Watching the Connecticut/Georgetown game should have been enough of a clue that some interesting things were likely to happen on Saturday. In what was essentially two games for the price of one the Hoyas came back to win 72-69 at the Verizon Center, their fourth consecutive win over the Huskies. The first twenty minutes went about as well as the Huskies could have hoped, shooting 50% from both the field and from three (4-8) on their way to a seemingly commanding 40-25 lead. Georgetown shot just 29.6% from the field and had eight turnovers to just four assists.
But there may have been an issue in that first half Connecticut that eventually came back to bite them: leaving points the foul line. The Huskies, never among the best from the charity stripe, made just two of seven in the first twenty minutes. Connecticut also controlled points in the paint (24-8) and second-chance points (10-2) in the first half, trends that didn't hold up in the second half. There was also no answer for Austin Freeman, who scord 28 of his career-high 33 points in the second half. As a comparison, UConn as a team scored 29 second half points. Georgetown was more efficient offensively and as a result improved defensively.
The Hoyas were virtually even in points in the paint (22-20 UConn) and outscored the Huskies 10-5 in second-chance points, and when they scored they were able to set their defense. John Thompson III showed the Huskies a zone look for large stretches of the second half, and the better defense resulted in the Huskies shooting 44% from the field and 0-for-4 from downtown. The Huskies did shoot 7-for-10 from the foul line in the second half so the issue there had more to do with the points left at the charity stripe in the second half as opposed to down the stretch.
But guards Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson had subpar afternoons (10 assists, 10 turnovers combined), and there were times when they chose to force the issue in order to get closer to the basket instead of pulling up for the short jumper. This game was a great foreshadowing of what we'd see from many of the nation's teams on Saturday in that many teams have "Jekyll and Hyde" capabilities.
Three Key Happenings
1. Georgia Tech makes their case for being the second-best team in the ACC. I'm sure some will wonder why the Yellow Jackets can't be hailed as the best team in what could be a wide-open ACC after their 71-67 win over Duke in Atlanta. But looking at the resumes of all the possible contenders in the conference it's safe to say that the Blue Devils are still the favorites, and it isn't as if they were blown out on Saturday. The game was more about Paul Hewitt's team showing that it had the discipline to get things done defensively and not making silly mistakes on the other end of the floor. Led by Gani Lawal's 21 points and nine rebounds Georgia Tech won the rebounding battle 34-26 and made up for fifteen turnovers (Iman Shumpert had seven) by limiting the Blue Devils to 6-for-28 from behind the arc.
Duke had to deal with second-half fatigue as a result of foul trouble, with Lance Thomas fouling out with more than ten minutes left in the game and three other players finishing with four fouls. But just as much credit should be given the the Jackets, who made their free throws down the stretch and didn't settle for perimeter shots. Unforced errors have been Georgia Tech's undoing in their three losses, and if they can get them under control they've got as good a chance as anyone to make the above claim.
2. Wisconsin does what was expected and beats Purdue in Madison. Vegas had the Boilermakers a one-point favorite going into their game at Wisconsin. Not sure why when the Badgers entered the game 62-5 in Big Ten home games during the Bo Ryan era. You need essentially a Herculean effort in order to beat them at the Kohl Center, as was proven in their 73-66 victory Saturday afternoon. Jordan Taylor was one of the heroes, scoring 23 points on a day that saw starting point guard Trevon Hughes head to the bench with two quick fouls. Taylor struggled early but once he got his bearings he took off, and Jason Bohanon added twenty points.
E'Twuan Moore led the Boilermakers with 24 points (10-14 FG) but outside of him the other Boilermakers struggled from the field. In fact, if you take away his numbers Purdue shot just 15-for-39 (38.5%) from the field. But while some may look at this as the first sign of a chink in Purdue's "armor" understand that the Badgers also own a win over Duke at the Kohl Center; there's no shame in losing to a very good Wisconsin squad on the road. On a day that saw Hughes saddled with foul trouble and Jon Leuer shoot 2-for-15 guys stepped up, and that's something that can serve Wisconsin well as the season progresses.
