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By Ray Mernagh
Bob Huggins is always refreshing to listen to for the following simple reason — he always speaks honestly to the media in a world where people in his position might cause a polygraph machine to explode if they were attached to one during press conferences. One memorable quote, which threw the opposing fanbase into a tizzy a few years ago, came after West Virginia had lost a multi-overtime game at Pittsburgh after being in a position where they had the game in hand but played stupidly down the stretch, allowed it to go into overtime, and eventually lost to their archrival.
Huggins told reporters afterwards that the Mountaineers had given the game away, that they never should’ve allowed it to go into overtime. He was right. He was being honest. And that’s why I prefer his brand of media relations to most of his peers. On the way into work today I heard a Huggins clip on the radio that included a simple answer to a question that others involved in the WVU/Pitt rivalry have either been passing on, or expressing doubt when it’s posed to them.
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By Ray Mernagh
For the rest of the season I’ll check in every week, usually around this time (Thursday evening) with Beast Mode.
Here’s the first installment.
Hope it’s worth the read and views of the occasional videos I’ll post. Enjoy.
Name: Austin Rivers.
Position: Shot Maker/Playmaker/Knock Your Ass Out With A Deep Haymaker
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By Ray Mernagh
Marquette has won seven straight to get the Still-Warriors to 19-4 (8-2 in BEAST play) but neither the gaudy record or the streak is the most impressive thing about these sleek jets wearing the nicest uniforms (it ain’t even close) in all of college basketball.
Nope, it’s the way they snatch you, like a boa constrictor suddenly engulfing your jugular. One second you’re chilling in the bush, the next you’re deader than the Washington Wizards playoff hopes.
Poor Kevin Willard. His Seton Hall team was battling, trading blows with the Buzz Bunch.
Then BAM, Vander Blue caught a lob and swung from the rim not long enough to get a tech but just long enough to kind of survey the situation,kind of take it all in. It’s as if he was trying to warn the Pirates: “You all still have time, get out while you can because what is about to go down will most definitely not be pretty!” And it wasn’t pretty for the Hall or their fans, but it sure was beautiful to watch for just about everyone else.
By Ray Mernagh
Travon Woodall has been the object of scorn from certain groups of Pittsburgh fans over his four years in the program.
Complaints have ranged from he didn’t start for his high school team to he’s too sloppy with the ball to he takes too many chances. Some have even gone so far as to say the redshirt junior isn’t a D-1 caliber player.
Woodall has almost always come through for his team. I’ve witnessed him win games by blocking a shot at the rim, hitting multiple three-pointers or by finding flying teammates for alley-oop dunks or cutters for layups. I’ve watched him guard a 6’8″ post player because nobody else was left to do it, purposely taking an elbow to the chops because it meant a foul on the man he was guarding. He’s always had a really good assist-to-turnover ratio and has never, ever, played with fear. He’s also always been Pitt‘s toughest player.
Pitt 86 Providence 74 is what the scoreboard read when the buzzer sounded last Wednesday night. It remained there for maybe a half second before the board changed to reflect the record for Pittsburgh inside the Peterson Events Center since it was built. The loss side of that all-time record has grown more in the last month than in the last several years.
Wednesday evening’s result inside the Peterson Events Center brought relief to a program and fan-base in dire need of a fresh breath.
Now all of a sudden, in the span of 72 hours, relief has turned into, dare I say…hope?
What was a slightly encouraging win for Pitt against Providence parlayed itself into an actual conquest over a #10 ranked Georgetown team that came in sporting the resume of a soon-to-be top 3 seed. In movie terms the Pitt Panthers have quickly moved from Waiting to Exhale territory directly into the How Stella Got Her Groove Back neighborhood.
By Ray Mernagh
Took a break last night from the media section and took in the Pitt vs. Louisville game — with my wife — from some spectacular seats at just about mid-court about 5 rows behind the Oakland Zoo (shout out to my man for the hookup). It’s been a strange month and a half for Pitt basketball as the Panthers were 0-6 in Big East action heading into last night’s Game Day festivities.
Heading into the Pete, and all day long for that matter, I kept going back to one thought: This would be the night that Pitt gets the 1,000 pound gorilla off their backs and actually posts a mark in the W column. Part of the reason for the feeling was the performances Pitt turned in following their beat-down at the hands of Rutgers, a game that finally exposed the Panthers for what they are (not very good) and gave Mike Rice a good three-to-four hours on the phone calling recruits afterwards. Rutgers saw blood in the water, saw prey willing to give up the fight, and pounced like any Shark worth its saltwater does.
