Thursday Recap: Huskies Too Much for Harvard
In their first-ever game as a ranked team, the Harvard Crimson drew the task of playing the Connecticut Huskies at Gampel Pavilion, a building in which the Huskies have been near unbeatable for non-conference opponents. UConn had won 36 straight non-conference games at Gampel, and under Jim Calhoun the Huskies were 115-4 against New England non-conference opponents. Feel free to add another win to those marks, as the Huskies proved to be too much for Harvard in their 67-53 win. Jeremy Lamb led the way with 18 points but the bigger story for the Huskies was their defense, which limited Harvard to 36% shooting.
"I thought we defensively dominated them," said Calhoun. "I thought there were about five or six rebounds that I would like to see us get. Otherwise, we're getting better. We're just still adjusting."
Kyle Casey led Harvard with 12 points but he and Keith Wright combined to make seven of nineteen shots on the night, and as a team the Crimson were outscored 30-18 in the paint. Harvard made just 38% of their two-point shots and 33% of their threes, with UConn also making seven three-pointers but in seven fewer attempts. Those numbers helped the Huskies overcome a combined 7-for-20 night from Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. It was a game that played out similar to a boxing match (as noted by the ESPN crew working the game), with UConn using a couple flurries to establish enough distance to win.
How do both teams get better as they approach conference play? For Connecticut freshman Andre Drummond scored 12 points thanks in large part to dunks, but there's still much room for improvement from he and their other big men. It's been noted on multiple occasions that Drummond isn't the best rebounder outside of his area, and Alex Oriakhi still looks as if he's thinking too much while on the floor.
As for Harvard they're going to be more talented than the majority of the teams remaining on their schedule, so the concern for Tommy Amaker's team will likely be to avoid shooting nights like this one and to just continue to improve. They'll be fine; Thursday just underlined the difference between a team that can do some damage come March and one that could win the whole thing.
Other Notable Happenings
1. West Virginia beats Kansas State in double overtime in Wichita.
The matchup between future conference brethren in Wichita proved to be the game of the night, as the Mountaineers needed a three from Kevin Jones in the final seconds of regulation to push their game against Kansas State into overtime. Jones would finish with a career-high 30 points to go along with 12 rebounds in the 85-80 double overtime victory, and as a team WVU made 56% of their two-point shots. Truck Bryant added 24 points for the winners while Rodney McGruder led the Wildcats with 20 points, but a key factor late was WVU freshman Aaron Brown. K-State scored 21 points off of 18 Mountaineer turnovers, and with a number like that more times than not the Wildcats would leave with the win. But that wasn't to be against the Mountaineers, who will need better play from their young guards if they're to exceed expectations in a Big East that's setting up to have quite the logjam in the middle of the league.
2. Eli Holman returns for Detroit and has an immediate impact.
On Wednesday the returns of Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt) and Erik Murphy (Florida) were key, but neither may be as important to their teams as Eli Holman's return is to Detroit. Starting center LaMarcus Lowe is known more for his defense than offense, with a career average of 3.8 points per game, and when adding to that the season-ending injury suffered by Nick Minnerath it was clear that Ray McCallum Sr.'s team needed a scoring boost. Enter Holman, who scored 21 points to go along with seven rebounds and four blocks in the Titans' 92-81 win over Western Michigan. Holman played just 19 minutes off the bench, and to say this was a nice supplement to the 20 points scored by Chase Simon would be a severe understatement. How will this affect the Titans going forward? Simply put if Holman is a consistent factor offensively they'll be able to account for the 12 points/game that Minnerath accounted for, and that's bad news for the rest of the Horizon League.
3. Nurideen Lindsey announces his intentions to leave St. John's.
As if things weren't going bad enough for the Red Storm, who have lost five of their last six games, things got worse with sophomore guard Nurideen Lindsey announcing that he would be transferring at the end of the semester. Lindsey led the team in assists (2.9) while scoring 11.8 points and grabbing 4.9 rebounds per game, so his departure would be felt on any team much less one with just seven scholarship players. So where does St. John's, who is still without head coach Steve Lavin as he recuperates from prostate cancer treatment, go from here? That's a very difficult question to answer, but at least players such as Maurice Harkless and God'sgift Achiuwa remain. Phil Greene and Malik Stith are going to have to raise their play on the offensive end of the floor; one of those two will need to be a double-figure scorer in order for St. John's to be competitive in Big East play. To say the least, as season that began with such promise in the spring due to a highly-touted recruiting class teeters on the edge.
1.The player who could be most capable of steping up for Notre Dame offensively is point guard Eric Atkins. Atkins scored 26 points and dished out six assists in the Fighting Irish's 87-78 win over Maine. Jack Cooley added 22 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks off the bench with Scott Martin out due to illness.
2. Lon Kruger's Oklahoma Sooners moved to 6-1 in the season with a 73-59 win over Summit League favorite Oral Roberts. With second-leading scorer Calvin Newell Jr. leaving the team last week, OU will need to rely even more on scoring balance and that's what they got with three starters scoring either 16 or 17 points.
3. Things have not gone well for Canisius this season, and with guard Gaby Belardo out due to injury the Golden Griffins dropped to 1-6 on the season Thursday night in a 67-55 loss to South Dakota. Canisius shot 31.7% from the field, but the defense has been the bigger issue thus far. Canisius is allowing nearly 80 points per game, and opponents are shooting 49.9%.
4. One freshman who's beginning to make a name for himself is Providence forward LaDontae Henton, who established a new career high for the 5th straight game (21 points) in the Friars' 64-57 win over Boston College. Henton also grabbed nine rebounds and Brice Kofane blocked six shots as Ed Cooley's team moved to 7-2 on the season.
5. Robert Morris outscored them 21-9 over the final 9:34 but Cleveland State did just enough to hang on for the 62-58 victory. Trevon Harmon led the way with a career-high 24 points as the Vikings moved to 9-1 on the season, and right now CSU has to be considered the class of the Horizon League.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Kevin Jones (West Virginia)
30 points (12-17 FG), 12 rebounds and two blocks in the Mountaineers' 85-80 double overtime win over Kansas State.
2. G Eric Atkins and F Jack Cooley (Notre Dame)
Atkins scored 26 points and handed out six assists while Cooley went for 22 and 14 rebounds in the Fighting Irish's 87-78 win over Maine.
3. C Eli Holman (Detroit)
21 points (10-14 FG), seven rebounds and four blocks in the Titans' 92-81 win over Western Michigan.