The Jimmy V Classic doubleheader at Madison Square Garden annually provides soe outstanding basketball, with all of it being for a good cause. Tuesday night was no exception, and in the second half of the doubleheader Marquette and Washington put forth a thrilling display of basketball. Ultimately a Jae Crowder three pointer with seven seconds remaining gave the Golden Eagles the 79-77 win, but while the Huskies did fall there are more reasons for optimism than doubt for a team that let one slip away at Nevada on Friday night.
Terrence Ross led four Washington players in double figures with 19 points, and the Huskies controlled the boards to the tune of a 46-32 edge with 18 offensive rebounds. But they need to get point guard Abdul Gaddy going in order to possibly win the Pac-12. Gaddy made just two of his eleven shots from the field and scored four points, breaking even on his assist-to-turnover ratio with two apiece. Washington is very talented on the perimeter with Gaddy, Ross, C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten (13 points) but they can ill-afford Gaddy having too many off nights.
As for Marquette, Buzz Williams' program always has and always will be regarded as tough. It's a basic requirement for being a part of the program, but this is also a group that's very talented. In addition to Crowder there are guards Vander Blue (11 points) and Darius Johnson-Odom (23 points), and reserve Todd Mayo is a key contributor as well. But the rebounding numbers are a concern; removing Tuesday night Marquette grabbed just over three rebounds per game more than their opponents and with Chris Otule going down with a sprained knee that was one less big body inside.
As a positive the Golden Eagles, just like Missouri in the first game, played an unselfish brand of basketball that resulted in 20 assists to ten turnovers and four players in double figures. Mayo and Junior Cadougan combined for ten assists and two turnovers on the night, and of the seven players to see double-digit minutes only Blue (two assists, three turnovers) had more turnovers than assists. Does Marquette have enough to crack the top three in the Big East? They don't have the true big men like Syracuse or Connecticut (or even Pittsburgh for that matter), but it would be wise to not rule that out. The nation saw first-hand that the Golden Eagles are talented, but most importantly Buzz Williams' team remains tough.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Missouri holds off Villanova, and their unselfish nature could lead the Tigers to big things.
While Missouri/Villanova was a good matchup in regards to style of play, it became rather apparent as the game went on the different ceilings for the two teams. Villanova is a middle of the pack team in the Big East while Missouri is capable of doing some serious damage...or even getting to New Orleans. Yes, New Orleans, because even though they're lacking depth up front Frank Haith's team is tough defensively and unselfish offensively (and in general). In the 81-71 win the Tigers assisted on 23 of their 28 field goals with just eight turnovers, and Marcus Denmon led the way offensively with 28 points. Ricardo Ratliffe put up another double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and as a team Missouri was just a minus-1 (38-37) in rebounding margin.
Missouri outscored Villanova 31-20 in the paint and forced 15 Wildcat turnovers, and those numbers spelled doom for a team that's counting on young players at a number of key positions. Missouri may have changed their style with the arrival of Haith, eschewing the full-court pressure of the Mike Anderson era, but they've retained their unselfishness. That's one big reason why this team is still capable of great achievements despite a rotation that's essentially seven players deep.
2. Two more Pac-12 suspensions: UCLA's Reeves Nelson and Arizona's Josiah Turner.
Someone could make some good money doing a soap opera on the Pac-12 this season. Not only has the league continued to have issues in non-conference play, but some key talents can't seem to avoid trouble. Following on the heels of Utah suspending leading scorer Josh Watkins was the news on Tuesday that UCLA (Reeves Nelson) and Arizona (Josiah Turner) had to suspend key players...once again. Both Nelson nor Turner have been down this road before this season, and Nelson's situation has been bad enough that in some circles people hoped that the initial report that he'd been dismissed from the team was accurate. As for Turner, according to the Arizona website PointGuardU he missed practice on Monday and was left in Tucson ahead of their game Wednesday at Florida. Suspensions, transfers and on-court mediocrity has overshadowed the play of Oregon State and Stanford, two early-season surprises who could be capable of even more as the season wears on, which is bad news for the Pac-12 from a perception standpoint.
3. In a bizarre game Iowa goes from 10-0 up to losing by 20 at UNI.
Things were looking very good for Fran McCaffery's team in the early going at Northern Iowa as they jumped out to a 10-0 lead. But the Panthers would methodically work their way back into the game as the first half went on, eventually taking a 32-27 lead into the locker room. The wheels would eventually fall off for the Hawkeyes in the second half of what would finish as an 80-60 loss, complete with five technical fouls and McCaffery being ejected. Why were emotions so high for the visitors? A 33-9 difference in free throws attempted had a lot to do with it, and four of Iowa's technical fouls helped spark a 20-2 UNI run that put the game away. Another issue for Iowa in the loss was their three-point shooting, as they made just one of twelve shots and were outscored by 30 in that area by the Panthers. That split (along with the 29-3 UNI edge in points from the foul line) proved to be too much to overcome for the Hawkeyes.
1. If TCU is the 7th-best team in the Mountain West as the coaches predicted in October that league's going to be a beast come conference play. The Horned Frogs moved to 7-2 on the season with a 75-69 win over Texas Tech on Tuesday night, and the triumvirate of point guard Hank Thorns and guards Garlon Green and J.R. Cadot can give opponents fits.
2. Congrats to first-year Monmouth head coach King Rice, whose team picked up their first win of the season at Navy (69-67). While there are some holdovers from last year's team the Hawks are starting from scratch, and the adjustment on both ends of the floor has been a tough one. Jesse Steele led the way for MU with 20 points.
3. While he's been over 20 points in four of the last five games, Will Barton's performance on Tuesday night could be the one that Memphis followers look back to as a catalyst a month from now. The sophomore went for 27 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, three assists and two in the Tigers' 71-54 win at Miami (FL). Barton was all over the floor, and the best part (in addition to those numbers and the win): just one turnover.
4. One of the more stunning player progressions has been that of Kansas center Jeff Withey, who has taken advantage of the increased minutes due to Kansas' lack of interior depth. With finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks in the Jayhawks' 88-80 win over Long Beach State. One thing about KU however: they're not going very far if they rack up 22 turnovers on a consistent basis.
5. Brad Loesing scored 24 points to lead the way in Wofford's 61-50 win over Tulane, handing the Green Wave their first loss of the season. Ed Conroy's club made just two of sixteen shots from beyond the arc, and while they have definitely improved from last season a suspect early slate helped push them out of the gates to a 9-0 start.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Will Barton (Memphis)
27 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks in the Tigers' 71-54 win at Miami.
2. G Keith Rendleman (UNC Wilmington)
29 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in the Seahawks' 77-68 win at Liberty.
3. C Jeff Withey and F Thomas Robinson (Kansas)
Withey finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks while Robinson put up 26 points, 11 rebounds and three assists in the Jayhawks' 88-80 win over Long Beach State.