Florida lost the first meeting by a point due to their inefficient offense (90.9); there were no such issues at the O-Dome as the Gators finished with an offensive efficiency number of 113.6. Also of importance was Tennessee's cold shooting inside of the three-point line; the Vols shot 43.5% on three pointers but just 37.1% from inside the arc, scoring 48% of their points from three-point range. Such is life when your best post player (Wayne Chism) plays just fifteen minutes due to an aggravation of a hip injury and foul trouble. But Florida did what they were supposed to do and took full advantage of his absence.
The Gators blew the game open with a 27-6 run, outrebounding the Vols 38-29 while also outscoring the visitors 32-22 in the paint. Vernon Macklin followed up a solid performance at Ole Miss on Saturday with 13 points and 10 rebounds while Kenny Boynton scored twelve. Is Florida's work done? Not in the slightest; with their final three games coming against Georgia, Vanderbilt and Kentucky the Gators could find themselves in need of a win or two at the SEC Tournament should they go 1-2. 0-3? They'd be in trouble, but the win on Tuesday night at least keeps them going in the right direction.
Three Key Happenings
1. A "silent assassin" sparks Georgetown's second half run at Louisville. Georgetown trailed for essentially the entire first half despite Greg Monroe scoring 12 points due to the quiet performances of Austin Freeman (five points) and Chris Wright (zero points). One of those two, if not both, had to get going for the Hoyas to have any shot of winning at Freedom Hall over a team likely still in need of another marquee victory. And as he's been wont to do in Big East play, Freeman stepped to the forefront, scoring the first eight points of the second half and sparking a 21-2 run that put Georgetown in control of the contest, which they won 70-60. Looking for the most improved player in college basketball? Freeman could very well be the guy for the honor.
"He got going coming out of halftime - I told him I need you to be aggressive," said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. "He can be aggressive and not force it. He can be aggressive and yet still make the correct pass to his teammate. It's what he did for most of the second half (quote courtesy of uoflsports.com)." Freeman is averaging just over twenty points per game in Big East play and he's a big reason why the Hoyas still have realistic hopes of earning a double-bye in the Big East Tournament. Credit should also be given to the Georgetown reserves, who scored ten points in the first half to keep the team within striking distance, giving Freeman more than enough time to find his shot.
2. Evansville pulls another shocker and likely makes the Missouri Valley a one-bid league. The Purple Aces have just two league wins on the season, but the surprising aspect of those wins is who they've beaten. Just two weeks after beating Wichita State at home for their first MVC win, Marty Simmons' squad (which has just one senior) picked off the Panthers 55-54 in the final game of UNI center Jordan Eglseder's three-game suspension. Can this be written off due to his absence? Possibly but after beating both Creighton and Old Dominion without Eglseder Ben Jacobson's team may be best served to simply win "Arch Madness" next month and not chance a run with the selection committee. The win also maked the Purple Aces' first over a ranked opponent since 2003 (#9 Creighton), and it also underlines the double standard that exists between the BCS leagues and the rest of the college basketball landscape.
If a game like this happens in the Big East (ex.- DePaul beating Syracuse) or SEC (LSU knocks off Kentucky) it's simply brushed under a rug and chalked up to "that's how tough the league is". UNI gets no such mulligans, and while it's definitely unfair the "rules" have been known for some time. The task now for Northern Iowa is to take care of business against Illinois State and then take care of business in St. Louis. Anything less means putting their NCAA Tournament fate in someone else's hands, and you don't want to chance that.
3. Guard play is a major reason why Kansas State could make a run in March. Denis Clemente may not have reached the mark of 21 points for the fifth time in the Wildcats' last six games but Jacob Pullen more than made up for that with his 28 points to lead KSU to an 83-64 win at Texas Tech. The Wildcats shot 47.5% from the field and assisted on half of their 28 made field goals, also out-rebounding the Red Raiders 39-29. John Roberson led Texas Tech with 15 points but he and Nick Okorie (13 points) were no match for the Wildcat duo. Add in Jamar Samuels' double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds and K-State didn't have to withstand much of a challenge in Lubbock.
Pullen scored 21 in the first half as the Wildcats took a ten-point lead into the locker room, and then it was Clemente who scored ten in the second half. If you take away one the other can go to work, with Tuesday night's showing only being the most recent example of what Frank Martin's team can be capable of when these two are playing well. At this rate the Wildcats could be a solid three-seed in the NCAA Tournament and with the Big 12 Tournament they could bump themselves up a line with a tournament title. But regardless of their seed this is a team to be accounted for thanks in large part to Clemente and Pullen.
Top Three Games
1. Evansville 55, Northern Iowa 54 See above.
2. New Mexico 72, Colorado St 66 The Lobos pulled one out in Fort Collins thanks in large part to Dairese Gary (23 points), Roman Martinez (17 points and 12 rebounds) and Darington Hobson (15 points, 10 rebounds). Adam Nigon led the Rams with 23 but it wasn't enough to prevent New Mexico from winning their 12th straight.
3. Gardner-Webb 77, Presbyterian 76 (OT) A Grayson Flittner three pointer with two seconds remaining gave the Runnin' Bulldogs the one-point win on the road. Anton Silver led the winners with 25 while Chase Holmes and Jake Troyli led the Blue Hose with eighteen apiece.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Rick Jackson and G Andy Rautins (Syracuse) Both scored 28 points in Syracuse's 99-85 win at Providence, with the oft-overlooked Jackson adding nine rebounds and three assists.
2. G Austin Freeman and F Greg Monroe (Georgetown) Freeman scored 24 of his 29 points in the second half of the Hoyas' 70-60 win at Louisville while Monroe added 16 points and 14 rebounds.
3. G Patrick Mitchell (North Dakota) Mitchell made ten of thirteen shots from behind the arc on his way to 33 points (and nine rebounds) in the Fighting Sioux's 90-78 win over NJIT.
Also, congratulations to Philadelphia University head coach Herb Magee, who passed Bob Knight with his 903rd coaching win on Tuesday night with PhilaU's 76-65 win over Goldey-Beacom College.