Is it time to rank Frank Martin's Wildcats? They had an argument before their game against #17 UNLV at Orleans Arena on Saturday evening and if they aren't ranked following the 95-80 win expect some angry fans in the Little Apple. Guards Jacob Pullen (28 points) and Denis Clemente (22 points, nine assists) took control of the game and didn't let go until the verdict was essentially decided early in the second half. As a team the Wildcats shot 57.1% from the field and made more than sixty percent of their shots from behind the arc while limiting the Runnin' Rebels to 28.6% from distance.
Pullen was borderline unstoppable from outside, knocking down seven of ten shots from behind the arc and as a team the Wildcats displayed a number of scoring options while also displaying the ability to force some things defensively (UNLV finishes with sixteen turnovers). One area to watch will be turnovers as Kansas State won't be able to get away with eighteen turnovers every night. But this is a solid basketball team that will be right in the mix behind Big 12 favorites Kansas and Texas when conference play rolls around.
Three Key Happenings
1. Butler picks up a key non-conference victory. The Bulldogs lacked a signature victory going into their game with Ohio State at Hinke Fieldhouse. Even though the Buckeyes are without Evan Turner they are still a formidable opponent and beating Thad Matta's team would give Butler something to hold onto as they navigate Horizon League play. Gordon Hayward led the Bulldogs to the 74-66 win with 24 points and eight rebounds while Willie Veasley added fifteen points and ten rebounds. But the familiar bugaboo of Matt Howard getting into foul trouble nearly cost Brad Stevens' team, although the issues sprang up in the second half instead of the first.
When Howard went out with his fourth foul Butler was up by double figures; the Buckeyes were able to storm back to within four points on the heels of a 15-0 Butler run that made the score 67-50. William Buford found his stroke in scoring twenty points and the Bulldogs also had trouble dealing with OSU's full court pressure. Howard's foul difficulties will play a significant role in Butler's fortunes as the season progresses but at least they've got a win over a Top 25 team to place on the resume.
2. Should New Mexico be ranked as well? Steve Alford's Lobos definitely have an argument following their 84-81 win over Texas A&M in Houston, with UNM surviving a late run from the Aggies. Roman Martinez, the lone senior for New Mexico, led the Lobos with twenty-two points and seven rebounds and three other players reached double figures for the victors. Donald Sloan led the Aggies with twenty-nine points but as a team A&M didn't shoot well from beyond the arc (8-for-28) or rebound (37-27 New Mexico edge) in a game they didn't show a sense of urgency for until late. But by the time A&M fought their way back there was Martinez making the key plays to seal the result. New Mexico will be heard from in the Mountain West and they should be in this week's Top 25 as well.
3. Georgetown finishes off a big week with a very good performance. The Hoyas knew what was on the line with games against Butler and Washington this week; head coach John Thompson III labeled this a "Big East week" due to the contrasting styles they'd encounter. And if their 74-66 win over the Huskies in the John Wooden Classic in Anaheim is a harbinger of things to come then expect the Hoyas to be a player in the Big East race. In fact the game wasn't as close as the final score would indicate, with Georgetown taking full control after weathering the Huskies' early run.
All five starters scored in double figures for Georgetown with Julian Vaughn leading the way with eighteen points to go along with seven rebounds. But the bigger story should be the Georgetown defense that forced twenty-five turnovers while also limiting the Huskies to 4-for-18 from behind the arc. The Hoyas are versatile offensively while also boasting a much-improved defense, which should convince the skeptics that they're not going to collapse in a fashion similar to last year's trek through Big East play.
Top Three Games
1. Louisiana Tech 102, Centenary 96 (2OT) Kyle Gibson led the Bulldogs with twenty-eight points in a game that featured ten players scoring in double figures. Centenary shot 20-for-29 from three in the defeat.
2. Loyola Marymount 87, Notre Dame 85 Thanks to 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists from Vernon Teel the Lions pulled off the stunner of the day in South Bend. Just as surprising as the result: LMU outrebounded Notre Dame 38-30.
3. Virginia Tech 66, Penn State 64 Malcolm Delaney scored 27 points, including eleven at one point in the second half, as the Hokies survived a 32-point night from Talor Battle. Outside of these two only Jeff Allen (VT) and David Jackson (PSU) reached double figures with both scoring twelve points.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Jamel Jackson and G Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall) These two combined for seventy-three points in the Pirates' 134-107 win over VMI. Jackson shot 12-for-15 from three on his way to forty points while Hazell added 33 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Herb Pope grabbed twenty rebounds in the win as well.
2. G Xavier Henry (Kansas) The freshman phenom scored thirty-one points in the top-ranked Jayhawks' 90-65 win over La Salle in Kansas City.
3. F Damian Saunders (Duquesne) Saunders scored ten points and grabbed seventeen rebounds in the Dukes' 59-54 win over Robert Morris. This was the sixth game this season in which Saunders grabbed at least fifteen rebounds in a game.