No. 9 seed UConn had trouble with No. 8 seed Colorado in the first half of their South region matchup in Des Moines Thursday afternoon, trailing by as much as 11 as they failed to come up with an answer for senior forward Josh Scott. Scott scored 13 points in the first half, as he was able to operate in 1-on-1 situations within the Buffaloes’ offense. Add in a sluggish showing on the offensive end of the floor, and the Huskies had some major adjustments to make.
Kevin Ollie’s team managed to turn things around, keeping Scott scoreless over the first ten minutes of the second half as they took control of the contest. Despite struggling against the Colorado press late, UConn won 74-67 to advance to the second round where they’ll play No. 1 Kansas or No. 16 Austin Peay on Saturday.
UConn opened the second half on a 24-6 run and outscored Colorado 47-31 during the game’s final 20 minutes, and down the stretch their superior foul shooting made the difference. The top foul shooting team in the country, UConn made 22 of their 23 attempts on the day. By comparison Colorado shot 19-for-30 from the charity stripe, a big reason why the Buffaloes’ season has come to an end.
Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton, both of whom got going in the second half, finished with 19 and 17 points respectively. UConn shot just 39.7 percent from the field for the game, but most of those issues came in the first half when they spent too much time watching one player attempt to crack Colorado’s pack line defense with dribble penetration.
There was better ball movement in the second half for UConn, and that resulted in better shots. Also key was their decision to send more double teams at Scott in the low post, essentially daring the Colorado guards to make the plays needed to put points on the board and they were unable to do so. UConn will have a much tougher task Saturday (if Kansas does what’s expected today) from a defensive standpoint, but this is a program that’s made a habit of going on runs in March.
UConn beats Cincinnati in four overtimes in critical bubble battle
The stakes in the American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinal between No. 4 seed Cincinnati and No. 5 seed Connecticut were high to say the least. How close (or far) the two teams were to an NCAA tournament bid depends upon who was providing the opinion, but regardless of the conversation the best thing a team can do is live to fight another day.
The Bearcats and Huskies fought for a total of 60 minutes before determining a winner, with UConn winning by the final score of 104-97. And the win came five game minutes after one of the wildest sequences you’ll see in basketball, with Cincinnati’s Kevin Johnson hitting a three with eight tenths of a second remaining, only to have UConn’s Jalen Adams hit a 70-footer (a shot that some, most notably Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, did not think should have counted) as time expired to force a fourth overtime.
Whether the shot was luck or skill, all that matters is the fact that it went in. And UConn took advantage of that extra life, with Adams and Daniel Hamilton leading the team to a much-needed win and a date with top seed Temple in Saturday’s semifinals.
Hamilton finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, and Adams scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime. And for the Bearcats guard Troy Caupain was sensational, as he countered with an AAC tournament record 37 points while also grabbing ten rebounds and dishing out five assists. Each team had five players in double figures, but in the end UConn was able to use the momentum gained from Adams’ miraculous shot in the fourth overtime.
UConn had just three RPI Top 50 wins entering the game, so this was a critical win in that regard. The RPI isn’t the only metric the selection committee uses, but it certainly is a factor in the process. Just as importantly, with the win UConn gets to continue to make their case for inclusion into the field and can still eliminate all doubt by winning the conference’s automatic bid.
Will fatigue be an issue? That’s certainly possible, and Kevin Ollie’s team will need to make the most of their recovery time before Saturday’s semifinal matchup with Temple. Just as big of a concern for UConn is figuring out how to get over the hump against a team that beat them twice during the regular season. That’s the same situation the Huskies were confronted with going into their matchup with Cincinnati, and thanks to the heroics of Adams and Hamilton they found a way to win.
American Athletic Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards
There may not be another conference in America with as much on the line from a bubble standpoint this week as the American Athletic Conference. With SMU on the sidelines as a result of NCAA penalties, the other ten members convene in Orlando with the top dogs all looking to sew up a bid to the NCAA tournament. Winning the automatic bid is the best way to do that, but with four teams harboring realistic hopes of earning an at-large bid some will likely have to sweat out Selection Sunday.
