Main Event in Two Acts
SEC/Big East Invitational.
No. 18 Tennessee Vs. No. 24 Marquette.
Highlight of the First Act: 6′7″ Volunteer Scotty Hopson made a smooth backdoor cut that left his defender guarding air. The bounce pass came on time and target. Hopson caught the ball and elevated for the easy dunk.
The moment he started to jump, so did Marquette’s Dominique James. They went up together and met at the rim, and James sent the shot away. James is 5′11″—Block of the Year!
The first half was close, as the Volunteers looked and played hungover from the Temple game. Tennessee was content to stand on the perimeter and launch from deep. Marquette was okay with that as well.
Highlight of the Second Act: 6′9″ junior forward Wayne Chism and his 21 points.
Wayne Chism must have reintroduced himself to his teammates at halftime, because the rest of the Volunteers did not get him the ball. Maybe they forgot Chism was on their team. How can you? He is the only guy who wears his headband like that.
The first two plays in the second half were sets for Chism on the block, and there was no looking back. The Volunteers have talented wings, but Chism is the only viable post option. If you don’t at least attempt to get the ball in the post, your offense is limited strictly to jumpers.
Chism finished with a career-high 26 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds.
For Chism, this is a game that Bruce Pearl has been waiting for. Hopefully this is only the beginning. If Tennessee wants to get back to the top of SEC quickly—and stay there—Chism needs to be a consistent double-double player. He is talented enough.
After watching the game, I was surprised by what I saw in the box score. Tennessee’s Tyler Smith had 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field and 4-for-6 from the foul line. That is why I like him. You don’t need to talk about him or have to force the ball to him—he just gets the job done.
Marquette’s Wesley Matthew scored a career-high 30 points in an attempt to carry his team. He also had four rebounds and three assists.
In basketball terms, Texas guard A.J. Abrams is short; he stands at only 5′11″. But outside of Davidson’s Stephen Curry, there is no other player in the country who carries his team's success more squarely on his shoulders.
Now his name must be put into the Player of the Year conversation.
In No. 5 Texas’ 88-72 victory over Texas Southern, Abrams shot 59 percent from the floor, 3-for-3 from the charity stripe, and 4-for-8 from long distance. His most important stat of the night: zero turnovers.
Texas again had Justin Mason run the point, and he had four rebounds, six assists, and zero turnovers. It seems Texas finally found a solution for the “replacing D.J. Augustin” problem.
Big boy Dexter Pittman (6'10") continued to show confidence and improvement. Playing strong for the Longhorns in the middle, he finished with a career-high 19 points and added five rebounds and three blocks.
Texas is still a team that makes me nervous. They seem to play up or down on their opponent—which can be good and bad, but definitely frustrating. If you take Abrams off this team, the Longhorns don’t make the NCAA Tournament.
Texas forward Damion James is solid, averaging 14 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. I am still waiting for him to explode—in a good way. James has yet to prove that he is any better than he was last season, and that can’t be sitting well with NBA scouts.
Bull in a China Shop
Both starting forwards for the South Florida Bulls fouled out. Backup center Alex Rivas Sanchez had four fouls in six minutes. Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy attempted 13 free throws—the Bulls made 12.
The 6′11″ Ogilvy was the dominant player in the lane, and along with fouling out the starting post players, he finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Ogilvy checked in and out of the game many times—supposedly he is struggling with endurance. Aren’t we all.
Note to Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings: Burn that tie.
Fear the Ospreys?
No. 25 Clemson could have stopped at halftime. If they had, they would have won the game by one point as they destroyed North Florida 76-36. Clemson scored 37 in the first half. The North Florida Ospreys entered the matchup 0-7 to start the season.
An Osprey is a fish-eating hawk that can have a wingspan up to six feet wide.
The Clemson Tigers are good—the North Florida Ospreys are not. Even if they can fly.
I Told You So
Last week I said that North Dakota State’s point guard Ben Woodside should be a write-in candidate for National Player of the Year. And look what happened.
He scores 60 points in a single game and then follows that up with a 31-point, 10-assist performance. He is third in the nation in scoring at 26.9 and third in assists at 7.6. NDSU now ranks third in nation in total offense, scoring 90.3 points a game, and fourth in three-point shooting at 45.7 percent a game. Go Bison.
Annoyance of the Evening
In the middle of the Vanderbilt game—and at the end of the Tennessee and Marquette game—certain commentators felt the need to bring up Tyler Hansbrough, though he had no connection whatsoever to what was happening in the game.
I have heard his name more this holiday season than Jesus. Maybe Ricky Bobby will pray to baby Hansbrough. Apparently, Hansbrough can shuffle his pivot foot on water too.