College basketball roundup: UK, UNC flex muscles in Top 10 bout
After a fairly sleepy week of storylines in the college basketball world, a heart-palpitating Saturday slate was exactly what fans needed to get their bloodflow going again. Suffice it to say, the action did not disappoint.
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An eight-game run for the Gamecocks as one of college basketball’s remaining unbeatens came to an end on Monday at the hand of Seton Hall. A pair of juniors led the way as the Pirates got 21 points from guard Khadeen Carrington, as well as 16 from forward Desi Rodriguez in the win. A tiebreaking layup from Rodriguez with just under 12 seconds to play gave the Pirates a lead they would not relinquish. Both teams played hard-nosed defense all night, which resulted in just six assists a side and well under 40 percent shooting from both teams.
Despite the return of junior forward Dillon Brooks, life as the defending Pac-12 conference champions hasn’t been as easy as expected for the Oregon Ducks. The first few games of the season had some hiccups in the form of losses to Baylor and Georgetown, but this team is beginning to find its legs behind an extremely solid frontcourt. That group shined when the Ducks hosted Montana on Tuesday, with the tandem of senior forward Chris Boucher and junior forward Jordan Bell leading the way. Boucher tallied a big double-double (23 points and 19 rebounds) to go along with five blocks in the win, breaking an Oregon record for rebounds in a home game. Just how impressive was Boucher’s near 20-20 performance: It would have been Oregon’s first 20-20 game in nearly 40 years.
For all the gawking that has been done by the UCLA faithful in the direction of freshman Lonzo Ball, it’s time that college basketball fans show due deference to the other high-profile freshman making an impact for head coach Steve Alford — T.J. Leaf. Leaf is actually the leading scorer (17.8 ppg) on a team that boasts six players averaging double figures. And he got a chance to flex all of his basketball muscles in a midweek bout between UCLA and UCSB.
Despite what poet and author Jorge Luis Borges has written about the gauchos of the Argentine pampas, the Gauchos of UCSB were not up for much of a fight in a 102-62 drubbing. Leaf touched every corner of the stat sheet in this one, with 25 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks to lead the effort — his fifth 20-plus point effort so far in the 2016-17 season.
The lefty sharpshooter running things for the North Florida Ospreys has been showing off his scoring touch so far this season, as he currently leads the ASUN in scoring average (23.2 ppg) and free-throw shooting percentage (89.4 percent). Admittedly, the nonconference schedule has not been too kind to this bunch — with just a 4-10 record overall — but the Ospreys hope they will fare better in the ASUN against some familiar opponents. In the meantime, the club got a little offensive mojo going on Thursday in its win over NAIA-member Thomas (GA). Moore tallied 30 points (on 10-16 shooting) to go along with 11 assists in a 110-80 romp. The Ospreys are only 2-3 when Moore goes for 30 or more points, but as the only player averaging double figures he’s often the best weapon North Florida has got.
One conference to watch in college basketball will surely be the race that develops in the Sun Belt. If the early-season schedule is any indication of what to expect at season’s end, UT Arlington and Arkansas State could both be in the mix for a conference title. For now, these teams can only focus on the matchups in front of them. On Friday, the Mavericks tallied their eighth-straight victory with a 56-51 win over Bradley. Forward Kevin Hervey and guard Erick Neal tallied double figures in the win. On the flip side, Arkansas State beat back Central Arkansas, 89-77, behind four players in double-digits. Devin Carter led the way with 20. Four different teams have won the conference championship in each of the last four years, so the door is open for these two hopefuls if that trend continues.
The de facto game of the week pitted No. 6 Kentucky in a track meet with No. 7 North Carolina. Kentucky would emerge victorious, 103-100, behind 47 points from freshman guard Malik Monk. North Carolina was led by 34 points from junior forward Justin Jackson. Both squads blistered the nets with better than 50 percent from the field and the 3-point line in this matchup. Fans who had the chance to see this one live should consider themselves lucky. There are only a few ballgames a year that stick out and stand the test of time during the season: Ladies and Gentleman, this is your early-season candidate for Game of the Year.
|Tyler Hall||Points||FG (3PT)||FT||Rebounds||Assists|
|Malik Monk||47||18-28 (8-12)||3-5||0||2|
|Justin Jackson||34||10-17 (4-7)||10-15||5||3|
A tough start to the year for the Spartans of Michigan State got a bit rougher on Sunday with an 81-73 loss to Northeastern. To make matters worse, a game that featured an eight-point edge in favor of the Huskies was actually a tight game for most of the second half before the Spartans crumbled. Senior forward Alex Murphy dropped 18 points in the road win for Northeastern. The loss was MSU’s first home loss of the year. Head coach Tom Izzo will be back at the drawing board with the hope of righting the ship before conference play begins.
In other action:
The Crossroads Classic features four ranked foes
These days the talk of the town in the state of Indiana likely revolves around current Governor and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, but a close second might be the high-quality college basketball on display in the 19th state in the Union. At least that was the focus on Saturday at the Crossroads Classic where Butler and Indiana linked up alongside a contest between Purdue and Notre Dame. Butler and Purdue would come out on top in their respective matchups, but rest assured it’s likely that all four teams will find a way into the Big Dance. For now, bragging rights will have to suffice as Butler’s Kelan Martin (28 points) and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan (26 points, 10 rebounds) paced their respective squads to victory.
Bob Huggins wins 800th; 10th all time
If fans were sidetracked watching Kentucky and North Carolina on Saturday, it stands to reason that some might missed West Virginia's head coach Bob Huggins becoming the 10th member of 800-win club. It’s not always flashy and it's not always fun, but the big man in old gold and blue finds a way to get the job done. Kudos.