Saturday Recap: Watford's Shot Lifts Indiana Past Kentucky

December 11th, 2011

In the days leading up to Indiana's game against#1 Kentucky at Assembly Hall there weren't too many people who thought that the Hoosiers could knock off the Wildcats. There were a few outside of the Indiana fan base who picked Tom Crean's team to win, but the majority of the predictions ranged anywhere from a close loss to a Kentucky blowout with IU's schedule to date being the main reason why. But what didn't seem realistic in the days leading up to the game became reality thanks to Christian Watford, who knocked down a three from the left elbow as time expired to give Indiana the 73-72 win. 

Watford led five Hoosiers in double figures with 20 points in his best performance of the season, with Victor Oladipo (13 points, seven rebounds) and Cody Zeller (11 points, seven rebounds) chipping in as well. Zeller was also the focal point of what plagued Indiana as they watched a ten-point lead slip away, as the Hoosiers threw up wild shots instead of getting their freshman the ball.

Kentucky's Anthony Davis was either out of the game or playing with four fouls for a good portion of that stretch, which should have lent itself to getting Zeller the ball. But the Hoosiers survived and won a game that in recent years they'd either lose late or not be in to begin with, so this is a big step in the return to national prominence.

"It's a great moment for us.," said Crean. "It's a great victory because it's just such an outstanding team and a team, you can see it, the explosiveness, the athleticism, the skill level, the coaching, it's top notch and to get a win like that is huge and to have it be at home where our fans had so much to do with it is the biggest part of the day."  

Doron Lamb (19 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (18 points, nine rebounds) led the way for the Wildcats while Marquis Teague scored the majority of his 15 points in a solid second half, but they needed more from sophomore forward Terrence Jones. Jones didn't look to be himself from an activity standpoint, finishing with four points and one rebound in 28 minutes of action.

But in spite of his struggles and Davis' foul trouble Kentucky still had a chance to get out of Bloomington with the win. Lamb made one of two free throws with 5.6 seconds remaining to give UK a 72-70 lead, setting the stage for Kentucky to give a foul since they had two to give. But whether it was a matter of the Kentucky defender (Teague) not being convincing enough in his attempt to foul or the official failing to make the call, that didn't happen. And as a result, Kentucky likely won't be ranked number one on Monday. 

"We were going to foul them," said Calipari. "We had two fouls to use. So, the whole timeout was about fouling. Marquis tried to foul and they didn't call it. No one fouled." 

Kentucky made 55.6% of their shots on the afternoon, but Indiana outscored the Wildcats 27-6 in points from beyond the arc. That discrepancy made up for Indiana shooting just 43.1% overall and 37.2% on two-point baskets, the latter number partially reflecting the effects of the wingspan of Kentucky's front line. But Indiana hung in there and ultimately won, and it has to be considered the watershed moment of the Crean era. But there's still plenty of work to be done and games to be won, so it may be wise to hold off on declaring Indiana to be all the way "back". 

Other Notable Happenings 

1. Key figures step up in Kansas' win over a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State.
Unfortunately for Thad Matta the All-American power forward was unable to go due to back spasms, and this development opened the door for Kansas to knock off the #2 team in the country. The Jayhawks took full advantage, with Thomas Robinson scoring 21 points and Tyshawn Taylor (playing with a torn meniscus, which will sideline him for the next three weeks) dishing out 13 assists in Kansas' 78-67 win in Lawrence. Ohio State fell behind by double figures in the first half and couldn't get over the hump despite nunerous attempts to take the lead.

William Buford scored 21 points to lead the Buckeyes and Deshaun Thomas added 19, but shooting 39% from the field led to their first loss of the season. The question for Ohio State with Sullinger out is a simple one: who steps up to create offense for this team. Aaron Craft scored 11 points and dished out six assists, but Ohio State will need to do more in 1-on-1 situations while the big man is out. But the Buckeyes will be fine due to the remaining talent and experience. 

2. Xavier's emphatic win over Cincinnati sullied by both teams embarrassing their institutions.
It would be nice to be able to focus on the Musketeers' 76-53 win over city rival Cincinnati for the play on the floor, as Chris Mack's team pulled away late in the first half and added to their lead throughout the final 20 minutes. However thanks to a bench-clearing brawl that resulted in the game being ended with 9.3 seconds remaining the actual game takes a back seat to one of the ugliest sights in recent memory. Whether citing the statement made by Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick earlier in the week or the chirping going on before the national anthem, it was pretty clear that the Bearcats and Musketeers were going to have some issues throughout the course of the game.

But a brawl? There were so many things to point out during the fracas that have no place in sports, from Tu Holloway talking to the Cincinnati bench to the standoff between he and Ge'Lawn Guyn (with Dezmine Wells entering himself with a shove) to Yancy Gates decking Kenny Frease and Cheikh Mbodj following up with an Ndamukong Suh-esque stomp to Frease's head. There was also the bright idea to allow Holloway and Mark Lyons to speak to the media in the aftermath of the fight, and that clearly didn't go well. Per NCAA rules the three players ejected for fighting (Gates and Mbodj for Cincinnati, Wells for Xavier) will sit out their team's next game but it's clear that one game won't be enough for many of the players involved. It will be interesting to see how the schools and their respective conferences hand out discipline for this disgraceful showing.   

3. UNLV can't get their tempo going in a loss at Wisconsin.
Few people expected Dave Rice's Runnin' Rebels to be able to go into the Kohl Center and play the fast tempo that they prefer. Wisconsin's just that good at controlling the flow of the game thanks to Bo Ryan's system, and that ultimately resulted in a 62-51 Badger victory. Jordan Taylor scored just four points and missed all ten of his shots from the field, but the Rebels couldn't take advantage due to their own poor shooting. Removing Chace Stanback (5-9 FG, 16 points), UNLV's starters made just seven of twenty-four shots from the field and as a team the Rebels were outscored by 15 points (30-15) from beyond the arc.

