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NCAAB: Wednesday Rewind
NCAAB: Wednesday Rewind
The Gold Sheet
We’re not sure Wednesday night’s 38-33 Penn State win over Illinois was the ugliest college game we can remember. But that’s only because we have long memories. We recall some great stall games from as long ago as the late ‘60s (including NC State boring Duke to death, 12-10, in the ‘68 ACC Tourney) so painful to watch that they were almost fascinating, as well as a poor Dick DiBiaso-coached Stanford team pulling the stall out on one of Ralph Miller’s best Oregon State teams in the early ‘80s, when the Beavers survived at Palo Alto by an 18-16 count. And more recently, there was that root canal of a Colonial Athletic Association Tourney title game between Jim Larranaga's George Mason and Jerry Wainwright's UNC-Wilmington back in 2001, won by the Patriots 35-33.
But the battle at Champaign-Urbana Wednesday night need not take a back seat to any recent hoop ugly-fest. Some of the stats from Penn State-Illinois were truly frightening. The teams shot a combined 28 of 99 from the floor. Illinois shot no free throws all night. It was the fewest points the Illini have scored since a 1947 game against Minnesota when scoring only 31. Prior to Wednesday, the fewest points Illinois had ever scored at the scallop-roofed Assembly Hall (which opened in 1963) was 44. The fewest combined points in an Assembly Hall game was 85, which Wednesday’s total of 71 broke in Bob Beamon-like fashion. Other Assembly Hall record lows set Wednesday night were fewest team points (Illinois-33), fewest points by a winning team (Penn State-38), lowest FG percentage (Penn State-28.3%), fewest assists (Penn State-6), and fewest combined assists (16). Not to mention the fact that in four different games this season, Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks alone scored more points than either the Nittany Lions or Fighting Illini on Wednesday night.
Hey, wasn’t the shot clock supposed to eliminate these sorts of games?
What’s interesting about Wednesday’s action was that the Penn State-Illinois wasn’t the only game that recalled a neanderthal era in hoops. In fact, the night was filled with them. Following are some other games and teams that made “ugly” proud Wednesday night.
1) The MAC...Yes, an entire conference gets a nod on the Wednesday ugly-meter. And anyone who has been paying attention to college hoops this season won’t be surprised that the MAC, whose games often more resemble tackle football than basketball, gets the honor for a slew of painful exhibitions Wednesday night.
Indeed, in the five MAC games played Wednesday night, at least one team couldn’t break the 50-point barrier in four of the contests, with half of the ten teams in action failing to clear 46 points. If not for Penn State-Illinois, we might be talking about Western Michigan’s 46-38 win over Eastern Michigan as one of the season’s worst games. The Eagles pulled to within 37-36 on a Wendale Farrow layup with 6:41 to play, yet managed only 2 points the rest of the night. Akron’s 53-44 win over Miami-Ohio wasn’t much prettier, as the RedHawks hit only 27.7% of their shots (13 of 47) while allowing the Zips to score 20 points off of their 18 turnovers. We wonder if Charlie Coles’ doctor might recommend the old coach to retire if he has to endure any more such painful exhibitions.
By comparison, Bowling Green’s 59-48 win over MAC East leader Buffalo was a work of art, even though none of the Falcons’ starters scored in double digits. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois, which has been practicing its own brand of ugly-ball all season, almost outdid itself by missing 10 of its 20 free throws in a 63-44 loss at Central Michigan. The MAC’s “explosion” game of the night came at Toledo, where the moribund Rockets (who entered the game with a 4-21 record) finally achieved a lift-off of sorts with a 71-67 win over Ball State, with Tyrone Kent firing home 26 for the winners.
That pretty much sums up MAC hoops this season, when the league’s worst team (Toledo) played the most-exciting basketball of the night.
2) South Florida...So much for the Bulls as giant-killers. After recently upsetting highly-ranked Marquette in Tampa, USF was hoping it could do the same against Georgetown Wednesday night. Never mind, as the Bulls hit only 15 of 47 FG tries (31.9%) and only 1 of 12 from triplesville in a 65-40 loss that temporarily allowed the Hoyas (who entered the Sun Dome having lost 8 of their last 9) to get well.
3) Army...Perhaps the Black Knights of the Hudson were paying homage to Bob Knight’s vicious, snarling West Point teams of 40 years ago and trying to prove they also could beat American U with defense and tenacity alone. But Bob’s teams had some talented guys like Mike Silliman who could shoot and score. The current Black Knights, however, saw no one score more than 7 points while the team shot only 27.1% from the floor in a 58-36 loss to the Patriot League-leading Eagles.
4) Colgate...And to think that a Patriot League team shot even worse from the floor Wednesday night than Army! Meet Colgate, which misfired on 36 of its 49 FG tries in a 49-40 loss at Bethlehem vs. Lehigh, which wasn’t exactly burning the nets itself (the Engineers were only 36.7% from the floor).
