For a while on Tuesday night it looked as if a Southern Conference team would hand another undefeated team its first defeat of the season. But an important suggestion by Louisville assistant coach Richard Pitino set things in motion for the fourth-ranked Cardinals, sparking a rally that resulted in a 69-62 victory. The idea: instead of relying on the frontcourt tandem of Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan to occupy the foul line area against the Charleston zone, use the versatile Kyle Kuric at the four. The move paid off, with Kuric scoring a team-high 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
"He made the move of the game," said head coach Rick Pitino of his son. "He told me to play Kyle in the four slot because the middle was wide open and they weren't playing it. He said, 'Put Kyle in there; he'll make the shot or something good will happen.' And he got in there and really bothered them."
Kuric may not have registered an assist but his presence in the high post made the Cougars respect the area, something they didn't have to do with either Behanan or Rakeem Buckles occupying the area. But he wasn't the only issue for Charleston, as redshirt freshman Russ Smith was also a handful. Smith has the ability to be both electrifying and mystifying within the same possession, and he was able to harness his energy enough to contribute 12 points, five steals and four rebounds in 27 minutes of action. He helped ramp up the pace to a level that made Charleston uncomfortable in the second half, and while both teams were reckless with the basketball such a change worked in Louisville's favor.
"I haven't coached any guys who are great steal guys on the ball like Russ Smith," said Pitino. "He is the best I have seen at that. You have a lot of guys who anticipate well and shoot the gaps well but he is awesome on the ball. He basically won the game for us."
Antwaine Wiggins led the Cougars with 23 points but was their only player in double figures, and the guards had their issues taking care of the basketball as well. Andrew Lawrence finished the night with eight turnovers and Anthony Stitt tallied five off the bench, and as a team Charleston turned the ball over 22 times. Both of Charleston's starting guards (Lawrence and Jordan Scott) finished with more turnovers than assists, while for Louisville both Peyton Siva (six assists, four turnovers) and Chris Smith (four assists, one turnover) finished with more assists than turnovers. Add in some key missed opportunites around the rim for the visitors and the end result is Louisville moving to 11-0 on the season.
Other Notable Happenings
1. C.J. Leslie's shot (which St. Bonaventure fans would argue shouldn't have counted) gives NC State the win.
It would be safe to say that the Wolfpack's 67-65 win over the Bonnies in Rochester, NY was the most controversial result on the night, with many wondering whether or not Leslie stepped out of bounds before taking the shot. Since it wasn't called whether or not Leslie stepped on the baseline is of little consolation for St. Bonaventure, who missed out on at the very least overtime as a result. If anything the Bonnies have their offensive showing in the second half to blame, as they shot just 29.2% from the field in the second half and turned the ball over eight times (four assists).
Andrew Nicholson and Demetrius Conger scored 16 points apiece to lead the way for St. Bonaventure while Scott Wood paced the Pack with 20 points despite making just two of eight from beyond the arc. Mark Gottfried's team was impressive in how unselfish they were, assisting on 21 of their 25 made field goals. Regardless of how the game was won this is a good result for NC State to build on, and they deserve credit for bouncing back from their loss to top-ranked Syracuse on Saturday.
2. Ohio picks up the most impressive win of the night at Northern Iowa.
John Groce's Bobcats have flown under the radar nationally for much of the season despite having one of the nation's better point guards in D.J. Cooper. That may all change on the heels of their performance on Tuesday, as they beat Northern Iowa 76-59 in Cedar Falls. Ivo Baltic made 10 of 14 from the field in leading four Ohio players in double figures with 22 points and the Bobcats shot 51.7% from the field on the night against one of the stingier defenses in the country. Ohio had it going from deep as well, knocking down 11 of 21 while UNI made just six of their twenty attempts from beyond the arc.
And it was Ohio, who allows opponents to shoot 39% from the field, who put forth the superior defensive effort. UNI shot just 35.2% and while both reached double figures, leading scorers Anthony James (11 points) and Jake Koch (15 points) combined to make just eight of their twenty-three shots from the field. Ohio's lone defeat was a 59-54 loss at Louisville, and with wins over Marshall, Oakland and now Northern Iowa the Bobcats are building a nice profile as they head into MAC play. Cooper and company sent Georgetown home in the first round a couple of years ago as a 14-seed; they can do the same (with a better seed) this season.
