Monday’s Overreactions: Tyrese Maxey, West Virginia, and UCLA

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky

It is not a coincidence that, in the two biggest wins Kentucky has had this season, Tyrese Maxey was the star. On Saturday, in a 78-70 overtime win over then-No. 3 Louisville, Maxey went off for 27 points on 9-for-14 shooting while hitting 4-for-5 from three. This came after his 26 point outburst on the opening night of the season in a win over Michigan State.

And that right there is what makes the difference for the Wildcats. Nick Richards played the best game of his life Saturday. Ashton Hagans was as solid as always, even if his scoring wasn’t quite there. Immanuel Quickley stepped up and hit some big shots in big moments. But having a go-to guy, a bucket-getter that was create something out of nothing is absolutely enormous for a team that has so many question marks elsewhere on their roster.

We don’t know what Kentucky is going to do at the four. We don’t know if Kahlil Whitney or E.J. Montgomery or Johnny Juzang are going to be able to contribute this season in significant ways. Some of that gets mitigated if Maxey can be the guy that can create offense on the most important possessions of a game.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: West Virginia

There was not a team in college basketball that I was more wrong about being bad than West Virginia. I thought they were going to be the worst team in the Big 12.

Turns out, they are not.

The Mountaineers landed themselves a marquee win on Saturday, beating Ohio State in Cleveland in fairly dominant fashion despite the fact that Oscar Tshiebwe played eight scoreless minutes due to foul trouble. Much of that is the result of Miles McBride, who went for a career-high 21 points, but it also had quite a bit to do with the fact that West Virginia’s defense is suffocating.

They aren’t Press Virginia anymore, but they are one of the 10 best defenses in college hoops.

And now, they are sitting pretty with wins over Ohio State, Wichita State, Northern Iowa, Pitt and Rhode Island. That is a serious resume this early in the season.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. I FEEL BETTER ABOUT LOUISVILLE NOW THAN I DID BEFORE THE KENTUCKY GAME

The biggest knock of Louisville this season is that they are a team that is forced to ride or die with Jordan Nwora because they don’t have anyone else on the roster that is capable of creating for themselves. This is why they looked so bad offensively against Michigan and Texas Tech, and why they struggled so much in the first half against Kentucky. Through the first 100 minutes that the Cardinals have played against elite defenses this season, they had mustered a total of 139 points in 171 possessions, or 0.813 PPP. For reference, the best defenses in college basketball hover around the 0.850 PPP allowed range.

It’s not a coincidence that, in that same time frame, Jordan Nwora was 14-for-47 from the floor and 3-for-17 from three.

That’s relevant because, in the second half and overtime on Saturday afternoon, Nwora more or less played as a decoy. Kentucky face-guarded him wherever he was on the floor, and he simply got out of the way. That’s when he wasn’t actually on the bench. Louisville erased a 12-point second half deficit against the Wildcats on Saturday, and the run to regain a foothold in the game came when Nwora was out.

Steve Enoch finished with 18 points, knocking down a three and getting his back-to-the-basket game going. Dwayne Sutton had 14 points and 10 boards, making some key defensive plays and picking up a few critical loose balls.

But the most important performance came from Fresh Kimble, a grad transfer point guard from St. Joe’s that currently backs up Darius Perry. He had 12 points and four assists, making some crucial plays in the second half to keep the Cardinals moving in the right direction. Point guard play has been the biggest concern for Louisville this season, and playing arguably the best team in what was definitely the toughest venue they’ve seen this year, Kimble had his best game. Someone needs to be able to make plays to create easy offense for people not named Nwora, and Kimble – along with Sutton, Enoch and even Darius Perry, to a point – were able to do that and bring Louisville back.

That’s big, even if it comes in a loss.

2. SATURDAY SHOWCASED THE BAD SIDE OF OHIO STATE’S POINT GUARD PLAY

After Ohio State’s win over Kentucky, I sang the praises of D.J. Carton and, to a lesser extent, C.J. Walker, as they were instrumental in leading the Buckeyes to a massive win over the Wildcats.

On Sunday, we saw the other side of things. Carton was 1-for-5 from the floor, turned the ball over five times and, in his 22 minutes, looked exactly the way you would expect a raw freshman to look against West Virginia. Walker wasn’t much better, finishing with one assist and four turnovers.

