Ugly Until the End
In the first game of the Jimmy V Classic, No. 20 Davidson defeated West Virginia 68-65 at the Madison Square Garden. All the publicity leading up to this game was on Davidson guard Stephen Curry and his ability to score. He did score 27 points, but it took 27 shots to get there.
Davidson's whole team played poorly, to put it nicely, and this game was West Virginia's to win—but they did not.
Let me paint you a picture of the ugliness that was this game. Both teams shot 26 percent from three and 59 percent from the foul line. West Virginia shot 33 percent from the floor, while Davidson shot 43 percent. Ugliness all over.
Curry shot nine for 27, matching Texas' A.J. Abrams for the most shots in a single game. I am not sure if that stat is true, but that is a lot of freakin' shots.
With all that mess, what puts Curry in a class by himself is that he is the most clutch player I have seen in my lifetime. West Virginia threw many different players at Curry, sometimes matching him up with forwards six inches taller, and that seemed to make him rush.
Curry missed shots he usually makes and forced passes when there were easier options. Curry did finish with 10 assists, but he had did have eight turnovers. Still, Curry finished the game scoring 13 of Davidson's last 14 points, hitting his last three shots.
The injured Mountaineers were lacking guards, and the offense struggled. But West Virginia did have two bright spots who each finished with double-doubles.
6'9" freshman Devin Ebanks had 13 points and 17 rebounds and was always around the rim. De'Sean Butler, a 6'7" junior forward, scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and had to create the majority of his offense.
Davidson's Andrew Lovedale and Ben Allison held the game close until Curry took over, scoring 15 and 10 respectively.
Every Batman needs a Robin—except when Batman is Christian Bale. Then all he needs is Alfred and Morgan Freeman.
For the No. 8 Texas Longhorns, two things had to happen against the No. 16 Villanova Wildcats. First, Texas' "Caped Crusader" A.J. Abrams needed scoring support, and it would help if it was a post player to force defenses to sag into the lane. Second, someone had to step out and play point guard—not "lead guard," but a pass-first point guard.
Texas did beat 'Nova 67-58, and both problems were taken care of.
First off, Damion James broke out the "Boy Wonder" cape and stepped up with 16 points and six rebounds, which was solid. His efficiency is what was really impressive. James shot seven for 11 from the floor and two for three from behind the arc and lea the Longhorns' frontcourt in a physical battle against 'Nova's frontcourt, led by Dante Cunningham.
Secondly, in last night's game, Justin Mason only scored three points. But that is not really important. What is important? Six assists and zero turnovers. Mason is a confident ball handler who does not hesitate to move the ball. Ultimately, having Mason on the ball allows Abrams to run off picks and get to open areas for good looks.
'Nova's Cunningham continues to improve this season, and for much of Tuesday night's game, he was the best player on the court. Like James, he made it look easy. Cunningham shot nine for 14 and was five for seven from the charity stripe for 23 points. He also had 12 rebounds and three blocks.
For Texas, this game was proof that Texas is very good. Having already beaten UCLA, and now Villanova, and losing a close game to Notre Dame, we may not have seen the best of the Longhorns yet. The defense is ready, and the offense will get there. Then watch out.
Shortly after the game at the Madison Square Garden, Villanova coach Jay Wright had the NYPD issue a restraining order that will not allow ESPN's Dick Vitale to speak about how good-looking he is or how well he dresses for more than a combined 5.7 minutes a game.
Seriously, it was a bit awkward. Sean McDonough was uncomfortable.
- In the matchup of teams from major conferences who will be playing in the NIT come March, A.D. Vassallo scored 23 points shooting four for six from distance in Virginia Tech's 66-67 loss to the balanced attack of Georgia.
- Following back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Duke, the Purdue Boilermakers played the second game of the "Lick Our Wounds" tour by going to Ball State and winning 68-39 before they play Davidson at home on Dec. 20. Purdue will not play a road game until Jan. 6, when they head to Penn State to start conference play.
- The four teams of Iowa played last night to gain the crown of the Corn Palace State. In the first game, Iowa beat out a less talented Northern Iowa team 65-46, led by Jake Kelly's 19 points and Jeff Peterson's 18.
- The second game showcased Iowa State's Lucca Staiger shooting seven for eight from distance, scoring 21 points in the first. He then made one more basket and finished with 24 points. Drake came back from 13 down to win 66-63. The Bulldogs made 17 out of 25 free throws, and the Cyclones only shot six.
- Now for the "write-in candidate for Player of the Year" portion of the show—North Dakota State's Ben Woodside is sitting fifth in the country averaging 7.2 assists a game. Woodside is also averaging 21 points a game and making 53 percent from beyond the arc.