The Marquette game gave some hope as the effort was much better and Ashton Gibbs’ shooting returned with the help of a move back to his natural shooting guard position. Still, some quick turnovers in the second half ultimately doomed the Panthers. Syracuse followed about 48 hours later and again, Pitt battled before ultimately losing in a respectable manner. So heading into this weekend, and all the hype that surrounds a campus when Dukie V comes to town, something was telling me Pitt might just hand Louisville an L.
T.J. McConnell has played in 51 career games at Duquesne and maybe it’s the consistency of those 51 games that makes it seem as if the sophomore guard has played in 100 and is a senior. McConnell scored 15 points, dished out 6 assists, collected 4 rebounds and upped his career larceny total to 148 with 4 steals in the Dukes 80-69 win over UMASS.
That stat line is pretty much standard for McConnell in the fifteen or so times I’ve watched him play over the last year and a half. McConnell only scores in the teens generally because he isn’t selfish enough. Once he realizes that it’s best for his team that he pull up for his patented 15-footer off the dribble 6-8 times a game the Dukes will be that much better….because T.J. McConnell just does not miss that shot. But tonight, with help from his small-ball-turnover-producing mates, the Dukes were plenty good enough (they forced the Minutemen into 29 miscues) to beat a team that’s gotten some pub for their stronger than expected start.
UMASS came into the game 14-4 and 3-1 in A-10 play. It leaves Pittsburgh with an identity crisis. For all the turnovers and missed three-pointers (they were a non-robust 5-20 from deep) the Minutemen still might have won this game handily if they just understood one basic premise: a size advantage in the post should be utilized until the other team does something to take it away. Sean Carter, the 6’9″ post for UMASS — not the rapper — was 6-7 from the field in 38 minutes. Carter has averaged 13.7 points per game in his last three outings coming into tonight while hitting 17 of his 22 shots. Again, UMASS jacked it from three twenty times while Carter couldn’t bee stopped whenever he got the ball on the block (and he only had 2 of their 29 turnovers). Carter stood in the lane with his hand up with 6’2″ and 6’5″ guys on his hip for much of the night, yet rarely got a touch.
6’8″ junior Terrell Vinson was 5-7 from the floor but his lack of opportunities are best explained by his foul trouble — the kid from Baltimore (and one-time Loyola Marymount commit) only played 14 minutes. Maxie Esho goes 6’8″ as well and he was 3-5 in 22 minutes. But it was on the perimeter where Duquesne won this game and also where UMASS lost it. Michael Talley frustrated the incredibly talented Chaz Williams into an 8 point and 7 turnover night — Talley got help from Eric Evans and McConnell but the son of the one-time Michigan Mr. Basketball winner was the guy who got in Williams’ head early ans stayed there all night. Williams eventually fouled out in frustration by clocking Talley across the chin with a shot that would certainly get you arrested on pedestrian streets (even in Williams’ Brooklyn). Everhart was especially pleased that his decision to go small at halftime worked out so well.
“We like the game to go fast and it did,” said Duquesne head coach Ron Everhart. “We decided at halftime to play ‘small ball.’ Early in the second half it backfired on us, but our kids stayed with it and consequently we were able to beat a really good basketball team tonight.”
Sean Johnson was highly effective and efficient for the Dukes. The junior from Christ the King high school in Queens finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Johnson went bananas from deep (4-5) and did his best to make the rebounding deficit respectable for the Dukes (UMASS held a 48-32 edge). Jesse Morgan joined Williams in the chase to lead his team in turnovers, eventually nipping his back-court mate with 8 on the night. B.J. Monteiro led the Dukes with 23 points and came away with 3 extremely well-timed blocks during the game. Monteiro and Johnson were often the guys on Carter’s backside in the post — maybe they wouldn’t have scored so many points had they been forced to defend him on more than 7 possessions.
Huge win for Ron Everhart’s team in what was a great all around team effort.
Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure
The best big that nobody knows about, Nicholson has been putting up numbers for a few years now. This past week he averaged 25 points, 10 boards and 3.5 blocks in two games highlighted by a monster 30 point, 13 rebound and six block game against Dayton. The line went a long way toward handing Dayton its first league loss 81-73 and marked just the third 30+10+5 game in the nation over the last two seasons.
