Raphielle Johnson's Blog
Most of the talk surrounding Connecticut's game against top-ranked Texas focused on the fact that it was a good thing the Huskies ended their three-game losing streak on Wednesday night against St. John's. Few people expected the team, currently being run by George Blaney due to Jim Calhoun's leave of absence, to beat the Longhorns despite playing on campus in front of a frenzied crowd. And about 30 seconds into the second half, when one basket was followed by yet another turnover and Texas hoop to make it 44-34, it looked like the game was definitely headed in that direction.
There are some big games on the schedule Saturday, with the biggest possibly being Ohio State visiting West Virginia in a non-conference game that could have major implications come March in regards to seeding. Outside of the Buckeyes' Dallas Lauderdale you won't see big men on the floor, with both teams possessing a number of versatile players in the 6-5 to 6-9 range. The two best players on the floor: Ohio State's Evan Turner and West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler, both of whom are looked to as catalysts of their team's offense.
Are the Huskies in trouble? Well, considering their 3-4 Pac-10 record and lack of a true road victory you can definitely make a case that they are. Thursday's loss to UCLA was a tough one, falling 62-61 when one-time walk-on Mustafa Abdul-Hamid knocked down a pull-up jumper from the top of the key as time expired. Abdul-Hamid's shot was preceded by Venoy Overton's coast-to-coast dash in which no Bruin defender stepped up to change his path to the basket. But with the Bruins still having 3.2 seconds to make something happen that defensive error no longer mattered.
Tracy Smith, a native of Durham, celebrated his 22nd birthday with one of the best games of his career in leading NC State to an 88-74 win over #7 Duke. Smith made ten of his twelve field goal attempts in scoring 23 points and as a team the Wolfpack shot a blistering 58.2% from the field. "Our defense was the worst it's been all year," lamented Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski following the game. "Obviously, our big guys weren't on like they were the last two games. Why does that happen? I don't know. But it's not just them.
The Pac-10 usually takes center stage on Thursday nights, and even with the league's struggles there is some intrigue. Washington State visits USC in a game they need to win in order to enhance their chances of getting to the NCAA Tournament. In Klay Thompson the Cougars have one of the early favorites to win Pac-10 Player of the Year, but with USC being one of the best defensive teams in the conference what Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto get done could be the difference at the Galen Center.
Currently looking to snap a three-game losing streak the University of Connecticut basketball team will tackle their upcoming schedule without head coach Jim Calhoun, who is taking a medical leave of absence.
Wednesday sets up to be an intriguing day in college basketball given some of the matchups. Connecticut and North Carolina set out to stop the bleeding with conference home games and the Huskies will be without head coach Jim Calhoun against St. John's. George Blaney, who has plenty of head coaching experience, will take over until Coach Calhoun returns and the Huskies need a win going into their game against Texas on Saturday. But the Red Storm can be a dangerous foe given their depth and willingness to compete for forty minutes.
In order to enjoy success against the top-ranked Texas Longhorns you have to hold your own on the boards. Kansas State, hosting their first matchup of Top 10 teams in school history, may lack in sheer bulk when compared to the Longhorn front line but they had to match (or exceed) the intensity of the visitors if they were to pull off the upset. And thanks to Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly they did just that, leading the way in the Wildcats' 71-62 win in Manhattan.
Tuesday lacks a marquee matchup the caliber of Monday's Texas/Kansas State game but there are some interesting games that could have an impact come Selection Sunday. Purdue hits the road with hopes of ending their three-game losing streak and they'll take on an Illinois squad that saw its' undefeated conference start come to a screeching halt. The big men will likely tell the tale of this contest; JaJuan Johnson's play of late has been well-documented and the Illini look to Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis for their interior baskets.