College Hoops Thursday Recap: Golden Bears the Pac-10 Frontrunner
Control of the Pac-10 race was on the line in Berkeley Thursday night with Lorenzo Romar's Washington Huskies needing to shake their road woes in order to declare themselves a factor. But all they did was show exactly why they're currently a longshot to make the NCAA Tournament, failing to defend in the first half as California got whatever they wanted in building a 48-34 halftime lead on the way to a 93-81 triumph. Jerome Randle, who didn't shoot well in the meeting in Seattle last month, torched the Huskies for 33 points (21 in the first half) while Jamal Boykin added a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds and all five starters scored in double figures.
"We knew Jerome Randle would be ready to play and he had an outstanding game. The guy is a really good offensive basketball player," said Coach Romar. "If you look around this league and you look at Jerome Randle the last two years, this isn't the first night that he's done something like this (quote courtesy of calbears.com)."
Cal, who also struggled on the glass in the first meeting, grabbed ten offensive rebounds in the first half on the way to a 25-12 rebounding advantage and finished with a rebounding margin of plus-7. For the game Cal shot 51.7% from the field while the Huskies hit just three of twelve from behind the arc on their way to an overall field goal percentage of 43.3% (36.7% in the first half). Isaiah Thomas led the Huskies with 24 points but no one else stepped up offensively in the first twenty minutes, placing Washington behind the proverbial 8-ball.
The credit for that should go to Theo Robertson and Jorge Gutierrez, both of whom did a solid job defensively throughout the game. Robertson did a good job of making Quincy Pondexter work for his 18 points (6-15 FG) while Gutierrez did his work offensively on Thomas, who had three fouls and was unable to hide defensively. "Jorge is one of our better post-offensive players to begin with," said Mike Montgomery. "We wanted to find a way to try to get the ball into the low post. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish with that (quote courtesy of calbears.com)."
Although their lead over Arizona State and Arizona is just one game the Golden Bears get both in Berkeley later this month, and given the difficulties most teams in the Pac-10 have had winning on the road that's an edge that can't be overstated. As for Washington, they allowed their best shot at a quality road win fall by the wayside and that could be costly come March.
Three Key Happenings
1. Louisville deals with coaching rumors in the morning, comes out flat at night. Big East coaching news got off to an early start on Thursday with the New York Daily News reporting that there had been third-party contact between Rick Pitino and the New Jersey Nets. Of course Coach Pitino denied the report in the Big East Coaches Teleconference and the players said all the right things before taking on St. John's they did not show up, falling behind 10-0 on the way to a disappointing 74-55 loss. With the Red Storm honoring the 1985 Final Four team they needed a win and the Cardinals' effort offered up ample assistance with Louisville shooting 6-for-19 from behind the arc and their starting backcourt making just two of ten shots.
D.J. Kennedy led the Red Storm, who ended their five-game losing skid, with 15 points while Justin Burrell added 14 off the bench. St. John's plays as hard as anyone in the Big East and if you come out lax or distracted they can send you home with a loss. And this one will likely come with a heavy price for Louisville, who were in the middle of the NCAA Tournament discussion. Are their hopes completely gone? No, but they're going to need a big win at some point to make up for Thursday's subpar performance.
2. Gonzaga shows why they're the best team in the WCC in the second half. Saint Mary's got off to a good start at The Kennel, leading by seven after six minutes and playing with confidence. But a Matt Bouldin three at the end of the first half gave the Bulldogs a 39-36 halftime lead and from there Gonzaga controlled the game, eventually winning 80-61 and grabbing complete control of the WCC race. Elias Harris, who should be a freshman All-America, led the way with 19 points and Bouldin added 18 while Omar Samhan led the Gaels with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Gonzaga also played well defensively, holding SMC to 37.3% shooting and forcing sixteen turnovers on the night. Steven Gray made just two of ten from the field but it didn't matter due to the Bulldogs' versatility on offense, with the team shooting 54.2%. Gonzaga with a strong finish could find themselves owning a "protected" seed and playing their first two games at Spokane Arena while the Gaels find themselves in a fight for a possible at-large bid should they not win the WCC's automatic bid. Randy Bennett's team will likely have a gaudy record but how much "beef" is there on the resume? That's a question that could cause them to sweat things out come March.
3. Notre Dame drops one at Seton Hall and hopes that Luke Harangody's injury was just a false alarm. Similar to Louisville the Irish found themselves on the road playing a conference game that they really couldn't afford to lose if they're to be an NCAA Tournament team. But not only did they fall victim to an incredible bounce-back game from Jeremy Hazell (12-16, 35 points) the Irish lost Luke Harangody for the last eight minutes with a right knee injury. While Seton Hall doctors who examined the All-American after the game noted that there was no structural damage Notre Dame will take a more in-depth look at the knee when they get back to South Bend. To say the least they cannot afford to lose Harangody for any length of time.
Mike Brey's Irish had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds, with a Carleton Scott three pointer falling short after Tim Abromaitis missed an attempt of his own. Both teams shot well from the field but it was Seton Hall's efficiency that gave them a ten-point halftime lead that they were able to hang onto at game's end. The Pirates finished with 23 assists (on 33 field goals) to just eight turnovers while Notre Dame turned the ball over 14 times (eight assists). This has been the story of the Irish in recent years; good enough to be within the vicinity of an NCAA bid yet lacking the ability to make that necessary step. With opportunities still to be had, Notre Dame has to take advantage in the season's final weeks.
Top Three Games
1. Seton Hall 90, Notre Dame 87 See above.
2. Eastern Illinois 76, Morehead State 75 Two Tyler Laser free throws with a second remaining gave the Panthers the win, the result of the Eagles calling a timeout that they didn't have. Maze Stallworth gave Morehead the lead with a three-pointer but in the scramble for a loose ball on the other end a player called timeout.
3. Stanford 60, Washington St 58 Jeremy Green, who scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half, hit a shot with 4.6 seconds remaining to complete the Cardinal's comeback from an 18-point deficit. Down 44-26 with 10 minutes remaining, Stanford outscored the Cougars 34-14 the rest of the game. Klay Thompson led Wazzu with 19 points.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall) Hazell sparked the Pirates' win over Notre Dame with 35 points, making 12 of 16 shots from the field.
2. G Jerome Randle (California) Randle scored 21 of his 33 points in the first half of the Golden Bears' win over Washington, essentially putting the game away before halftime.
3. F DeShawn Sims (Michigan) Sims accounted for 27 points and seven rebounds in the Wolverines' 71-63 win at Minnesota.