College Basketball Express: Week 9 (Jan. 11 – 17)
By: Blaine Fentress
Follow along on Gameday with #CBEGameday
Hello and welcome to Week 9 of the College Basketball Express. An important week in college basketball, as the NCAA football season comes to a close Monday night. This is usually a sign that the rest of the nation will turn from the pigskin to the hoop. Plus, a sign we are into basketball season…snow. We just had our first snowfall of the winter season, usually a good reminder to stay indoors and watch some hoops.
Pretty big wins and losses this week. I WAS HOPING SO MUCH FOR EVANSVILLE TO PULL IT OFF. They kept it close with Wichita State and hopefully the lessons they learn now will lead to teaching the Shockers on the MVC Tournament court that will lead them to the Big Dance.
We are going to talk about that and so much more as we being to dive into the FAST BREAK.
FAST BREAK YOUR TEAMS!!!!!! (All Games In Central)
Evansville (14-3, 3-1 MVC)
Games: Tues, Jan. 12 ….. vs. Drake ….. 7 PM, ESPN 3
Fri, Jan. 15 ….. @ Illinois State ….. 8 PM, ESPN 2
Wichita State 67, Evansville 64
We start first with one of the most important games in the regular season for the Purple Aces. A road test in Wichita was something Evansville didn’t take likely and despite trailing for most of the game, the Purple Aces kept it close throughout. It wasn’t one of the better shooting nights for D.J. Balentine, who ended up with 14 points after going 6 for 17 from the field. Forward Egidijus Mockevicius did have 16 rebounds but, only finished the night with 9 points. The Purple Aces had to turn to other players to help keep them in the game. Jaylon Brown led Evansville with 18 points and Adam Wing has continued to wake up, scoring 12. But, Evansville wasn’t able to control Shockers guard Fred VanVleet, who finished with 16 points. Nor bench player Anton Grady, who had 17 points. Still, it was a close game throughout. Two times in the game, Wichita State had a nine point lead and was on the verge of closing it out. But, Evansville was able to come back and tie the game 57 apiece, thanks to a Brown layup with 3:32 left to play. But, two big Shockers three-pointers and a couple more baskets later, that was all she wrote. It was the first MVC loss of the season for Evansville, just the third on the year.
Evansville 67, Bradley 35
Pure domination on Saturday for the Purple Aces. While it was a bit of an off night for Mockevicius (5 points, 7 rebounds), Jaylon Brown had a big game. Brown scored 14 points, while Balentine had 16 points and Blake Simmons had 13. The Purple Aces helped to keep the Braves at 26% field goal shooting on the night. Plus, Evansville did force 19 turnovers in the lopsided win.
This Week: MVC schedule continues with a home matchup against the 5-11 Drake Bulldogs and a road test against the 9-8 Illinois State Redbirds. Bulldogs don’t have too much cooking this season, led by guard Reed Timmer and his 16.9 points per game. The Bulldogs will be hoping to snap the four-game losing streak they are on since starting MVC play. Then, a nationally-televised Friday night matchup against Illinois State. The Redbirds are coming off a surprising 11-point loss to Indiana State last week. To show how REALLY lopsided a certain stat will be for Evansville the rest of the season: Redbirds forward MiKyle McIntosh leads the team with 4.8 rebounds a game, while Mockevicius leads the NATION with 14.1 rebounds a game. Advantage, Purple Aces.
#14 Kentucky (12-3, 2-1 SEC)
Games: Tues, Jan. 12 ….. vs. Mississippi State ….. 6 PM, ESPN
Sat, Jan 16 ….. @ Auburn ….. 3 PM, ESPN
LSU 85, Kentucky 67
March 8th, 2014…that was the last time Kentucky lost a regular-season SEC game. It was the last game of the regular season at then-#1 Florida. Last season, there wasn’t a team in the SEC that could really hang with Kentucky. The Wildcats stormed thru the conference schedule on their way to a Final Four run. But, this season has proven to have some pitfalls for the Wildcats. One came last week at the hands of Ben Simmons and LSU. The Tigers out-rebounded, shot better, and forced more turnovers than Kentucky. Guard Tim Quarterman, one of the good players that gets lost in the Simmons party, scored a team-high 21 points, along with 10 rebounds. Simmons also had a double-double game, with 14 points and 10 rebounds. For the Wildcats, Tyler Ulis led the way once again with 23 points. Jamal Murray also shot great, scoring 21 points. But, the rest of Kentucky was held in check. Starter Isaiah Briscoe was held to just 5 points, while upperclassman Alex Poythress didn’t fare much better, scoring only 4 points. Plus, there was no help again from the bench, as they are waiting to find out when SKAL will wake up from the slumber spell that he must be under since the first few games of the season. Check this line out: Marcus Lee started, only played 5 minutes the ENTIRE game, scored zero points but, did get 5 personal fouls. They just have no hope to fill in the holes KAT and WCS left from last season.
