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No. 5 Louisville outlasts No. 14 Ohio State in an ugly game

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Wayne Blackshear scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half and Terry Rozier had three huge buckets down the stretch as No. 5 Louisville held off a surging No. 14 Ohio State to win 64-55 at the Yum! Center on Tuesday night.

It was not a complimentary performance from either team.

Ohio State couldn’t do anything right in the first half. Star freshman D’angelo Russell was forcing bad shots and throwing passes away as the Louisville-native struggled in his first trip back to his hometown, and as a team, the Buckeyes finished the first half just 6-for-25 from the floor.

The Cardinals built a 35-18 lead at the break, but they opened the second half shooting like the Buckeyes did in the first half, and if it didn’t take Ohio State until the 10 minute mark to finally wake up, they may have actually finished off their comeback.

There are a couple of things to take away from this game, and they don’t all involve some combination of “these two teams stink offensively” and “these two teams are great defensively”:

  • Louisville needs that Wayne Blackshear to show up this season. That was the best game that he’s played since … his freshman season? He had 22 points on 6-for-13 shooting, hit four threes and chased down Kam Williams once in the first half, forcing him to miss a layup before drilling a thrill not five seconds later. That was a five-point swing that changed momentum early in the game. Obviously, he’s not going to average 22 a night, but if he can become that third option offensively, that’s huge. Because …
  • … Chris Jones is not that guy. He was 3-for-15 on Tuesday, with three assists and four turnovers. He’s now shooting 28.6 percent from the floor and 10-for-33 from three with a 1.4/1 assist-to-turnover ration. But he does get after it defensively, I will give him that.
  • Louisville’s Anas Mahmoud is going to be really good one day, and Quentin Snider might be as well, but the Cards are going to need those two freshmen to develop fast. Their bench is non-existent right now.
  • Louisville needs a closer? Looks like Rozier is the guy. He hit two threes and had a driving bucket in the final minutes to hold off the Buckeyes.
  • Ohio State’s Shannon Scott cannot go 1-for-7 from the floor with five turnovers and no assists. He simply cannot do that as a senior.
  • Russell is still trying to do too much right now, but when he slows down and makes the right play, he can be a nightmare to try and slow down. The key for him? Don’t force shots. Don’t try to squeeze in passes to a tight area. Make the smart play, don’t try to make Sportscenter.

Weekly Awards: LaDontae Henton, West Virginia with notable performances

LaDontae Henton (AP Photo)
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LaDontae Henton (AP Photo)

Player of the Week: LaDontae Henton, Providence

I wrote a feature on Henton, the new star of the Providence Friars, on Sunday evening after I watched him go for 38 points — including seven points and two go-ahead baskets in the final two minutes — in a win over Notre Dame in the finals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. That came a day after Henton went for 24 points as the Friars blew out Florida State in the semifinals of that matchup.

It’s early, I know, but Henton is the best player in the Big East right now, the guy that will be taking over Bryce Cotton’s role as Ed Cooley’s go-to guy. He’s a bit undersized to be a power forward, and he’s not quite quick enough to be a full-time off-guard. But that doesn’t change the fact that Buckets can get buckets.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team

  • Angel Rodriguez, Miami: Angel Rodriguez scored 20 points in the final 6:47 — including this game-winner — to beat Florida in Gainesville. Rodriguez averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 assists and 3.0 steals while shooting 10-for-22 from three. He’s happy to be home.
  • Jonathan Holmes, Texas: Holmes was terrific for Texas at Madison Square Garden this week as the Longhorns picked up two wins in the 2K Sports Classic.
  • A.J. English, Iona: Iona went just 2-1 this week, but they won at Wake Forest and at North Texas while English averaged 28.7 points. He hit 13 threes this week.
  • Shannon Scott, Ohio State: The Buckeyes beat Marquette and Sacred Heart this week. Scott finished with 30 assists and five turnovers.
  • Brad Waldow, Saint Mary’s: The Gaels won three games against quality mid-major competition, and Waldow led the way, averaging 23.3 points and 8.7 boards.
  • Notables: E.C. Matthews (Rhode Island), Quinn Cook (Duke), James Blackmon (Indiana)
Juwan Staten (AP Photo)

Team of the Week: West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers finally looked like a team that is coached by Bob Huggins this week. They’re now 5-0 on the season after winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, and it’s not just Juwan Staten stealing the show. The biggest difference with this team has been the play of Devin Williams and Jonathan Holton up front. WVU is defending, they are rebounding, they are getting physical in the paint. The highlight thus far? a 78-68 win over UConn where WVU looked like old school Huggy Bear, wearing down the Husky guards with some full court pressure.

