Tuesday night's national title game rematch was billed as the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, with the experienced Spartans heading to Chapel Hill with revenge on their minds. But as Mick Jagger noted, "you can't always get what you want", and the young Tar Heels grabbed control of the game early with their offensive execution. Larry Drew II, who has played good basketball recently, ran the offense with speed and consistency in the first stanza and Dexter Strickland ended the half with a three-pointer as time expired.
The halftime score was 50-34 and despite a run from Michigan State the deficit proved to be too much as North Carolina won 89-82. Ed Davis led the Tar Heels with twenty-two points and six rebounds while Drew II added eighteen points and six assists. Michigan State, who was led in scoring by Raymar Morgan (18 points), shot just 2-for-20 from behind the arc just days removed from knocking down twelve in a beating of UMass at the Legends Classic. For the game the Spartans shot just 43% from the field while UNC was able to get just about any look they wanted on the way to a 57.9% night from the field.
The star of the night for the Tar Heels was Drew II, who did a good job of keeping the tempo at Carolina's preferred pace in the first half. He did overpenetrate on a couple of occasions but other than that he was the model point guard for Roy Williams. With Kentucky on the horizon (Saturday) this is a good win for the Tar Heels. As for Michigan State they're going to need better efforts from their big men in regards to one-on-one defending on the block.
Three Key Happenings
1. Northwestern builds on their momentum. The Wildcats were surprise winners of the Chicago Invitational this past weekend, but how would the team that's lost Kevin Coble for the season perform in a true road game? If Tuesday's win over NC State is an indicator then it's premature to count Bill Carmody's team out of the race for an NCAA Tournament bid. In their 65-53 win Michael Thompson played all forty minutes and scored a team-high 22 points but it was the Northwestern defense that earned the result. NC State shot just 33.9% from the field (2-for-18 from three) for the game and the Wildcats were a +7 in rebounding margin. It may have been early to rule Coach Carmody's team out, even though they will be a bit shorthanded this season.
2. Does the Big Sky have another contender? This could be the case for Northern Colorado, who moved to 7-0 on the season with their 70-63 win over Colorado State (their first home game of the year). Despite being outrebounded by eleven (39-28) the Bears won because of twenty CSU turnovers and eighteen points off the bench from guard Will Figures. The schedule thus far hasn't been the toughest in regards to national perception but Tad Boyle's team, who made their debut in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 this week, were scheduled to play nine of their first ten away from Greeley. This is a good start for a school that was one-and-done in the Big Sky Tournament and was picked by both the coaches and media to finish sixth.
3. UTEP will be heard from in Conference USA. That was known by many before the season even began, and Tony Barbee's Miners added another piece of evidence why in their 79-58 win at New Mexico State. The Aggies shot just 28.6% from the field and turned the ball over seventeen times while being outrebounded by twelve. And UTEP made this all happen with Arnett Moultrie shooting just 2-for-8 from the field for the game; the Miners have five players averaging in double figures but they don't rely solely upon their offense to win games. That could be the difference, a trait that separates the Miners from Houston and keeps them with Memphis and Tulsa atop the Conference USA standings.
Top Three Games
1. Evansville 91, Tennessee Tech 90 (2 OT) The Purple Aces picked up a win on the road, with Ned Cox leading them with twenty-two points off the bench. Ten combined players (6 for Tech, 4 for Evansville) reached double figures with Frank David leading the Golden Eagles with nineteen.
2. Virginia Tech 70, Iowa 64 Malcolm Delaney led four Hokies in double figures with eighteen points and added five assists in the win. Anthony Tucker led the Hawkeyes with twenty-four points but he didn't have enough help to lead Iowa to the upset.
3. Temple 76, Western Michigan 70 Thanks to four players scoring in double figures the Owls were able to hold off the Broncos, who were led by David Kool (30 points). Ryan Brooks finished the game with a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) for Temple.
Three Notable Performances
1. G David Kool (Western Michigan) Kool scored thirty points and added six rebounds in WMU's 76-70 loss to Temple.
2. F Luke Harangody (Notre Dame) Harangody led the Irish to a win over Idaho State with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
3. F Storm Warren (LSU) Warren was one of two Tigers to post a double-double (Tasmin Mitchell) on Tuesday night, scoring 18 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in LSU's 66-58 win over UL Lafayette.
Thoughts? Other noteworthy performances? Feel free to post them below.