College Hoops Thursday Recap: Syracuse Impresses
Syracuse went into their game with California as the favorite in the eyes of many for two reasons. One: the school has a large alumni base in the New York metropolitan area and that means a good crowd at the World's Most Famous Arena. Two: the Golden Bears were without Theo Robertson (stress reaction in his foot) and they lack depth in the frontcourt with Harper Kamp (knee) also out. But to cite these things without giving notice to what happened on the floor would be unfair to the Orange, who outclassed the Bears 95-73.
Their 2-3 zone was active all night long, pestering the Golden Bears into 30% shooting from behind the arc and fifteen turnovers. Offensively the Orange got whatever they wanted, making 57% of their shots on the night. The two-headed monster at the point was effective, with Scoop Jardine coming off the bench for 22 points, six assists, six rebounds and four steals in what may have been the best game of his college career. Twenty-one of their thirty-six field goals were assisted and Syracuse finished with just ten turnovers on the night. Next up is North Carolina, a 77-73 winner over Ohio State, and it's another opportunity for the Orange to make a statement to the nation.
Three Key Happenings
1. Villanova misses Dante Cunningham. That statement obviously goes without saying but with Mouphtaou Yarou back home due to a viral infection the hole inside was all the more evident against George Mason. But they survived thanks to freshman Isaiah Armwood, whose three pointer not only gave the Wildcats the 69-68 win but was also the first basket of his career. But this wasn't merely a case of survival; the Patriots essentially gave away the game with missed free throws and the failure to even attempt a shot in the final seconds.
Mason led 37-28 at the half thanks to turnovers (Scottie Reynolds had eight) but Villanova took better care of the basketball in the second half. It's early so games like this are a good experience, but if Villanova duplicates this performance on Friday night Dayton's going to send them to the consolation bracket.
2. It wasn't pretty but Dayton found a way to win. In their 63-59 win over Georgia Tech Thursday morning the Flyers didn't receive much offensive help from their starters, who scored just sixteen points. But Chris Johnson (19 points), Paul Williams (13 points) and Luke Fabrizius (12 points) combined to lead the Dayton reserves to a 47-24 edge over the Yellow Jacket bench and that made the difference in a game that featured forty-eight turnovers.
The taller Yellow Jackets won the battle on the boards but their guards couldn't take care of the ball thanks in large part to Dayton PG London Warren. The "Jacksonville Jet" isn't the greatest offensive player but the senior simply makes winning plays and defends opposing guards as if his life depended upon the result. Dayton/Villanova should be entertaining Friday night and if Chris Wright can bring a bit more to the table Brian Gregory's team could have its second consecutive win over a ranked team.
3. San Diego State recovers from their poor showing on Tuesday night. The Aztecs looked nothing like the team expected to compete for the Mountain West crown on Tuesday morning, never entertaining realistic thoughts of a win at St. Mary's. But they were able to turn things around against Santa Clara making 53% of their shots in the 86-53 win at Cox Arena. The Broncos aren't going to be a statement opponent but the win offered Steve Fisher's team a look at what they can be when they play efficiently on offense and defend on the other end. Five players scored in double figures with Billy White leading the Aztecs with seventeen points.
Top Three Games
1. #6 Villanova 69, George Mason 68
2. Seattle 85, Fresno State 84 This game, which ended up being the first for head coach Cameron Dollar, featured three double-doubles (Paul George and Greg Smith for Fresno State; Charles Garcia for Seattle) and Cervante Burrell won it with a layup with eight seconds remaining.
3. #21 Dayton 63, #19 Georgia Tech 59
Three Notable Offensive Performances
1. G Corey Allmond (Sam Houston State) Allmond broke the Rupp Arena record with eleven three pointers, scoring thirty-seven in the Bearkats' 102-92 loss to Kentucky.
2. G Norris Cole (Cleveland State) Cole scored thirty-eight points (11-16 FG, 13-13 FT) in the Vikings' 78-64 win over Florida A&M.
3. F Luke Harangody (Notre Dame) The preseason Big East Player of the Year posted another double-double with 29 points and 12 rebounds in the Fighting Irish's 82-62 win over Long Beach State.