They Were Good, too:

  • Miami Hurricanes: Angel Rodriguez and Sheldan McClellan led Miami to a 4-0 week, which included a title in the Charleston Classic and a win at Florida.
  • Creighton Bluejays: Who thought Creighton would be able to bounce back after losing Doug McDermott and the rest of that senior class? Well, they beat Oklahoma at home on Wednesday after erasing an 18 point deficit.
  • Northeastern Huskies: Northeastern won the mid-major version of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off on Sunday. That came after the Huskies knocked off Florida State.
  • Wyoming Cowboys: Larry Nance Jr. appears to be healthy these days, sparking Wyoming’s 56-33 win over Colorado on Saturday.
  • San Diego State Aztecs: SDSU scored a grand total of 104 points in two wins this week, but that’s perfectly fin if you allow an average of 38 points per game.

Top 25 Countdown: Others Receiving Votes

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2014-2015 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

Today, we’re kicking off our Top 25 Countdown with the ten teams that just missed getting ranked, listed alphabetically.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | NBCSports Preseason Top 25 | Preview Schedule

Colorado Buffaloes

  • Last Season: 23-12, 10-8 Pac-12 (t-3rd), lost in the Round of 64
  • Key Losses: Spencer Dinwiddie
  • Key Returnees: Josh Scott (14.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Askia Booker (13.7 ppg, 3.3 apg), Xavier Johnson (12.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Wesley Gordon (5.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Dominique Collier, Tory Miller
  • Outlook: Colorado had won their first three Pac-12 games and were sitting at 14-2, ranked 15th in the country, when Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL last season. They finished the year losing 10 of their final 19 games, losing in the opening round of the NCAA tournament before watching Dinwiddie head off to the NBA. The trio of Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson and Wesley Gordon will give Tad Boyle one of the best front courts out west, but finding a way to fill Dinwiddie’s void will be key. Askia Booker is back and Boyle brings in top 100 recruit Dominique Collier to handle ball handling duties, but the key in the back court may end up being the development of Xavier Talton (who grew three inches this summer), who played well down the stretch last season, and whether Jaron Hopkins or Tre-Shaun Fletcher make the leap as sophomore.

Dayton Flyers

  • Last Season: 26-11, 10-6 Atlantic 10 (t-5th), lost in the Elite 8
  • Key Losses: Devin Oliver, Vee Sanford, Khari Price
  • Key Returnees: Dyshawn Pierre (11.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 40.9% 3PT), Jordan Sibert (12.2 ppg, 42.6% 3PT)
  • Key Newcomers: Ryan Bass (transfer), Darrell Davis, Detwon Rogers
  • Outlook: Dayton was as good as any team in the country in February and March of last season, going 9-1 to close out the Atlantic 10 season before making a run to the Elite 8. Losing Devin Oliver will hurt, putting pressure on Jordan Sibert and Dyshawn Pierre to take on a bigger role offensively. The combination of Oakland transfer Ryan Bass and sophomore Scoochie Smith will be counted on to take over ballhandling duties. Dayton should compete for top four in the A-10.
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Georgia State Panthers

  • Last Season: 25-9, 17-1 Sun Belt (1st), lost in the first round of the NIT
  • Key Losses: Manny Atkins, Devonta White
  • Key Returnees: R.J. Hunter (18.3 ppg, 39.5% 3PT), Ryan Harrow (17.8 ppg, 4.2 apg), Curtis Washington (7.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.4 bpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Kevin Ware (transfer), Jalen Brown, Jordan Session, Jeff Thomas, Carter Cagle
  • Outlook: Ron Hunter will have himself one of the most talented back courts in the country. Former Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow finally found himself last season and Hunter will hope that he can work the same magic with former Louisville guard Kevin Ware. And here’s the scary part: sharpshooter R.J. Hunter is the best player of the three. The Panthers should roll through the Sun Belt again, and should be a trendy cinderella pick if they reach the NCAA tournament. They lost in the Sun Belt title game last season.

