College Hoops Thursday Recap: Longhorns Outlast Illinois

November 19th, 2010
The great thing about early-season matchups the caliber of the semifinal doubleheader at Madison Square Garden is that it's a great litmus test for the teams in regards to where they are now in relation to where they'd like to be come March. All four teams in the 2K Sports Classic benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer showed off skills that should serve them well as the season wears on but they also displayed issues that must be rectified as well. Texas, thanks to the early scoring of Jordan Hamilton and the impressive interior play of freshman Tristan Thompson, outlasted Illinois 90-84 in the second semifinal of the night. But the overtime performance of senior forward Gary Johnson shouldn't be ignored either, especially given a 30-second stretch of the second half that made spectators wonder just what he was up to.

First there was the intentional foul on Bill Cole with 3:53 remaining in a tie game (71-all), which Illinois could only convert into one made free throw. Then just 11 seconds later there that the muddled fast break that culminated in his passing the ball to Dogus Balbay with the point guard was standing out of bounds. But the Houston native came up big when it mattered the most, playing a role in the first six points of the extra session (four points and an assist) as the young Longhorns have displayed better chemistry through three games than they did at any point last season. Hamilton may have been the high scorer with 25 points but he wasn't the most dominant player on the court. That honor goes to Thompson, who accounted for 20 points, seven rebounds, five blocks, four assists and three steals in outplaying the Illinois front line.

Demetri McCamey led the Illini with 22 points but suffered from being a bit too lax with the basketball at critical junctures in the game. Sometimes the boring play is the best one to be made and that's something the senior will need to be reminded of. But Jereme Richmond showed off why many analysts thought so highly of him coming out of high school, scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds before fouling out in overtime and when Bruce Weber needed a basket to send the game into overtime it was the freshman who was called on. He delivered, driving to the rim to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation to answer a Cory Joseph elbow jumper. Next up for Illinois is Maryland in the third place game while the Longhorns face #4 Pittsburgh in the title game, giving both one more high-level opportunity to turn their teams into well-oiled machines.

But there are issues, such as Texas' shot selection and foul shooting and Illinois' offensive execution, that need to be taken care of as soon as possible. That being said there's more than enough talent available to both teams to answer those questions and make some noise as the season wears on.

Other Key Happenings

1. Pittsburgh's experience (and Maryland's foul shooting) determines the first semifinal in New York.
Five Panthers scored in double figures (four starters) with redshirt freshman Talib Zanna leading the way with 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Panthers used a second half run to get past Maryland 79-70. But despite the young Terrapins' unwillingness to give in they played a major part in their own demise, making just 14 of 30 free throws and 2 of 14 three pointers on the night. Cliff Tucker led the way with 17 points while Jordan Williams added 14 but the missed opportunities at the charity stripe combined with Pitt's playmaking ability proved to be too much to overcome. The other issue for Maryland was rebounding, as Pittsburgh controlled the glass to the tune of a 43-25 edge. But despite these issues positives should be taken from this game by a young team that has the look of a top-half team in the ACC. Despite the lack of experience they did not back down and as players such as Pe'Shon Howard, Terrell Stoglin and Berend Weijs gain experience the Terrapins will improve. Pittsburgh simply had too much for them on Thursday night.

2. Harrison Barnes (and the other North Carolina freshmen): believe the hype.
Wow. The freshman from Ames, Iowa came out on fire in the first half of the Tar Heels' 107-63 beating of Hofstra in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, making seven of nine shots for 19 points as the Heels raced out to a 58-33 halftime lead. His game is worthy of the preseason praise and while some will want to wait on the All-America talk due to his youth, Barnes doesn't have the temperament of your typical freshman. But it's not going to be only Barnes if Roy Williams' team is to live up to the Top 10 talk, and there were signs of what this incoming class has added against Hofstra. Leslie McDonald supplied 16 points off the bench in 15 minutes while Reggie Bullock added six, and point guard Kendall Marshall displayed vision and passing ability that was sorely lacking last season. The improved ability to shoot and find others in dealing with zone defenses helped submarine UNC's 2009-10 campaign, and while skeptics will argue that it was "just Hofstra" you had to be encouraged by what the Heels showed Thursday afternoon. But we'll find out even more about North Carolina on Friday as they take on a Minnesota team that was quite impressive in handling Western Kentucky.

3. One non-BCS team you may want to keep an eye on this weekend is George Mason.
Jim Larranaga's cupboard is anything but empty right now, as he's got the ability to go nine deep in his rotation (12 played at least three minutes) in order to wear out opponents. And that's what happened in the Charleston Classic, as the Patriots took over for good in the second half as they whipped Charlotte 78-56. Luke Hancock led the way with 18 points, including 11 straight at one point in the second half, and defensively Mason limited Derrio Green to 3-12 from the field and the 49ers to 38% shooting from the field. Alan Major's team wasn't efficient at all last night, finishing with 17 turnovers to just five assists, but that should be just as much a credit to George Mason as it is a red flag for Charlotte. The Patriots have a number of scoring options, including Cam Long, Andre Cornelius and Ryan Pearson, and thus far this looks to be a better defensive team than last year's squad. Next up is North Carolina State, who boasts a talented freshman trio (Lorenzo Brown, Ryan Harrow and C.J. Leslie), in addition to returnees Tracy Smith and Javier Gonzalez but do not be surprised if the Patriots are in Sunday's final.

Top Three Games
1. Texas 90, Illinois 84 (OT)

2. Iona 81, Richmond 77 (2 OT)
How do you remove the nasty taste of losing to a team that won just one game (Bryant) last season? You knock off one of the better teams in the Atlantic 10 at home, notching the first win of the Tim Cluess era. Michael Glover, nicknamed "Optimus Prime" by the guys at the Hoops in the Sun summer league in Orchard Beach, went for 21 points and 17 rebounds while Scott Machado finished with 28 and six assists.

3. Lipscomb 104, Austin Peay 101 (OT)
While Adnan Hodzic led the way for the Bisons with 33 points and 16 rebounds it was a Josh Slater (22 points) layup at the buzzer that sent the game into overtime. From there the preseason favorites in the Atlantic Sun used eight points from Hodzic to jump out to a nine-point lead in the extra session then hung on as the Governors mounted a comeback attempt that fell short. Tyshawn Edmondson led APSU with 21 points and Anthony Campbell added 20.

Three Notable Performances
1. C Adnan Hodzic (Lipscomb) 33 points and 16 rebounds for the preseason Atlantic Sun Player of the Year in the Bisons' 104-101 overtime win over Austin Peay.

2. F Derrick Williams (Arizona) 27 points and 14 rebounds in the Wildcats' 83-57 win over New Mexico State.

3. F Michael Glover (Iona) 21 points and 17 rebounds in the Gaels' 81-77 double overtime win over Richmond.