Chris Braswell, Charlotte
Caught the talented Braswell’s act in November at Wright State so I wasn’t surprised to see him post a career high 31 points at UMASS. Braswell is a big that can stretch the defense (he was 3-5 from deep) and plays with a strut in his game that’s fun to watch. Athletic and talented offensive player.
By Ray Mernagh
Gill St. Bernard’s 76, Mater Dei 73 OT
There were supposed to be a lot of stars on the floor in this one.
Mater Dei was ranked #8 in the country coming into the game by whomever thinks they’re qualified to rank high school teams nationally (not really sure how it’s possible with the volume of teams etc but whatever) while Gill St. Bernard’s was kind of licking their wounds from a 2-2 trip to the City of Palms (which was so excellently covered by my guy Brian Bosworth).
Well, the biggest star in this game was a big man by the name of Dominic Hoffman who will soon become a nightmare for all the coaches in the Patriot League once he arrives at Bucknell in late summer. The game was the best of the day and it really wasn’t close — Mergen Sina from St. Bernard’s coached the hell out of his team and they responded by playing harder and smarter than Mater Dei and ultimately being rewarded with a much deserved W in overtime.
Dominic Hoffman 2012 6’7 Center (Bucknell)
Hoffman might be 6’7″ but he plays 6’10″. High energy player with a motor to match. Crashes offensive boards. Runs rim-to-rim. Blocks a lot of shots with his timing and long arms. Hits 18 footer. Has post moves and counter post moves that he uses to score consistently down low. Excellent in the two man game with either Jaren Sina or Alex Mitola all night. Would Not Let His Team Lose! Finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks. Outstanding performance of the day (along with Kris Jenkins).
By Ray Mernagh
Wheeling Park battled and played hard throughout but didn’t have the skill of the St. Joseph’s group.
St. Joseph’s had three players really stand out and a fourth who came up big in limited attempts.
Miles Overton 2013 guard 6’5
Overton has a sturdy body for a Junior at 190 pounds and looks like he could add 10-15 pounds of muscle without any problem to an already basketball strong frame. Had three 3-pointers, two of which were big-time shots where he raised up off one hard dribble and was pure. He gets real good lift on his jumper and his form is correct. He’s a good passer and in control at all times (4 assists and no turnovers). He scored out of the mid-post as well. Had an athletic and good defender on him but it didn’t seem to bother him. Showed high basketball IQ when he was about to kick-out to a shooter on a drive, heard the whistle and turned in mid-play and shot the ball. Getting some high-major looks and has offers from A-10/Mids in his area and some out West. Overton finished the game with 19 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 0 turnovers on 6-14 shooting (3-6 from deep). Really solid looking guard with size.
Overton stated he’s looking for a school with “a good basketball program where I have a good relationship with the players that will be there when I get there and a real good coaching staff.” He went on to say that “academics matter because my high school is really strong academically and I also want to stay close enough that my Grandma can come to my games so a little far away but not too far.” Overton has taken visits to Virginia, James Madison and Drexel. “UVA has a beautiful campus and a beautiful new stadium.” On Drexel: “It’s a good relationship because I’ve known the coaches for a long time.” Offers from “the Big Five” before specifically naming James Madison, Drexel, La Salle and San Francisco.
Gene Williams 6’2 2012 guard
Williams made quite the impression from the jump, displaying a really diverse skill set the entire game. Williams played bigger than his 6’2 listing. Made three’s off the catch (2-4) and scored off his dribble in the mid-range. Has a variety of step-through and up and under moves from the mid-post area and in that he used to score. Williams played very hard and competed every possession. This kid needs a look from some low-majors out there because he can help somebody win games. Williams is getting some D-1 looks and said he will see where his recruiting goes by the end of the season. Smart kid who could play in the Ivy League. Finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. Was hearing from some Ivy’s during the summer.
Steve Vasturia 6’4 2013 guard (Notre Dame-commit)
Vasturia is a ND commit who really excels when his defender gives him the tiniest space. Got to the line a ton (10-11) while putting in an efficient day at the office (6-9 from the field and 2-3 from deep). Finished with 24 points, 6 rebounds and one assist in 31 minutes. Has a really nice shot. Need to see him some more because I thought he got bailed out on some of the fouls that were called but still his stat-line was impressive.