5) Drexel-George Mason...At least this CAA grinder was a close, tense affair. It was no night for offensive fireworks, not that one was expected featuring teams coached by Bruiser Flint and Jim Larranaga, who have been involved in some intriguing chess matches over the years. Neither team shot the ball worth a hoot (Drexel 34.8%, Mason 34%). But at least fans at the Patriot Center were treated to an exciting finish, as GMU’s Darryl Monroe hit a short jumper with 7 seconds to play to give the Pats a 49-48 comeback win and allowing the Fairfax bunch to stay on VCU’s heels (and draw abreast of fading Northeastern) in the CAA race.
6) Drake-Northern Iowa...Another root canal job, this one in the Missouri Valley, won by the visiting Bulldogs in a mild upset, 47-46. The stat line on this game reveals just how brutal of a contest it was in Davenport. Using a favorite measurement described by ex-Saint Mary’s HC and current TV game analysts on The Mtn., Dave Bollwinkle, anytime the turnovers and fouls add up to more than the field goals converted, you have a “disjointed” game. And using that criteria, Drake-NIU was as ugly as any game Wednesday night, with a total of 72 turnovers and fouls (37 TOS, 35 fouls) compared to only 31 FGs made. It’s too bad coach Bollwinkle was assigned to UNLV-Wyoming in Laramie Wednesday night instead of Drake-NIU, because he would have been talking about his “disjointed quotient” all night long.
7) Colorado-Nebraska...The Buffs and Cornhuskers have played football games this decade where more points were scored than Wednesday night’s hoop contest at Lincoln, which Nebraska survived 46-41. Like so many other games on the night, neither shot the ball worth a hoot (Buffs 31%, Huskers 34.8%), but at least Nebraska had one player mostly on the mark (Ade Dagunduro with 18 points) to save the game for Doc Sadler’s crew.
8) Detroit...We leave the lowly Titans for last because any team that loses 67-41 vs. Loyola-Chicago deserves to end the night’s “ugly” discussion. Allowing the Ramblers to run roughshod is bad enough, but scoring only 17 points in the first half vs. the Loyola defense is something else entirely. Or maybe the Ramblers (who upset Butler last Sunday) are simply getting the hang of things for HC Jim Whitesell, who indeed preaches defense by the lakeshore. Erratic Loyola shooters such as J.R. Blount and Justin Cerasoli usually have spots reserved in shooting Halls of Shame, but not Wednesday when the two seniors combined to hit 14 of 26 from the floor.
Added note: They’re not yet harkening on Sheridan Drive back to 1963, when George Ireland’s Ramblers won the NCAA Tourney, but a hot Blount & Cerasoli, along with emerging frosh standout Jordan Hicks (12 points vs. Detroit after scoring 23 in the Butler upset), could actually make Loyola a team to watch in what suddenly looks to be a wide-open Horizon Tournament.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT WINNERS AND LOSERS
It was an important Wednesday for several teams on the NCAA bubble, and not all of them delivered as expected. Following are the night’s winners and losers, plus our Wednesday Player of the Night.
LOSER: Davidson... Stephen Curry, get well in a hurry! Anyone who wondered if the Wildcats might still be an NCAA at-large team without Dell’s son got their answer Wednesday night, when Curry-less Davidson was blown out at home vs. The Citadel, 64-46. Curry missed the game due to a sprained ankle suffered last weekend vs. Furman. Of course, the Selection Committee will weigh injuries when considering at-large candidates, but for losses like Wednesday’s not to hurt the Wildcats, Curry has to return quickly and Davidson has to immediately pick up where it left off before the Curry injury. Saturday’s bracket Buster vs. Butler suddenly has an air of urgency about it for Davidson.
LOSER: Butler... Speaking of an air of urgency for Saturday’s Bracket Buster, Butler has it, too, after dropping is second straight Horizon League game Wednesday night, this one to Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 63-60. The Bulldogs, only 6 of 26 from tripleville in Sunday’s shock loss vs. Loyola-Chicago, were only 3 for 16 beyond the arc vs. the Panthers. That’s 9 of 42 from treyland the last two for Butler, which is finding out that living from the perimeter can be a dangerous thing. Another loss or two before the Horizon Tourney, along with a failure to win that event, might even put Butler in some bubble trouble.
WINNER: Virginia... The Cavaliers aren’t going anywhere this season, but their 75-61 win over Virginia Tech could prove a mortal NCAA blow to their in-state rival from Blacksburg. And it also might take a little more heat off of under-fire HC Dave Leitao, whose Cavs have now beaten Clemson and the Hokies on the trot. Virginia’s 6-6 frosh Sylven Landesberg, the ACC’s top scoring frosh at 18 ppg, led the Cavs with 19 points while adding 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Leitao isn’t out of the woods quite yet, but that recent 8-game Virginia losing streak is at least a bit further back in the rear-view mirror these days.