Kentucky 77, Alabama 61
The Wildcats woke up from the bad loss at LSU with a big win over the Crimson Tide. Poythress led the Wildcats with 25 points. Murray had 21 points again, while Ulis ended up with 8 points, but 8 assists. Kentucky shot 54% from the field, while holding Alabama to just 34% shooting. Even Lee did better, scoring 8 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
This Week: The Wildcats host the Mississippi State Bulldogs Tuesday. MSU is 7-7 on the season, 0-2 in SEC play. Coach Ben Howland is hoping to turn around the two-game losing streak they are currently on before going into this game. Top player for the Bulldogs that Kentucky will have to keep an eye on is Forward Gavin Ware, who averages 17.2 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, and shoots 65 percent from the field. However, the Bulldogs enter Rupp Arena will little else. Then, it is back on the road for Kentucky as they head down to Auburn in a rematch of last year’s SEC Tournament Final. Tigers aren’t doing that much either as they are 7-7 on the season with a 1-2 SEC record. Auburn has also lost its last two games as well. Head coach Bruce Pearl is still trying to figure out where the strengths on this team are. One big strength is guard Kareem Canty, who leads the team with 18.7 points per game. These two teams should be easy wins for the Wildcats but, I don’t think anything will be real easy in the SEC this season.
#25 Indiana (14-3, 4-0 Big Ten)
Games: Sat, Jan. 16 …… @ Minnesota ….. 11:30 AM, Big Ten Network
Indiana 59, Wisconsin 58
Looks like the Bo Ryan tradition of low-scoring Wisconsin games will live on after his retirement. Indiana had 19 turnovers and shot 48% from the field, but that was just enough to defeat the Badgers. Yogi Ferrell led the way with 19 points, including scoring the last 8 points for Indiana. Center Thomas Bryant had 10 points and seven rebounds. Ferrell will have to take up the scoring slack as Indiana lost James Blackmon Jr, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. That means Indiana will have to find the points from other guys like forward OG Anunoby, who had 11 points off the bench against Wisconsin.
Indiana 85, Ohio State 60
After dealing with losing Blackmon for the season and a close win against Wisconsin, Indiana returned to Assembly Hall and completely dominated the Buckeyes. This included forward Troy Williams waking up from his poor performance against Wisconsin to score a team-high 23 points. Bryant had a double-double, scoring 18 points and 13 rebounds. It was a game that Ferrell didn’t have to do too much, as he also had 16 points. They kept the Buckeyes to 39% shooting from the field and outrebounded Ohio State 50-31. It was a strong victory and a statement to the rest of the Big Ten that Indiana is going to be a tough team to defeat.
This Week: Hoosiers carry their nine-game winning streak up north to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers Saturday. Minnesota is 6-10 on the season, still looking for their first Big Ten win of the season. They are only averaging 71 points a game, which may not cut it if Indiana is shooting as well as they did against Ohio State. Only player Indiana will have to keep their eyes on will be Nate Mason, who is averaging 13 points a game. But, this should be an easy week and an easy win for Indiana
Illinois (9-8, 1-3 Big Ten)
Games: Sat, Jan. 16 ….. vs. Nebraska ….. 1:30 PM, Big Ten Network
Michigan State 79, Illinois 54
Wasn’t much of a contest for the Illini in this one, as they were only shooting 29% from the field. Michigan State guard Bryn Forbes had 17 points, while Eron Harris had 13 points in the win. Illinois had to deal with the absence of Kendrick Nunn, who missed the game to welcome the birth of his child. Malcolm Hill only had 10 points, with center Maverick Morgan picking up a little more of the slack with 15 points in the loss. It was just all Spartans, all the time in this one.
