College Basketball Week in Review
Kentucky escapes, Charlotte defeats Michigan and Marcus Smart says, ‘Remember me?’
by Nick Rotunno
Give thanks, ye weary souls. The long offseason has finally ended, the big non-conference tournaments are underway and college basketball is officially back in business. Football has been good to us, the NBA has been interesting, but really, there’s no substitute for the pageantry and passion of college hoops. So break out that old, ripped hoodie you used to wear around campus and show some love for your alma mater. It’s only November, which means everybody is still in the hunt for a National Championship.
From now until March Madness, the Week in Review will keep you posted on all the upsets, buzzer-beaters and conference showdowns. In case you’re new to the program, here’s how we do things around here: I select (somewhat arbitrarily) what I consider the most noteworthy games of the week, starting with my Game of the Week feature. The focus is mainly on the power-conference teams, naturally, but I throw in some mid-major games every now and again, because good basketball is played all over the country, not just at big-name schools. I briefly recap the selected contests, highlighting the top performers and any stats that jump off the page. Then I list my Player of the Week and run down the upcoming games of note.
And by the way, all rankings are from the Associated Press.
Pretty simple, eh? Good. Let’s get started.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Cleveland State 61, No. 3 Kentucky 68
Ah, Kentucky. In true John Calipari fashion, the Wildcats have a roster loaded with young talent, including NBA-ready Julius Randle, one of the best players in the country. But Cleveland State didn’t really care. Facing Kentucky’s all-freshman starting lineup, the Vikings sailed into Rupp Arena and built a 31-27 lead by halftime. They kept making plays and knocking down three-pointers until Andrew Harrison converted two three-point plays late in the second half to help Kentucky take control of the game. Harrison’s brother Aaron made a late three to give the Wildcats a six-point lead and Kentucky held on for a home-court win.
Cleveland State wasn’t intimidated by the raucous environs of Rupp Arena and its 21,000 fans. Guard Ryan Forbes led the Vikings with 22 points, including three three-pointers. He was just 4-14 from the field but knocked down all 11 foul shots he attempted.
For Kentucky, Randle overcame a poor shooting night to finish with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Andrew Harrison had 12 points for the Wildcats.
The Vikings had a legitimate shot at the upset—with eight minutes to play in the game, they were up by eight points. But ultimately some clutch playmaking from the Wildcats and a considerable edge in rebounding (45-36) gave Kentucky the victory.
“I thought we showed a will to win, which is good,” Calipari told reporters afterward. “But I thought Andrew (Harrison) made the plays. It’s nice to know we’ve got two or three guys now we can go to if the game is in the balance.”
Kentucky is now 5-1 on the season; the Wildcats lost to Michigan State in a great game at the Champions Classic on November 12.
Charlotte 63, No. 14 Michigan 61
Kudos to the Charlotte 49ers, who beat last year’s national runner-up in dramatic fashion to win the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. After Michigan’s Mitch McGary scored a layup and tied the game, Charlotte’s Terrence Williams raced up the court, fired a shot, grabbed his own rebound and put it in the basket. When Williams scored, only 0.4 seconds remained on the clock.
My favorite quote from this one belongs to Charlotte coach Alan Major.
“We told them before the game, you belong in this game,” Major told reporters. “You’ve earned your way into it. Whatever was lined up before, bracket-wise and who’s in it, you can’t control that. But you can control the way you play. You can control how close you are as a team. You can control your toughness.”
Willie Clayton racked up 10 points and 15 rebounds for the 49ers. Denzel Ingram finished with 12 points, while Pierra Henry added 11. Michigan was a little banged up—Glenn Robinson III is battling a back injury and played just nine minutes. Nik Stauskas, playing with a bum ankle, led the Wolverines in scoring with 20 points. Poor shooting didn’t help the Michigan effort—the Wolverines were 19-60 from the field (31.7 percent).
Charlotte earned its trophy the hard way. The 49ers bested Kansas State, Northeastern and Michigan on their way to the Puerto Rico title.
North Dakota 85, No. 12 Wisconsin 103
At first glance, this game looks fairly pedestrian (unless you’re shocked by the fact that Wisconsin hung more than 100 points). But the box score tells a different tale. Wisconsin’s big forward Frank Kaminsky was sensational Tuesday, scoring 43 points on 16-18 shooting (including 6-6 on three-pointers). It was a new school record for individual points, one more than the 42 scored by Ken Barnes in 1965 and Michael Finley in 1994.