Kansas State Wildcats

  • Last Season: 20-13, 10-8 Big 12 (5th), lost in the Round of 64
  • Key Losses: Will Spradling, Shane Southwell
  • Key Returnees: Marcus Foster, Wesley Iwundu, Thomas Gipson
  • Key Newcomers: Justin Edwards (transfer), Brandon Bolden (transfer), Stephen Hurt, Malek Harris, Tre Harris
  • Outlook: Kansas State has a chance to be really good this season. Sophomore Marcus Foster has a shot to end up as the best shooting guard in the country this season, while Wesley Iwundu will be a trendy breakout candidate this year. Justin Edwards was a very productive player in his two seasons at Maine and will compete with Malek Harris for minutes on the wing. Stephen Hurt and Brandon Bolden will help add height inside to the muscle-bound duo of Thomas Gipson and D.J. Johnson. The biggest question mark is at the point. Can Jevon Thomas or Nigel Johnson embrace the role?

Memphis Tigers

  • Last Season: 24-10, 12-6 American (t-3rd), lost in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon, Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford
  • Key Returnees: Austin Nichols (9.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Shaq Goodwin (11.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Nick King (4.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Kedren Johnson (transfer), Calvin Godfrey (transfer), Dominic Magee, Trahson Burrell, Chris Hawkins, Avery Woodson
  • Outlook: Last season, Josh Pastner’s team was built around a talented, veteran perimeter attack. This season, all four of those guards are gone, meaning the strength of the Tigers will be their young, talented front line of Austin Nichols, Shaq Goodwin and Nick King. The perimeter is a massive question mark, however. Vanderbilt transfer Kedren Johnson, who sat out the 2013-2014 season, is the only guard on the roster that has played Division I basketball, and it’s still unclear whether he is going to be cleared to play this season. Pookie Powell, Dominic Magee and Markel Crawford, who is coming off of an injury, are expected to see big minutes at the guard spot.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Last Season: 19-13, 11-7 Big Ten (3rd), lost in the Round of 64
  • Key Losses: Deverell Biggs, Ray Gallegos
  • Key Returnees: Terran Pettway (18.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Shavon Shields (12.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Walter Pitchford (9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 41.0% 3PT), Tai Webster (3.9 ppg, 2.0 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Jacob Hammond, Tarin Smith, Moses Abraham (transfer)
  • Outlook: The Huskers were one of the most surprising teams in the country last season, coming out of nowhere to finish fourth in the Big Ten. They return three of their top four scorers — leading scorer Terran Petteway, wing Shavon Shields and stretch four Walter Pitchford — and also get back Tai Webster, a talented guard who played for New Zealand in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. They won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year, but good luck trying to get a win at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Last Season: 25-10, 10-8 Big Ten (5th), lost in the Round of 64
  • Key Losses: Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith Jr.
  • Key Returnees: Sam Thompson (7.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Shannon Scott (7.5 ppg, 3.4 apg, 2.0 spg), Amir Williams (7.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Anthony Lee (transfer), D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, David Bell, Kam Williams (redshirt)
  • Outlook: Ohio State is going to be very young as they kick off the post-Aaron Craft era, but there is talent on their roster. Shannon Scott will not replace the intangibles that Craft brought to the floor, but he should be able to replace his ability to be a lock down defender at the point. The addition of Anthony Lee up front will bolster a front line that will include Amir Williams and Marc Loving, who should be in line for a big jump in production, while Sam Thompson will once again provide aerial acrobatics and stalwart perimeter defense. The x-factor is going to be D’Angelo Russell. He’s got a reputation for being a big-time scorer on a team that will be lacking offensive firepower, but it’s not easy being a freshman scorer in a league as good as the Big Ten.

Pittsburgh Panthers

  • Last Season: 26-10, 11-7 ACC (5th), lost in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna
  • Key Returnees: Cameron Wright (10.5 ppg, 2.6 apg), James Robinson (7.6 ppg, 4.1 apg), Durand Johnson (8.8 ppg), Josh Newkirk (4.6 ppg, 1.7 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Sheldon Jeter, Cameron Johnson, Tyrone Haughton, Ryan Luther
  • Outlook: The Panthers will lose their two best players from last season in Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, but if there is anything that we’ve learned about Jamie Dixon’s team, it’s that they are always ready to call the next man up. With Cameron Wright out for ten weeks with a broken foot Durand Johnson (who’s returning from a torn ACL) will have to carry the offensive load, while James Robinson and rising sophomore Josh Newkirk will give Dixon a solid back court attack. The question mark is going to be in the front court. Michael Young had some promising moments as a freshman and Vanderbilt transfer Sheldon Jeter will be eligible this season. One of the trio of Joseph Uchebo, Tyrone Haughton, and Ryan Luther should be able to be effective in the ACC.

