer in Hart, Villanova is looking like the toughest defending national champion we’ve seen since the back-to-back Florida titles 10 years ago.
Carlton Bragg Jr.’s battery case took an interesting twist Saturday morning.
On Friday afternoon, a 19-year old woman was arrested at the same address that Bragg was arrested. She was charged with suspicion of battery at 4:42 p.m., after Bragg’s appearance in court, and it was filed under the same case number as Bragg’s. The Kansas City Star is reporting that the woman is Bragg’s girlfriend.
According to Douglas County Sheriff’s records, the woman is still in custody.
NBC Sports is not identifying the woman as she has not yet been charged with a crime.
Bragg was charged with battery, a misdemeanor, Friday afternoon after an early morning arrest. He was accused of striking his girlfriend and pushing her down stairs. He has been suspended indefinitely by Kansas head coach Bill Self and will not play in Saturday afternoon’s game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse against Nebraska.
Self commented on Bragg’s status during a pregame radio appearance on Saturday.
(H/t: Jesse Newell)
Oklahoma State added an important commitment from one of the best available Class of 2017 guards on Friday as Amauri Hardy pledged to the Cowboys.
The 6-foot-2 Hardy is regarded by some recruiting services as a top-100 player as he gives head coach Brad Underwood a key commitment for Oklahoma State. A quick scoring guard who plays with a lot of energy, Hardy had a solid summer with The Family as the Michigan native offers up some insurance for Oklahoma State at guard.
Since Phil Forte is exhausting his eligibility after this season and sophomore point guard Jawun Evans is having a monster year and could go pro, having Hardy’s commitment is a good backup plan. If Evans does return for his junior season, Hardy can provide valuable backup minutes while also being able to play a bit off the ball alongside Evans.
Hardy joins four-star guard Zach Dawson and three-star forward Latravian Glover in Oklahoma State’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.
Taylor University celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Silent Night Game on Friday night.
The Division III school in Upland, Indiana has one of the best traditions in college sports as Taylor has its fanbase stay completely silent until the team scores its 10th point of the game. Upon scoring the team’s 10th point, the Taylor students go ballistic as they storm the court and temporarily stop the game. Dressing up in all sorts of group costumes, the Taylor students bring out some of the best ideas you’ll see from any college fanbase in the country.
As for the game, Taylor jumped out to a 37-9 lead on Lincoln Christian University and never looked back as they won 99-68. The win moves Taylor’s record to 20-0 all-time in Silent Night games.
Jake Heggeland was the game’s high scorer with 18 points for Taylor while Evan Crowe broke the Taylor silence for the second consecutive year.