North Dakota’s Troy Huff was almost as good as Kaminsky—the smooth-shooting swingman scored 37 points and went 15-22 from the field—but the Badgers outshot NoDak and secured a comfortable home win.
High-scoring and experienced, with more freedom to run than many of Bo Ryan’s previous teams, Wisconsin will be a force in the Big Ten this season.
No. 21 Iowa State 90, BYU 88
An excellent ballgame in Provo between two talented squads. With four seconds left in the game, Daniel Edozie blocked a jump shot from Tyler Haws then knocked down a free throw to seal the victory for ISU.
DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim scored 21 points apiece for the Cyclones, who just barely held off an experienced Brigham Young team. Haws led the Cougars with 20 points, while dynamic guard Matt Carlino recorded 19 points and 7 assists.
UMass 96, Nebraska 90
Derrick Gordon registered 22 points and 4 rebounds against the Huskers, leading his Massachusetts squad to a victory in the opening round of the Charleston Classic. It was the Minutemen’s fourth win of the young season; they’re now 6-0 and ranked No. 23 in the AP poll.
IUPUI 61, Northwestern 63
Is this the year Northwestern finally makes the NCAA Tournament? Not if they play home games like they did Friday against lowly Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, the wordiest team in all of Division I. The Wildcats needed a late bucket from JerShon Cobb to take a two-point lead and squeak out an unimpressive non-conference victory.
At one point in the second half IUPUI was up by 11 points, but Northwestern rallied with a 10-point run and closed the gap. Drew Crawford tallied 12 points for the Wildcats, a team-high.
No. 1 Michigan State 87, Oklahoma 76
Tom Izzo’s Spartans solidified their No. 1 ranking with a pretty good win over Oklahoma in the Coaches vs Cancer Classic. Keith Appling, Sparty’s do-it-all guard who’s taken on a big leadership role this season, scored a career-best 27 points on Saturday. Appling scored eight points in the last three minutes of the game to seal the victory for MSU.
Cameron Clark led the Sooners with 32 points, also a career-high.
No. 24 North Carolina 93, No. 3 Louisville 84
Can anyone figure out this North Carolina team? One week after UNC lost to Belmont in Chapel Hill, the Heels bested the defending National Champs by nine points at the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament in Connecticut.
Despite Russ Smith’s usual brilliance (36 points), Carolina held off the Cardinals in the second half. UNC’s Marcus Paige scored a career-high 32 points for the Heels.
Vermont 90, No. 6 Duke 91
The Blue Devils narrowly escaped a big-time upset at Cameron Indoor on Sunday, holding off an impressive effort from the hot-shooting Catamounts. Duke’s super-freshman Jabari Parker racked up 26 points, but the defensive effort from the Blue Devils was less than first-class—Vermont shot almost 65 percent from the field. Rodney Hood made a free throw with five seconds left in the game to give Duke the not-so-deserved victory.
Vermont forwards Hector Harold and Clancy Rugg were excellent against the devils, scoring 24 and 20 points, respectively.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
With all the pre-season hype surrounding freshmen Julius Randle, Jabari Park and Andrew Wiggins, you might have forgotten about OSU’s sensational sophomore Marcus Smart. So, just to remind everybody that he’s still around, the 6-4 guard has taken the nonconference season by storm. He scored 39 points against #11 Memphis back on Nov. 19, then followed it up with a 25-point, 4-assist, 4-steal outing against South Florida on Monday. Kid’s a great scorer, a tenacious defender and one of the best floor leaders in the college game. What’s not to like? Congrats Mr. Smart, you are the Week in Review Player of the Week.
THE GAMES I’LL BE WATCHING
No. 2 Kansas vs Wake Forest, Thursday, 3:30 EST
On paper, Kansas should crush the Deacons in this Battle 4 Atlantis tilt. But can a 5-0 Wake Forest squad make it interesting?
No. 23 Iowa vs Xavier, Thursday, 7:00 EST
Another good Battle 4 Atlantis matchup. The Hawkeyes are undefeated and ranked, but they’ll face their best competition of the season thus far in Xavier.
North Dakota at No. 14 Oregon, Saturday, 6:30 EST
North Dakota played with Wisconsin; let’s see what it can do against the Ducks.
No. 3 Kentucky vs Providence, Sunday, 8:30 EST
An intriguing game at the Barclays Center in New York; Providence is 6-1 and Kentucky has looked vulnerable.