A lot of talk surrounding this week of games for the Louisville Cardinals centered on the importance of their game with in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday afternoon. And while that game is extremely important the Cardinals still had to attend to the business of their Big East opener. Thanks to career nights from both Markel Starks and Otto Porter however it was Georgetown that took care of business, handing the Cardinals their first loss of the season by the final score of 71-68. Starks made seven of eight shots from the field in scoring a career-high 20 points while Porter added 14 points and 14 rebounds for his first career double-double.
"Collectively, I don't think you can look at anybody on this team as a measure of points," said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. "[Starks] made some big plays and his defensive got better in the second half. The same thing I said about the freshmen, these guys are players. Age, class, maturation goes out the window."
Georgetown wasn't great offensively as they turned the basketball over 16 times on the night, but they were still more efficient that a Louisville team that's had trouble scoring consistently in the half court. The Cardinals made two more field goals than the Hoyas but needed 12 more attempts to do so, and they outscored Georgetown by just three points (24-21) from beyond the arc despite attempting 13 more shots (24-11). Kyle Kuric led three Louisville players in double figures with 17 points while Peyton Siva added 15 and Russ Smith 14, but the half-court offensive execution and their struggles from the foul line (10-for-17) doomed the home team.
"I thought we really rushed, jacked up shots when it was still a game," remarked Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. "There were 15 seconds on the clock and we were looking for a three. We haven't done that. But they were a better basketball team. They, at this stage of the season, execute offensively better than we do."
Looking ahead to Saturday
at Rupp Arena it's pretty obvious what Louisville's focus will be, and
their offensive execution is something that will have to improve if
they're to win the Big East as well. When forcing turnovers at a high
rate the Cardinals can get away with averaging just over a point per
possession, but that won't get it done especially when encountering a
team that can execute at a level similar to that of Georgetown. As for
the Hoyas, it's still early for a young team that's got talent and the
potential to make some waves this season. And they're not going to
consistently turn the ball over on a quarter of their possessions
either. Winning in a hostile environment despite quiet nights from their
three most experienced players (Jason Clark, Henry Sims and Hollis
Thompson) is a nice way to start league play for Georgetown.
Other Notable Happenings
1. In a game featuring multiple big runs, Michigan State beats Indiana.
After Keith Appling knocked down a three-pointer with 5:11 remaining in the first half, #17 Michigan State led #15 Indiana 34-16 and looked to be well on their way to an emphatic win in the Big Ten opener for both teams. But Tom Crean's team, much to their credit, refused to give in and went on a 25-2 run to wrestle away control of the contest despite Cody Zeller being in foul trouble. Indiana went from trailing by 18 to eventually leading by nine following a Christian Watford three with just over 11 minutes remaining in the game, and they looked to be a safe bet to wrap up the victory. But the Spartans fought back in front of the home crowd, going on a 20-0 run and winning 80-65 thanks in large part to Appling. Appling, a question mark early in the season when it came to running the point, finished the game with 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds with just two turnovers in his best game of the season.
Also of importance for Michigan State was the play of big man Derrick Nix off the bench, as he scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds in 23 minutes of action. Tim Izzo's team turned the ball over just nine times and made 17 of 22 from the charity stripe, where they outscored the Hoosiers by 12. Watford led Indiana with 26 points and ten rebounds but the early favorite for Big Ten Rookie of the Year (Zeller) attempted just five shots and scored four points in a tough night at the office. In moving to 12-2 on the season the Spartans also scored 23 points off of 13 Indiana turnovers, and if they can continue to use their defense to spark the offense look out. As for Indiana, they weren't done any favors by the league schedule-makers as next up for them is Ohio State in Bloomington.
2. Pierre Jackson's drive gives Baylor the win over Mississippi State.
With both teams entering the game in Dallas ranked within the Top 15 many were using the game between #7 Baylor and #14 Mississippi State as a litmus test of sorts. And if anything can be gleaned from the Bears' 54-52 win over the Bulldogs it's that both teams, while definitely talented, have a lot of work to do in order to reach their full potential. Pierre Jackson, whose layup with 28 seconds remaining, scored 14 points but also turned the ball over four times and didn't always exhibit the best shot selection. Mississippi State once again experienced the roller coaster that is big man Renardo Sidney as he alternated displays of what he's capable of doing (10 points) with moments of (to be blunt) basketball incompetence, picking up a technical foul after being called for his fifth foul. Luckily for the Bulldogs, Baylor made just two of the resulting four free throws to tie the game at 52 but that would only delay the inevitable.