Temple managed to win the regular season title outright, but there’s still some work for Fran Dunphy’s team to do. The two-seed is Houston, whose non-conference slate likely puts them in a position where they need to win out in Orlando, and seeds three through five (Tulsa, Cincinnati and Connecticut) all find themselves on the bubble. That should make for an intense four days in Orlando, and only the winner will be able to breathe easy in the wait for the announcement of the NCAA tournament field.
The Owls managed to win their first outright regular season conference title since 2012, when they were still in the Atlantic 10. This year’s group has done it with defense, as in conference games they ranked third in field goal percentage defense and first in three-point percentage defense. Offensively senior guard Quenton DeCosey’s led the way, with forward Obi Enechionyia being a tough matchup due to his ability to step outside at 6-foot-9 and emerging as one of the American’s most improved players. Add in contributors such as forward Jaylen Bond and point guard Josh Brown, and Temple has enough to win the tournament. Close games shouldn’t cause much concern either, as in conference games decided by five points or less they’re 7-2.
And if they lose?: Houston
The Cougars arrive in Orlando as one of the hottest teams in the American, as they’ve won nine of their last 11 games (6-1 in their last seven). Forwards Damyean Dotson and Devonta Pollard combined to average 28.3 points per game in American play, and on the perimeter Rob Gray Jr. is the team’s leading scorer (16.3 ppg overall) and the point guard tandem of Purdue transfer Ronnie Johnson and freshman Galen Robinson Jr. has been a positive as well. Kelvin Sampson’s rebuilding job has gone well to this point, and it wouldn’t be a shock if they landed the automatic bid.
Tulsa: Tulsa’s backcourt is very good, with James Woodard, Shaq Harrison and Pat Birt Jr. being the leaders. A key for Tulsa will be finishing defensive possessions with a rebound, as they ranked ninth in the American in defensive rebounding percentage (67.7) in conference games.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats are tough, and only UConn was better in league play when it comes to field goal percentage defense. With Troy Caupain running the point and Gary Clark in the front court, Mick Cronin has the pieces needed to make a run.
Connecticut: Kevin Ollie’s team led the American in field goal percentage defense, limiting teams to 38.4 percent shooting in conference games. But the offense has sputtered at times. If Daniel Hamilton looks to take over consistently, making plays for himself and others, this can be a dangerous team in Orlando.
Josh Pastner’s Tigers have the league’s top scoring duo in forwards Dedric Lawson and Shaq Goodwin, and there’s talent on the perimeter as well. But can they put it all together over the course of three days? That remains to be seen.
The Bubble Dwellers:
Temple: Opening with either East Carolina or USF won’t do much to bolster Temple’s argument for inclusion. But a loss to either would be damaging. Take care of business there and the Owls should be OK.
Houston: The Cougars likely need to win the automatic bid, thanks to the weakness of their non-conference schedule. They have wins over SMU and Temple on their résumé, but that may not be enough.
Tulsa: They face Memphis in the quarterfinals, and that’s a win Frank Haith’s team will need to get. They did pick up wins over SMU (in Dallas), Cincinnati and Temple last month, and there’s also the early season win over fellow bubble team Wichita State.
Cincinnati: Beat UConn in the quarterfinals Friday, which would be their third win over the Huskies this season. The Bearcats have wins over bubble teams George Washington and VCU to their credit, but there would be a lot less stress if they’d been able to close out Iowa State (81-79 loss) back on December 22.
Connecticut: Beat Cincinnati in the quarterfinals and that should sew things up for the Huskies. At the very least a win should get them another shot at a Temple team that swept the regular season series.
American Player of the Year: Nic Moore, SMU
Moore won the award last season and he’d be a good choice for the 2016 edition of the award as well. The senior point guard led the way for a team that was ranked for most of the season despite being ineligible for postseason play, averaging 15.9 points and 4.9 assists per game. A good case can be made for Temple’s Quenton DeCosey as well.
American Coach of the Year: Fran Dunphy, Temple
Sure, this can be seen as giving the award to the man whose team was picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches poll. But Dunphy deserves this honor just as much for the way the Owls played once out of non-conference play. Temple began play in the American with an overall record of 5-5, only to take a considerable leap forward in conference play. Led by Dunphy and seniors DeCosey and Jaylen Bond, Temple won the American outright with a conference record of 14-4.
