Wednesday’s Shootaround: Champion’s Classic

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No. 3 Ohio State 81, No. 8 Florida 74: This game had the same, familiar theme as the two that took place at the Champion’s Classic in New York. The underdog — Florida here — got off to a hot start and opened up a lead, but the favorite — the Buckeyes — made a strong push at the end of the first half and took control early in the second half. Florida did a good job of limiting the touches for Jared Sullinger on the low-block, but Thad Matta’s club proved that they have more than just one weapon. William Buford went for 21 points, DeShaun Thomas added 15 and Aaron Craft and 13 points and seven assists in the win.

For Florida, the good news was the performance that Billy Donovan got out of Erik Murphy. He’ll be a real weapon on the offensive end as he will be able to keep the court spread, creating space for the Gator’s talented back court to penetrate and giving Patric Young room to operate inside. Murphy had 14 points last night on 5-6 shooting, 4-4 from beyond the arc. Florida’s back court struggled a bit. Erving Walker was 1-6 from the floor and finished with just five points. Brad Beal led the way with 17 points, but he was 6-16 from the floor and had five turnovers. Mike Rosario played just 19 minutes and took only four shots. Kenny Boynton was the best of the group, going for 15 points on 5-10 shooting.

No. 10 Memphis 97, Belmont 81: I was very, very impressed with Memphis on Tuesday afternoon. The Tigers, who were playing at 11:00 am local time, absolutely man-handled a good, experienced Belmont club that had just come a point from upsetting Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The matchup was, frankly, less-than-ideal for Belmont, who struggled with the Tiger’s length and athleticism (especially around the rim, where the Bruins must have missed 15 shots from point black range), but that should only drive home just how good this Tiger team can be.

In terms of talent, this group is top five in the country. They aren’t at the same level as Kentucky and North Carolina, but there is an argument to be made that this Tiger team has more talent up-and-down their roster than UConn does. Joe Jackson finally showed the country why all the recruitniks made such a big deal about him in high school, finishing with 20 points and seven assists, including a pair of sensational passes as the Tigers rans through the Belmont press. Wesley Witherspoon finally looked like the guy that was thought to be a potential lottery pick, finishing with 22 points on 8-8 shooting. Will Barton’s length and athleticism is going to make him very difficult to stop in the mid-range. He finished with 23 points. Adonis Thomas showed flashes of the strength and athleticism that made him such a highly-regarded recruit. And the guy that folks in Memphis were the most excited about this year — Tarik Black — struggled to find a rhythm as he battled four trouble.

The issue for this Memphis team is going to be discipline and attitude. Will they play this hard every single game? Is Wesley Witherspoon going to get frustrated when he realizes that he is the third or fourth option offensively? Will Memphis be able to run an offensive set when they play a team more equipped to defend them? Whether or not Josh Pastner gets this group to buy into his game plan is the question mark and, admittedly, one of the most important story lines of the season from a national perspective.

Champion’s Classic:

No. 2 Kentucky 75, No. 11 Kansas 65: The Wildcats looked terrible in the first half against Kansas. Everything was 1-on-1, the team was breaking off plays early, they were turning the ball over (led by six from Marquis Teague in the first half) and they were missing open looks. And you know what happened? Kentucky went into halftime tied with the Jayhawks. The second half was a different story. Anthony Davis took over on the defensive end of the floor, Teague started picking his spots better and finished at the rim and Doron Lamb and company knocked down a couple three balls, and Kentucky steamrolled an overmatched Kansas team. I’ll have much more on this game coming this afternoon.

No. 6 Duke 74, Michigan State 69: Andre Dawkins was the after thought in Duke’s perimeter attack. With Seth Curry and Austin Rivers sharing the back court, Dawkins was the guy that had everyone saying “yeah, and that kid will start too”. But he proved just how dangerous he could be on Tuesday night. Dawkins carried the Blue Devils in the first half, going for 14 of his 26 points and hitting four of his six threes while putting on a clinic on how to run off of screens. The Blue Devils struggled offensively in the early going, and if it wasn’t for Dawkins, Michigan State would have been able to build a bigger lead. I’ll have a post coming on the Spartans this afternoon.

Villanova 76, La Salle 69 OT: La Salle got 24 points and five assists out of Tyreek Duren, but they blew a five-point lead in the final 1:23 of regulation. Villanova took over in overtime. The Wilcats were led by 22 points from Maalik Wayns, but he also led the way in poor shooting. Wayns was 5-16 from the floor and 2-7 from beyond the arc as Villanova shot 35.2% from the floor and 4-23 from beyond the arc. La Salle is a bottom-feeder in the Atlantic 10. I guess you can never predict a Big 5 game.

Texas 100, Rhode Island 90: The Longhorns are going to score a lot of point this season. J’Covan Brown went off for the second straight game, finishing with 35 points and six assists, while Myck Kabongo added 18 points and nine assists. The issue for Texas is going to be on the inside; their four big men combined for 26 points and 22 boards.

Weber State 73, Utah State 63: The Wildcats got 28 points and seven threes out of Scott Bamforth and 17 points from Damian Lillard as Weber State stated their case as being the best team in the state of Utah. Morgan Grimm led Utah State with 19 points.

