- UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis on BYU's Jimmer Fredette in Tuesday's Las Vegas Sun
By the end of Wednesday night's game it was safe to say that the senior guard had proven himself, shaking off a 1-for-8 start to score 39 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists in the Cougars' 89-77 win in the Mountain West opener for both. But despite his shooting prowess, Fredette's showing would not have resulted in a road victory if not for the play of classmate Jackson Emery. Emery knocked down some big shots in the second half, going 8-for-13 from the field (6-9 3PT) in scoring 22 points to go along with four rebounds. Add in a double-double for Brandon Davies (15 points and 10 rebounds) and you've got all the makings for a crucial victory to kick off league play. "I was happy for our two senior guards," said head coach Dave Rose of Emery and Fredette. "It was big for them to get a win here." (quote courtesy of BYU Athletics)
Willis, on the other hand, made just four of sixteen shots from the field and scored 14 points in defeat. Anthony Marshall kept the game, which UNLV actually controlled early on (leading 27-17 at one point), from getting out of hand with a career-high 26 points off the bench. In fact the UNLV bench outscored BYU's reserves 36-4 but that's of little use when Willis struggles, Chace Stanback attempts just five shots (making three) and Brice Massamba is the only other starter to make more than half his shots from the field (4 of 7). And the pressure defense that's been so effective in prior meetings between the two wasn't much of a factor in the second half as BYU shot 51.7% from the field and 58.3% from three. It's a lesson that Lon Kruger's team has been taught before this season, most notably in their home loss to UCSB: when the starters struggle offensively they're in trouble despite their depth. But when the visitors shoot 14 of 28 from deep you're going to find yourself in a tough situation, especially when you're making just seven (of nineteen) threes and 42.6% from two.
After being outscored 16-8 in the paint in the first half BYU was more effective inside, scoring 14 points to UNLV's 18 in the final 20 minutes (BYU outscored UNLV 13-8 in second chance points). And just as telling a stat are UNLV's fast break points: four. Given the Rebels' preference for an up-tempo style that thrives off of turnovers that's a tremendously low number, one that becomes all the more important when key players are struggling to get going offensively. BYU did what they had to do and as a result they leave Las Vegas with a crucial road victory in regards to the Mountain West title race.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Tennessee embarrasses Memphis in Knoxville.
Put a number to the left of their opponent's name and Bruce Pearl's team shows up. Such was the case on Wednesday night as the Volunteers picked up their third win over a ranked opponent this season in whipping Memphis 104-84. Two honest points need to be made: the game, which Tennessee led by as many as 34, wasn't that close and it was only a matter of time before Josh Pastner's young team fell from the Top 25. Tobias Harris tallied 17 points and 13 rebounds and three other players also reached double figures in dominating a team that really doesn't play as if the guys on the floor trust each other. The Vols went on a 14-2 run halfway through the first half and eventually led by 25 (45-20) before their erratic play sparked a Memphis charge to get the deficit down to 10 early in the second half. From there however the rout was on as Memphis combusted to the benefit of the home team. This is about as good a performance as Coach Pearl could ask for with associate head coach Tony Jones taking over as he serves his suspension. They won by an impressive margin and also saw what could happen against better talent when they take their foot off the gas, but that's a lesson they should have learned by now anyway. Even with a familiar face in charge it's up to players such as Scotty Hopson and Cam Tatum to take the reins as leaders, and how well they do will determine just how good Tennessee can be by season's end.
2. Harvard looks ready for Ivy League play, beating Boston College for the third consecutive year.
Reserve Laurent Rivard scored a career-high 23 points and Harvard scored 21 points off of 14 Eagle turnovers in winning 78-69 at Conte Forum. The win is the third straight over BC for the Crimson and moves them to 10-3 ahead of their Ivy opener at Dartmouth on Saturday afternoon. And this team may only get better, especially as sophomore forward Kyle Casey (missed the first three games with a foot injury) returns to full strength. Casey was the lone starter to not reach double figures but Rivard, who is one of the prime candidates for Ivy League Freshman of the Year, more than made up for that with his point total. In addition to taking advantage of BC mistakes Tommy Amaker's team got to the foul line, making 23 of 24 from the charity stripe while the home team made just 4 of 8. The Crimson, along with Princeton, are the early favorites to win the Ancient Eight (you can't count out Cornell either) this year and it should be noted that their roster has no seniors and just two juniors. If Harvard ascends to the top of the league this season they could be up there for a while.
3. Hofstra sits atop the CAA standings with the league's lone 3-0 record.
Mo Cassara's Pride (I, like many, miss the "Flying Dutchmen" moniker) remain atop the CAA standings thanks to their 87-74 win over George Mason in Hempstead, and it should be noted that there's more to this team than just senior guard Charles Jenkins. Jenkins was outstanding against the Patriots, making 9 of 13 shots from the field (and 12-14 FT) in scoring 32 points while also tallying eight assists, five rebounds and three steals. But four other Hofstra players reached double figures, including point guard Brad Kelleher whose presence allows Jenkins to do more work without the ball in his hands constantly. The NCAA held the Australian out of the first eight games, and removing his debut against FAU (seven minutes played) Hofstra is 4-1 since his responsibilities increased (20 assists to nine turnovers this season). Add in players such as center Greg Washington (10 points, six rebounds), Mike Moore (he didn't shoot well from the field but it won't be often that he shoots 1-7; 11 points) and Shemiye McLendon (13 points, three assists off the bench) and this is a group that could finish higher than many expected before the season started. Next up on the schedule are road games at Northeastern and Towson, both of whom are 0-3 in league play, followed by home contests with ODU and UNCW. Those two home games may provide a more definitive answer on Hofstra but they'll need to take care of business on the road, and they're more than capable of doing so.
Top Three Games
1. Yale 77, Holy Cross 76 (OT) There may not be a team in America with worse luck than the 1-13 Crusaders, who have lost six games by five points or less including their last three by a combined four points. Yale was led by Austin Morgan, who finished with 17 points and drained a three with seven seconds left in overtime to win the game. Devin Brown, whose layup with one second to go in regulation got the game the overtime, led Holy Cross with 33.
2. UNC Wilmington 59, Georgia State 56 A Trevor Deloach three as time expired moved the Seahawks into what would eventually become a 7-team tie for second place in the CAA (Georgia State dropped to 2-1 as a result). That was Deloach's lone field goal in fact and Chad Tomko, who passed him the ball on said shot, led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Dante Curry led all scorers with 27 points in a losing effort.
3. Tulane 85, Rice 81 Don't look now but the Green Wave are 11-3 on the season thanks to a close win in Houston. Kris Richard led Tulane with 24 points while Kendall Timmons added 19 and 10 rebounds in the Conference USA opener for both. Arsalan Kazemi led all scorers with 28 points to go along with 13 rebounds in a losing effort.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Jimmer Fredette (BYU) 39 points, six rebounds and five assists in the Cougars' 89-77 win over UNLV.
2. G Charles Jenkins (Hofstra) 32 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the Pride's 87-74 win over George Mason.
3. G Nolan Smith (Duke) A career-high 33 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists in the Blue Devils' 85-64 win over UAB.Hoops Talk Live Thursday 6-7 PM EST