Thankfully Monday was a busy night on the schedule even before ESPN's 24-hour marathon (even if you had fantasy football interests Ravens/Browns should not have been an option) and it didn't disappoint either. John Wall made his regular season debut for Kentucky and to say the least the phenom showed why people are touting him as a National POY possibility. And there were other key results on Monday/early Tuesday that could have a long-lasting impact on this season as well.
Three Key Happenings
1. The embarrassment of riches at the point for Kentucky. Eric Bledsoe scored twenty-seven in the Wildcats' season opener, and all John Wall did last night was score nineteen points and knock down the game-winning shot in the Wildcats' 72-70 win over Miami (Ohio). He also had five assists and three steals, and while the five turnovers could stand to decrease you have to like the options that John Calipari has at that position.
2. UCLA can expect to see a lot of zone defenses. The Bruins went 5-for-29 from three in their 68-65 double overtime loss to Cal-State Fullerton. Michael Roll was 3-for-8 from behind the arc, which makes the team's percentage look even worse. And outside of Malcolm Lee, who battled cramps last night, no one had the look of a guy who can create their own offense on the perimeter. Not good.
3. Don't sleep on St. Mary's. Due to the 2 AM start time a lot of people may have missed the Gaels' impressive 80-58 beating of San Diego State, but if you can catch a replay I urge you to tune in. Randy Bennett's team didn't bother to wait for ESPN to switch over (the UCLA game was in overtime), running out to a 25-5 lead and not looking back. Patty Mills and Diamon Simpson may be gone but they've still got Omar Samhan and Mickey McConnell. And freshman Matthew Dellavedova has the look of a future star.
Top Three Games
1. Cal State Fullerton 68, UCLA 65 (2 OT) The Titans picked up their first-ever win over the Bruins in spite of eighteen turnovers, with Aaron Thompson leading the way with twenty-two points and nine rebounds. UCLA simply could not hit an outside shot to save their lives and as it was noted earlier outside of Malcolm Lee they didn't have a creator on the perimeter. Fullerton threw a zone at the Bruins in the win, a look that UCLA should expect to see until they show that guys not named Michael Roll can hit long-range shots.
2. #5 Kentucky 72, Miami (Ohio) 70 It took some heroics from John Wall to ensure the victory for Kentucky, as he hit a pull-up jumper with six seconds remaining to provide the final margin. The RedHawks shot lights out from behind the arc, making fifteen of twenty-six attempts. Nick Winbush made eight, setting the Rupp Arena record for three pointers by an opponent.
3. Norfolk State 72, Maine 71 Kyle O'Quinn's layup with five seconds remaining was the difference in Norfolk as the Spartans came back from a 52-38 deficit with under twelve minutes remaining to knock off the Black Bears. Rob Hampton led the Spartans with seventeen points while Gerald McLemore (Maine) led all scorers with twenty-four.
Three Player Performances
1. F Kyle Singler (Duke) 23 points, 11 rebounds in the Blue Devils' 74-49 win over Coastal Carolina.
2. F Nick Winbush (Miami-Ohio) 26 points (8-10 3PT), 6 rebounds in the RedHawks' 72-70 loss at Kentucky.
3. G A.J. Slaughter (Western Kentucky) 30 points (10-16 FG) in the Hilltoppers' 69-65 win over Milwaukee.