The Bulldogs' final possession of the game was just as mystifying, with Dee Bost unable to get open which resulted in a near 10-second game of catch at the top of the Baylor zone. Mississippi State never found the look they wanted, with Jackson ultimately knocking the loose ball to the other end of the floor in the final seconds to preserve the victory. Baylor won by outscoring Mississippi State 11-3 from the foul line and finishing with a 40-32 edge on the boards. Without those advantages it's tough to see the Bears being able to make up for their poor shooting (34.5% FG), but the fact remains that they won and are off the the best start in school history (13-0). While they'll enjoy the win, Scott Drew's team is likely aware of the fact that in order to be Big 12 title good they'll need to get better.
3. Missouri State reminds everyone that they're the defending MVC regular season champs.
Greg McDermott's Bluejays had more than earned the praise bestowed upon them for their hot start to the season, and the same goes for the Missouri Valley Conference as a whole. However going into the start of league play some may have forgotten which team win the regular season title last season, but Kyle Weems and company provided the reminder in Omaha. Weems scored 31 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Anthony Downing knocked down a huge three-pointer with 1:11 remaining to push the Missouri State lead to six (71-65). The Bears went on to win 75-65, outscoring Creighton 45-31 and limiting the preseason favorite to win the MVC to 33.3% shooting in the second half.
While Creighton's Doug McDermott made just eight of eighteen shots and didn't touch the ball as often as many would have liked at key junctures in the second half, he did finish with 18 points and 12 rebounds. The issue for the Bluejays offensively is that Missouri State didn't allow the other starters to get going. Antoine Young scored 13 points but made just three of thirteen shots from the field, and none of the other three starters (Grant Gibbs, Jahenns Manigat and Gregory Echenique) made more than one field goal (combined 3-for-12). That's not going to get it done when Weems and Downing combine to score 57 points with Jamar Gulley adding another twelve. Two things to take out of this result: don't forget about Paul Lusk's team in the title race, and Creighton's game at Wichita State on Saturday became that much more important.
1. Fab Melo took another step in his development Wednesday night, tallying a school-record 10 blocked shots in addition to 12 points and seven rebounds in Syracuse's 75-49 win over Seton Hall. Syracuse did all of this without leading scorer Kris Joseph scoring a single point.
2. Jay Wright's team hung tough for about 35 minutes in Morgantown, but Villanova didn't have the horses to win as West Virginia handed the Wildcats an 83-69 defeat. Gary Browne and Truck Bryant combined to score WVU's final 22 points, with Bryant finishing with a game-high 34 points.
3. It's one thing for Northwestern to lose at Ohio State; that was to be expected. But for Drew Crawford and John Shurna to shoot a combined 9-for-30 in an 87-54 loss to the Buckeyes? Ohio State out-rebounded the Wildcats 48-28 and William Buford led the way with 28 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
4. Under the radar quality road win: Loyola (MD) beating Patriot League favorite Bucknell 72-67. Erik Etherly led the Greyhounds with 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four blocks, and Loyola out-rebounded the Bison by ten (33-23). A lot of the MAAC chat has centered on Iona and Fairfield, but don't ignore Jimmy Patsos' 9-3 team.
5. Speaking of Fairfield, they fell 77-69 at Drexel as Samme Givens went off for the CAA favorites. Givens scored 31 points to go along with nine rebounds, three assists and two steals, and Drexel made 22 of 27 from the charity stripe (Fairfield finished 10-for-13).
6. In a stunning result for "margin of victory" reasons, North Dakota State whipped Oakland 96-69 to move even with the Golden Grizzlies at 2-1 in Summit League play. Reggie Hamilton scored 24 points to lead Oakland but he needed 20 shots to do so (making seven), while Taylor Braun led four Bison starters in double figures with 21.
7. New Mexico exacted a measure of revenge on their in-state rivals, beating New Mexico State 89-69 in Las Cruces. Tony Snell scored 24 points and Drew Gordon added 23 and 19 rebounds for the Lobos, who lost the first meeting this season on their home floor back on November 16th. Steve Alford's team has improved a great deal since then and have won eight straight games.
8. In another MVC score of note Drake knocked off Indiana State 79-64 in Des Moines. Karl Madison scored 24 points and Rayvonte Rice 22 as the Bulldogs won despite not receiving a single point from their bench. Drake shot 71% from the field in the second half to pull away.
9. Maryland received a much-needed boost to their rotation as freshman center Alex Len made his debut. Len, who was suspended by the NCAA for the first ten games of the season, scored 14 points while also grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots in the Terrapins' 83-72 win over Albany.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Kyle Weems (Missouri State)
Weems gave folks a nice reminder of who the reigning MVC Player of the Year is, scoring 31 points to go along with seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks in the Bears' 77-65 win over #19 Creighton.
2. F Drew Gordon (New Mexico) and F Cameron Moore (UAB)
They played in different games but both did yeoman's work in their respective teams' victories. Gordon scored 23 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in the Lobos' 89-69 win over New Mexico State, and Moore scored 19 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in the Blazers' 56-49 win at George Washington. Moore out-rebounded the Colonials 24-22.