Kevin Oberlies 6’1 guard 2012
Oberlies made his only three to stem what felt like a run from the opposition and hit all three of his attempts to finish with 8 points and 4 rebounds. One of Speedy Morris’ many guards that can play. Should be a nice D-3 player somewhere if he chooses to pursue it and when I write that I hope that everyone understands how good you have to be to play at a D-3 level. Anyone playing ball in college anywhere is better than 95% of all the other kids that played ball in high school so please…respect that.
Boo Lathan 6’2 200 pounds 2012 forward
Lathan can play. He’s not big enough for his skill set to fit at the D-1 level but he can play –would be a real nice fit at the NAIA level. Gets tremendous lift on an unorthodox jumper that started finding the bottom of the net as the game wore on. Can be a lockdown defender with his length, athleticism and toughness. Competed. Liked how he came back from a poor shooting first half, still played hard, and made St. Joseph’s sweat a little in the second half. Finished with 14 points and 8 boards (4 offensive) and 1 assist after being pretty much shutout in the first half. Tough kid and good athlete.
The 2012 BIG EAST Tournament promises to be one to remember. As usual, tickets will sellout, but fans can get yours early at the best prices by following the links below and get that special holiday gift for YOURSELF that you did not receive from your loved ones. Also, buy with our relationship with TicketNetwork and .
By Ray Mernagh
St. Raymond 68 Paul VI 61
Daniel Dingle (Temple)
Brought it early and often and it was needed with his teammate Kkereuwem Okoro suffering with an intestinal ailment. Dingle finished at the rim and stretched the defense out in spots (he was 1-2 from deep). Dingle played with a high motor that allowed him to grab 4 offensive rebounds and go to the line 13 times (he made 8). In 25 minutes the future A-10 product finished with a workmen-like 21 points and 15 rebounds. Dingle handles the ball well for his size of 6’7″ and had several and 1 opportunities throughout the game while always coming up with a basket when St. Rays needed one. Passed out of post on one possession, followed the play and got position for offensive rebound, then snatched rebound and got to line and hit both tries.
Eli Carter made plays, enough plays in a pulsating second half — plus twin overtimes — that he finished with a career high 31 points.
Myles Mack made plays, 14 points 2 assists and 2 steals in 37 minutes… wait, he just hit another J as a Florida defender went under the screen on him.
Jerome Seagears made plays, what speed (“Gears for days?”) and fearlessness the young guard showed for Rutgers.
Derrick Randall was one of the few Scarlet Knights to show in the first half, as the young big man (who I’ve loved since day one) kept his squad in the game with 10 first half points, interior defense and several hustle “wins” on 50-50 balls.
All four of the above players are in their first year, young bucks ready to change the culture of Rutgers basketball forever by the time they’re done. And it all started earlier this evening with a dramatic 85-83 double overtime win over #10 Florida.
“I’m proud as hell of ‘em,” Mike Rice told Bill Raftery afterwards on national television, “they’re all freshmen, the future is bright!”
Yes Mike, yes it is.
This group, if it plays with the edge and pace it did tonight, will make noise in the Big East this year.
Your ticket to the fun awaits…
Wagner came into their game at Pitt with some definite ideas about attacking the Panthers.
“I felt like our game plan going in was to extend our defense up the court because we felt we could get into their legs that way,” said Dan Hurley, Wagner’s second year coach. “They’ve got bigger perimeter players on the wings, Lamar Patterson played for me in high school and he played the 4, so we wanted to run them at both ends of the court, run them off a lot of staggers, run them off a lot of flair screens, just make them guard a lot of offense, extend the court and try to wear on them a little bit.” Hurley’s plan, especially the part about making the Panthers guard a lot of offense, is one that every coach should follow the rest of the season.
Simply put, Pitt struggles to guard teams that spread them out and make them move their feet. Wagner guards Kenneth Ortiz and Latif Rivers controlled the game from the beginning, and got plenty of help from Tyler Murray and Jonathon Williams. Ortiz frustrated Pitt All American Ashton Gibbs into a 5-16 night that included 4 turnovers (seemed like 7-8 to me) while on the other end Ortiz, Rivers and Murray took their turns scoring at the rim or with jump-shots. Williams got some big buckets in isolation sets from the wing driving baseline and spinning back for easy lay-ins as the 6’6″ Juco transfer finished with 7 points and 9 rebounds.
