Big East Tuesday Recap: UConn't Be Serious

    
March 10th, 2010
Tuesday's action was supposed to focus primarily on bubble teams USF and Seton Hall. But at the end of the afternoon session all anyone could talk about is the nosedive that Jim Calhoun's Connecticut Huskies completed with a 73-51 beating at the hands of St. John's. And the issue wasn't the fact that they lost; they were out-worked, out-toughed; whatever aspect of the game you can find the Red Storm dominated it. You hate to get to the point where you question the heart of a team but that would be appropriate for what took place in the second game of the day.

"They [St. John's] came out here with purpose, physicality and quite frankly handed us our butts," said Calhoun after the game. "They knocked us off all screens. They completely outplayed us. They were much hungrier than we were." Sean Evans led the Red Storm, who will take on Marquette in the second game of the afternoon session on Wednesday, with 19 points and 10 rebounds to snap out his recent funk. Paris Horne and Justin Brownlee scored 13 points apiece and as a team St. John's shot 50% from the field.

As for the Huskies, they finished the game with twenty turnovers and made just six of eighteen foul shots. Simply put those numbers will get you beat. And when you combine said numbers with lackluster effort you stand the chance of being embarrassed. So what's next for the Huskies, who were led by Kemba Walker (12 points) and Gavin Edwards (11 points)? That remains to be seen; an NIT invitation is no guarantee at this point and while Calhoun expressed the utmost respect for the event he also had the following to say:

"I want to make sure if there's a step back on the court to play basketball game that they would be able to bring emotion, energy and all the things you should bring to competition." It's a question whether or not they can guarantee that at this point in the season.

USF 58, DePaul 49
Neither team snapped out of their offensive slumbers until the game was over but the Bulls did more than enough in the paint to move on to face Georgetown on Wednesday. USF outscored DePaul 50-20 inside, and when you factor in six free throws there was just one jumper outside of the paint left to account for. Dominique Jones led the way with 20 points while Mike Mercer scored fourteen, and Chris Howard played an outstanding floor game at the point (9 pts, 6 reb, 6 ast, 1 turnover).

Will Walker led the Blue Demons with 20 but he needed twenty-four shots to do so. For the game DePaul made just 29.9% of their shots in a game that also saw the Bulls fail to make a three-pointer. The win was the 20th for Stan Heath's squad, but despite history being on their side (120 of 123 Big East teams with 20+ wins have gone to the NCAA Tournament) they need to knock off the Hoyas to entertain any thoughts of an at-large.

Seton Hall 109, Providence 106
The wildest game of the night had all the makings of a serious blowout with 13:36 to go as Seton Hall led 76-47. But from that point forward it was essentially a comedy of errors for Bobby Gonzalez's team, who missed fourteen free throws and tossed the ball around in haphazard fashion as the Friars made their furious rally. Led by Jamine Peterson, who finished with 38 points and 16 rebounds, Providence scored 59 points in the final 13:36 and had a chance to send the game into overtime but a Duke Mondy three pointer went long with seconds left on the clock. As a result of the escape the Pirates take on Notre Dame Wednesday night with the winner likely taking a major step towards an NCAA bid.

Herb Pope led Seton Hall with 27 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out and Jordan Theodore added 21. His hot stretch late in the first half (three straight three-pointers) gave the Pirates a 55-39 lead at the half. In retrospect it was that run that won the game for Seton Hall; without it they're likely sitting at home lamenting their NCAA Tournament fate come Selection Sunday. Both teams surpassed the prior Big East Tournament record for points in a regulation game (1993 Seton Hall, a 103-70 winner over Syracuse in the title game), Greedy Peterson broke Billy Donovan's school Big East Tournament record for points in a game (34 in 1987) and all ten starters reached double figures.

