Before recapping Wedneday's happenings I just wanted to relay a very good idea from College Hoops Journal's
Matt Norlander, who is also a contributor to Yahoo's "The Dagger" college basketball blog. In response to the SEC fining South Carolina $25,000 for their fans storming the floor following Tuesday's win over Kentucky, he suggested that the school donate the money
to relief efforts in Haiti. I second this.
Despite going into their game at Tennessee with a nine-game win streak there were some who questioned just how good the Vanderbilt Commodores were and with good reason. Of those nine wins none were over RPI Top 50 (according to statsheet.com) teams and Florida was the highest-ranked victim (ranked 59th). And with just three of those wins coming over RPI Top 100 teams they needed a win on Wednesday night to further validate their season. And they did just that, beating the Volunteers 85-76 in Knoxville behind 25 points from point guard Jermaine Beal.
"Beal was special. Part of our success against Vanderbilt in the past was that we had got the better of him," remarked Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl after the game. "Everybody talks about A.J. Ogilvy, and whether he's a factor, but, in my mind, Beal has always been the guy that has made the team go" (quote courtesy of VUCommodores.com).
Vanderbilt finished with five players in double figures and shot 50.9% from the field, finishing with an efficiency rating of 118.1 (Tennessee opponents before Wednesday averaged an efficiency of 89.8). J.P. Prince led the Volunteers with 22 points on 9-for-10 shooting and Bobby Maze added 12 points and seven assists but they simply couldn't string together stops down the stretch. On a night that saw A.J. Ogilvy struggle with foul trouble and Jeffrey Taylor make just three of seven shots it was Beal who led the way for the Commodores.
Overall this is a veteran team that's now 5-0 in SEC play heading into their game at Kentucky on Saturday, a trait that should mean success as the season progresses. Can Vanderbilt be a second weekend team in the NCAA Tournament? It's definitely possible, and Wednesday's game provided one more reason (their offensive efficiency) why.
Three Key Happenings
1. UConn fails to show up for the second half at Providence. For those wondering when the letdown of not having head coach Jim Calhoun on the sidelines would come, you got a rather emphatic answer at the Dunkin' Donuts Center as Providence whipped the Huskies 81-66. Despite making 46.7% of their shots and leading by as many as ten points UConn went into the locker room at the half down by one (36-35) and it was all downhill from there. Jamine "Greedy" Peterson led the Friars with 23 points and 14 rebounds while PC also received further confirmation that Vincent Council is their point guard (allowing Sharaud Curry to do more off the ball) in the form of eight points, eight assists and seven rebounds. And that's coming from a guy who head coach Keno Davis said in last week's Big East teleconference that Council "has exceeded our expectations of being ready to contribute."
As for the Huskies, they made just 31.3% of their shots in the second half and Jerome Dyson followed up his 32-point showing in the win over Texas with a virtual disappearing act after a hot start to the game. He made just three of fourteen field goal attempts and the big three of Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Kemba Walker combined to make sixteen of their forty-two field goal attempts (38.1%). And when you lack any other scorers outside of Gavin Edwards (17 points off the bench) you're going to struggle when faced with a team boasting a variety of scoring options. Marshon Brooks and Duke Mondy combined to score nineteen points off the bench for the Friars and Bilal Dixon added 11 points and 12 rebounds inside. The overwhelming theme from Providence: despite Saturday's big win all isn't right with the Huskies and it takes more than one game to figure it out.
2. New Mexico picks up their fourth win over a ranked team this season. Darington Hobson gets the bulk of the attention when teams prepare to face Steve Alford's Lobos. But there was a different hero in New Mexico's 76-72 win over #10 BYU with Dairese Gary scoring a team-high 25 points. On Gary's performance, BYU head coach Dave Rose stated that "he was a great finisher, terrific free-throw shooter, and he was obviously a huge factor for them tonight" (quote courtesy of GoLobos.com). Both teams made 38.1% of their shots from the field, with the difference being New Mexico's plus-6 (47-41) rebounding margin and their plus-5 margin from the foul line (points).
Jimmer Fredette led the Cougars with 27 points and seven assists but made just eight of twenty-one field goal attempts, and Jonathan Tavernari scored seventeen off the bench. But when starters Chris Miles, Jackson Emery and Tyler Haws combine to shoot 6-for-21 (28.6%) from the field you're going to have trouble on the road. For the Lobos, Hobson had a brutal night from the field himself, making just one of eleven but he didn't allow his shooting to seep into other areas of his game. He grabbed a game-high fourteen rebounds and handed out four assists in the win but this was Gary's night. Now just a game behind BYU in the loss column, the Lobos picked up another win over a ranked team and put themselves back into the Mountain West title conversation.
3. Charlotte adds some intrigue to the Atlantic 10 race. Derrio Green led the 49ers to the 74-64 win over #15 Temple with 26 points and five assists, moving Charlotte into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 (with Temple). The Owls attempted more than half of their field goals from behind the arc, and while scoring 33 points from distance (11-for-35) isn't terrible when you shoot just 38.7% (12-for-31) from inside the arc that combination can get you into trouble. Charlotte did a better job of finding decent looks, finishing the game with an offensive efficiency of 112.1 to Temple's 97.0 (courtesy of statsheet.com).
Temple grabbed seventeen offensive rebounds yet finished just a plus-2 (40-38) in rebounding margin and with Juan Fernandez hitting just one field goal on five shot attempts, Fran Dunphy's team was going to have a tough time getting out of Halton Arena with a win (they shot 25% from three in the second half as well). The 49ers were rewarded for their refusal to settle for perimeter shots, attempting thirty-one free throws to the Owls' eleven and outscoring Temple by seventeen (24-7) from the charity stripe. Almost a forgotten entity nationally in regards to at-large hopes for the likes of Dayton, Rhode Island, Temple and Xavier, the 49ers are a serious challenger in the A-10. At the least they should be considered an at-large possibility over the Flyers right now.
Top Three Games
1. New Mexico 76, BYU 72 See above.
2. Colgate 69, Holy Cross 68 A Yaw Gyawu jumper with 2.9 seconds remaining gave the Raiders the one-point win in Hamilton. Gyawu (17 points) and Kyle Roemer (18 points) led the way as Colgate ended their four-game losing streak. Mike Cavataio led the Crusaders with 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
3. Memphis 75, Marshall 72 A pair of Roburt Sallie free throws with 6.2 seconds remaining sealed the Tigers' victory at Marshall. Shaquille Thomas had the chance to give the Thundering Herd the lead but missed a pair of free throws, setting up Sallie. Elliot Williams led the Tigers with 24 points while freshman Hassan Whiteside paced Marshall with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Tommy Mason-Griffin (Oklahoma) The freshman went off on Wednesday night, scoring 38 points and dishing out six assists in the Sooners' 89-84 win over Iowa State.
2. F Jamine "Greedy" Peterson (Providence) If you haven't seen Greedy play this season this man is a highlight waiting to happen. In the Friars' 81-66 win over Connecticut Peterson scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
3. F Hassan Whiteside (Marshall) This freshman hasn't received the level of attention that some others have received when it comes to possible first round picks. Whiteside scored 22 points while adding eight rebounds and seven blocks in the Thundering Herd's 75-72 loss to Memphis.