On the season Wisconsin scores 41% of their points from deep but on Saturday that number was up to 48%, and that's a number that can be tough to overcome when a team makes just 38% of their two-point shots as UNLV did. Ben Brust was outstanding off the bench as he made all seven of his three-point attempts in scoring a game-high 25 points. Brust gives the Badgers a scoring punch off the bench that they haven't had especially in the backcourt, and if he can continue to provide that Wisconsin has a weapon that teams will find difficult to match. But even with Brust's play UNLV has to assign more blame to their own offensive performance for the defeat.    

4. Draymond Green leads Michigan State to a good road win at Gonxaga.
One thing that's been quite apparent over the last year plus is just how good of a leader Michigan State senior forward Draymond Green is. And with the young team that Tom Izzo has this season it's imperative that Green continue to carry the load in that area, which he's done all season long. The Spartans' leader in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals was outstanding in their 74-67 win at Gonzaga, scoring 34 points while providing great on-court leadership. As a team Michigan State shot 54.2% from the field and assisted on 18 of their 26 made baskets while Gonzaga's assist/turnover split (nine assists, 20 turnovers) played a big role in their demise. Also of import was the defense that Michigan State played in slowing down Elias Harris and Kevin Pangos, who shot a combined 5-for-19 from the field. But all that together and you end up with one of the more impressive road victories of the season to date. 

5. Saint Joseph's hands #17 Creighton their first loss of the season.
There was no doubting the fact that Phil Martelli's improved Hawks had a shot to knock off undefeated Creighton going into Saturday's matinee. And thanks to Carl Jones, who scored a game-high 29 points, the Hawks got the job done by the final score of 80-71. Doug McDermott led Creighton with yet another double-double as he finished with 26 points and ten rebounds, but the Bluejay reserves were outscored 20-6 by the Saint Joseph's tandem of Ronald Roberts Jr. (12 points) and Chris Wilson (eight). Add in the fact that the Hawks attempted 23 more free throws (making 19 to Creighton's six) and it's pretty easy to see why the home team won. The Hawks' offensive numbers were significantly better than what the Bluejays allow on the average this season, and they've played much improved basketball when compared to 2010-11. Just another good non-conference win for the Atlantic 10, one of the leagues likely to profit from a down Pac-12 come March.  

Quick Hitters

1. Duke had the look of a marathoner who got off to a fast start only to hold on for dear life towards the end as cramping set in with their 86-80 win over Washington. Austin Rivers scored 18 points and Andre Dawkins added 17 off the bench, but Washington's Tony Wroten was a major player in the Huskies' comeback with 23 points.

2. Don't look now but Columbia has now won seven straight thanks to their 63-53 win over NEC favorite LIU. Mark Cisco and John Daniels scored 12 points apiece and defensively the Lions limited LIU to 36.4% shooting from the field. And this has happened with Norwua Agho missing the last nine games with a torn patellar tendon. 

3. Nick Johnson scored 14 points and Solomon Hill 13 in Arizona's 63-47 win over Clemson in a game that also featured the return of point guard Josiah Turner. Turner finished with six points and five turnovers in 17 minutes of action, but if Sean Miller can get him to buy in the Wildcats will be one of the favorites in the Pac-12. 

4. Ramone Moore scored 32 points and grabbed six rebounds in Temple's 78-67 win over Villanova. Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek and Mouphtaou Yarou scored 47 of the Wildcats' 67 points on the afternoon, and to be frank if they don't get contributions from the supporting cast it could be tough for Jay Wright's team to grab an 8th straight NCAA Tournament bid. 

5. Lazeric Jones led four UCLA players in double figures with 21 points as the Bruins beat Penn 77-73 in their first game post-Reeves Nelson. Penn's field goal (44.8%) and effective field goal (55.2%) percentages were actually improvements for UCLA defensively when looking at their season averages. The chemistry may be better without Nelson but talent-wise there's still a long way to go for Ben Howland's team. 

6. While Tennessee won't be a national contender, Austin Peay picked up an important 74-70 win in Knoxville. Josh Terry scored 20 points and TyShawn Edmondson added 19 off the bench as the Governors picked up their second win of the season. Dave Loos' team can still be a factor in the OVC despite the slow start. 

7. Jarrod Jones scored 21 points and his jumper with 48 seconds remaining proved to be the difference in Ball State's 58-55 home win over Butler. As for the Bulldogs, outside of Khyle Marshall (9-15 FG, 21 points) the team shot 11-for-40 from the field. Brad Stevens needs guys to step up as consistent offensive options if Butler is to be a contender in the Horizon League. 

Five Notable Performances

1. G/F Alex Young (IUPUI)
43 points (14-20 FG), nine rebounds and three steals in the Jaguars' 84-76 win over Western Kentucky.

2. F Javon McCrea (Buffalo)
29 points (14-17 FG), 13 rebounds and three steals in the Bulls' 80-72 win over Youngstown State. 

3. F Draymond Green (Michigan State)
34 points (11-13 FG), three assists and three steals in Michigan State's 74-67 win over Gonzaga.

4. G Damian Lillard (Weber State)
Lillard bounced back from an off night at BYU with 31 points (9-15 FG), nine assists and three rebounds in the Wildcats' 84-66 win over Southern Utah.

5. G Bryce Cotton (Providence)
34 points (11-16 FG) and three rebounds inthe Friars' 72-61 win over Brown.