For those who grew up watching basketball during the 1980s, the name Andrew Toney should be a familiar one. Toney was a good player during his eight-year professional career, averaging nearly 16 points per game and winning an NBA title with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983. But something funny seemed to happen when Toney played against the Boston Celtics, with his exploits in those games earning him the nickname “The Boston Strangler.”
This is by no means an attempt to place Texas A&M forward Antwan Space on Toney’s level, as Toney’s achievements against the Celtics weren’t limited to two games. But if Tennessee fails to reach the NCAA tournament, Space could require a nickname similar to Toney’s.
Space’s three-pointer with 2.4 seconds remaining in overtime gave the Aggies a 68-65 win over the Volunteers in College Station, the second time this season he’s beaten Tennessee with a shot from beyond the arc. In the first meeting between the teams, Space hit a three-pointer with 4.4 seconds remaining to give the Aggies a 57-56 win in Knoxville on January 11. Whatever it is, there’s something about Tennessee that brings out Space’s inner “marksman.”
Following Saturday’s win Space is 9-for-34 from beyond the arc this season. Against Tennessee: 4-for-7, with the Florida State transfer making two of his five attempts on Saturday afternoon. Just as big of an issue for Tennessee was the play of their bench, with three players combining to shoot 0-for-8 from the field and get outscored by Texas A&M’s reserves 21-2.
Yet they still had a chance to escape College Station with a win, beginning with two chances at the end of regulation. The first was lost when Cuonzo Martin decided to end a possession that seemed to be going nowhere by calling a timeout with 2.4 seconds remaining. Unfortunately for the Volunteers that decision came just before Antonio Barton hit a three-pointer that would have given them the lead. On the ensuing inbounds pass Jarnell Stokes scored at the rim and was fouled, but he missed the free throw that would’ve given Tennessee the lead with four tenths of a second remaining.
That seems to be Tennessee’s luck this season, and with four games remaining before the SEC tournament in Atlanta they have to find a way to turn that luck around in their favor. The problem for the Vols is that three of those four games will do nothing for their profile, with the exception being the regular season finale at Missouri.
As a result Tennessee will likely enter the SEC tournament, even with that impressive win over Virginia on their resume, in need of wins if they’re to reach the NCAA tournament. For their sake, hopefully they don’t run into the Aggies (and Antwan Space) in Atlanta.
Vine credit: gifdsports
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.