Rivers sealed it from the line late going 6-6 for the game to finish with 18 points. “Latif is coming back you know he finished the season with a torn labrum in his shoulder and he played through it because that’s the kind of guy he is and the type of teammate he is,” said Hurley. “That injury is a four or five month recovery and he’s almost been relearning to shoot and maybe ten games or so to feel comfortable and that’s the Latif we recruited, clutch, big free throws you know he’s from Jersey just like Kenny (Ortiz) and they have that toughness and belief.” Hurley said his team is full of kids like Rivers and Ortiz.
These guys have a brotherhood,” said Hurley, “this isn’t something we’re putting together on a year-to-year basis these guys practice hard they relate well to each other on and off the court and it’s a blessing to coach these guys.”
Ortiz scored 12 while assisting on 7 other Wagner baskets. Murray was was 3-5 from deep. Naofall Folahan grabbed 8 rebounds of his own while bothering Pitt defensively at the rim. Wagners guards grabbed 9 boards as well. Hurley thought staying with UConn earlier this season helped his team meet the challenge of facing Pitt. “I think it gave us the confidence,” said Hurley, “we had it at an 8-point game with 8 minutes to go and we didn’t play as well there as we did here but I think it gave our guys confidence knowing the caliber of team and players that they are. I think we had confidence we could come in here and if guys executed we’d have a chance to win the game.” Ortiz and Rivers were both beaming in the press conference after getting the biggest win of their careers against some familiar faces.
“It’s definitely really big for us as individuals and for us as a team,” said Rivers, “they’re a top ranked type team and to be able to come into their home and win is huge.”
“The Big East is what we all grow up talking about,” Ortiz said, “this is something big me and Tif talked about this our whole life growing up talking about doing big things and we got our chance and took advantage and that’s a great feeling.”
Wagner outplayed Pitt for 40 minutes.
As a result, the Seahawks got a much deserved win. Hurley said he advised his kids to get their cell phones charged when I asked him if he’d hear from his father yet following the win. “I said to the coaches and players to make sure they get their phones charged because we’ll all be getting a lot of texts and a lot of calls.”
As Hurley and his two stars left the media room they wished everyone a good Christmas and happy holidays.
By the way they bounced out of the room it was quite evident that their best present came two days early this year.
Khem Birch has made his decision — choosing to bounce on Pitt only ten games into his college career.
I considered writing a column regarding that decision for the site, but the truth is I’m not that interested in dissecting the decision or what the young man’s thought process might have been at the time he made it. Birch was getting good minutes and starting to be the key for the Panthers defensively –what he cleaned up on the back end was plenty and Pittsburgh will have a hard time replacing it because to be quite frank they just aren’t that good defensively. Birch made that weakness bearable with his presence and shot blocking/shot altering ability. Birch decided he wasn’t a “fit” at Pitt and that’s fine, but better form would’ve been to finish out the season and then move on but hey, it’s his right to leave. I will be writing about the decision and its impact on this years Panthers going forward in the January edition of the Pittsburgh Sports Report. As far as that column, just read the piece I wrote a few years ago when Jeronne Maymon left Marquette and substitute the names where applicable. It’s pretty much the same deal. Look for Birch to strongly consider any program that has some Canadians matriculating and ties to the power brokers in that country’s grassroots scene — Missouri is one to keep an eye on right now.
Marquette is off to a 9-0 start, which included a win at Wisconsin in their annual rivalry battle and a thrilling 79-77 victory over Washington in Madison Square Garden. Currently ranked #11 in the country, the Golden Eagles are preparing to return to action this weekend against Northern Colorado at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
Seniors Darius Johnson-Odom (18.8 PPG) and Jae Crowder (17.4 PPG and 6.7 RPG) lead the way for the MU squad with sophomore Vander Blue and freshman Todd Mayo are also putting up double digits, or very close to it, in points each game. As a whole Marquette currently has 11 players playing at least 11 minutes a game and 10 of them average over 3.3 points a game. Head coach Buzz Williams has a deep and talented team at his disposal and will challenge for the BIG EAST title and be among the top teams nationally this season.
NBE is excited to welcome coach Buzz Williams to the NBE Experience podcast series and Williams talks with Ray Mernagh about Marquette’s 9-0 start, injuries to key players and some coaching advice he received from Jon Gruden. All that and more on this week’s podcast which can be found below…
First of all, if Mick Cronin coached as well as he handles press conferences he’d be the next Mike Krzyzewski.