Nic Moore, SMU (POY)
Quenton DeCosey, Temple: If Moore isn’t the choice for league POY then it’s probably DeCosey, who was the leading option on the American’s best team.
Troy Caupain, Cincinnati: Caupain averaged 13.6 points and 5.1 assists per game in conference play. He was also fourth in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2).
James Woodard, Tulsa: Woodard led the Golden Hurricane with an average of 15.6 points per game, ranking sixth in the conference in scoring.
Dedric Lawson, Memphis: The conference’s best freshman, Lawson paired up with Shaq Goodwin to form the highest scoring tandem in the American. And to think, he was originally supposed to be in the 2016 freshman class.
Second Team All-AAC:
Devonta Pollard, Houston
Shaq Harrison, Tulsa
Daniel Hamilton, Connecticut
Gary Clark, Cincinnati
Shaq Goodwin, Memphis
Defining moment of the season: Temple hands SMU its first loss of the season
CBT Prediction: Houston continues its recent run of solid play, winning three straight to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament.
LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 16 Iowa rolls, BYU wins at No. 25 Gonzaga
Rider, pegged by some as a contender in the MAAC before the season began, picked up its first conference win of the season and they needed 15 extra minutes to do so. Teddy Okereafor led the way with 38 points and eight assists, with Zedric Saddler adding 21 points off the bench. Khalid Hart paced Marist with 36 points, and teammates Brian Parker added 28 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Hart missed a free throw in the final seconds of the second overtime that would have tied the game at 101, with Okereafor splitting a pair on the other end to provide the final margin.
No. 16 Iowa 76, No. 4 Michigan State 59: Peter Jok scored 23 points and Jarrod Uthoff added 15 as the Hawkeyes rolled in East Lansing. Fran McCaffery’s team went from up one to leading by 22 at the half, outscoring Michigan State 35-14 over the final 16:07. After beating a Denzel Valentine-less Michigan State in the Big Ten opener for both, Iowa made a definitive statement that they’re a conference title contender.
No. 21 Louisville 59, No. 20 Pittsburgh 41: It wasn’t pretty offensively for either team, but the Cardinals were the better defensive team as they held the Panthers to a season low for points in a game. Pitt shot 28.6 percent from the field and committed 19 turnovers in a game that was a throwback to some old Big East battles. Chinanu Onuaku paced the Cardinals with 18 points, ten rebounds and three blocks.
BYU 69, No. 25 Gonzaga 68: Nate Austin’s block of a Kyle Wiltjer shot with just over a second remaining preserved the comeback victory for BYU, which has now won its last two games at Gonzaga. Wiltjer lead all scorers with 35 to go along with ten rebounds but Domantas Sabonis struggled with foul trouble and scored just five points, and given Gonzaga’s current makeup they can’t afford for the sophomore big man to have an off night. Kyle Collinsworth scored 20 points and Chase Fischer 18 for the Cougars, who are now 4-1 in WCC play.
SIU-Edwardsville’s Burak Eslik: If not for Eslik SIUE would have had no shot of taking Morehead State to overtime. Eslik scored 40 points on 12-for-22 shooting from the field (7-for-11 3PT, 9-for-13 FT) and grabbed six rebounds in a 70-67 overtime loss.
Iowa’s Peter Jok: Jok scored 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field in the Hawkeyes’ win at Michigan State.
Rider’s Teddy Okereafor at the foul line: Okerafor scored 38 points and dished out eight assists in a double overtime win over Marist. He shot 25-for-30 from the foul line.
Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku: 18 points, ten rebounds and three blocks as he outplayed Pittsburgh’s frontline in the 59-41 Louisville victory.
UConn’s Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis: As Hamilton goes so go the Huskies, and Thursday night he struggled in a loss at Tulsa. Five points on 2-for-12 shooting from the field (1-for-7 3PT) for the sophomore, with Purvis even worse from the field (1-for-9) in scoring his five points.
Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis: Thanks to foul trouble he struggled, scoring five points on 2-for-6 shooting and grabbing six rebounds in a loss to BYU.
Pittsburgh’s James Robinson: The entire team struggled to be fair. But Robinson shot 0-for-6 from the field and committed three turnovers in the Panthers’ loss at Louisville.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
No. 13 Arizona took control of its game against Washington in the second half, outscoring the Huskies by 29 points in what would eventually become a 99-67 victory. Ryan Anderson went for 21 points and nine rebounds and Kaleb Tarczewski added 16 points, 13 boards and one emphatic dunk.
OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS
FIU scored 52 first-half points in their 88-74 upset of Louisiana Tech in Miami. FIU shot 56.9 percent from the field, with Donte McGill scoring 29 points to lead the way.
LIU-Brooklyn picked up a one-point win at Wagner, beating the Seahawks 71-70. Aakim Saintil scored 27 points for the Blackbirds, who held on after Wagner missed the put-back of a Corey Henson missed free throw in the final seconds.
In a showdown of two Conference USA contenders, UAB won 72-71 at Old Dominion in overtime. William Lee scored 28 for the Blazers, who have now won 11 straight and ended ODU’s 32-game home winning streak.
Tulsa pulled away down the stretch in their 60-51 win over UConn. James Woodard scored 20 points and Shaquille Harrison 13 for the Golden Hurricane.
Winthrop handed High Point its first Big South loss of the season in impressive fashion, winning 86-66 at home. John Brown went for 25 and ten for the Panthers, but Winthrop managed to keep his teammates in check defensively.
Chattanooga moved to 15-3 on the season with a home win over Western Carolina. Justin Tuoyo led five Mocs in double figures with 20 points in the 77-58 victory.
Radford beat UNC Asheville 91-86 in overtime, with Cameron Jones and Rashun Davis combining to score 31 points for the Highlanders.
William & Mary held College of Charleston to 18 first-half points, hanging on to that halftime margin to win 63-61 in Charleston.
Valparaiso remained undefeated in Horizon League play with a 68-56 win over Milwaukee. Vashil Fernandez scored 14 points for the Crusaders, who dominated the boards and outscored the Panthers 20-0 in second chance points.
Arizona State picked up its first conference win of the season, beating Washington State 84-73. Three Sun Devils scored at least 15 points, with Tra Holder’s 20 leading the way.
In a matchup of two of the Summit League’s better teams, South Dakota State beat IPFW 92-76. George Marshall scored 28 for the Jackrabbits, who are now 14-4 on the season.
Little Rock (15-1) and UT-Arlington (13-2) both took care of business, as the Trojans blew out Appalachian State at home and UTA won by 27 at Troy.
The same can be said of Big Sky heavyweights Montana and Weber State, as both won on the road Thursday night. Montana won by seven at Northern Colorado, while the Wildcats were led to a 15-point win at Portland State by Joel Bolomboy (22 points, 13 rebounds) and Jeremy Senglin (21 points).
Oregon went to Salt Lake City and beat Utah 77-59, dropping the Runnin’ Utes to 1-3 in the Pac-12. Dillon Brooks scored 21 points and Casey Benson added 15 for the Ducks, who shot 54.9 percent from the field.
Hawai’i moved to 3-0 in Big West play with an 80-71 win at UC Riverside. Quincy Smith scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds for the Rainbow Warriors.
UC Irvine erased an eight-point halftime deficit to win 58-54 at Long Beach State. Jaron Martin scored 11 second-half points to help spark the rally alongside fellow guards Luke Nelson and Alex Young.
Rosco Allen tallied 22 points and ten rebounds as Stanford beat California, 77-71. The difference was the foul line, as Cal shot 9-for-17 compared to Stanford’s 30-for-38.
With Gonzaga’s loss Saint Mary’s is in sole possession of first in the WCC, as they moved to 6-1 with a 78-62 win over Pacific. Jock Landale led the Gaels with 24 points and five rebounds, with Emmett Naar adding 21, five boards and six assists.
