Things didn't look too good for Florida State at the half of the Old Spice Classic title game against Marquette, going into the locker room down 30-18 after having shot just 29.6% from the field with more turnovers (13) than field goals (8). But they were able to fight back thanks to a change in strategy from Leonard Hamilton, who went smaller to better match the quickness of the Golden Eagles. The end result: Florida State winning the game on a Solomon Alabi baseline jumper with 11.9 seconds left in the game to provide the 57-56 final.
Chris Singleton, who led the Seminoles with eighteen points and ten rebounds, was named MVP of the tournament and helped kick-start the 24-8 run that resulted in a 48-48 tie with 3:51 remaining in the game. The key for the Seminoles in the second half: outscoring the Golden Eagles 13-2 in points off of turnovers and 24-16 in the paint, two categories in which Marquette was either even or held a significant edge after the first twenty minutes. Lazar Hayward led the Golden Eagles with nineteen, and the end result shouldn't tarnish what was a good weekend for the team picked to finish 12th in the ACC.
But the moment belonged to the Seminoles, who were able to gut out a tourney title on the heels of a disappointing loss at Florida last week. The shot selection and turnovers need to improve but if the second half was any indication of what Leonard Hamilton's team is capable of look for FSU to have a good shot at another NCAA Tournament bid.
Three Key Happenings
1. West Virginia welcomes back Devin Ebanks and wins the 76 Classic. The sophomore sensation was a question mark in the Mountaineers' games before the 76 Classic; no one knew why he wasn't playing and it was unknown when he would return to the squad. The semifinal victory over Texas A&M marked his return to the floor but it was senior Da'Sean Butler who made the difference in the 84-66 victory over Portland.
Butler, named MVP of the event, scored twenty-six points and WVU shot 46.7% from the field while holding the Pilots to 20.8% from behind the arc. The Mountaineers are a versatile team on both ends of the floor, which allows them to throw a number of offensive sets and defenses at their opponents. It was a good weekend for the Pilots, who have a good argument for being ranked in this week's polls, but West Virginia was simply too much for Eric Reveno's squad.
2. Clemson comes back to knock off Butler. The Tigers didn't start off well, shooting just 35.7% from the field and 27.3% from behind the arc in the first half to fall behind 33-26 at the intermission. Trevor Booker's being sick may have had an impact on that (as did the Butler defense) but the Tigers were able to bounce back, winning 70-69 on a pair of Demontez Stitt free throws with 3.3 seconds left in the game. Clemson shot 57.7% from the field and 46.2% from behind the arc in the second half while limiting Butler to 27.3% (3-for-11) from three point range. Stitt led the Tigers with nineteen points and Booker came through with the biggest defensive play of the night, blocking a corner three attempt by Shelvin Mack to preserve the win. Going home with two wins in spite of a virus that hit a couple of players is a good result for Oliver Purnell's team.
3. The natives are getting restless in Fayetteville. Arkansas, who is without some key components due to suspension, fell to a good South Alabama squad at home 74-61, dropping to 2-4 on the season. Rotnei Clarke, who really shouldn't be the feature scorer, was forced to take on that role with the likes of Courtney Fortson suspended and when he hasn't shot well the Hogs have fallen. Freshman Marshawn Powell had his worst game of the season against the Jaguars, going 0-for-6 from the field and as a team Arkansas shot 34.9% from the field.
They couldn't shoot and they didn't rebound either, with South Alabama winning the battle on the boards 33-23. If Arkansas is to rebound from this slow star they're going to have to rebound and take better care of the basketball (19 turnovers). These aren't the days of "40 Minutes of Hell" and while some may not be willing to admit it, the process for John Pelphrey could take some time due to the off-court distractions.
Top Three Games
1. #19 Clemson 70, #10 Butler 69 See above.
2. Florida State 57, Marquette 56 See above.
3. Colorado State 91, San Francisco 75 (2OT) Despite the final margin this was one of Sunday's better games. Travis Franklin, who made a pair of free throws at the end of the first overtime, scored ten points in the second extra session for the Rams. Dior Lowhorn led the Dons with 22 points while Manhattan transfer Rashad Green added 21.
Three Notable Performances
1. C Artsiom Parakhouski (Radford) The reigning Big South Player of the Year went for 26 points and 20 rebounds in Radford's 71-63 loss to Duquesne.
2. G Osiris Eldridge (Illinois State) The senior hit six three-pointers and scored twenty-eight points in the Redbirds' 80-77 win over St. Bonaventure.
3. G Manny Harris (Michigan) "Manny Fresh" had another solid game for the Wolverines, scoring twenty-six points to go along with ten rebounds and five steals in Michigan's 68-66 loss to Alabama.