Ohio State does not have all that much offensive firepower. There really aren’t that many guys that can create offense for themselves, so when their point guards aren’t able to initiate offense and can’t create easy points for their teammates, they’re in trouble.

3. SO LET’S TALK ABOUT UCLA AND MICK CRONIN

Over the weekend, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports wrote a column blog post about UCLA that, in so many words, said that Mick Cronin should not be judged based on this season because he has a roster that lacks anything close to the talent we typically see on a UCLA roster.

It created quite a bit of dialogue, both on twitter and in private conversations, among the people I talk to, so I figured this space was the perfect place to do that after a slow weekend.

If you missed it, UCLA lost to Cal St.-Fullerton on Saturday night, a team that ranks 274th in KenPom and did not have a single win over a top 300 team prior to that game in Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins are now 7-6 on the season, and Mick Cronin is getting more and more frustrated.

Now, I’m going to be talking out of both sides of my mouth here, but there’s a lot to chew on with this discussion.

Cronin knows how to win. He’s one of just six coaches to reach each of the last nine NCAA tournaments, along with Coach K, Bill Self, Tom Izzo, Mark Few and Roy Williams. He did it at Cincinnati with his defense. His teams finished an average of 15th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric over that nine-year run.

But the Cincinnati program has a very different culture and ethos to the one that he walked into in UCLA. That doesn’t change overnight, as evidenced by the fact that a roster loaded with four-star, top 100 talent is currently sitting at 199th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric.

It took four years for Cronin to get it rolling at Cincinnati. It’s going to take him some time to get it rolling at UCLA, and he should not be judged on his ability to turn that thing around until he has three or four years under his belt and “his guys” in the program.

That said, what UCLA has done this season is terrible. Think about it like this: Steve Alford was fired right around the New Year last season after a 7-6 start that featured home losses to Belmont and Liberty, two mid-majors that won an NCAA tournament game last season. As the calendar flips this season, UCLA is sitting at … 7-6 with losses to mid-majors Hofstra and Fullerton, neither of whom are as good as Belmont or Liberty was last season.

This summer, I wrote about how much work Cronin has in front of him re-establishing the culture he needs to win. I think there is still the same chance that he can get there as when the season started.

But this season is a mess, and while Alford did not leave Cronin with a roster good enough to get to a Final Four, he certainly left him one that should be good enough to beat Fullerton and Hofstra in their own building.

4. JORDAN BONE WAS THE SINGLE-BIGGEST EARLY ENTRY LOSS IN COLLEGE HOOPS

Losing Jordan Bone was always going to be a major blow for Tennessee. As a junior, Bone was one of the best point guards in the SEC. He averaged 13.5 points and 5.8 assists for the Vols, and if he had returned to school, he might have been a preseason All-American.

And that’s to say nothing of the fact that a perimeter attack that consisted of Bone, Lamonte’ Turner, Josiah-Jordan James and Jordan Bowden would be among the best in the country.

But now that Turner is gone, his loss is magnified even more. Tennessee got absolutely steamrolled on Saturday afternoon, scoring just 48 points in a blowout loss at home against a Wisconsin team that was 0-5 away from the Kohl Center. It was all bad, and it stemmed from the fact that Tennessee does not have a point guard on the roster right now. Having Bone would have made a difference.

The good news is that reinforcements have arrived. Freshman point guard Santiago Vescuvi, a native of Uruguay, enrolled last week and arrived in Knoxville on Saturday morning.

Just in time for league play.

Bueno suerte, hermano.

5. ARKANSAS IS DANGEROUS

Eric Mussleman’s best Nevada teams were known as offensive juggernauts where he let his best players rock out while hoping that they would be able to do just enough defensively to get the wins they needed. He let Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline do what they do, and the result was 110 wins over four years, three straight seasons with at least 28 wins, two tournament berths and a trip to the Sweet 16.

At Arkansas, he’s once again letting his guys rock out. Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe are both having terrific individual seasons. The difference is that the Razorbacks are a top 10 defense in college hoops right now, which gives me hope that this 11-1 start to the season isn’t a fluke.

I don’t fully trust this team just yet. Their best win is at Indiana, who may or may not be good themselves, and I cannot get the thought of the overtime period at Georgia Tech out of my head.

But this team has a chance, and in an SEC where we are not sure who is actually good outside of Kentucky and Auburn, that may be enough for a top three finish.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.