College Hoops Monday Recap: Guards Lead UConn to Victory

February 16th, 2010
Just two days after being "embarrassed" in a 60-48 loss at Cincinnati, few people expected Connecticut to have a shot at third-ranked Villanova on Monday night. But the team that hasn't lived up to its talent thus far once again showed what they were capable of against a "name" opponent. But with Kemba Walker leading the way offensively and Jerome Dyson doing a solid job defensively on Scottie Reynolds the Huskies were able to resuscitate (for the time being) their NCAA Tournament hopes with an 84-75 win. Walker scored a career-high 29 points while also turning the ball over just once and Dyson added 15 points and six assists.

Head coach Jim Calhoun made a change to his starting lineup, going with Charles Okwandu alongside Ater Majok instead of freshman Alex Oriakhi. What did this accomplish? It allowed Oriakhi the time to watch the game from the bench and get a better feel for the flow of the game. He came of the bench to score ten points while classmate Jamal Coombs-McDaniel hit a pair of three pointers on his way to eight points, both playing with a confidence that they haven't displayed during much of the Big East schedule. The Huskies were also far more efficient on offense, shooting 66.7% from the field in the second half and getting to the foul line (35-44; Villanova went 16-20) while also out-rebounding the Wildcats 40-29.

Reynolds led the Wildcats with 18 but Dyson made him work, something the Huskies had trouble with in prior games against the senior. He made just two of seven three-point attempts and did not attempt a foul shot, and Corey Stokes made just one field goal (four attempts) before fouling out. The question now for the Huskies: can they keep the momentum rolling with a trip to Rutgers on deck? As Georgetown found out Sunday the RAC isn't an easy place to leave with a win and Fred Hill's team has been playing decent basketball of late. Add in the fact that UConn tends to come out flat against teams they're expected to beat and it's too early to put them back into the NCAA Tournament field. But in winning a game they needed, UConn has at least given themselves life.

Three Key Happenings

1. Kansas makes the big plays late to win at Texas A&M. In front of the best home-court advantages in the nation the Jayhawks were able to remain undefeated in Big 12 play while also ending the Aggies' 16-game home win streak. On a night that saw Sherron Collins hit just two of nine shots from the field it was Kansas' defense that sealed the deal. The Jayhawks limited Texas A&M to 25% shooting in the second half and 34.9% for the game while three players (Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry and Marcus Morris) led the way with twelve points apiece. Donald Sloan, the Aggies' leading scorer who had twelve at the half, scored just three second-half points as Kansas tightened things up on that end of the floor.

"I thought the last five minutes our defense was really good," said head coach Bill Self. "We got some stops and some key rebounds, which was the difference. Sometimes you get lucky when they miss open looks and you get unlucky when they make guarded ones (quote courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics)." When looking at offense and defense a case can be made for Kansas being the country's most complete team, and on a night where their offense wasn't clicking on all cylinders they found a way to get the job done.

2. Greivis Vasquez lights up Virginia. Looking at the starting lineups it was hard not to notice that Virginia was initially matching up Sammy Zeglinski on Greivis Vasquez. But given what the senior from Venezuela did to five other guards who took turns guarding him the Cavaliers could have brought back Cornel Parker and still not stopped Vasquez. Greivis scored a game-high 30 points in a key 85-66 win in College Park to bounce back from a poor outing at Duke on Saturday. Maryland led 52-34 at the half thanks to 25 points from Vasquez and as a team the Terrapins shot 56.3% from the field. Jeff Jones and Mike Scott scored 16 points apiece for the Cavaliers, who dropped to 14-9 overall and 5-5 in the ACC. And given their overall resume they're in need of a run going into the ACC Tournament if they're to be an NCAA possibility.

As for Maryland they remain a game behind Duke in the loss column, and while the Blue Devils have separated themselves from the pack another loss isn't out of the realm of possibility. Four starters scored in double figures on Monday night and their efficiency was the highest it's been since their 81-59 win over Miami back on January 26th. If Maryland's complimentary pieces can offer consistent support to Vasquez offensively this is a team that has to be accounted for throughout the remainder of the ACC schedule.

3. South Carolina State hands Morgan State their first MEAC loss. Not much attention is paid to the MEAC on a national level but the league did see it's lone undefeated home. The Bulldogs of South Carolina State did the honors, beating Morgan State 71-68 behind 24 points from Jason Flagler. With that ends the Bears' 11-game win streak (they had also won 11 straight at home) and cuts their lead over Delaware State to two games. Can the Hornets catch them? It may seem unlikely but they do host Morgan State on Wednesday night.

Reggie Holmes led MSU with seventeen points but the Bulldogs put the game away with an 11-0 run to push the lead to twelve with just over six minutes remaining. Also, SCSU made up for sixteen turnovers by shooting 57.1% from the field and finishing with an efficiency rating of 106.0. The Bears currently lead the MEAC in both offensive efficiency and opponent's efficiency, and when your opponent exceed that number (92) by fourteen you'll be in trouble. While no one may catch Morgan State for the regular season title they're far from a lock to win the MEAC's automatic bid, and South Carolina State's win should make that even more apparent.

Top Three Games

1. Tennessee St 109, Tennessee Tech 102 (2OT) Robert Covington (12 rebounds) and Jeremiah Crutcher scored 24 points apiece in leading the Tigers to their third consecutive OVC victory. Tech's Elijah Muhammad led all scores with 26 while also tallying eight assists.

2. Kansas 59, Texas A&M 54 See above.

3. Jackson St 70, Texas Southern 67 (OT) The Tigers strengthened their hold on first place in the SWAC with a win in Houston. Garrison Johnson knocked down seven three pointers in scoring 27 points to lead the Tigers while Junior Treasure scored 23 for Texas Southern.

Three Notable Performances

1. G Greivis Vasquez (Maryland) 30 points, eight rebounds and five assists (no turnovers) in the Terrapins' whipping of Virginia.  

2. G Kemba Walker (UConn) A career-high 29 points to go along with nine rebounds, three assists and most importantly just one turnover in the Huskies' win at Villanova.

3. F Robert Covington (Tennessee St) 24 points and 12 rebounds in the Tigers' win over Tennessee Tech.