Tracy Smith, a native of Durham, celebrated his 22nd birthday with one of the best games of his career in leading NC State to an 88-74 win over #7 Duke. Smith made ten of his twelve field goal attempts in scoring 23 points and as a team the Wolfpack shot a blistering 58.2% from the field. "Our defense was the worst it's been all year," lamented Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski following the game. "Obviously, our big guys weren't on like they were the last two games. Why does that happen? I don't know. But it's not just them. I didn't think that we as a group played at the level we needed to play at" (quote courtesy of GoPack.com). All five Wolfpack starters scored in double figures while the majority of Duke's points came from the trio of Kyle Singler (22 points), Jon Scheyer (21 points) and Nolan Smith (18 points).
As a team the Blue Devils shot just 38.6% from the field in losing their third road game of the season (Duke has yet to win a true road game). But even with an off shooting night Duke's defense is normally good enough to keep them in most of the games that they play. That wasn't the case on Wednesday with Smith and Dennis Horner combining to score forty-three points while the Blue Devils' four-man rotation (Thomas, the Plumlee brothers and Zoubek) combined to score just thirteen. While this will be looked at as a disappointing loss for the Blue Devils, the importance of this win for Coach Lowe's (his birthday is on Thursday) program can't be stressed enough. In need of tangible evidence of progress, NC State turned to a Durham native in pulling off the upset.
Three Key Happenings
1. UTEP ends Memphis' 64-game Conference USA win streak. There was a good amount of talk going into Wednesday's matchup between the Miners and Tigers in regards to the win streak enjoyed in league play by Memphis. UTEP head coach Tony Barbee was on the sideline with John Calipari for a few of those sixty-four wins and he wanted nothing more than to be the man who ended the streak. That goal was accomplished at FedEx Forum thanks in large part to the play of Jeremy Williams. Williams scored 18 points and also had 12 rebounds and Randy Culpepper made a few big plays late in the 72-67 win. Elliot Williams led the Tigers, who will remain tied with Kentucky (1945-50) for the record, with 23 points but their inability to get him the ball late may have cost a chance to win the game but the true cause is rather obvious.
UTEP's bench was the difference, with their reserves outscoring Memphis' subs 33-10. Willie Kemp made just two of nine shots from the field and Will Coleman got just three shots, and that became a big deal with the other four starters scoring a combined 34 points. But while the loss is certainly a disappointment, the Tigers' lack of depth going into the season guaranteed that there would be some bumps in the road. UTEP's depth covered for sometimes questionable shot selection, and at best their win simply proves that the race for the title will be wide-open.
2. Two streaks end in the Big East. In regards to the race for the Big East title Georgetown's win at Pittsburgh, ending the Panthers' 31-game home win streak, holds far more importance. But the feel-good story of the night came from Chicago, where DePaul took advantage of poor foul shooting to knock off Marquette. The 51-50 win, delivered when Mike Stovall hit a jumper with seven tenths of a second remaining, ended the Blue Demons' 24-game Big East (regular season) losing streak. For the second time this season the Golden Eagles did themselves in at the charity stripe (at West Virginia) and the win affords Tracy Webster's team the ability to simply play basketball without the streak hanging over their heads.
As for the Hoyas Chris Wright scored 27 points in leading them to the 74-66 win, leaving Villanova in sole possession of first place in the Big East. A back and forth affair took place in front of the Oakland Zoo and the Peterson Events Center is an arena that most teams are lucky to escape with a 10-point defeat much less a win. Greg Monroe added another double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Julian Vaughn led the team in assists with six while Pitt's Ashton Gibbs shot a frigid 3-for-16 from the field (8 points). Four Georgetown starters reached double figures while the Panthers had two players (starter Jermaine Dixon and reserve Gilbert Brown) surpass the 10-point mark. Now 5-2 in Big East play the Hoyas are right in the thick of things atop the standings, avoiding their third loss this early in the conference slate.
3. Temple stamps itself the early favorite in the Atlantic 10. In the game of the night in the Atlantic 10 the Owls took the lead early and did enough to withstand numerous Musketeer runs in winning 77-72 at the Liacouras Center. Temple, the Atlantic 10's lone undefeated (4-0 in league play), has won three straight and five out of the last six meetings with Xavier and is the early favorite with all teams having played at least four conference games. While Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen tend to get the lion's share of attention nationally the leader on Wednesday night was Ryan Brooks, who led the way with a game-high 22 points.
Temple made 59.2% of their shots from the field and seventeen of their twenty-nine baskets were assisted (twelve turnovers). Xavier, who was led in scoring by Jordan Crawford (18 points), made just nine of twenty-four shots from behind the arc and finished with eleven assists to thirteen turnovers. Fran Dunphy's team is tough to defend not just because of the number of scoring options (four starters reached double figures) but also because they value the basketball, leading the A-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4). As the season wears on this is going to be one tough team for the rest of the conference to deal with.
Top Three Games
1. DePaul 51, Marquette 50 See above.
2. Kansas 81, Baylor 75 Sherron Collins led the Jayhawks to their 53rd consecutive home win with 28 points, including a huge three with just over a minute left. Baylor, who has never won in Lawrence, was led by LaceDarius Dunn (27 points).
3. UAB 57, Southern Miss 56 Thanks to an Aaron Johnson jumper with six seconds remaining the Blazers avoided a devastating home loss to the Golden Eagles. Elijah Millsap led the winners with fourteen points while Southern Miss' Gary Flowers led all scorers with 25 points (and ten rebounds).
Three Notable Performances
1. F Luke Babbitt (Nevada) If he wasn't considered to be one of the best players out west then he's rapidly becoming one. The sophomore posted a double-double with 29 points and ten rebounds in the Wolf Pack's 88-82 win at Boise State.
2. G Kevin Palmer (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) Palmer put up yet another exemplary performance, scoring 32 points while also grabbing five rebounds and five steals in the Islanders' 81-64 win over Lamar.
3. F Marshall Moses (Oklahoma State) Moses scored 20 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the Cowboys' 90-78 win over Colorado, ending their two-game losing streak.