Illinois 84, Purdue 70
But, Nunn came back and Illinois picked up its biggest win of the season by defeating the Boilermakers. Malcolm Hill could do no wrong as he scored 30 points, including shooting 9 of 15 from the field and coming down with 8 rebounds. Nunn celebrated fatherhood with 22 points as well. Illinois shot a whopping 54% from the field, including going 9 of 17 from behind the three-point line. This has to be the biggest win of the season for Illinois, first win against a ranked opponent. Plus, it was also the first win in Big Ten play. Of course, if they get 52 points a night from Nunn/Hill, Illinois would be in more of their games.
This Week: Illinois also gets a bit of a break this week, with just one game on Saturday. The Cornhuskers are 9-8 on the season, 1-3 in the Big Ten. While they are coming off a win against Rutgers, they have struggled against Iowa and Indiana this season. Leading scorer for Nebraska is guard Andrew White, who has 17.5 points per game this season. But, it will really be up to the Illini as far as this game goes. If Nunn/Hill are scoring the points, this should be a cakewalk. But, if they play down to Nebraska’s level and either one of those guards are in trouble, this could be another loss for Illinois.
#24 Purdue (14-3, 2-2 Big Ten)
Games: Wed, Jan. 13 ….. vs. Penn State ….. 7:30 PM, Big Ten
Purdue 87, Michigan 70
After spending the season coming off the bench for coach Matt Painter, center A.J. Hammons started his first game of the season for Purdue against Michigan. Hammons didn’t disappoint, scoring 17 points in the win. Guard Rapheal Davis scored 16 points and 6 assists, plus forward Vince Edwards had 11 points and 7 rebounds in the win. Purdue held MIchigan to just 37% shooting in the game, while leading the assists column 26-10. Guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 25 points in the loss.
Illinois 84, Purdue 70
For all the things that went their way against Michigan, it just never got going against Illinois. Only lead Purdue had was when it was 5-0 in the first quarter. Boilermakers only shot 45% from the field, including going 7 of 22 from behind the three-point line. Forward Caleb Swanigan had 12 points and 6 rebounds, but also 5 turnovers. P.J. Thompson had to pick up the slack for Davis, who was in foul trouble and didn’t score a single point. Thompson had 12 points off the bench. Hammons had 10 points and 8 rebounds in the loss. This was one of those games that will lead to head-scratching down the road for Purdue.
This Week: Easy week as they just have one game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions are 10-7 on the year, with a 1-3 Big Ten record. Purdue should have an easy time with its frontcourt to contain forward Brandon Taylor, who leads the team with 15.9 points per game. But, Purdue is also coming off a bad loss that shouldn’t have happened. So, this will be an interesting mystery to see which Boilermakers team shows up on Wednesday.
#21 Louisville (13-3, 2-1 ACC)
Games: Thurs, Jan. 14 ….. vs. #20 Pittsburgh ….. 8 PM, ESPN
Louisville 77, NC State 72
It wasn’t easy down the stretch in this one for the Cardinals. After having a 71-55 lead with 3:38 remaining, Louisville had to hang on after a 17-6 Wolfpack run in final minutes to win the game. Guard Quentin Snider came off the bench to score 21 points, including shooting 4 of 6 from behind the three-point arc. Center Chinanu Onuaku had a double-double, scoring 12 points and 14 rebounds. Plus, guard Damion Lee had 13 points in the win. Outside of the last three minutes of the game, the Cardinals did hold the Wolfpack to just 36% shooting.
Clemson 66, Louisville 62
If your team shoots 3 of 23 from behind the arc, adding to the 35% shooting from the field, you are probably going to lose the game. The win for the Tigers snapped a ten-game losing streak to ranked ACC opponents. Onuaku had 14 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. Tigers had four starters in double digits, including Jaron Blossomgame, who scored 17 points in the game. Guard Trey Lewis had 10 points and 8 rebounds in the loss.
This Week: The Cardinals will have to dust themselves off from the loss and get ready for a tough Pittsburgh team coming into town. The Panthers are tenth in the nation with 85.3 points per game, along with 19.8 assists per game, fourth best in the nation. Forward Michael Young leads Pittsburgh with 17.5 points per game, shooting 60% from the field. Plus, forward James Artis has 16 points per game. The Panthers are 14-1 on the season, undefeated in ACC play at 3-0. Should be a fun matchup.
