By Brendan Crowley
A rivalry game with big national implications went down on Tuesday night in Morgantown, as West Virginia won its 8th straight with a 68-61 thrilling victory over #15 Virginia. Despite the Mountaineers not being able to impose their up-tempo style on the game, they were able to come away with a huge home victory behind a big game from star senior guard Jevon Carter. Here are 3 key takeaways from what was one of the best games of a packed Tuesday night slate:
- Virginia’s Bench – The Cavs will be near the top of the ACC by year’s end there’s no questioning that, but in order for them to make that next step and become a contender in the conference they’ll need more scoring outside of Devon Hall and Kyle Guy. Both were sensational last night, as they’ve been all year, the guards’ 37 combined points is what kept UVA in the game during the 2nd half. Other players will have to step up to create their own shot as the season goes along with Guy receiving more and more attention each night.
- Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.- The Mountaineers have had a stifling defense all season and their ability to keep the Cavs on their toes the entire second half is what ultimately led to a West Virginia win. The Cavaliers’ 14 turnovers turned into points on the other end for the entirety of the game.
- Jevon Carter is the REAL DEAL – Last year’s Big12 defensive player of the year is back and better than ever before. He’s leading the nation in steals at a staggering 4.5 steals per game (yes,you read that correctly). Carter filled the stat sheet against the Cavs with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists along with going 9/10 from the free throw line. West Virginia’s returning players will have a major impact moving forward and expect this team to continue its winning ways as the Mountaineers will next take a road trip to Pittsburgh.
By Brendan Crowley
The opening game of the always captivating Maui Invitational didn’t disappoint, this fast paced matchup between Marquette and VCU had everyone on the edge of their seats from tip-off to the final buzzer. Entering the game it was assumed that the up-tempo play of the Rams would make this a high scoring game, however no one could have expected a 94-83 marathon.
The Eagles struggled to shoot from outside in the first half but point guard Andrew Rowsey’s 15 points kept them in the lead, 45-44, entering the break. Their quick passing and ability to be patient on offense was what gave them that edge and it reflected on the scoreboard despite poor shooting from the perimeter. It was only a matter of time before the Eagles began their three-point barrage at the beginning of the 2nd half.
Guard Andrew Rowsey huddles the Golden Eagles together following a 1st half lay-in from Howard.
Sophomore guard Markus Howard, the nation’s top 3-point shooter just a season ago, got things clicking for the Eagles in the 2nd and his 3-point shooting was the catalyst that gave Marquette the lead early on. Between Howard’s four 2nd half three-pointers and contributions from Sam Hauser (20 points) not only in the paint but beyond the arc as well, Marquette was able to build an 8 point lead with 15 minutes remaining and never looked back. VCU’s inability to communicate on defense and rotate with the ball led to their demise as second chance looks for Marquette allowed them to take this game over.
The Rams’ ‘havoc’ defense worked well in forcing 17 turnovers, but it left them out of place on defense and led to a number of transition hoops and mismatches in favor of Marquette. Markus Howard’s 18 2nd half points along with great shooting from Hauser and Rowsey led to this huge team win for Marquette. Steve Wojciechowski’s squad advances to play the nation’s #6 team Wichita State for the first semifinal matchup of the Maui Invitational this afternoon. VCU will head to the loser’s bracket and match up with a scrappy Cal squad that was leading Wichita by 18 at one point in their quarterfinal matchup.
By Brendan Crowley
On Monday night, the 14th ranked Golden Gophers traveled to Providence to take on the Friars in a grudge match between two teams that will certainly be in the mix for this year’s NCAA Tournament. In their first road game of the season, Minnesota’s veteran squad was able to pull out an 86-74 victory but the game was much closer than the final score reads.
After starting the game hot with a 12-2 run behind dominating play in the post by Reggie Lynch, the Gophers slowed down and allowed Providence to go on a run of their own behind senior leaders Kyron Cartwright, Rodney Bullock and Jalen Lindsey. The scoring in the first half was very balanced for Providence with a couple of late threes by Lindsey rocking the Dunkin Donuts Center and putting the crowd on their feet as the Friars took a late first half lead.
The biggest surprise in this game was seeing how seeing how much freshman guard Isaiah Washington has already progressed for Minnesota. The shifty newcomer out of Harlem was the 6th man for the Gophers and controlled the tempo of the game all night. Six points in the final 6 minutes of the first half along with a no-look assist to Jordan Murphy pulled them within 3 with just under 2 minutes left. Providence failed to convert open opportunities in their last few possessions but still hung on to a 39-36 lead going in to the break after an Isaiah Washington “buzzer-beating” jumper was waved off.
The second half began just how the first had ended, the Friars were slowly but surely gaining momentum and Minnesota was making costly mistakes on the offensive end, taking contested shots early in the possession and failing to move the ball around like they had in the opening 10 minutes. Inside buckets by junior Jordan Murphy were able to keep the Gophers afloat and hold off Bullock and Co. from taking the game over as the game approached the midway point in the 2nd half.
With 9 minutes remaining the score was at 63-60 with Providence trailing. Up to this point in the 2nd, the Friars defense had improved tremendously and they were able to control the tempo, speeding up the game but playing under control. It was at that moment however, with 9 minutes left, that Minnesota turned the tables and began hitting shot after shot. The Gophers went on to make their next 12 field goals, with sharpshooting by Amir Coffey and Murphy’s dominating presence on the inside, Minnesota stretched their lead out to 72-63 following another Coffey made 3. Providence’s inability to grab defensive rebounds and lock down or Jordan Murphy in the paint was what led to their demise all night. The junior finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds on 10-15 shooting. That along with 15 points from Amir Coffey and another 17 out of senior guard Nate Mason was more than enough to push the Big Ten contenders over the edge as they out hustled and out ran Providence to win 86-74.
The biggest takeaway for both teams at the end of this one was evident. Providence needs to slow down and show more discipline. They had a number of unforced turnovers and down the stretch continued to play 1-on-1 basketball instead of coming together as a team. In due time Ed Cooley will certainly have that under control and the Friars, with their size and depth, will be sitting near the top of the Big East come conference play. For the Gophers, if they’re able to continue their dominant inside then they can, without a doubt, run the table in the Big Ten and compete with Purdue, Northwestern, and Michigan State for that title. This veteran team, under an excellent coach in Pitino, will be one to keep an eye on as the season goes along.