Cincinnati 69, Rutgers 68
Cincinnati almost let this one slip away. Up by as many as six points with 44 seconds remaining, Mick Cronin's Bearcats were outscored by Rutgers 9-2 with the Scarlet Knights tying the game on an off-balance Mike Rosario three with fifteen seconds to go. At that point Cronin put the Bearcats fortunes in the hands of Lance Stephenson and asked him to make a play. He did just that, beating his man to the basket and drawing a foul with 1.8 seconds remaining. Stephenson made the first free throw and when a desperation heave from Rosario sailed wide left Cincinnati had the one-point victory. Stephenson and Jaquon Parker led the way with thirteen points apiece, and the freshman also grabbed nine rebounds.

Rutgers was led by Rosario, who finished with 26 points, and Jonathan Mitchell (16). But what did them in was rebounding; Cincinnati was a plus-18 in rebounding margin and grabbed 23 offensive rebounds, leading 20 second-chance points (also scored 34 points in the paint). The Bearcats attempted eighteen more shots from the field, and on a night when in most cases their best offense was a missed shot Cincinnati was able to dominate the glass. Next up for Cincinnati is Louisville, who they lost 68-60 in their lone meeting back on January 24th. The difference: sixteen turnovers. By comparison the Bearcats turned the ball over just eight times against Rutgers. If they can do the same on Wednesday night they've got a shot.

Wednesday's Games (all on ESPN)

Noon USF vs. Georgetown
Huge game for the Bulls in regards to their hopes of getting into the NCAA Tournament. USF won the lone regular season meeting due in large part to Dominique Jones, but also keep in mind that Gus Gilchrist still wasn't back in the frontcourt rotation for that game. Once again, the key for Georgetown will be the play of Chris Wright. If the junior point guard is playing well the Hoyas are tough to slow down offensively, but when he's not they become rather predictable with Greg Monroe and Austin Freeman leading the way. Huge game for both; this could be a situation in which the team with a game under its belt (USF) comes out hot early.

2 PM St. John's vs. Marquette
The Red Storm find themselves in the same exact position they were in last year: win the 12/13 game then face Marquette. But for the sake of the fans and themselves, Norm Roberts' crew had better manage to score more than thirteen points like they did in the first half of that mauling. Marquette has been the cardiac team of the Big East; a Jimmy Butler baseline jumper as time expired knocked off the Johnnies in overtime in their meeting in Queens. Sean Evans had his best game in about a month on Tuesday afternoon and if he can build upon that St. John's will be a tough out for the Golden Eagles. Look for this one to go down to the wire.

7 PM Seton Hall vs. Notre Dame
The first game of the evening session is on par with USF/Georgetown in regards to its importance, if not more so since no guarantee regarding Notre Dame's at-large status can be made at this time either. Is this a de facto "elimination game"? It could be, or it could simply be an opportunity for one of these two teams to bolster their resume with one more win. The Pirates played lights out for about 27 minutes on Tuesday, then took their foot off the gas and Providence nearly stole the game as a result. If Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore can come close to their performances on Tuesday they've got a very good chance of beating the Irish. As for Notre Dame, multiple players have stepped up in the last month or so since Luke Harangody injured his knee. The senior is back but coming off the bench, allowing guys such as Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott to continue to flourish in their new roles. The winner takes a definitive step towards an at-large.

9 PM Cincinnati vs. Louisville
These two met just once during the regular season, with Cincinnati turning the ball over sixteen times in the 68-60 loss. In addition to the turnovers the Bearcats failed to attack the basket, shooting just four free throws to the Cardinals' nineteen. "Last time we played them we only shot four free throws," said head coach Mick Cronin. "You get frustrated as a coach. Then you review the film and you are to blame because you didn't get the ball to the basket a lot." The danger of playing against a zone defense of any kind is to become too content with firing away from deep; the Bearcats shot 10-19 from three in that meeting but that isn't their game. Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn will need to drive the basketball and Yancy Gates will need to go to work inside. As for the Cardinals, who are coming off of a win over then top-ranked Syracuse, Samardo Samuels will be key, especially if he can get Gates and/or Ibrahima Thomas in foul trouble. Add in the perimeter play of guards Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles and Louisville could be a handful offensively for Cincy.

Picks

Georgetown over USF
Marquette over St. John's
Seton Hall over Notre Dame
Louisville over Cincinnati