It was just last winter that Cronin waxed poetically following a game in Pittsburgh about the privilege of wearing a college uniform (Cronin Press Conference Steals the Show) — he was speaking about his big man Yancy Gates, who didn’t make the trip for various reasons (mostly for playing like a dog which has always been the knock on the talented big, although I’ve always felt Cronin’s offense tends to ignore him too much). Walking out of the presser another writer grabbed me and said “that guy really gets it,” after Cronin cast doubt on whether Gates would even be on his team for the rest of the season, how he hadn’t earned the right to play for an institution of higher learning with his behavior in the early season.
I just smiled at the other writer and said “we’ll see if he plays at DePaul,” which was UC’s next game. Gates played, and was seen laughing on the bench during the contest. So yeah, Cronin’s huge on lessons.
By now we all know that Xavier and Cincinnati ended in an ugly brawl that saw Gates drop Kenny Frease — who, if memory serves me correctly, once head-butted Gates in an earlier version of this game — then saw one of Gates’ teammates stomp on Frease’s head. All before Frease was seen crawling out of the pile on his hands and knees scurrying for cover (understandable).
Then Frease had his busted eye attended to at half-court, stood up and screamed “are you not entertained?” to the Musketeer faithful…okay, that’s a lie, but he did stand up and scream something that seemed to indicate he was somehow emotionally satisfied with the accomplishment of having his eye blown up on national TV.
By Ray Mernagh
Rising up from behind the three-point-line yesterday, Christian Watford’s form was picture perfect. Fighting for position underneath the rim, enjoying the best view of anyone inside Assembly Hall, was Watford’s teammate and Indiana freshman star Cody Zeller. The day Zeller committed to play for his in-state school, a rough healing process began as Indiana Basketball tried to resurrect its proud tradition, one that had been besmirched by the Kelvin Sampson fiasco.
When Watford’s shot found its mark, vanquishing #1 Kentucky 73-72, 17,472 folks inside IU’s historic venue exploded in climatic euphoria. Somewhere, Dan Dakich watched with a tear in his eye and a smile on his face. The same goes for Kent Benson, Isaiah Thomas, Quinn Buckner and hundreds of other former Hoosiers. Indiana, at least for one Saturday in December, was back — in their hearts — where it belonged, on top of the basketball world.
Its been awhile.
Marquette was undefeated coming into their game at Wisconsin yesterday.
But like a lot of undefeated teams from Big Six leagues, that mark of perfection was perceived as little more than beating up on inferior competition…and for the most part that perception was accurate. The ex-Warriors pounded Winthrop by 22 and Ole Miss by 30 in the Virgin Island tourney they won, but a lot of folks were waiting to see how they’d fare when they traveled to Madison before stamping a seal approval on Buzz Williams’ bunch.
Well, consider them stamped. Wisconsin was 157-11 in the Kohl Center over the last ten years before yesterdays contest. Marquette, playing without suspended point guard Junior Cadougan, made sure that record changed to 157-12 after their 61-54 win.
The reason I had Kentucky #1 going into the season was on full display last night against St. John’s.
Yes the Wildcats have the most talent.
Yes, they have great athleticism and skill on offense.
But did you catch what they were able to do defensively?
Our Good Lord, Yahweh, Sweet Jesus, whoever Atheists worship (Bill Maher?) and Allah couldn’t have scored on Kentucky last night.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Anthony Davis bring an impact on D and the rest of the Wildcats all follow suit to avoid having to hang their heads in shame (or hear Cal call them bad names). The amount of late clock situations that they forced the Johnnies into was ridiculous, and yes I know the undermanned group from Jamaica was trying to control their pace some, but there’s a big difference between that and not being able to get a shot off on multiple possessions.
15,880 fans showed up to the Consol Energy Center.
That number was a City Game attendance record.
And they left, unless they were die-hard Pitt fans, unfulfilled.
There weren’t a million turnovers in this game — the number was actually 35, 23 from Pitt — but it sure seemed like it.
Duquesne needed Pitt to turn it over a lot.
Pitt complied, but the Dukes couldn’t, for whatever reason, get over the hump.
T.J. McConnell, who finished with 15 points on 6-9 shooting for the Dukes, pointed to a late game back-breaking play as the moment the Dukes were finally broken.
“We were down four, they missed a free throw and then got the rebound and kicked it back out for a three,” said McConnell, “that pretty much killed us.”
For Pitt, this was the first time in three games that they had the services of center Dante Taylor and small forward Lamar Patterson. That fact seemed to take away from the flow and ball movement that Pitt enjoyed in its previous outing because the rotation that had produced was again in flux.
