Game of the Week: Texas 78, UNC 76
We’ll get to Josh Selby and the exciting finish to the Kansas-USC game in a bit. And as terrific as that game was, the Longhorn’s win over UNC had an even better finish. Texas used an 18-8 surge in the first half to open up a 28-18 lead over the Heels, punishing them inside despite the fact that Tristan Thompson was out with two fouls. But the Heels didn’t fold, attacking the Longhorns off the bounce and using a 15-4 run over the final 7:30 of the half to take a 33-32 lead at the break.
In the second half, both teams came out on fire, but UNC, led by a career-high 18 points from Dexter Strickland, finally found their transition game. On three different occasions, Strickland was able go coast to coast for a layup — two of which came off of made baskets — and UNC was able to hold a two possession lead for much of the second half, pushing it to seven three times.
But, as UNC’s offense is wont to do, the Heels offense got bogged down for a string of three or four possessions late in the second half, and three straight Texas baskets gave the Horns a 70-69 lead with less than three minutes left. The teams would trade baskets before Thompson — who was an animal inside over the last four minutes of the game — got his second dunk in heavy traffic with 45 seconds left for a 74-73 lead. After two free throws from J’Covan Brown, UNC had the ball with 24 second left and down three points. Roy Williams called a time out, drew up a play for Harrison Barnes, and the freshman came off of a screen and drilled a three with 11.7 seconds left to tie the game. It set up this:
With the loss, UNC drops to 7-4 on the season, although the team that took the floor Saturday afternoon looked much improved over the UNC we have seen earlier this season. The win for Texas was important for two reasons. First of all, the Longhorns are entering the most difficult part of their schedule. Their next two games are at Michigan State and at home against UConn before they start Big XII play. But, more importantly, it was a breakout game for freshman point guard Cory Joseph. Joseph had 21 points, and in contrast to the potential game-winner he threw over the back board against Pitt in MSG a month ago, the freshman buried UNC with a tough, turnaround against very good defense. When Joseph, Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson, and J’Covan Brown are all clicking, Texas has a team with a lot of offensive weapons.
This needs mentioning: St. Bonaventure 112, Ohio 107 4OT
Ohio fought back from 10 down with 9:42 left in regulation to force the first overtime on a three from DJ Cooper with 22 seconds left. In the first overtime, the lead changed hands four times before Cooper once again tied the game on a driving layup with 17 seconds on the clock before the Bonnies missed two free throws. The second overtime saw Ohio grab a three point lead, but Michael Davenport once again tied the game with a three pointer. Only four points were scored in the third overtime before St. Bonaventure opened up a five point lead in the fourth OT, making 7-8 free throws (after going 6-18 from the charity stripe in the first three overtimes) to hold on to the win.
The box score read something like a game of NBA 2K11. Cooper had 43 points, 13 assists, 8 steals, and 8 rebounds while shooting 17-41 from the floor. Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure had 44 points, 12 boards, and 5 assists. Five other players reached double figures. Ohio took 101 shots, 40 from three. St. Bonaventure shot 56.7% from the floor. Five players fouled out. Six played more than 50 minutes. Four of them were on St. Bonaventure, with Nicholson logging all 60 minutes of game time. But, perhaps the most incredible stat, the Bonnies only got six points from their bench in 60 minutes of basketball.
Player of the Week: Josh Selby, Kansas
I’m not giving this to him just because he had an impressive performance against USC. Sure, he had 21 points and hit two clutch threes — including the game-winner with 24 seconds left on the clock — as the Jayhawks knocked off a scrappy USC team. But if we were rating a player based on their performance alone, Selby probably did not live up to his potential on this night. He was hot from three, there is no question, but Selby’s not going to be going 5-8 from three every night. In fact, for a kid known for his slashing ability, Selby did strikingly little inside the arc. Fifteen of this 21 points came on threes, and he hit all three free throws when he was fouled shooting a three. He scored three points and took only three shots doing something other than spotting up while turning the ball over four times. Granted, that was a result of Selby being a good teammate and playing within the Kansas offense, but my point is that the Selby that is playing in the NCAA Tournament will be a different player than the one we saw on Saturday.
No, I’m giving Selby the player of the week in large part because its so damn hard not to feel great for this kid after the performance he had. Kansas was undefeated, but they weren’t undefeated in impressive fashion, struggling to beat mediocre teams like Arizona and Memphis. The Jayhawk faithful, after seeing guys like Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving play great basketball, had sky-high, almost unfair, expectations for the freshman. And, after sitting out nine games, Selby was debuting in a noon tip on a Saturday two hours before the college football bowl games were to start. There were a lot of eyes on this kid.
And not everyone was rooting for him to win. According to the NCAA, Selby is a cheater. He accepted $6,000 worth of illegal benefits and had a personnel relationship with Carmelo Anthony’s business manager that the NCAA determined bordered too closely on professional.
Me? I wanted to see this happen. I wanted Selby to succeed. Here’s a kid who grew up without the luxuries that many of us grow up with. He spent some time homeless as a kid when his single-mother lost her job. He lived in an area of Baltimore where violence was common. He saw his best-friend get pistol-whipped and had a cousin murdered when he was 15. I fail to see the sense in rooting against a kid that accepted what every recruit accepts and received advisement from a family friend that was illegal because of the job that friend holds.
I may in the minority here, but I want to see Selby succeed. And Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a better debut.
The All-they-were-good-too team
- G: Marcus Jordan, Central Florida: Jordan scored 23 points on Saturday in a win over Miami. The win may have been costly, however, as Jordan looked like he injured his ankle at the end of the game.
- G: Jon Diebler, Ohio State: Diebler put on one of the most impressive shooting performances of the season, knocking down nine straight threes en route to 29 points in a win over Florida Gulf Coast.