3. Arizona puts together their best offensive outing of the year to beat Oakland.
No one would have blamed any Arizona fans if they were nervous about the Wildcats' game against Oakland. With the Golden Grizzlies having one of the nation's best scorers in Reggie Hamilton and Arizona having their issues offensively, the visitors leaving with a win was a definite possibility. But Solomon Hill and company would have none of that, shooting 55.6% from the field on their way to the 85-73 win. Hill was outstanding with 23 points, 11 rebounds and three assists while Kyle Fogg (17 points) and Jesse Perry (13 points) also reached double figures and Nick Johnson dished out six assists.
Arizona went into the game making just 50.1% of their two-point shots but they made 61.1% of their attempts against Oakland. As for Hamilton, he proved to be as advertised with 31 points and six assists but as a team the Golden Grizzlies made just nine of thirty-two from beyond the arc (Arizona finished 8-for-18). With their next two games being against Bryant and in-state rival Arizona State (Pac-12 opener), Sean Miller's team has a chance to get rolling ahead of their visit to the LA schools the first weekend of January.
1. Not only did Jared Sullinger return to the lineup for Ohio State but he played 30 minutes, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the Buckeyes' 70-50 win over Lamar. With Pat Knight coaching the Cardinals, Ohio State took the opportunity to honor the 1960 national champions. One member of that team: none other than Bob Knight.
2. Darien Brothers had a good night for Richmond, shooting 7-for-11 from three on his way to 38 points in the Spiders' 90-82 overtime win over Old Dominion. Darius Garrett had an impact inside, grabbing 13 boards and blocking eight shots to go along with nine points. Next up for Richmond: a game at UCLA on Friday and they can definitely win there.
3. Two player transactions within the Big East to take note of: Providence's Kadeem Batts saw his suspension end, and St. John's freshman Amir Garrett has made it through the NCAA Clearinghouse. Batts scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds in the Friairs' 67-52 win over New Hampshire, and Garrett could be in unform for the Red Storm's game against UTPA on Wednesday.
4. Butler will struggle to score this season due to a lack of premier offensive weapons, but what three of their key cogs managed in a 71-55 loss at Gonzaga isn't going to get it done in the Horizon League if it happens on a consistent basis. Chase Stigall, Chrishawn Hopkins and Andrew Smith combined to score just seven points on 3-for-21 shooting. Those guys have to be consistent factors for Brad Stevens' team.
5. Congrats to Prairie View A&M, who picked up their first win over a Division I opponent this season in beating Stephen F. Austin 53-50 in Eugene, Oregon. As for the Lumberjacks, that's not a good result for a team expected to be a contender in the Southland and it will definitely hurt the team's (and league's) computer numbers.
6. Unlike Marist last season, who began MAAC play 2-0 then plummeted to the bottom of the standings once play resumed in January, Manhattan may have some staying power. Not saying that Steve Masiello's team will be on the level of Iona, Fairfield or Loyola (MD), but the Jaspers have played some good basketball. Manhattan moved to 8-4 with an 81-62 win over winless Towson, with George Beamon scoring 21 points and Kidani Brutus adding 18 off the bench.
7. Terrence Jones didn't play due to a dislocated finger suffered in Kentucky's win over Chattanooga, but that wasn't an issue as the Wildcats blew out Samford. Doron Lamb scored 26 points and three other starters reached double figures in the 82-50 romp.
8. Shaka Smart's VCU Rams have the look of a team beginning to figure things out after struggling early due to the many personnel losses from last year's Final Four team. The Rams won their fifth straight on Tuesday, shutting down UAB 68-49 in Richmond. VCU forced 23 Blazer turnovers and Treveon Graham scored 18 points off the bench to lead the way offensively.
Four Notable Performances
1. F Nneka Ogwumike (Stanford)
A special mention for Ogwumike, who went off in #4 Stanford's 97-80 win over #6 Tennessee. Ogwumike finished with 42 points, 17 rebounds, three assists and two steals, making 11 straight shots from the field at one point.
2. G Darien Brothers (Richmond)
38 points (7-11 3PT) in the Spiders' 90-82 overtime win over Old Dominion.
3. G Preston Medlin (Utah State)
27 points (8-12 FG), eight assists and four rebounds in the Aggies' 73-69 win over UT Arlington.
4. G Vincent Council (Providence)
17 points (7-12 FG), 12 assists and seven rebounds in the Friars' 67-52 win over New Hampshire.