No. 11 Xavier survived their opener in the Tire Pros Invitational on Thursday afternoon, as Edmond Sumner hit 1-of-2 free throws with 0.3 seconds left in overtime to escape with an 83-82.
It was not a good performance for the Musketeers, who have the talent on their roster to give Villanova a run for their money in the Big East. Xavier shot 2-for-22 from beyond the arc and just 25-for-38 from the free throw line.
But credit must be given to Missouri for this, as the Tiger youngsters were terrific. Freshman Frankie Hughes had 24 points, five boards, three assists and three steals while hitting a number of big threes in the second half. Sophomore Kevin Puryear added 22 points and 10 boards, but it was the play of another freshman, Terrence Phillips, that really stood out. For starters, he had 21 points, seven boards and five assists that helped Missouri control this game for much of the second half. But he also committed the foul with less than a second remaining that sent Sumner to the line for the eventual game-winning free throws.
Missouri was basically picked by everyone to finish at or near the bottom of an SEC that’s not very good. And while this was just one random mid-week afternoon game, it certainly looked like the Tigers will at least be competitive in the conference this season.
As far as Xavier is concerned, I’m going to chalk this one up to the Musketeers simply overlooking the opponent and coming out flat in an empty arena. They had some big three-pointers rattle out, they looked a step slow defensively and they missed far too many free throws, but I don’t think that this team is bad.
We will find out tomorrow. Xavier will square off with Clemson, who pasted a good Davidson team earlier on Thursday. If the Musketeers have another ugly showing, it will be time for us to start questioning them.
CBT Podcast: Breaking down college basketball’s first week
NEW YORK — This year’s iteration of the Champions Classic was weird, to say the least.
The No. 1 team in the country, Duke, lost in a thriller to a team that was already 0-1 on the season, and not only did the performance assert why that 0-1 team – No. 7 Kansas – is a national title contender – because #BIFM – but it also was proof positive that the Blue Devils are the best team in the country. That’s what happens when you take a team like Kansas to the wire, erasing a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes, without Harry Giles III, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden.
And then there is Kentucky.
The No. 2 Wildcats played their best game of the season, dominating No. 13 Michigan for 40 minutes, beating Tom Izzo’s team by 21 points and doing so while their front line failed to look anything close to dominant. The Wildcats all-but ensured that they will be the No. 1 team in college basketball come Monday morning, and yet, it seems like it’s something that we’re all glossing over.
And, frankly, there’s a reason for that: Michigan State just isn’t very good right now.
There are a lot of reasons for this, but by far the biggest issue is on the offensive end of the floor. The Spartans managed all of 48 points against Kentucky after they struggled to find any kind of offensive rhythm after the opening minutes against Arizona. They shot 32 percent from the floor. They were 5-for-26 from three. they had nine assists and 19 turnovers.
“I think this is one of John (Calipari’s) best defensive teams,” head coach Tom Izzo said. I’d quibble with that assessment – three times in his Kentucky tenure Coach Cal has fielded a team that finished first or second in KenPom.com’s defensive efficiency metric – but this is a very good Kentucky defense. De’Aaron Fox may be the nation’s best on-ball defender, Isaiah Briscoe has transformed himself into a stopper and there is enough size, length and athleticism on this roster that effort is the only thing that would keep this version of the Wildcats from being very good on that end of the floor.
Putting that kind of defensive back court on the floor against a team whose point guard play is very much a work in progress is going to cause problems, but more on that in a second.
To me, the biggest issue that this Michigan State team has is that they don’t really have a star on the offensive end of the floor. Miles Bridges was supposed to be the guy that carried the load, but he’s just not ready for that at this point in his development. He’s a role player in the same way that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a role player on Kentucky 2012 national title team. Bridges is an other-worldly athlete that plays hard, defends, rebounds and does all the things on a basketball court that you cannot teach. In the first ten minutes on Tuesday night, he blocked two layups seemingly out of nowhere and broke up another alley-oop, essentially erasing six points that Kentucky would’ve scored against any other team in the country.
But that’s what he does best right now.
At this level right now, he is a glue guy. But given the youth on Michigan State’s roster, the Spartans need him to be the guy, and he’s not that guy, at least not against this level of competition. He finished 2-for-11 from the floor with nine turnovers against Michigan State.
“I’m really embarrassed,” Bridges said, adding that he felt added pressure to try and make something happen when the offense started struggling. “But that’s what I can’t do. I have to get my teammates involved and do something else.”
“In high school, I was getting wherever I wanted, bullying guys,” Bridges added. “You can’t do that here.”
Izzo’s known as one of the best x’s-and-o’s coaches in college hoops, but without a commanding voice at the point guard spot, their offense devolved into too much one-on-one. Instead of running their lanes in transition and running through their sets, Michigan State was trying to break the defense down on their own. That’s not going to work against a team that can defend the way that Kentucky can defend. That’s not going to work if Michigan State is going to beat the teams that they expect to beat.