Taylor made the most of his return against the much smaller Dukes and had what amounted to a perfect stat-line — 6-6 from the field and 3-3 from the line for 15 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman John Johnson was huge for Pitt going 3-3 from distance for 9 points in his 14 minutes. Ashton Gibbs added 18 while Patterson finished with 10. Pitt destroyed Duquesne on the boards 39-15.
“It’s what we do,” said Jamie Dixon when asked about the rebounding advantage.
What promised to be a tight, exciting finish with about 9:00 left on the clock sagged to the final buzzer as turnover after turnover blinded the record crowd into a a stupor similar to that of a punch-drunk boxer in his final career bout.
It’s a win for Pitt and a missed opportunity for a game Duquesne squad.
But about as sloppy as a basketball game could be.
UCF and Marshall certainly made a good impression on the Big East leadership with their victories over UConn and Cincinnati.
Marcus Jordan was excellent, especially making plays down the stretch (while UConn’s D was already looking towards the next round apparently) to get UCF their biggest win in quite some time and probably ever. Marshall’s win over the Bearcats was one I expected as the Thundering Herd are for real this season and Cincinnati proved once again with their loss to Presbyterian, at least at this point, that they’re still very much pretenders. Another result that I thought might go the Mid-Major way was Ohio vs Louisville but, whether by kind whistle or not (and that’s exactly what one of my guys told me the Ville got down the stretch) Pitino’s crew managed to get the all-important Dub).
One interesting rumor that I’ve heard more than once is that Xavier is quietly trying to enter the Big East through the back door for basketball. If that were to happen it would be fascinating to see how the Mid-Major Plus dominoes would fall were X to leave the A-10 for a league with St. John’s, Seton Hall, Marquette etc. Would Butler then try to make a move to the A-10? One things for sure if X were to move — Cincinnati would not be happy at all! not sure how solid the rumor is but it’s definitely out there in the coaching/basketball community.
Players that have impressed thus far this week as I’ve caught random glimpses through the turkey/brisket induced-haze:
Evan Roquemore from Santa Clara is a 6’3 point that I raved about from seeing him in Milwaukee a few years back at the NY2LA event. He went for 27 5 and 4 against New Mexico in a win and then for 27 10 and 4 in a loss to Oklahoma. His Broncos take on Villanova next tomorrow at 6:30. Watch for this kid who pinned a much bigger guy hard while I was watching the New Mexico game but somehow didn’t get credited for the block. He’s the real deal obviously and he’s added some flamboyance to his usually understated style with a Mohawk. If he keeps going for 27 and 10 he can continue to pull that look off. The sophomore guard is averaging 17 6 and 4 for they year while shooting 53% from deep and 48% from the floor.
Keith Clanton from UCF. The 6’8″ Junior local kid (Orlando product) went for 20 in the Knights win over UConn while hitting 4-5 from the three-point line, hit all his free throws and collected 6 rebounds in 38 minutes. For the year Clanton is averaging 19 and 9 while hitting 59% from the floor and 49% from deep. He’s definitely been putting in work and doing it much more efficiently than any of his more-famous mates. Credit Jordan as I did in the opening graph but recognize Clanton’s game as well.
Just saw that Northeastern drilled St. John’s earlier today 78-64 as the Red Storm were again without coach Steve Lavin who’s recuperating and resting following recent surgery to remove cancer. Best wishes to Lav on his continued recovery and also to Notre Dame forward Tim Abromaitis who tore his ACL and is out for the year. Here’s hoping he can get a 6th year and ball out in 2012-13.
Khem Birch got his first start for Pitt and responded with 15 10 and 3 blocks. JJ Moore also contributed with 12 and 6 in 31 minutes with efficient play. Will be good to see tomorrow night how both handle some regular season success. IMHO Pitt needs both guys on the floor for good minutes to be the best they can be this year.
I’m in Dayton tonight as I’m visiting relatives for Thanksgiving and that will allow me a good look at A-10 squad Charlotte and Horizon opponent Wright State. I watched WSU practice yesterday and they’re a young group that has some really enticing pieces for the future. It will be interesting to see how they respond off the last few days which have been difficult for them. The Raiders played very well against Florida in a loss but then, as is common with young teams, forgot to show up a few nights later against North Florida and took a bad loss.
Charlotte is an athletic and long group from just watching some warm ups here so hopefully it will be another good game (I haven’t seen a bad one yet this season).