Hamilton leads UConn over Central Connecticut 99-52
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Daniel Hamilton posted the 11th triple double in UConn history as the Huskies rolled to a 99-52 victory over Central Connecticut State Wednesday afternoon at the XL Center.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to become the 10th player in school history to accomplish the feat. Former UConn guard Shabazz Napier, who now plays for the Orlando Magic, is the lone Husky to do it twice.
Shonn Miller added a team-high 25 points to lead the Huskies (8-3), who head into the holiday break on a three-game win streak.
UConn was playing its second straight game without injured 7-foot center Amida Brimah.
Rodney Purvis added 16 points, Sterling Gibbs 12 and Kentan Facey 10. UConn shot over 60 percent from the field for the third straight time, finishing at 60.3 (38-for-63).
UConn played with a short bench minus Brimah (broken finger) and reserve guard Sam Cassell Jr. (sprained ankle). Brimah sat out Sunday’s win over UMass-Lowell with a testicular contusion, but returned to practice Monday where he broke his right middle finger. He was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday afternoon.
The Blue Devils (1-9) took advantage of Brimah, who ranks ninth in the nation with 3.0 blocks per game, being out in the first half. CCSU used a 15-6 run to pull within five, 30-25, with 4:46 to go in the first half.
UConn answered with a 16-1 run to close the half. Miller scored 14 points and the Huskies shot 58 percent from the field to grab a 46-26 lead. They also scored 15 points off 10 CCSU turnovers.
Miller stayed hot to open the second half and helped UConn pull away with an 18-8 opening run to lead 64-34 with 13:52 to play.
The fifth-year senior Miller sat the final 13:10 as UConn went to the bench.
Hamilton reached 10 assists and 10 rebounds early in the second half, but had only two points. He quickly caught up in the latter category before heading to the bench for the final 6:15.
The Blue Devils were led by 16 points from Austin Nehls.
The 47-point loss was the worst of the season for the Blue Devils, who are coached by former UConn assists Howie Dickenman.
Central Connecticut: The Blue Devils snapped an eight-game losing skid to open the season with a win over UMass-Lowell. … . The Blue Devils were just 4-for-17 from 3-point range.
UConn: The Huskies outscored CCSU 56-22 in the paint.
The 6-foot-6 small forward does a little bit of everything for the Hawks. His numbers last season: 17.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.6 apg and 1.9 spg. There’s a reason that the junior’s been climbing up NBA Draft boards despite the fact that he plays for a St. Joseph’s team that is fairly far removed from the Atlantic 10 title race. Oh, and he may have the best hair in college hoops.
As a sophomore at Georgia Tech, Carter averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 boards. But that was nearly two years — and 25 pounds — ago, and that was also on a bad Georgia Tech team. Carter is now on a very good Maryland team, and he’s going to play a critical role for a group that has a shot at winning a national title. You wouldn’t know that based on the preseason hype, however. Melo Trimble, Jake Layman and Diamond Stone are the three guys with NBA Draft hype entering the season, and the circumstances surrounding Rasheed Sulaimon’s transfer to the Terps make him the more interesting discussion point. But if you talk to people around the Maryland program, Carter may end up being the Terps’ best player.
Kyle Collinsworth, BYU
Collinsworth set a single-season record and tied the NCAA’s career record for triple-doubles last season for the Cougars, finishing with six. He played 33 games, meaning that once every 5.5 games, Collinsworth posted a triple-double. If Collinsworth suited up, there was an 18.2 percent chance that he’d post a triple-double. Think about that for a second. For comparison’s sake, in Kentucky’s illustrious basketball history, they’ve had one triple-double.
Collinsworth had six last season.
Jack Gibbs, Davidson
Bob McKillop had his best post-Steph team at Davidson this past season, and the engine of that group was the 6-foot Gibbs. Just a sophomore last season, Gibbs averaged 16.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.7 boards with shooting splits of 47.9/42.5/85.6. He’s not Steph Curry — no one is, or ever will be — but he led the Wildcats from being predicted to finish at the bottom of the league to an A-10 title.
