Following Shabazz Napier's game-tying three-pointer most coaches would choose to call a timeout to draw up a play, risking the chance of the defense aligning and taking away the primary scoring option. But with the man he wanted to take the final shot already in possession of the basketball, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin decided against calling a timeout and as a result his Bearcats are now 5-1 in the Big East.
It looks as if the schedule-makers in the Mountain West wanted to spark some serious national conversation about the conference from the beginning of league play because the first full week of play will feature all three expected contenders facing each other. Wednesday's slate features #16 San Diego State (15-2, 1-0), fresh off of their two-point win over UNLV, visiting The Pit to take on a New Mexico (15-2, 1-0) squad that's quietly won thirteen in a row.
There weren't many opportunities to watch ranked teams play each other (there was just one, which is discussed below), but Saturday's slate provided many teams the chance to improve their resumes. Florida State and Northwestern took full advantage of their opportunities as they both knocked off Top 10 opponents at home, albeit in different ways.
The Mountain West, similar to the Ivy League and Great West, had to start conference play later than other conferences due to the fact that they've got just eight members. Saturday marks the beginning of conference play and there are two key games to keep an eye on, most notably #22 San Diego State (14-2) hosting #12 UNLV (16-2) in the day's lone matchup of ranked teams.
The game between Top 5 teams and in-state rivals Louisville and Kentucky was expected to be a high-intensity affair played at a good pace. Well thanks to the "third team" we got the intensity but not the pace, but by the end of the afternoon at Rupp Arena it was clear that Kentucky's 69-62 victory would be long remembered for the play of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist, who has emerged as the leader of John Calipari's talented squad, stole the show with 24 point and 19 rebounds in leading Kentucky to their 44th straight home victory.
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.
The first meeting between Memphis and Louisville since the 2005 Conference USA title game certainly did not disappoint from a drama standpoint, with both teams landing major blows throughout the contest. But despite a combined 74 first-half points the play was ragged for much of the contest, with the Cardinals taking a 42-32 lead into the break thanks to the Tigers shooting 29% from the field and turning the ball over ten times. But led by Will Barton (28 points, 16 rebounds) Josh Pastner's team refused to fold, fighting back to take a 57-55 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
While people didn't necessarily give up on Santa Clara when it came to discussing who could win the West Coast Conference, there weren't a lot of outside believers in Kerry Keating's team once forward Marc Trasolini was lost for the season in the summer due to a knee injury. And there were even fewer folks left in the aftermath of their 89-56 loss at UCSB just over a week ago. But if their 79-76 overtime win over New Mexico in a 76 Classic quarterfinal showed anything it's that Santa Clara remains capable of being a factor in the WCC race.
Happy Thanksgiving! And while football tends to take center stage on this day there are also four in-season tournaments playing games, with action spreading from the Bahamas to Alaska. There really isn't a marquee matchup so to speak but there are games that could become important once March arrives, with New Mexico's game against Santa Clara in the 76 Classic being one. The Lobos were the preseason pick to win the Mountain West, and with players such as Drew Gordon and Kendall Williams there's no doubt that they can win this event.
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