The good news?
Much of what ails Michigan State is fixable. They’ll get better as Cassius Winston gets more comfortable running the show. They’ll get better as Nick Ward learns how to be a guy that offense runs through in the post. They’ll get better as Josh Langford gets more comfortable being a go-to guy on the offensive end of the floor. They’ll get better as Izzo continues to work with them on how he wants his offensive to run and his team to play. Veteran teams can overcome subpar point guard play. Great point guards can help ‘coach up’ a young team early in the season.
The Spartans, right now, have neither, and the result wasn’t exactly unexpected.
“The good news is the mistakes we’re making are fixable mistakes. [Coach] is not telling us to jump higher or run faster, it’s cutting and the x’s-and-o’s,” Nick Goins said, adding that the loss of Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling, a pair of senior bigs, is taking a toll as well. “Having that leadeship and the people that know our coaches and how they want the program run, it’s where we’re struggling, to get people to fit into those roles.”
“When you have 18 or 20 turnovers, defensive mistakes, that you know you can’t make, that’s stuff you can control,” said Langford. “When you look at yourself in the mirror, it’s frustrating, but you have to live and learn.”
That’s what life is going to be like at this level. Michigan State will have to learn how to adjust.
As Izzo put it, “welcome to the real world.”
VIDEO: Maryland trolls Georgetown with highlight video
Melo Trimble went bananas late and the Hoyas decided dumb fouls and turnovers were the best way to try and slow the Maryland star down.
It was thrilling and difficult to watch at the same time.
And Maryland made sure to let the Hoyas know all about it. Some quick backstory here: Maryland and Georgetown have campuses that are roughly ten miles apart, but the two teams have not scheduled each other because of a beef that Lefty Driesell and John Thompson Jr. had three decades ago.
There’s a healthy dislike between those two universities, which is what made the Gavitt Games so great. It forced the two biggest programs in our nation’s capital to play a home-and-home series, and Maryland won both games.
They are, they can say, the Kings of the DC, and they basically did just that with this highlight video:
That song is called ‘Welcome To DC’. It’s by a band from DC. It’s a style of music called Go-Go which is unique to DC. The band’s name is Mambo Sauce, and mambo sauce – it’s actually mumbo sauce, but whatever – is a local condiment that is available at every takeout in the city.
That song represents DC – the real DC, the ‘Chocolate City’ DC, not the gentrified areas of Capital Hill and Mount Pleasant – as much as anything.
And Maryland used it as the montage in their highlight video of a win over Georgetown.
Naar’s double-double paces No. 17 Saint Mary’s to 2nd win
MORAGA, Calif. (AP) Randy Bennett couldn’t say enough good things about his team’s offense after No. 17 Saint Mary’s reached triple digits for the first time in nearly four years.
It was the defense that bothered the Gaels’ coach, a message that Bennett delivered strongly to his players after the game.
Emmett Naar had 16 points and 11 assists to pace seven scorers in double figures in the Gaels’ 110-72 victory over Prairie View A&M on Wednesday night.
“We were not engaged enough in what we were supposed to be doing,” Bennett said after the Gaels allowed the Panthers to shoot 44.6 percent from the field. “We need to get better defensively. We’re not good enough.”
The Gaels scored in triple digits for the first time since Dec. 12, 2012, when they beat Jackson State 120-67.
More than half the points came from Saint Mary’s bench, which outscored the Panthers’ 63-30.
“I don’t think anyone scored 20, which is pretty good,” Naar said. “Having a deep bench like that is amazing. For the other team it’s more guys to worry about, more guys to scout. It just adds a lot to our team.”
Naar, an All-West Coast Conference pick as a sophomore last season who was held to six points in the Gaels’ season-opener, shot 7 of 9 from the field. He scored eight points in the first 5 minutes of the second half, including two 3-pointers as part of a 15-4 run.
Jock Landale added 13 points and eight rebounds while Stefan Gonzalez had 14 points for Saint Mary’s (2-0).
L.J. Westbrook had 13 points for Prairie View A&M (1-2), which was coming off a win over defending Mountain West champ Fresno State.
“We kept fighting the best we could,” Panthers coach Byron Smith said. “There’s something to be said for playing a talented team like that. It gets you ready.”
Kyle Clark had 10 of his 12 points in the first half, including two 3s, and Jordan Ford scored eight points over the final 5 minutes as the Gaels built a 54-37 halftime lead. Ford did not play in Saint Mary’s season-opening win after getting banged around in the preseason.
