Kicking Off Conference Play
Cub Scouts the Daily Hoops Scene
by Cub Buenning
–The suddenly sagging Denver Nuggets hosted the suddenly surging Portland Trail Blazers last night in Denver. The home team was able to build a big lead and was able to snap their three-game slide with a relatively easy 95-77 win over their Northwest Division foe. Another fourth-quarter collapse was not in the offing as the 17-13 Nugs took a 20-point lead into the game’s final 12 minutes. Balance was the key (and will be, if/when Melo is permanently gone) getting double-figure scoring from all five starters, in addition to an 8 and 12 night from Birdman Andersen. Al Harrington is still out and will miss tonight’s game in the Twin Cities, but Melo should be back in the mix after missing the last four games. Now 30 games in, and head coach George Karl has still not had his full compliment of players.
–Best of luck to my friends, the Silas family, as the father-son tandem takes over the reigns in Charlotte for the departing Larry Brown. Big Paul was long overdue for another head coaching gig and my former college teammate, Steve, is one of the league’s up-and-coming young coaches.
–While some of the power conferences in college basketball are still getting their “cupcake”-on, the titans of the Big East and Big Ten are kicking off conference play. Monday night saw an impressive (if not to be expected) win by Pittsburgh over Connecticut. Both teams came in with top-six rankings (these arbitrary/useless rankings are even more annoying than the BCS stuff) and the Panthers proved to be the class, getting a big performance from Ashton Gibbs. The Big East has another great game tonight as the Hoyas of Georgetown travel to South Bend to face a surprisingly “game” Notre Dame squad. Last night, the Big Ten had a gem with the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Madison to face the Wisconsin Badgers. The visitors trailed for much of the game but fought back to knot things up late in the second half. Fortunately for the Kohl Center habitants, the Badgers were able to lean on their stars late as Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor took control (after each had tough shooting nights), sparking their team to a 68-60 win. Both of these teams are loaded with experience and talent and should be primed to make some noise in March after enduring a grueling conference schedule. Just one week after their big out-of-conference rivalry game with Missouri, the Illinois Fighting Illini got another grudge match, as they travel to their neighbors to the west, facing off with Iowa in Iowa City.
–A rare night of victories for the Front Range Mountain West trio of Wyoming, the United States Air Force Academy and Colorado State; as all got wins in their last tune-ups before conference play. It was the fifth in a row for the 8-4 CSU Rams, getting a solid 8-point road win over San Francisco.
This post was a segment of Cub’s blog at milehighsportsview.blogspot.com. The Mile High Five is a daily portion of his blog that covers several aspects in the world of Denver and national sports and pop culture.