WINNER: LSU... The Tigers looked a sure loser for most of the way Wednesday night at Fayetteville, missing half of their 24 free throw attempts and trailing Arkansas by as many as 18 points at one stage. But the never-say-die Tigers, ranked for the first time in two yeas, closed the game on an 11-1 run to steal a 72-69 win over the deflated Razorbacks. Marcus Thornton’s 28 points spurred the comeback for Trent Johnson’s team, which won its 7th in a row and now appears a lock for the Big Dance. As for Arkansas, it lost despite 17 points from Courtney Fortson, back from a 1-game suspension, but the disappointing Hogs still fell to 1-10 in SEC play and did little to improve the case of bronchitis that prevented (or was it spared) HC John Pelphrey from talking to the media after the game.
LOSER: UNLV... Rebel HC Lon Kruger was wary about the trip to Laramie, correctly observing that Wyoming is a much more dangerous team on its home court. What Kruger probably couldn’t envision, however, was his UNLV team missing all 12 of its 3-pointers in the first half and digging itself a hole that it couldn’t recover from in an eventual 77-68 loss. Cowboy star G Brandon Ewing, held to just 7 points in last month’s loss at the Thomas & Mack Center, gained some revenge by scoring 29, while the Runnin’ Rebels’ final 3-point tally was a poor 5 of 26. The defeat means that UNLV faces a true must-win game Saturday night vs. BYU to keep its NCAA at-large hopes alive (though remember that UNLV does host the Mountain West Tourney, an event it has won the past two seasons at the Thomas & Mack).
WINNER: Mississippi State... The Bulldogs’ NCAA at-large hopes took a severe jolt last week in losses vs. LSU (a painful one in overtime) and at Auburn. Facing a true must-win game to rekindle its NCAA at-large dreams vs. hot South Carolina Wednesday night, the Bulldogs delivered with a clutch 75-70 win. The Cocks’ star Gs Devan Downey & Zam Fredrick were only a combined 11 of 31 from the floor, while soph G Patrick Turner came up big for the Bulldogs with 16 points and 14 boards. Soph 6-7 swingman Ravern Johnson led MSU scorers with 20 points.
LOSER: Northeastern... The Huskies are officially in a slump after losing at home vs. Rod Barnes’ improving Georgia State, 70-68. That’s three straight losses and four defeats in the last five for NE, which dropped out of a share of first place in the CAA with the defeat. The Huskies tried their best in a wild final minute-and-a-half of action, erasing an 8-point Panther lead, only to see GSU’s Ousman Krubally hit a layup at the buzzer for the win. Keep an eye on the Panthers as a darkhorse in the upcoming CAA Tourney, especially since they have located a shooting eye for the first time all season (GSU has hit 50% or better from the floor in 4 of its last 5, including 55.8% vs. the Huskies).
WINNER: Auburn... It’s been a while (6 years, to be exact) since Auburn won 4 straight SEC games. But the wait is over after Wednesday’s 71-59 win at Georgia which has the Tigers moving a bit closer to at least having a look at the periphery of the NCAA bubble. Remember, the Tigers are rallying at a time when HC Jeff Lebo’s job was reportedly in jeopardy, and were all business from the outset at Athens when rolling to a 45-19 halftime lead. The lead grew to as many as 27 points before the Dawgs started to chip away in front of a sparse gathering at Stegeman Coliseum, as local tornado warnings before tipoff kept the crowd at an intimate level. WEDNESDAY PLAYER OF THE NIGHT: Charles Jenkins, Hofstra... The underrated, powerful 6-3 soph G from nearby Queens had a huge night on Long Island for the surging Pride against James Madison, knocking home 32 points in Hofstra’s exciting 99-96 double-overtime win. Jenkins (18.3 ppg) also dished out a career-high 13 assists and gathered 7 rebounds in a tremendous all-around performance.
WHO’S HOT AND WHO’S NOT...POINTSPREAD STREAKS (thru February 18)
WINS: Arizona 3 straight and 6 of 7; Arkansas-Little Rock 5 straight and 9 of 10; Arizona State 4 straight; Auburn 4 straight; BYU 5 straight; Colorado 8 of 9; Creighton 5 of 6; Indiana State 4 straight; La Tech 4 straight; Memphis 4 straight and 8 of 9; NC State 4 straight; Pepperdine 5 straight; St. Bona 4 straight; Saint Louis 7 straight; Seton Hall 5 straight; Temple 4 straight; Troy 4 straight; Villanova 8 of 9; Youngstown State 5 straight.
LOSSES: Baylor 7 straight, Colorado State 5 of 6, Detroit 4 straight, DePaul 6 straight and 10 of 11, Fordham 5 straight and 7 of 8, Harvard 7 of 8, Kentucky 5 of 6, Marquette 4 straight, Minnesota 4 straight and 7 of 8, Notre Dame 10 of 11, Northastern 5 straight, Oregon 4 straight and 9 of 11, South Alabama 7 of 8, Saint Joseph’s 5 of 6, Southern Miss 8 of 9, TCU 7 of 8, Virginia Tech 4 straight.