Prairie View A&M: Smith’s team wasn’t able to build off its upset of Fresno State two days earlier and couldn’t recover after falling behind early. That could be expected following three games in six days. The schedule lightens up a bit now, so that should help.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels looked crisp on both ends of the court and beat the Panthers to almost every loose ball, typical for a Bennett-coached team. The ball movement was also strong – 26 assists – which should give them some momentum heading onto the road for the first time this season.
JUGGLING THE LINEUP
Bennett said he’s committed to his starting lineup but acknowledged the Gaels’ depth could lead him to jumble it at some point. “This team is going to keep evolving,” Bennett said. “That’s going to be the tricky thing because there are some guys coming off the bench that can really help us. I like our depth a lot. We just have to get all those guys comfortable and get them to understand their role.”
Beating a smaller Prairie View A&M team isn’t likely to move the Gaels up much but the way they did it – dominating in every meaningful category including rebounds, assists, second-chance points – should earn them a little more credit.
Prairie View A&M: The Panthers make their final stop on a season-opening four-game trip at Texas San Antonio on Saturday
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels leave the comforts of home for the first time this season when they travel to play Dayton on Saturday.
Moore sets Cal freshman record with 38 points in OT win
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Sure, Charlie Moore has heard of Shareef Abdur-Rahim. When told he had just broken the former NBA star’s California freshman record at this early stage of the season, he was thrilled.
“I was like, `Oh, wow, that’s a pretty big accomplishment,”‘ he said, smiling.
The Golden Bears needed somebody to carry the load with three starters and key playmakers sitting out injured and a cold first half.
Moore scored 38 points to top Abdur-Rahim’s mark of 33 points set in November 1995, Stephen Domingo hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:10 left in overtime, and short-handed No. 25 Cal held off UC Irvine 75-65 on Wednesday night.
Kameron Rooks’ tip-in with 23 seconds left in regulation tied the game and Jaron Martin failed to get off a shot for the Anteaters (1-2). Rooks scored a career-high 15 points to go with eight rebounds as Cal extended its home winning streak at Haas Pavilion to 21.
Martin scored a career-best 26 points with three key baskets over the final 6:11 of regulation.
“He’s been on this stage for a long time,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “He’s played in big games since he was a freshman in high school. He’s not fazed by this atmosphere.”
Cal (2-0) missed three starters because of injuries: preseason All-America Ivan Rabb (toe), Jabari Bird (back spasms) and Columbia transfer Grant Mullins (neck strain). Martin hopes to have all three back for the next game.
“We don’t want to have any excuses after the game, we have key guys out,” he said. “Probably one of the better wins of my coaching career, seeing guys compete and battle and not make excuses.”
Moore’s three-point play with 1:53 left in regulation pulled Cal to 62-60. Martin missed a 3 on the other end and a jumper in the paint with 44 seconds remaining and Cal had one more chance with 35.7 seconds left.
“It’s unbelievable,” Rooks said. “Charlie’s a great player. In practice you can see how hard he works, very scrappy.”
Moore shot 10 for 20 from the field with three 3-pointers and made 15 of 17 free throws. Domingo finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Cal overcame a drought of 10:33 without a basket spanning the halves before Moore’s 3-pointer at the 17:22 mark of the second half.
The Bears missed seven straight shots late in the first half, 9 of 10 and 14 of 16, going without a field goal for the final 7:55 of the half after Domingo’s 3-pointer.
Moore made his first three shots with two 3s to score eight of Cal’s initial 11 points. At halftime, the Bears
Cal’s Sam Singer shot 1 for 7 in the first half and missed five of his six 3-point tries as Cal shot 26.1 percent to trail 31-23 at halftime.
UC Irvine: Brandon Smith added a key block against the 7-foot-1 Rooks late. … The Anteaters didn’t commit their first turnover until 3:10 before halftime after Cal already had seven. … Both teams already had a common opponent with lopsided victories against South Dakota State. … The Anteaters haven’t beaten Cal since Dec. 2, 2000.
California: The Bears’ unbeaten run at home dates to March 1, 2015. … Cal leads the series 7-2 and has won the last four meetings. … The Bears held South Dakota State to 28.6 percent shooting in an 82-53 season-opening win Friday.
BACK TO THE BAY
Seventh-year Irvine coach Russell Turner, a former Golden State Warriors assistant from 2004-10 who worked under Don Nelson and also coached at Stanford with Mike Montgomery, brought his 9-year-old son, Darius, along on the trip. The fourth-grader sat through study table and took a campus tour at Cal, then was on the bench during warmups.
“He’s counting curse words. I owe him a quarter for each of them,” Turner said. “It might be expensive. I’m trying to break my NBA habits.”
UC Irvine: The Anteaters will host Damon Stoudamire-coached Pacific on Saturday.
California: Plays San Diego State on Monday at the Sacramento Kings’ new Golden 1 Center.