I had to break my Ph.D. hiatus (I am not writing about basketball until this Ph.D. is done, but it is SO hard- Google Chinanu Onuaku’s free throw).
However, last night’s Oklahoma- Kansas game illustrates my “make your freaking fouls shots” philosophy so perfectly, I had to make an exception.
This was going to be a fun game to watch- #1 playing #2, in the same conference, in January- there is so much on the line and these athletes played their hearts out.
It was a fast-paced, all-out race to the finish from the technical foul assessed to the KU bench 4 seconds into the game or that almost technical in the 1st OT for having 6 players on the court. It is the kind of ball I like to watch.
But after 3 OT Kansas proved they deserved the #1 spot in the land (AP poll had them at #1, but the coaches poll gave Oklahoma the #1 nod).
If Oklahoma had just made their free throws at the end of regulation, when the game was tied, there would have been no OT and they could have been giant killers.
But alas, it is free throw shots that win, and squander, games and KU nudged past Oklahoma at the line. Kansas made 78% (18/23)of their free throws to the Sooners 75% (18/24), but that is not the whole story. If Oklahoma would have won in regulation they would have kept the Jayhawks off the line 17 times as KU only had 6 free throw opportunities in the first 40 minutes. Oklahoma made 16/22 in regulation, but that leaves 6 points on the line. A comfortable margin to have knocked off a #1.
Part of what I love about college basketball is the fast pace. The ups and downs of the court can be mirrored by emotions on a night when plenty of ball is being played.
UNCG lost a heartbreaker to the Pirates of ECU. After starting the game with a 10-0 lead and leading for most of the game, ECU pulled up close and on a foul won the game. UNCG was up by two in the final seconds of the game and Nick Paulos fouled a Pirate three pointer. The basket did not connect, but all three of the foul shots did. ECU topped the Spartans 85-84 in a tough loss for the Spartans. Kayel Locke looked strong under the basket. He fouled out of the game, but left it all on the floor when he did.
The player of the night, however, was Tevon Saddler. The first year player racked up 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. In my last post, I wondered if he was going to grow or be a ball hog? If this game is a suggestion, he is leaning toward growth. His play against HPU was sloppy, but last night he had tightened up his movements and was making good shooting as well as passing decisions. He was also a respectable 14-19 from the line (73%). Another first year player, Tyrone Outlaw, was 5-6 from the line as well. His foul shout has such a beautiful arc to it- he should be teaching lessons!
For the game, the Pirates shot 89% from the free throw line. UNCG connected 74% of the time- good, but those extra points matter in a close game. Overall, we would be good to remember that games can be won AND LOST on the foul line!
In other games from last night:
Michigan State topped Kentucky. MSU was the only team in the top five that I wanted to win last night! While I am always happy to report a L for Dook– Kansas is not my favorite team either. (My mom taught me to be suspicious of all teams that play basketball in the particular shade of blue favored by Dook/Kentucky/Kansas). Wiggins and the Jayhawks outplayed hometown boy Parker and the Blue Devils in the second half. But remember, the season is in its infancy, all of these teams are poised for a great year of basketball.
Does anyone else get distracted by Andrew Wiggins’ name? I really hope that his parents were big sci fi fans because every time I hear it I think of Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin from Orson Scott Card’s short story and novel Ender’s Game. As a character, Ender is chosen because he is “one the enemy would never expect.” With all of the hype around Wiggins, there are expectations, but will he grow into a leader like Ender?
We still have time for some upsets tonight, but yesterday not much happened that was super surprising.
Yes, Michigan upset Kansas in overtime. It was a great last shot to send them into extra minutes and I was rooting for Big Blue to knock off #1 Kansas. But it was not a huge surprise that they won. Both are good teams, from power conferences….
As for the rest, Louisville beat Oregon…man, I was going for those Ducks…to be the last #1 standing.
Dook out defended the Spartans. Defense is what won the devils that game (I know Curry shot 29 points, blah, blah, blah), but without their defensive game Michigan State’s played good enough on the offensive end to win.
Saddest of all was that Florida beat FGCU ending their Cinderella run. The beginning of the first half, the Eagles went on a 8-0 run and maintained a double digit lead. However, with some substitutions and a little practice Billy Donovan figured out what his Gators needed to do to dominate the court. The first half ended with a 16-2 run for Florida, then Florida started the second with a 5-0 run. That was a blow that FGCU couldn’t overcome. This team played great ball, works fantastically as a team, and has more than done their job for the season. It will be interesting to see: 1) how much easier it will be to recuit to FGCU and 2) How much general interest and enrollment spikes for this young school!
At this point, I am ABD (Anybody but Duke…and Louisville can lose too!)