Radford, Gardner-Webb the First Casualties: Monday's Quick Hitters
#12 Georgetown had three players finish in double figures while also frustrating #19 Notre Dame on the other end of the floor in a 59-41 win at the Verizon Center.
1. Conference tournament play is underway with High Point and VMI moving on in the Big South.
The Big South got things going with the bottom four teams facing off for the right to take on top seeds UNC Asheville and Coastal Carolina on Wednesday. It was all chalk on Monday night but not without suspense as #7 VMI and #8 High Point both won at home to advance to the quarterfinals. Stan Okoye's steal with 19 seconds remaining led to the senior making a pair of free throws to push VMI's lead over #10 Radford to 54-51, and after Javonte Green missed the front end of a 1-and-1 the Keydets sealed the 55-53 win with a Ron Burks free throw. Okoye led the Keydets with 16 points and nine rebounds and Keith Gabriel added 11, but it's going to take a lot more to knock off two-seed Coastal Carolina on Wednesday afternoon. CCU swept the regular season series, winning 87-78 on December 1st and 81-64 on Saturday at VMI, limiting the Keydets to 26.5% shooting in the second half.
High Point took advantage of the foul line in their 68-58 win over Gardner-Webb, outscoring the Bulldogs 18-7 from the charity stripe with 15 of those points coming in the second half. Neither team shot well from the field in a game that featured 39 offensive and 82 total rebounds, and the Panthers were helped by 17 second-half bench points. Tashan Newsome paced GWU with 21 points but no other Bulldogs reached double figures, compared to Nick Barbour leading three Panthers in double figures with 22. Corey Law was huge off the bench for High Point as he finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes of play. HPU gets the regular season champ UNC Asheville, who swept the season series (86-79 at HPU, 90-70 at UNCA), on Wednesday night.
2. Not sure which All-America team Tyshawn Taylor ends up on but the senior deserves a mention.
Remember when the Kansas point guard was struggling mightily with turnovers earlier this season? Well Taylor's play of late has the New Jersey native looking like an All-America candidate, and his 27 points were a big reason why Bill Self's Jayhawks left Oklahoma State with a 70-58 win. The result locked up the outright regular season crown for Kansas, who won despite nine points combined from Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson. Keiton Page did his best to deliver the win on Senior Night by scoring 29 points but outside of Brian Williams (20 points) the Cowboys didn't have enough firepower with Le'Bryan Nash injured. Taylor shot 10-for-15 from the field, including 4-for-7 from beyond the arc, in his third 20-plus point performance in the last five games. Over the last two games Taylor's shot 60.7% from the field, and while the point totals may not be as high in future games an efficient Taylor means a better Kansas.
3. Savannah State is now just one win away from completing a remarkable season in the MEAC.
With this being the first season for Savannah State as a member of the MEAC there wasn't much expected of Horace Broadnax's Tigers as they were picked to finish 11th. But thanks to a 62-50 win over North Carolina A&T the Tigers are now 13-2 in MEAC play and a win in their regular season finale away from winning the regular season crown. Savannah State took a 42-28 lead into the half thanks to their effort on the defensive end, limiting A&T to 34.5% shooting from the field and 7-for-19 from two. Deric Rudolph scored 15 points and Preston Blackmon added 14 to lead the way for the Tigers, who rode their defense in the second half to survive shooting 27.6% from the field. A win over UMES on Saturday would give Savannah State the most unlikely conference title in the nation this season, and while their goal isn't to go to the NIT this season a postseason berth for a program that was 0-28 seven years ago is a noteworthy achievement.
1. With Southern ineligible for the SWAC tournament it's become apparent that Texas Southern is the biggest threat to Mississippi Valley State grabbing the automatic bid. Omar Strong scored 17 points and Madarious Gibbs 14 to go along with five steals in the Tigers' 69-59 win over Alabama A&M to move to 11-5 in league play. How much of a threat Texas Southern (or anyone else for that matter) is remains to be seen however, as the Delta Devils have run through the SWAC (17-0 record).
2. #10 Baylor went on a 25-4 run to close the first half in their 77-48 pasting of an overmatched Texas Tech squad. The win was also the 95th for seniors Quincy Acy, Fred Ellis and Anthony Jones, and they're the winningest class in school history.
3. The most exciting team to watch in the upcoming MEAC tournament may in fact be Delaware State, who fell 73-72 to Morgan State on Monday night (to say the finish was controversial would be accurate). Over the last seven games for the Hornets four have been decided by three points or less and two others have gone to overtime.
4. One reserve to keep an eye on in the WCC tournament this weekend is Gonzaga's Gary Bell Jr. Of course the caliber of the opposition (Longwood) needs to be considered, but Bell Jr. scored 20 points in just 15 minutes of action in the Bulldogs' 92-60 win. If Gonzaga can get solid play from Bell Jr. in Las Vegas a tournament crown is definitely possible.
5. Eastern Illinois announced on Monday that it will not renew the contract of head coach Mike Miller after the season, marking the end of his tenure. Miller is 75-130 in seven seasons at the OVC school, and the Panthers finished the season with a 12-17 record (5-11 OVC).
6. Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun underwent a successful procedure in New York on Monday to treat the spinal stenosis that has kept him away from the team for the Huskies' last seven games. According to the Associated Press, Calhoun hopes to rejoin the team in time for their regular season finale against Pittsburgh on Saturday.