Syracuse Orange

  • Last Season: 26-5, 14-4 ACC (2nd), lost in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant
  • Key Returnees: Trevor Cooney (12.1 ppg, 37.5% 3PT), Rakeem Christmas (5.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.9 bpg), Dajuan Coleman (4.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Michael Gbinije (3.4 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: Chris McCullough, Kaleb Joseph
  • Outlook: For the third straight year, Syracuse will enter the season with just one point guard on the roster, and for the second straight season, that point guard will be a freshman that is getting thrown directly into the fire. Will Kaleb Joseph follow in the footsteps of Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis? That remains to be seen, but what we do know is that he won’t have nearly the experience around him. Trevor Cooney, an inconsistent three-point marksman, is the only one of Jim Boeheim’s four leading scorers from last season that returns, and Rakeem Christmas and Dajuan Coleman won’t exactly provide a pressure release inside. Chris McCullough is a five-star prospect, but he’s more athlete than basketball player at this point. Syracuse is going to need Michael Gbinije, Ron Patterson, B.J. Johnson and Tyler Roberson to make significant improvements if they are going to contend in the ACC this year.

Utah Utes

  • Last Season: 21-12, 9-9 Pac-12 (8th), lost in the NIT 1st round
  • Key Losses: Princeton Onwas
  • Key Returnees: Delon Wright (15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.5 spg, 1.3 bpg), Jordan Loveridge (14.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg), Brandon Taylor (10.6 ppg, 3.5 apg, 39.8% 3PT)
  • Key Newcomers: Brekkott Champman, Isaiah Wright, Chris Reyes, Kyle Kuzma
  • Outlook: I’m quite bullish on the Utes this season. In fact, I think there’s an outside chance that they end up being the second best team in the Pac-12 this season. For starters, the Utes lost so many close games last season thanks to dreadful late-game execution, and that can only get better this year as they essentially return everyone from last season, including one of the nation’s most under-appreciated stars in do-it-all guard Delon Wright. Forward Jordan Loveridge and point guard Brandon Taylor are back as well, and Larry Krystkowiak also adds a pair of talented freshman forwards in Brekkott Chapman and Kyle Kuzma, the latter of which redshirted in Salt Lake City last season. Winning is a skill and I don’t think it was a fluke that Utah consistently lost close games, but if they improve the way I think they can this year, they may not be involved in as many close games.

Big Ten Tournament: Flailing Buckeyes overcome double-digit deficit, shock Nebraska

Della valle

Ohio State looked beaten. With roughly thirteen minutes remaining the second half, the Buckeyes were losing by eighteen points and appeared as if they would rather be anywhere other than Indianapolis. The squad was teetering: too proud to lay down and allow Nebraska, one of the nation’s hottest teams, to finish the steamroll, but uncertain if it was worth fighting back. OSU slowly began to chip away, however, and the lead, decreasing minute by minute, evaporated until OSU took the lead with sixty seconds remaining. Ohio State’s rebirth was complete — the Buckeyes escaped the quarterfinals, defeating the Cornhuskers 71-67.

Making their move midway through the second half, the Ohio State win was a combination of traditionally stout Buckeye defense and a complete breakdown of Nebraska’s offense. Tim Miles’ team scored .99 points per possession in the first half, but that rating dropped to .92 in the final twenty minutes; rather than continue attacking their OSU defenders and getting to the basket, NU started settling for long-range attempts (of which they converted only 30 percent), a puzzling strategy since it’s been proven that Nebraska’s outside shooting isn’t robust (32.9 percent in Big Ten play). The moment which encapsulated NU’s offensive timidity came after Walter Pitchford rose for an ally-oop but missed the attempted reverse dunk — Nebraska converted only two shots from the field following the failed dunk.

LaQuinton Ross was the hero of the stat sheet, scoring 26 points on a variety of mid-range jumpers, but the Buckeye who deserves credit for sparking the comeback, and one who clearly enjoys playing Nebraska, is Amedeo Della Valle. The lanky wing, sporting a hairdo that rivals Bradley Cooper’s ‘American Hustle’ character, had previously scored a season-high 15 versus NU, and followed that effort with twelve points today. The sophomore barely played last season, but after a successful summer leading Italy to the U20 European Championship (earning an MVP nod for his efforts), it is evident the wing’s frenetic offense and fearlessness when in the open court could earn him more minutes.

Assigned Reading: Sports Illustrated’s ‘The art of the steal’

Fuquan Edwin, Russ Smith
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I really enjoyed “The art of the steal” by Sports Illustrated‘s Brian Hamilton on Thursday, which broke down many of the nation’s best at producing steals.