3. Northern Iowa and Siena make statements within their respective leagues. Both teams were the preseason favorites to win their conferences, but let's start with Ben Jacobson's Panthers, who controlled play in their 59-44 win at Illinois State. UNI is a team that if they get to the NCAA Tournament will be a tough matchup for many teams due to their solid perimeter play and the presence of a seven-footer in Jordan Eglseder (16 points, eight rebounds).
Adam Koch and Kwadzo Ahelegbe also scored in double figures for the Panthers against the Redbirds, but UNI's best work was done on the defensive end. Illinois State shot 37.5% from the field and Osiris Eldridge hit just four of fourteen shots on the afternoon.The only question about this team is why they aren't ranked; that should change in the upcoming poll.
As for the Saints, they sent a rather emphatic message to the rest of the MAAC that they're still top dog in an 83-65 win over Niagara at the Times Union Center. Edwin Ubiles, who started the game on the bench due for disciplinary issues, scored 25 points while Alex Franklin (20 points) and Ryan Rossiter (15 points, 12 rebounds) led the way up front for Fran McCaffery's squad. And in Ronald Moore the Saints have one of the nation's better floor generals. Moore, who leads the nation in assists with 8.7 per game, handed out seven in the win.
But while Siena is known for their offensive prowess, they were able to pull away from the Purple Eagles by holding them to 24 second-half points and 38.5% shooting from the field. They've won an NCAA Tournament game in each of the last two years, and they'll likely be a threat to win another this season should they get back.
Top Three Games
1. Georgetown 72, Connecticut 69 See above.
2. Missouri 74, Kansas State 68 The Tigers used their defense to hold onto their win over the tenth-ranked Wildcats, defending with vigor as they went more than ten minutes without a field goal. Marcus Denmon and Zaire Taylor made key plays down the stretch to give Missouri the win in the Big 12 opener for both.
3. Dayton 78, Duquesne 72 (OT) The Flyers survived a dangerous Duquesne at UD Arena thanks to an outstanding performance from Chris Johnson (26 points, 20 rebounds). Johnson scored nineteen of his twenty-six in the second half and overtime as Dayton won their Atlantic 10 opener.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Jamine "Greedy" Peterson (Providence) Peterson scored 29 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the Friars' 94-81 home win over Rutgers.
2. G/F Chris Johnson (Dayton) Johnson also posted a 20/20 line, scoring 26 points to go with 20 rebounds in Dayton's 78-72 overtime win over Duquesne.
3. Donald Sims (Appalachian State) Sims went 13-for-19 from the field on his was to 44 points in the Mountaineers' 78-68 win at Davidson.
1. Temple at Rhode Island (1 PM) Two of the contenders for the Atlantic 10 title meet at the Ryan Center. The Owls have a talented trio in Juan Fernandez, Ryan Brooks and Lavoy Allen while the Rams also have talent and depth. Experienced players such as Keith Cothran, Delroy James and Lamonte Ulmer lead the way for Jim Baron's squad.
2. Kansas at Tennessee (4:30 PM) The top-ranked Jayhawks were taken to the brink by Cornell on Wednesday so they should be ready for another challenge. Despite the loss of four key players due to disciplinary issues there's still talent at Bruce Pearl's fingertips. Look for him to push all the motivational buttons necessary to make an upset in Knoxville possible.
3. Virginia Tech at North Carolina (7:45 PM) This is a dangerous game for the Tar Heels, especially if Malcolm Delaney (ankle) is able to go. Dorenzo Hudson is a more than capable scorer and when fully motivated Jeff Allen can be a force inside. North Carolina has plenty of depth and they should be ready to get back on the right track following their overtime loss to the College of Charleston. A Virginia Tech win would be big for Seth Greenberg's squad.