Wednesday Morning Shootaround: Hot hands abound

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Notre Dame 73, UConn 70: See here.

Three quick thoughts on UConn:

  • Umm, who is that and what have you done with Alex Oriakhi? UConn’s best big man last night was Chuck Okwandu, as Oriakhi had just zero points and six boards before fouling out. After averaging 13.4 ppg and 12.0 rpg over his first five games, he’s averaging just 8.6 ppg and 6.1 rpg over the last eight.
  • Kemba Walker’s body is not going to be able withstand the beating he takes every night. He’s bumped on every cut and every screen, he’s going full bore for 40 minutes a night in the Big East, and he’s knocked to the ground seemingly every time he gets all the way to the rim. Notre Dame is now known for their physicality, and Walker looked exhausted and sore last night.
  • Despite everything that happened last night, UConn still had two chances to tie the game in the last 30 seconds. Both were ill-advised three pointers from 25 feet, the second of which Shabazz Napier looked like he had no idea what he was doing. That said, Napier had 18 points last night. Roscoe Smith, Jeremy Lamb, and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel combined for 28 points. They were open because ND was so focused on Kemba, but its a good sign that they were able to knock down some shots. Moral victories, anyone?

Pitt 83, Providence 79: The Friars are for real this season. Look past the 0-3 start in conference play and you’ll see that. They lost by seven in a game they were in until the end at Syracuse. They lost by two at home to 3-0 St. John’s. And last night, they came back from 10 points down against Pitt — one of the Big East’s powers — and took a late lead 76-72.

The Panthers are just too good, however. Here’s one example : they battled foul trouble all night long to the point that Jamie Dixon had to go zone. Then Brad Wanamaker fouled out of the game with a couple of minutes remaining and Pitt down. But Travon Woodall came in off the bench and made two huge plays, grabbing a defensive rebound in a crowd to preserve the lead he had given Pitt the possession before on a clutch three pointer in the final minutes.

Two things to take from this game:

  • Marshon Brooks is the real deal. He had 28 points and made a number of big time plays last night.
  • You can pressure Pitt, especially when Woodall is off the floor. Ashton Gibbs is a shooting guard, and Brad Wanamaker, while an excellent facilitator and playmaker in the half court, is not a pure point guard. The Panthers had 22 turnovers against a Providence press that isn’t exactly as well known as a school like Missouri’s.

No. 2 Ohio State 73, Iowa 68: Ohio State struggled early and was inconsistent throughout the night on the defensive end of the floor, but 24 points and 12 boards form Jared Sullinger, 14 points out of Jon Diebler, and a 29-10 second half run gave OSU a lead, but two big free throws from freshman Aaron Craft sealed the win.

No. 21 Minnesota 67, Indiana 63: As Tubby Smith tried to blend a couple of new faces into the mix with Devoe Joseph’s departure, the Gophers struggled early, taking a while to find an offensive rhythm and allowing a big Hoosier first half run. But Trevor Mbakwe’s strength inside (16 boards, 5 blocks) was too much down the stretch while Al Nolen, Blake Hoffarber, and Rodney Williams made enough plays offensively for Minnesota to avoid the upset.

Virginia 84, Howard 63; Baylor 89, Morgan State 72; Lamar 114, Louisiana College 62: UVa’s Mustapha Farrakhan had an unbelievable night, hitting his first 11 shots — eight from three — and he scored 31 points in the Hoos win. LaceDarius Dunn was better, going 10-18 from three as he hit for 43 points, which would have been tied for the second highest out put of the season. But then Lamar’s Mike James went off, scoring 52 points in 28 minutes off the bench for the Cardinals. Its the most points scored this season, the most points scored off the bench in the last 15 years, and the most points scored in 28 minutes or less the past 15 years. En fuego (Rich Eisen voice).

Missouri State 67, Creighton 55: Impressive win for the Bears, who go into Omaha and knock off the Bluejays despite being down 29-20 at the half. It sets up an interesting matchup on Sunday night, as MSU takes on Wichita State for first place in the MVC.

Other Notable Games:

  • No. 12 Texas 79, Arkansas 46
  • South Carolina 91, South Carolina State 56
  • Vermont 55, Stony Brook 49
  • Maryland 95, Colgate 40
  • Texas Tech 79, Delaware State 60
  • West Virginia 67, DePaul 65

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.