The piece takes an in-depth look into the thought process and methodology of players such as Jordan Adams at UCLA, Briante Weber at VCU, Fuquan Edwin at Seton Hall and Shannon Scott at Ohio State — to name a few of the players profiled — as they attempt to swipe the ball from an opposing player.

I particularly liked the Fuquan Edwin passages and the introduction of The Fu Effect, in which Seton Hall picks up their defensive energy, as a team, after Edwin makes a great defensive play, even though Fuquan needs to cut his fingernails.

The Fu Effect also may prompt medical assistance. Edwin notes that his fingernails tend to grow long, so when he swipes at the ball, he often leaves a mark for opponents or even teammates to remember him by. One Seton Hall player received a red slash on the face from one of Edwin’s forays. Edwin understands his teammates get frustrated, and he laughs about how they complain about him playing dirty. He believes he’s a Pirate in every sense, taking what’s yours and making it his in practice in order to ensure he can do so in a game. The best in the nation at boosting the ball are wired for it. They never emerge from stealth mode.

Players that play — and swipe — with long fingernails are the worst to deal with and knowing that information makes it easier to see why Edwin is one of the best in the Big East defending on the perimeter. Not only does Edwin have great hand-eye coordination, but his nails could potentially cut you open at any time. Nobody wants to deal with that.

And fingernails don’t just “tend to grow long”, Fuquan, they require cutting or biting. CBT is on to your Pirate tactics…

There are plenty of other great parts in this article about other players’ approach to the defensive end, and you can find the full Hamilton piece for Sports Illustrated here.

The comeback was thrilling, but Ohio State’s offense remains concerning

Ohio State v Michigan State

Plenty of people had questions about No. 3 Ohio State entering their game with No. 5 Michigan State at the Breslin Center on Tuesday night.

Can a team with such issues on the offensive end of the floor really be the third-best team in the country? Does winning at sputtering Marquette, or beating a depleted Maryland, or a miracle comeback against a thoroughly average Notre Dame team really justify their lofty standing nationally? Did they enter this game undefeated because they’re that good or because their schedule, well, wasn’t?

Tuesday was going to tell us all we needed to know.

Michigan State has played like they are the best team in the country when healthy, and on Tuesday, they weren’t even healthy. Travis Trice didn’t play. Adreian Payne, who has been dealing with plantar fasciitis, also sprained his foot. Matt Costello still found himself playing limited minutes. And yet, the Spartans were still able to stretch a 28-21 halftime lead to 55-38 with just over seven minutes left in the game.

That’s when Ohio State took over.

The Buckeyes are one of the best teams in the country on the defensive end of the floor, and there may not be a better defensive back court anywhere than the pairing of Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft. That defense was on display over the course of those final seven minutes, as the Buckeyes went on a thrilling, 20-3 run to tie the game and force overtime. Hell, they almost won it in regulation. If it wasn’t for an unbelievable defensively play from Keith Appling on a fast break layup for Scott, Sparty would be heading back into the frozen tundra of East Lansing with a loss.

Ohio State ended up losing in overtime, 72-68, but that doesn’t take away from just how impressive that comeback was.

What happened was simple, really.

Michigan State got a bit lackadaisical offensively, thinking they would be coasting in for an easy win. Ohio State took advantage, cranking the screws defensively and making Michigan State look like a men’s league team that was 10 minutes past being gassed. During that 20-3 run, the Buckeyes forced nine turnovers, which led to nine points and put them in complete control of the game.

But here’s the thing: we didn’t learn anything new about Ohio State.

Yeah, they are going to defend you. Yes, they can force turnovers. Obviously, when those turnovers come in bunches they can create massive comebacks. Notre Dame will tell you that.

But this is also still a team that really struggles on the offensive end of the floor. Their only go-to guy is LaQuinton Ross, an inconsistent talent who just-so-happened to have an off-night on Tuesday. He finished the night 1-for-7 with just five points and was benched for freshman Marc Loving down the stretch. Neither Craft or Scott can break down a defense off the dribble. Neither of them are a real threat in the pick-and-roll. Amir Williams, Sam Thompson, Lenzelle Smith. These aren’t guys that need to be game-planned around for opponents.

Those issues were quite evident outside of the seven minutes at the end of regulation.

Ohio State is going to have a lot of nights like this, especially when LaQuinton Ross isn’t shooting the ball all that well. 

But with that defense, there aren’t going to be many nights where they’re ever out of a game.