College Hoops Thursday Recap: Gophers Rally to Beat Purdue
The biggest issue offensively for Purdue during that cold stretch: Johnson attempted just one official field goal and scored two points (on a pair of free throws) in that final 9:21. Head coach Matt Painter made note of this after the game and the point can't be emphasized enough: you have to get the ball to your main man on a regular basis. Minnesota's defense does deserve some credit for this but after the game one had to get the feeling that the big man didn't see enough of the basketball late. In addition to this issue Minnesota outscored Purdue in the paint 32-16, a margin that underlines the Gophers' comparative ease in getting the ball inside for quality scoring opportunities. Hoffarber's free throws with 8:02 remaining tied the game at 61 and he would go on to assist on baskets by Ralph Sampson III and Al Nolen, whose three-pointer with 3:15 remaining provided the final score.
Tubby Smith's team, which has dealt with a number of distractions of late, was able to get out and run when the opportunity presented itself (scoring 16 fast-break points) and that paid dividends. After Hoffarber and Nolen (13 points) four Minnesota players scored either six or seven points, with Trevor Mbakwe scoring seven to go with 10 rebounds off the bench. Purdue out-rebounded Minnesota 38-28, grabbing 16 of those on the offensive end, but when a team can't take full advantage of those extra opportunities (nine more field goal attempts) if they aren't making shots (four fewer made field goals). While the visitors can point to those missed opportunities that resulted in their first loss of conference play, Minnesota has the chance to look back on this win as a turning point provided they keep the distractions to a minimum and take care of business.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Once again: it may be time to move Kendall Marshall into the starting lineup.
It's been a source of debate for much of the season in regards to North Carolina: who should be the starting point guard? Incumbent Larry Drew II, whose had his fair share of struggles at the position, or freshman Kendall Marshall? Marshall, a gifted passer and floor general, needed to become a better defender in order for Roy Williams to trust him with greater responsibilities and Thursday night was a significant step in that direction. Marshall totaled nine points, nine assists (and no turnovers) and three steals in performing well on both ends of the floor in the Tar Heels' 64-61 win over Virginia Tech. Malcolm Delaney (28 points) did all he could to deliver the Hokies a critical road victory but the combination of a lack of depth and frontcourt foul trouble proved to be too much to overcome. John Henson led three Heels in double figures with 17 points, but the offense seemed to benefit greatly from the presence of Marshall. North Carolina outscored Virginia Tech 36-14 in the paint, something that becomes possible when ball distribution is up to snuff. Will this be the game that UNC looks back to should they build on this and continue to win games? Possibly, especially if Marshall can continue to step up and get the job done at the point.
2. Belmont makes another emphatic statement to the rest of the Atlantic Sun.
If you thought Rick Byrd's team performed well on Monday night when they blew out Jacksonville by 31, they played even better in whipping rival Lipscomb last night. Drew Hanlen led five Bruins in double figures with 17 points in the 88-52 beating, and as a team Belmont knocked down 13 three-pointers. Defensively they limited Adnan Hodzic to just seven points and the big man also had to deal with foul trouble for much of the evening. And when you shoot just 29.7% from the field like Lipscomb did it's tough to win anywhere much less on the road. Now 7-0 in Atlantic Sun play, Belmont has won all seven by at least 17 points and their average margin of victory is 28 points per game. The highest margin in conference play since the Bruins joined the A-Sun in 2001: that would belong to St. Joseph's, whose 2003-04 team won their Atlantic 10 games by an average of 20.7 points per game (thanks to the Atlantic Sun Conference for providing that info). To say the least the Bruins are showing themselves to be the class of the A-Sun right now, but they've got road games against East Tennessee State, Lipscomb and Jacksonville down the line. It'll be tough to sustain this level of excellence but if any team can do so it would be Belmont.
3. Oregon opens its sparkling new arena with a win.
For all the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the opening of Matthew Knight Arena, there may have been a concern that the home team would be a bit of a letdown given their 0-4 record in Pac-10 play. But Dana Altman's team took care of business, leading by as many as 18 points in the second half before hanging on to knock off USC 68-62. Johnathan Loyd led four Ducks in double figures with 12 points while Tyrone Nared provided an important boost off the bench with 10 points and three rebounds, but the attention grabber was the program's palatial digs. While many are skeptical about the court design (which honors the 1939 national champions, who were affectionately named the "Tall Firs") and the inability to make out the half-court line on TV the fact is that Oregon Basketball was a conversation piece, and the same went for their uniforms on the football field. But recruits talk as well, and the reception for the arena will likely be the same as the jerseys. But the arrival of players such as Jabari Brown and Brett Kingma has to wait until next season, meaning that Coach Altman will need to mold this current group into a competitive outfit. Last night's win was a positive first step in that direction.
Top Three Games
1. Portland 79, Loyola Marymount 78 (2 OT) Luke Sikma led the Pilots with 24 points and 10 rebounds, but without a pair of Jared Stohl free throws with 2.7 seconds left in regulation Portland falls victim to the visiting Lions. Drew Viney, who hit a three-pointer with seven seconds remaining to give LMU a 60-58 lead, led the Lions with 24 points.
2. California 88, Washington 81 (OT) Freshman Allen Crabbe wasn't able to match the prolific Klay Thompson (36 points) point for point but he came darn close in scoring a career-high 30 in the Golden Bear victory. Harper Kamp added 18 for the victors, who were pushed into the extra session by a Thompson three from 27 feet out.
3. Stanford 58, (18) Washington 56 A Josh Owens tip-in with 29 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as the Cardinal knocked off Washington on The Farm. The Huskies had a chance to tie with 2.5 seconds remaining but Justin Holiday missed a pair of free throws (2nd on purpose), then missed a jumper as time expired. Holiday led all scorers with 15 while Owens led Stanford with 14.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Klay Thompson (Washington State) and G Allen Crabbe (California) Thompson led all scorers with 36 points while Crabbe led the Golden Bears with 30 in Cal's 88-81 overtime victory.
2. F John Flowers (West Virginia) Flowers scored a career-high 24 points to go with six rebounds, five assists, five blocks and three steals in the Mountaineers' 93-63 pasting of Providence.
3. F Aaron Brackett (UNC Greensboro) Brackett scored 28 points (14-20 FG) and grabbed 15 rebounds in the Spartans' 75-74 win at Appalachian State, their first victory of the season.