Western Kentucky (9-7, 1-2 C-USA)
Games: Thurs, Jan. 14 ….. @ Rice …… 8 PM
Sat, Jan. 16 ….. @ North Texas ….. 7 PM
Florida International 75, Western Kentucky 72
Tough loss for the Hilltoppers as Donte McGill hit a three-pointer with 38 seconds left to give the Panthers the three point win. McGill scored 16 points, while Western had no way to contain forward Daviyon Draper, who led the team with 21 points and 6 rebounds. Hilltoppers forward Justin Johnson came off the bench to lead the team with 25 points and 7 rebounds. Chris Harrison-Docks added 15 points in the loss.
Western Kentucky 86, Florida Atlantic 82 (OT)
The Hilltoppers had to go into an extra frame to defeat the Owls last weekend. Johnson had a big game, scoring the last five points to lead WKU into Overtime. Johnson ended up with 18 points in the win. Guard Aaron Cosby, coming off a bad game against FIU, played better, scoring 17 points and shooting 6 of 14 from the field. Harrison-Docks added 13 from the bench. Better shooting night all around for the Hilltoppers, as they shot 51% from the field. And, they only committed 5 turnovers the entire game.
This Week: It is a Texas road trip for Western this week. First up, a trip down to Houston to take on Rice. The Owls are 5-11 on the season, 0-3 in C-USA play. Rice is near last in the NCAA on defense, allowing a whopping 79.5 points a game. Currently on a five game losing streak, they will need guard Marcus Evans to lead them to a win. Evans is averaging 20 points a night. After tangling with Rice, WKU will head to Denton, Texas to take on the Mean Green of North Texas. Not too much mean this season as North Texas is 7-9 on the year, but 2-1 in conference play. It will be interesting to see how much longer Johnson will be coming off the bench for WKU, as he is the team’s MVP this season. But, every loss Western collects this season is another loss that goes against head coach Ray Harper, turning that seat warmer and warmer by the day. I can see WKU splitting the Texas series.
The Final FIVE (Games still in Central Time)
5. #20 Pittsburgh @ #21 Louisville …. Thurs, Jan. 14 ….. 8 PM, ESPN
My Pick: Louisville
Already previewed this game up above. Again, it will be important for the Cards to get a win to undo the Clemson loss. But, it is going to be tough to do that against James Artis and Michael Young. Still, I have my money that Lewis and Lee will play lights out and Louisville will shoot their way to victory.
4. #16 Iowa @ #4 Michigan State ….. Thurs, Jan. 14 ….. 6 PM, ESPN
My Pick: Michigan State
REVENGE game!!!! After losing to the Hawkeyes 83-70 four games ago at Iowa, I am sure there has been more interest for Michigan State to get that win back. Spartans have held up well without Denzel Valentine, who is still on the shelf with a knee injury. One person to thank for that is guard Bryn Forbes, who is averaging 14.4 points per game. Meanwhile, Iowa is 3-0 in Big Ten play so far. A season sweep of MIchigan State would be a huge feather in their cap. But, with the Spartans not wanting to lose at home for the first time this season, I think this maybe a bit much for Iowa to pull off again.
3. #8 Miami @ #13 Virginia ….. Tues, Jan. 12 …… 6 PM, ESPNU
My Pick: Miami
One of the surprise teams this season are the Hurricanes. With a 13-1 record and two big wins in the ACC over Syracuse and Florida State, Miami is playing pretty hot right now. Big reason for that is senior guard Sheldon McClellan, who is averaging 16.3 points per game. While Miami is on a roll, Virginia has hit a wall. After starting the season 12-1, the Cavaliers have lost the last two games to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. I would not be shocked if they drop their third-straight game.
2. #11 West Virginia @ #2 Oklahoma ….. Sat, Jan. 16 …… 3 PM, ESPN 2
My Pick: Oklahoma
After hosting Kansas, the Mountaineers will travel to Norman to take on the Sooners. Guard Buddy Hield keeps throwing his hat into the ring for player of the year. He is averaging 26.6 points a game. Along with Hield, Ryan Spangler is averaging a double-double each game, with 11.5 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game. Could tap off a really good week or a bad week for the Mountaineers.
1. #1 Kansas @ #11 West Virginia ….. Tues, Jan. 12 ….. 6 PM, ESPN 2
My Pick: Kansas
After such an emotional win last week against Oklahoma, what will the number one team in the country do to follow it up? Why travel east to take on forward Devin Williams and the Mountaineers. Williams is averaging 14.5 points a game, along with 8.6 rebounds a game. Still, the power trio of Selden, Ellis, and Mason will look to get out of West Virginia still the number one team in the country.
There it is. Should be another fun week for college basketball. Until next time, I am the Blaine Train, have a good one.