No. 19 Louisville 82, UAB 62
Before Saturday, Louisville had fallen from grace, showing nothing that made them stand out as a Final Four favorite and potential National Champion. After a lineup shuffle by coach Rick Pitino, the Cardinals are ready to roll for a big game against Kentucky on Jan. 4 and a deadly Big East schedule to follow.
Shooting guard Jerry Smith was moved to the point over both Andre McGee and Edgar Sosa, and sophomore Preston Knowles made only his third start at the two spot. Freshman Jared Swopshire made his first career start in place of Earl Clark at power forward, and with Clark sparking Louisville off the bench, Pitino appeared to shuffle the Cards correctly in a showy win over UAB.
Swopshire took to his starting spot well, scoring a tough layup in the first five minutes and earning an ovation from the crowd as he took a seat on the bench. Shortly after the first timeout, Clark checked in and Louisville took off to a 10-point first half lead.
The best thing Louisville has going for them right now is the leadership of senior Terrence Williams. After losing David Padgett, the Cardinals have been lacking a sense of how to handle emotional swings and manage a game.
In his near triple-double performance with Padgett sitting courtside, Williams proved he can fill that role, going 5-of-8 on threes and silencing critics that say he can’t shoot.
Louisville’s win over UAB was their best of the season, but this wasn’t the same UAB that started the season beating Arizona and playing Oklahoma close. The Blazers, who brought only six scholarship players to Louisville, have been riddled lately with injuries and academic problems.
West Virginia 76, No. 15 Ohio State 48
In a watered-down weekend of college basketball, West Virginia provided a spark and a storyline in its upset of previously perfect Ohio State. Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins, a former assistant for the Buckeyes, was never asked to take the head coaching position at Ohio State and was never scheduled while coaching at Cincinnati.
So when Huggins walked off the court after tarnishing the Buckeyes' 9-0 record, it was a smile and some chants from a small contingent of Mountaineer fans that told the tale of how happy Huggins is at his new home.
Since losing to Davidson in early December, West Virginia has won four straight. The Mountaineers’ only other loss came in Las Vegas in an ugly game against Kentucky, and the improvement of West Virginia since then is remarkable. Now the Mountaineers are solidly within reach of an at-large bid for the postseason field of 65.
Saturday was a gut check game for Ohio State. After rising up from unranked to undefeated and nearing the top 10, it’s time to evaluate and stop the skid with a three-game stretch of Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan State looming.
The Buckeyes have essentially two quality wins over Miami (FL) and Notre Dame, but the Miami game is looking less like an accomplishment and more like an easy win with the Hurricanes falling out of the rankings.
Kentucky Plays FAU Too Close
It’s hard to measure Kentucky as a contender with what Billy Gillespie is preaching right now in Lexington. The second-year coach is a big fan of two-a-days and gameday practices, but his teams look worn out before they even hit the floor.
Case in point: Kentucky’s defense forced only seven turnovers in their 76-69 win over Florida Atlantic and shot 2-11 from three-point range. Without consistent and inspiring play from Patrick Patterson, the Wildcats would be an afterthought in the SEC race.
Michigan State Outruns Oakland
Michigan State went up 9-0 against Oakland, taking charge of a cruise control-type game. With 12.5 minutes left, Oakland had taken a 15-0 run to gain the lead and stun the Spartans.
The return of Goran Suton would be too much for the Golden Grizzlies though, and Michigan State eventually pulled away to rout Oakland. Improvement was shown from the first to second half, as the Spartans never allowed the Grizzlies to make a significant run through the final 20 minutes.
Yale Tests Alabama, Scores Just Short
A 13-4 run pulled Yale within two points of Alabama with 50 ticks on the clock, but the Crimson Tide nailed clutch free throws in a must-foul situation to prevent an embarrassing, but not stupid loss. The final score was 66-63.
Top 25 Notes
Player of the Weekend
Terrence Williams, Louisville
Williams came dangerously close to recording his third career triple-double for Louisville on Saturday against UAB. The senior forward scored 21 and had 10 rebounds and seven assists less than two weeks after Rick Pitino announced he was going to work on Williams’ shot.
Extra practice has paid off so far. Williams was 7-of-15 from the field and a perfect 2-of-2 from the line.