While much of the college sports world was captivated by the goings on in State College, PA, four college basketball games were being played. And one of the four teams expected to win fell at the hands of the defending MAC Tournament champs, but in hindsight it wasn't much of an "upset". Behind 19 points from Quincy Diggs the Zips beat Mississippi State 68-58 at The Hump. Simply put, Keith Dambrot's team outworked and outplayed the Bulldogs, who weren't as effective as they were on Monday night and it cost them.
"[Mississippi State] had a limited bench, and it really affected their juice level," said Dambrot. "I think we had a little more juice when it mattered. When the game got on the line and with their backup point guard being sick, they couldn't really go to their bench."
The Bulldogs were a little shorthanded on Wednesday night, but they turned the ball over 19 times and made just two of thirteen shots from beyond the arc. Dee Bost, who was outstanding in the second half of Monday's win over Eastern Kentucky, finished Wednesday's game with 13 points (2-9 FG) and four turnovers and was nowhere near as effective against Akron. Arnett Moultrie also struggled from the field, making just two of thirteen shots and scoring eight points, but he did manage to grab a game-high 15 rebounds.
And then there's Renardo Sidney, who's been quite the lightning rod throughout his time in Starkville. He finished with 12 points and five rebounds, but it is fair to question what kind of physical condition he's in. There were occasions last night where he wasn't involved in the offense and the lack of stamina was apparent, and Akron's Zeke Marshall proved to be more of a factor throughout the course of the game. Marshall played just 24 minutes before fouling out, but he contributed 10 points, six rebounds and five blocks while on the floor.
Was Akron fresher, having not played on Monday? That's a definite possibility, and something that Dambrot alluded to after the game, but that isn't the best reason for Mississippi State allowing themselves to be outworked. It's too soon to jump overboard on the Bulldogs, who have talent and will have plenty of chances throughout the season to put together an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume (it's just game two). But if anything last night's result should make people throughout the country aware the Akron will remain a player in the MAC.
1. Texas A&M makes their debut and clamps down on Liberty.
Shortly before game time Texas A&M made it known that Glynn Cyprien would be acting head coach for the game against Liberty with head coach Billy Kennedy still recuperating after being diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease. But what could have been a major distraction was anything but for the Aggies, who came out on fire defensively against a Liberty team that looked to be overmatched. Liberty made just four of twenty-four shots from the field in the first half (0-7 3PT) and trailed 37-14 at the break on their way to an 81-59 loss in College Station. Ray Turner led the Aggies with 20 points, and the game played out much easier than one would expect after noticing that Khris Middleton played just ten minutes. One other notable performer for the Aggies was guard Jamal Branch, who finished with six points and six assists (no turnovers) in 20 minutes of action. To say the least it was a solid debut for Texas A&M.
2. St. John's and Arizona withstand tough challenges at home.
The good news for St. John's came before tip last night as head coach Steve Lavin returned to the team following surgery for prostate cancer and his subsequent recovers, but once the game began the Red Storm found themselves in a battle. Lehigh knocked down their first five three-pointers and shot 53.6% from the field in taking a 43-33 lead into the half. C.J. McCollum scored 14 points in the half, and the Mountain Hawks did a good job of finding open gaps in the Red Storm matchup zone. But things changed after the break, albeit at a slower pace than most runs tend to happen. McCollum scored just three points in the second half and as a team Lehigh shot 32% from the field, as St. John's came back to win 78-73. God'sgift Achiuwa scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the way while Maurice Harkless and Nurideen Lindsey added 15 apiece as St. John's rebounded to win.
Arizona has the same issues with youth, and while the Wildcats do have more returnees from last year's Elite 8 team than the Red Storm guys are having to adjust to new roles. That may explain the struggles of Solomon Hill through two games, and the point guard situation was something that Duquesne was able to take advantage of as the first half progressed despite a slow start. Eric Evans and Sean Johnson combined for 13 first-half points and the Dukes led 30-28 at the half, with Arizona not helping themselves with 11 turnovers. But Jordin Mayes played very well at the point in the second half, scoring 14 of his 19 points while Jesse Perry put the finishing touches on another double-double in the Wildcats' 67-59 win. Despite 20 turnovers Arizona was a plus-11 in rebounding margin and outscored Duquesne 19-9 in second half points, paving the way to their second win of the season. Both Arizona and St. John's are a work in progress right now, which should make next week's meeting an entertaining one.
3. UCF could be in serious trouble with the NCAA.
Things had been going well on the Orlando campus the last couple of seasons. George O'Leary's football program had won a Conference USA championship on the gridiron, Donnie Jones' arrival as basketball coach put some life into the basketball program and new facilities for both revenue sports put UCF on the radar of the Big East for a possible move. But after yesterday's happenings the program could be in some trouble with the NCAA. UCF received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA regarding possible recruiting violations in football and men's basketball, and the fallout has already begun. AD Keith Tribble and wide receivers coach David Kelly have both stepped down and Jones has been suspended three games, and given the list of allegations that meeting with the Committee on Infractions won't be a fun one. You can read the allegations here (.PDF file), and given their nature, with the involvement of runners and agents, there could be some stiff penalties handed out.
1. F God'sgift Achiuwa (St. John's)
21 points (6-6 FG, 9-9 FT) and eight rebounds in the Red Storm's 78-73 win over Lehigh.
2. F Ray Turner (Texas A&M)
20 points (9-11 FG) and six rebounds in the Aggies' 81-59 win over Liberty.
3. G Jordin Mayes and F Jesse Perry (Arizona)
Mayes scored 19 points while Perry posted his second double-double of the season (11 points, 11 rebounds) in the Wildcats' 67-59 win over Duquesne.