College Hoops Monday Recap: Another Personnel Blow for the Big Ten

December 29th, 2009

For the second time this season a Big Ten team had a victory tempered by the loss of their best player. First it was Ohio State's Evan Turner, who broke two vertebra in his lower back in a blowout win over Eastern Michigan. The Buckeyes have been able to navigate the waters following his loss outside of a close defeat to Butler due to the many other options at Thad Matta's disposal. But the loss of Maurice Creek could loom even larger for Indiana, who beat winless Bryant 90-42 at Assembly Hall.

Creek, who is the conference's leading scorer among freshmen with an average of 17.6 points per game, was lost to a knee injury early in the second half and is likely out for the season. The freshman from Oxon Hill, MD has a fractured knee according to head coach Tom Crean, who delivered the bad news during his postgame radio show. The loss of a freshman the caliber of Creek, one who was expected to (and had to this point) shoulder a considerable amount of the offensive responsibilities, is a blow that could prove to be a crushing one. 

"He'll have surgery tomorrow and I would say that's probably going to be the year for him," said Coach Crean after the game (courtesy of audio provided by the Bloomington Herald Times). Where do the Hoosiers go from here? Simply put more of the scoring load will fall to the likes of Christian Watford, Verdell Jones III and Jeremiah Rivers. Indiana will also need some other options to step up as they enter conference play. Once again the Hoosiers will be shorthanded, and if anything could be learned from last year's undermanned outfit it was that they'd compete for fourty minutes. But in a Big Ten that's tougher to navigate this season that may not be enough. 

Three Key Happenings

1. The "Jimmer Fredette Show" takes over Tucson. Going into their game at Arizona the BYU Cougars were expected by many to pick up their thirteenth win of the season. But the way in which they accomplished that task made a few jaws drop at McKale Center thanks in large part to their point guard. Fredette, who actually played in the same AAU backcourt as Penn State's Talor Battle, went off in BYU's 99-69 win, setting both school and arena records for points scored in one game with 49. Jimmer shot 16-23 from the field (9-13 3PT) for the night and added nine assists and seven rebounds.

But he's got ample help as well, with Jackson Emery (13 points) and Tyler Haws (12 points) also reaching double digits on Monday. The scary thing about Dave Rose's team is this: those three have been consistent while Jonathan Tavernari (1-2, 2 pts in 22 minutes) still hasn't approached his scoring numbers of a season ago. And if he gets it going, keep an eye on the Cougars. This is a team that can do some serious damage come March (provided they avoid Texas A&M). 

2. Two Atlantic 10 squads avoid damaging losses. George Washington isn't expected to be a title contender this year but it would have been a serious hit for the league had they fallen to a Holy Cross team with just two wins on the season. The Colonials started the game on a 20-4 run and led at the half 36-22 yet still needed fourteen second-half points from Damian Hollis to hang on. The Crusaders used the three pointer to shoot themselves back into the game, making 50% of their shots from behind the arc. No matter how young Karl Hobbs' team is this was a game they could ill-afford to lose. 

Richmond nearly fell at home to UNC Wilmington, surviving 66-64 on a pair of Kevin Anderson free throws with 30.4 seconds left in the game. In fact, the Spiders needed a 10-0 run to regain the lead with less than two minutes remaining in a game that was essentially a tale of two halves. Richmond and UNCW, who combined for thirty-one points in the first half, managed to score 99 points in the final stanza. The Seahawks had a shot at the win despite twenty turnovers, and the reason for that was their 45-25 rebounding advantage. If Richmond is to be a contender in the A-10 they've got to rebound consistently. 

3. Rutgers may be on the road to improvement. When the score hit 61-44 North Carolina you could hear much of the nation say the same thing in regards to the Scarlet Knights: here we go again. But an interesting thing happened with Fred Hill's team at that point: instead of reverting to old habits Rutgers fought back, whittling that lead down to two points before finally falling to the Tar Heels 81-67 in Chapel Hill. Dexter Strickland led the victors with a career-high 18 points but North Carolina struggled to find an answer for Mike Rosario.

The sophomore from Jersey City led all scorers with 22 points (I'm wondering why Mike Patrick sounded so shocked in regards to his ability), and freshman Dane Miller added 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Hamady Ndiaye's foul trouble and cold shooting from the perimeter (3-23 3PT) got Rutgers in trouble, as did the amazing disparity in free throws (RU: 4-9; UNC: 24-35). But despite the refusal to accept "moral victories" there were things that Coach Hill and his staff can build upon as they enter Big East play.  

Top Three Games

1. Morehead St 66, South Dakota 64 A Maze Stallworth three-pointer with 1:45 to go put the Eagles ahead for good on the road. Senior forward Kenneth Faried added 15 points and 15 rebounds to Stallworth's team-leading 21 points. 

2. Marshall 78, Troy 75 A Shaquille Johnson layup with sixteen seconds left in the game gave the Thundering Herd the lead for good at Troy. Hassan Whiteside continued his march towards Conference USA Rookie of the Year honors with 18 points and 16 rebounds. 

3. Richmond 66, UNC Wilmington 64 See above. 

Three Notable Perfomances

1. G Jimmer Fredette (BYU) Fredette scored forty-nine points (16-23 FG, 9-13 3PT), nine assists and seven rebounds in the Cougars' 99-69 win at Arizona. 

2. F Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest) Farouq led the Demon Deacons to a 75-60 win at UNC Greensboro with 23 points, 17 rebounds and three assists. 

3. F Tyler Cain (South Dakota) Cain posted the following line in South Dakota's loss to Morehead State: 17 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and four blocks.