Monday's rivalry game between Georgetown and Syracuse didn't get off to the best of starts for the home team, who fell behind 14-0 before the game was even three minutes old thanks primarily to the shooting of Austin Freeman (3-3 from deep during that sequence) with a Jason Clark trey being the final salvo in that outburst. The outside shots were coming easily for the Hoyas, something that actually make the Syracuse zone more effective especially if you don't commit to getting the ball inside. Georgetown accepted the invitation to do the majority of their work on the perimeter, and this combined with the Syracuse bench tandem of Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, led to the Orange storming back to eventually win 73-56.
The most telling stat for an individual player for Georgetown? That would be Greg Monroe (eight points), who fouled out with more turnovers (six) than rebounds (four). Freeman continued his solid play of late with 23 points and Clark added fifteen but there were no other offensive standouts for the Hoyas, who shot just 38.1% from behind the arc and turned the ball over nineteen times. Syracuse had three players reach double figures and the bench duo of Jardine and Joseph combined to score 24 points (and gave the team a serious boost in the first half) on the night. Wes Johnson (14 points, nine rebounds, four blocks) and Andy Rautins (15 points, six rebounds, six assists) stuffed the stat sheet in helping head coach Jim Boeheim pick up his 819th career victory.
Syracuse did a far better job of getting the ball inside, making 53.3% of their shots and assisting on eighteen of their twenty-four made field goals as they outscored the Hoyas by 31 points (73-42) after that initial outburst. Even though the Orange didn't get off to the best of starts their win (and the way they did it) showed exactly why this team is so good. They've got a variety of options on offense and their combined wingspan makes it tough to get the ball inside, and if you play into their hands and go away from working the ball into the middle of the zone you're in trouble. It will be interesting to see if the Hoyas apply the lessons learned on Monday in their rematch on February 18th.
Three Key Happenings
1. Kansas dominates Missouri despite turning the ball over 23 times. The Jayhawks took eleven fewer shots than the Tigers and finished a -19 in turnover margin yet still won by nineteen (84-65) and the game really wasn't as close as the margin would indicate. Kansas did an outstanding job on defense, limiting the Tigers to 27.9% shooting and winning the battle of the boards by a 53-28 margin. Center Cole Aldrich may have taken just five shots (making four) but that doesn't do justice to his impact on the game. The junior big man also grabbed sixteen rebounds and blocked seven shots in the win, also making numerous outlet passes that got his teammates out on the run.
Justin Safford led the Tigers with nineteen points but it shouldn't be a surprise that a team that had to replace its top three scorers from a season ago had so much trouble creating offense against one of the nation's better defenses. Six Jayhawks scored at least six points with three (Aldrich, Marcus Morris and Tyrel Reed) reach double figures as Kansas moved to 19-1 going into their showdown with in-state rival Kansas State on Saturday. Just like Syracuse this is a team that due to its offensive options and commitment to defense is a serious threat to cut down the nets come March.
2. Western Carolina makes a statement in beating Charleston. The Cougars have received the bulk of the attention in the Southern Conference due to their win over North Carolina and the struggles of Davidson. But the leaders in the oft-forgotten North Division struck a blow on Monday night, with the Catamounts of Western Carolina knocking off Charleston 100-90 at the Ramsey Center. The Catamounts shot 59.4% from the field in avenging their loss to the Cougars in last year's SoCon Tournament, maintaining their one-game lead on Appalachian State in the North.
Richie Gordon led five Catamounts in double figures with 19 points, snapping Charleston's seven-game win streak despite 24 points and 11 assists from Andrew Goudelock and 23 points from Tony White Jr. in a losing effort. In fact, each team had five players reach double figures but it was the WCU bench that made the difference, outscoring the Charleston reserves 40-13. Charleston will still be the favorite to win the SoCon's automatic bid but with Western Carolina (and Appalachian State) it will be no cakewalk come tournament time.
3. Texas Southern takes the lead in the SWAC. In a matchup of teams boasting 5-1 conference records the Tigers knocked off Arkansas-Pine Bluff 70-67 in Houston. DeAndre Hall (21 points) and Trevele Jones (18 points) led the way for Texas Southern, who made 47.2% of their shots while the Golden Lions made just 32.3% of their shots. And it's a good thing they held UAPB to such a low percentage since the Golden Eagles grabbed 17 offensive rebounds on their way to a 43-27 advantage on the boards. Terrance Calvin led UAPB with 17 points, seven assists and five steals but it wasn't enough to counteract the cold shooting. But Texas Southern is by no means the "lone wolf" atop the SWAC with five teams within a game of each other atop the standings. This race won't lack for intrigue as the season approaches its final month.
Top Three Games
1. Boise State 77, Idaho 67 (OT) An Anthony Thomas three pointer with one second left in regulation got the Broncos to overtime, where they jumped out to a four-point lead just over a minute in on their way to the victory. Thomas led the Broncos with 17 while Ike Okoye added 16 and 11 rebounds.
2. Western Carolina 100, Charleston 90 See above.
3. Syracuse 73, Georgetown 56 See above.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Menji Mundadi (Alabama State) The Chicago native hit seven of fourteen three pointers in leading the Hornets to a 77-60 win over Southern, their fourst straight victory.
2. F Denzel Bowles (James Madison) Bowles was an important factor in the Dukes' 67-63 win over Radford with 17 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and four blocks.
3. C Cole Aldrich (Kansas) 12 points doesn't do his performance justice, also grabbing 16 rebounds and blocking seven shots in the Jayhawks' 84-65 win over Missouri.