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.
The matchup between #10 Florida and Rutgers on Thursday night was hyped up due to the return of Mike Rosario, who transferred from the New Jersey school following two seasons in New Brunswick. But his return was a subplot in what turned out to be one of the best games of the calendar year, with the focus by the end being Mike Rice's young guards. Eli Carter led the way with 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while Myles Mack knocked down some big shots late in regulation and during the overtime periods to lead Rutgers to the 85-83 double overtime 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.
Outside of Xavier it's difficult to think of many two-game losing streaks this season that have sparked as much concern nationally as the one Pittsburgh is currently going through. A team that looked preoccupied with their Christmas break plans on Friday in a 59-54 home loss to Wagner dropped another game on Tuesday, 72-59 at Notre Dame. The second half was a serious departure from what the Panthers do on both ends of the court, with Notre Dame being able to accomplish just about whatever they wanted to offensively.
The question leading into the title game of the Diamond Head Classic was how would Kansas State deal with Long Beach State guard Casper Ware. But by the end of the game it was obvious that the better question to ask was how the senior would navigate the Wildcats' tough perimeter defense. Thanks in large part to Will Spradling and Martavious Irving the Wildcats harassed Ware in to a 5-for-18 night from the field, and they took control of the game at both ends on their way to a 77-60 win in Honolulu.
Plenty of teams have pre-Christmas letdowns, when they allow their minds to wander a bit against teams they're expected to beat. But in a lot of those cases the favored team is able to bounce back and do enough to eventually win the game. But that wasn't the case for #15 Pittsburgh, who turned the ball over 18 times against a team in Wagner that was talented enough to make them pay for those errors.
The "Braggin' Rights" game between Illinois and Missouri is alway an intense affair, with the fans in the stands split by the halfcourt line and both teams understanding what's at stake before they even hit the floor. This season's game was no different, although for a good portion of the first half it seemed as if the undefeated Tigers were on their way to a romp. Bruce Weber's team refused to fold, and once Missouri got out of control Illinois was able to mount their rally.
In each of North Carolina's last two games sophomore forward Harrison Barnes shot 4-for-12 from the field and scored nine points. Some may have been concerned given the fact that those performances came against Appalachian State and Nicholls State, ignoring the fact that the Tar Heels still managed to win both games by comfortable margins. Barnes is fine, as he showed in North Carolina's 82-63 win over Texas by scoring a season-high 26 points and grabbing ten rebounds in just 25 minutes of action.
For a while on Tuesday night it looked as if a Southern Conference team would hand another undefeated team its first defeat of the season. But an important suggestion by Louisville assistant coach Richard Pitino set things in motion for the fourth-ranked Cardinals, sparking a rally that resulted in a 69-62 victory. The idea: instead of relying on the frontcourt tandem of Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan to occupy the foul line area against the Charleston zone, use the versatile Kyle Kuric at the four.
What looked to be a routine post-finals Monday in college basketball turned out to be anything but as two ranked teams fell. #10 Marquette went on the road to take on an LSU team that much isn't expected of this season and found themselves in a dog fight. Averaging 81 points per game the Golden Eagles finished the game 22 points below their average in the 67-59 loss to the Tigers, with LSU making the required plays on both ends of the floor late.
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