When you think of recent UConn teams, you think of dynamic, personality-laden lead guards. Kemba Walker won a national title and turned the reins over to Shabazz Napier, who, three years later, won a title of his own. Last year, this was Ryan Boatright’s team and this season, Kevin Ollie’s back court includes senior Sterling Gibbs and freshman Jalen Adams. But this season, the best Husky might end up being Hamilton, a 6-foot-7 wins that averaging 10.9 points, 7.6 boards and 3.7 assists as a freshman. Here’s the thing about Hamilton: He entered UConn with the reputation for being a gunner, a player that bordered on selfish who looked for his shot first, second and third. He finished his freshman season leading the team in rebounding — he led the AAC in rebounding during league play, averaging 9.1 boards — and second in assists. He could very well end up being the AAC Player of the Year this season.
Danuel House, Texas A&M
House was one of the biggest surprises in college basketball last season mainly because he was declared immediately eligible for the Aggies three games into the season. Seriously. Billy Kennedy’s club struggled through their first two games at a tournament in Puerto Rico the week before Thanksgiving and won the third game of the event when House played and scored 18 points in 29 minutes. On the season, he averaged 14.8 points, as the former five-star recruit helped lead the Aggies to within a win or two of the NCAA tournament. His return, along with the addition of a talented recruiting class, is a major reason pundits believe A&M can finish second in the SEC.
Hassan Martin, Rhode Island
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better defensive player in college basketball than Martin, a 6-foot-7, 230 pound forward that finished his sophomore season averaging 3.1 blocks. Danny Hurley has stockpiled quite a bit of talent on URI’s roster, with guys like E.C. Matthews, Jared Terrell and Kuran Iverson in the fray, but Martin’s ability to anchor the defense is just as important as any of those three players.
Sheldon McClellan, Miami
McClellan’s career has been played in relative anonymity. He played two years at Texas, transferring after the disappointing 2012-13 season in which the Longhorns lost in the first round of the CBI to Houston. He left for Miami with little fanfare, a part of the exodus that most believed to be addition by subtraction. After sitting out a season in Coral Gables, McClellan put together a terrific year that was hardly noticed. Miami won 25 games, but went to the NIT. Their two bigs wins, at Florida and at Duke, came when the maddeningly inconsistent Angel Rodriguez went bananas. Quietly, McClellan averaged 14.5 points with shooting splits of 48.4/35.8/82.4.
The son of … well, you know, “The Mitten” is arguably the best perimeter defender in college basketball this season. That shouldn’t be at all surprising. He’s also a 6-foot-3 senior that averaged 13.4 points, 7.5 boards and 3.2 assists to go along with those 3.1 steals. Junior’s jumper left much to be desired a season ago, as he shot at just 29.3 percent clip from beyond the arc, but he’s still the biggest reason why an Oregon State tournament appearance isn’t completely out of the question this year.
Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Coming out of high school, Uthoff was a top 150 recruit that eventually wound up at Wisconsin, redshirting his freshman season with the Badgers. He left the program in somewhat controversial fashion, as Bo Ryan restricted him from transferring to more than 25 schools. He’d end up sitting out another season as a result, meaning that when he finally did suit up for the Hawkeyes in 2013-14, it had been more than two years since he played a meaningful game. This past season, Uthoff played well as Iowa’s second option, averaging 12.4 points and 6.4 boards, but with Aaron White gone, he’s going to be asked to carry much more of the load this year. He’s good enough to do that, meaning he’s a sleeper to be a first-team all-Big Ten player this year.
Taurean Waller-Prince, Baylor
Waller-Prince came off the bench for the Bears last season and ended up as the program’s leading scorer, averaging 13.9 points and 5.6 boards in just 26 minutes while shooting 39.5 percent from three. Prince’s versatility is what makes him so valuable. He’s strong to play the four if needed, but he can also defend on the perimeter, giving Baylor one of the nation’s most physically imposing front lines.
James Webb III, Boise State
I’ve written plenty about Webb this preseason, and it’s because I think he’s going to have a terrific season for the Broncos. The 6-foot-8 redshirt junior was very impressive at the Nike Skills Academy this summer. He’s long and athletic with range out to the three-point line — he should 40.9 percent out there last season — and will play a critical role for the Broncos this season as they try to find a way to overcome the graduation of Derrick Marks.