- F: Khris Middleton, Texas A&M: Middleton scored a career high 31 points as the Aggies came from behind to knock off Arkansas on Saturday.
- F: Kris Joseph, Syracuse: Joseph had 21 points, 7 boards, and 4 assists to lead the Orange as they held off a scrappy Iona team.
- C: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: The Buckeyes big man has to be considered the favorite to win the Big Ten player of the year award. He had 30 points and 19 rebounds on Saturday as OSU knocked off South Carolina 79-57.
Co-Teams of the Week: Florida Gators, UCLA Bruins, Gonzaga Bulldogs
We’ll get into it more in a bit, but this week was the week of the upset as seven ranked teams were knocked off by unranked opponents. Florida, UCLA, and Gonzaga were three of the unranked teams to do the knocking off, and while it is still too early in the season to say that anyone needs to “desperately” win a game, it is safe to say that the Gators, the Bruins, and the Zags all really, really, really needed their wins.
- Florida put together one of the most impressive defensive performances of the season in their 57-44 win over Kansas State. The Gators didn’t score for the first seven minutes of the game and, with nine minutes left in the half, they found themselves down 20-8. From that point on, K-State managed to score just 24 points, and that included a stretch when the Wildcats missed 23 of 24 field goals, 17 of those misses coming in a row. Perhaps more important, however, was that Kenny Boynton hit three straight threes at the end of the game to put it out of reach. Boynton had been ice cold for about four straight games. The top four in the SEC East are clearly defined, but their order will change on a daily basis.
- Talking about a tournament resume for UCLA at this point is a bit silly. Barring a miraculous turnaround, this team is not making the NCAA Tournament. That said, if they are going to make that turnaround, the Bruins, more than anything, seemed like they needed a boost of confidence. After beating BYU 86-79 in Southern California, the Bruins got it. I’ve said all along, there is talent on this UCLA roster, the issue is figuring out how to use that talent and being able to defend. Their defense was still relatively subpar on Saturday, but Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith dominated the Cougars in the paint offensively, and with Tyler Honeycutt and Zeke Jones hitting jumpers, UCLA was clicking. Can this win be a jumping off point for the Bruins?
- Gonzaga does not have a bad loss of their resume, but regardless of the stretch of your schedule, there’s a point where you need to win something. Otherwise, teams like Oakland and Arkansas-Pine Bluff would be getting at-large bids every year. Gonzaga did just that on Saturday, knocking off Baylor 68-64. More impressive, however, was that the Zags did it with Steven Gray missing the entire second half with back spasms and Elias Harris in foul trouble throughout. He fouled out with more than six minutes left and the game tied. On Saturday, it was Robert Sacre (17 points), Marquise Carter (13 points and two big threes), Kelly Olynyk (the go-ahed three with a minute left), and Sam Dower that made the difference. Gonzaga still has Xavier, Oklahoma State, and Memphis in the non-conference. This team can still earn an at-large bid.
The Week of the Upset: As I mentioned before, seven ranked teams lost to unranked opponents last week. Considering the limited number of games that took place this week, the percentage of ranked teams that lost to their unranked opponents was incredibly high:
- Tennessee: The Volunteers, coming off of a huge win over Pitt in Pitt, proceeded to blow a 13 point lead and lose to Oakland 89-82 before struggling to find any semblence of an offense in a 49-48 loss at Charlotte. With Bruce Pearl’s looming suspension, now is not a good time for Tennessee to be lacking leadership and an identity.
- Louisville: The Cardinals dropped a 52-46 decision to a Drexel team that absolutely dominated them inside. If you can force Louisville to play a half court game, they simply don’t have the talent or size on the interior to score or rebound.
- UNLV: The Rebels lost 68-62 to UC Santa Barbara in a game that the Gauchos ran a zone the majority of the time. UNLV shot 29% on the game and just 6-29 from three. That will do it.
- BYU: The Bruins lost to UCLA 86-79 in LA. Am I the only one that think Jimmer Fredette is a bit overrated? I know the kid can blow up for 40 on any given night, but he plays no defense and turns the ball over too much. I’m not saying he isn’t an all-american, but putting him in the conversation with guys like Kemba Walker, Jared Sullinger, or (healthy) Kyrie Irving is a stretch to me.
- Kansas State: So when is it time to panic for Kansas State fans? Scoring is a serious issue for this team, as is point guard play and low post play. In fact, about the only thing that this team is going well right now is rebounding and defending.
- Baylor: After losing to Gonzaga, the Bears still haven’t won a game outside of Waco. This is also the first game that Baylor has played outside of Waco, and it was still in the state of Texas. I like this team, but there are still questions to be answered.
- Illinois: The Illini dropped a 57-54 decision to Illinois-Chicago — a 4-7 team in the Horizon League — on Saturday afternoon. Apparently, Illinois is just as inconsistent as they were last season. The Illini better be careful, as this kind of performance against Missouri on Tuesday will result in an embarrassing loss. Isn’t it ironic, however, that the kid that was the hero for UIC on Saturday was named Darrin Williams?
Matchups of the Week:
- 12/21 – 7:00 pm: USC @ Tennessee
- 12/21 – 9:00 pm: UNLV vs. Kansas State
- 12/22 – 3:00 pm: Washington State vs. Mississippi State
- 12/22 – 7:00 pm: Dayton @ Seton Hall
- 12/22 – 7:00 pm: Texas @ Michigan State
- 12/22 – 9:00 pm: Missouri vs. Illinois
- 12/22 – 11:00 pm: Kansas @ Cal
- 12/22 – 11:00 pm: Xavier @ Gonzaga
- 12/23 – 8:00 pm: Georgetown @ Memphis