High-Majors fall hard:

Middle Tennessee State 86, UCLA 66: That score is correct. Look it up. And it comes just days after the Bruins lost their opener to Loyola Marymount by 11. The worst part? The problems aren’t exactly fixable for the Bruins. Their leading returning scorer and rebounder, Reeves Nelson, was suspended for this contest because of an attitude problem; there’s speculation that he doesn’t even want to be on the team. Their dominant low-post presence, Josh Smith, is too fat and out of shape to be the star he should be. They have no perimeter shooting and their point guard play is, frankly, embarrassing for the program that produced Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison, and Russell Westbrook. Another storyline to follow? If UCLA doesn’t improve, is Shabazz Muhammad, the nation’s No. 1 recruit that most consider a UCLA-lean, still going to want to play there, especially when he sees Kentucky dominating blue-bloods on national television?

Kent State 70, West Virginia 60: It would be unfair to Kent State to call this game an upset. One of the favorites in the MAC along with Akron, the Golden Flashes brought back essentially their entire team from 2010-2011. It showed against West Virginia. After getting pounded on the glass in the first half and heading into the break with a five-point deficit, KSU turned up their defensive pressure, forcing turnovers and using a 15-3 run to take a 51-44 lead. West Virginia, who is a freshmen-heavy team this season, crumbled against the pressure, eventually getting down by as many as 15 points. The Mountaineers are going to need to get much better play out of their back court of Jabarie Hinds and Truck Bryant.

Pepperdine 66, Arizona State 60: As if things weren’t already bad enough for the Pac-12. Pepperdine is a bottom-third team in the WCC. They have a new head coach and lost their most talented player last season. But the Waves hit 8-11 from beyond the arc and held everyone not named Trent Lockett to 10-42 shooting from the field. Herb Sendek’s seat has to be getting hot in Tempe.

Drake 74, Iowa State 65: Fred Hoiberg’s transfer experiment hasn’t started off too well. Royce White finished with 21 points and 14 boards, but in-state rival Drake got 24 points from Ben Simons and 18 points from Rayvonte Rice as they opened up a lead as big as ten on the Cyclones last night. Its another big win for the Missouri Valley in non-conference play.

Coastal Carolina 71, LSU 63: No one really expected LSU to be any good this season, but I doubt that anyone truly expected them to get smacked around by a Coastal Carolina team that was devastated by injuries and New York Times investigations last season. Coastal Carolina out rebounded LSU 53-34, and while I know rebounding margin is not a great stat, that’s still an astonishing number.

Elon 58, South Carolina 53: Maybe this is why Bruce Ellington decided to play football. Elon got 16 points out of Lucas Troutman and 12 points from Ashley Hamilton as they opened up a big first half lead on the Gamecocks and held off a late-game rally.

The rest of the Top 25

No. 5 Syracuse 98, Albany 74: Kris Joseph and James Southerland led the way for Syracuse, scoring 19 points apiece, as the Orange surprisingly played another New York team at the Carrier Dome.

No. 12 Baylor 77, San Diego State 67: Baylor is just as big and just as athletic as we all thought. But I don’t think they’ve answered their point guard question. This team still looks rudderless offensively. That said, Quincy Miller had 20 points and has now scored 54 points in three games.

No. 14 Xavier 86, IPFW 63: Tu Holloway had 24 points and six assists in his first game back from suspension and Mark Lyons added 21 points for the Musketeers.

No. 20 Cincinnati 73, Jacksonville State 59: The Bearcats built a 27 point lead on the strength of 16 first half points from Dion Dixon (he finished with 20), but they allowed Jacksonville State to battle their way back. Cashmere Wright led the way with 23 points.

No. 20 Vanderbilt 80, Bucknell 68: Jeff Taylor had 14 points to lead five players in double figures as the Commodores bounced back from a tough loss to Cleveland State. More importantly, they did so without John Jenkins or Festus Ezeli, and Bucknell is a good team.

No. 22 Cal 72, Austin Peay 55: This was over by halftime, when Cal opened up a 40-13 lead.

Other notable scores:

– Drexel 80, Rider 62
– Virginia Tech 78, Florida International 63
– Harvard 73, Holy Cross 64
– Butler 57, Chattanooga 46
– Miami (FL) 72, Rutgers 57
– Virginia 69, Winthrop 48
– Oklahoma State 73, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
– George Mason 71, Monmouth 39
– UT-San Antonio 78, Oral Roberts 77

Top Performers:

Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech: Hudson had 31 points as the Hokies knocked off Florida International to earn a trip to New York in the Preseason NIT.

J’Covan Brown, Texas: Brown had 35 points, six boards and six assists in a win over Rhode Island. Through two games, Brown is averaging 31.5 ppg, 7.0 apg and 5.0 rpg.

Scott Bamforth, Weber State: Bamforth had 28 points and hit seven threes as Weber State stated their claim to the throne of the best team in the state of Utah with a 73-63 win over Utah State.

Francisco Cruz, Wyoming: Cruz went for 30 points and five boards as the Cowboys knocked off Northern Colorado.

Ike Azotam, Quinnipiac: More impressive than the 17 points, 18 boards (nine offensive) and four blocks that Azotam had in QU’s win over Yale? The five points he helped hold Greg Mangano too.

Harold Washington and Alshwan Hymes, Canisius: Washington and Hymes combined for 54 points as the Golden Griffins knocked off Longwood.

Chase Tapley, San Diego State: Tapley scored 28 points, but it wasn’t enough for the Aztecs to upset Baylor on the road.

Gerardo Suero, Albany: Suero had 31 points in a losing effort against Syracuse.

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