While there is much talk about Kentucky early in the season, as well as the likes of Duke and a few others, one team we must talk about is Texas. Granted, we’ve done that already here, but on Sunday it became clear that they deserve a little more pub, because quite frankly, the Longhorns had as good a month of November as anyone in the country.
Texas is more than just back to life after struggling a couple of years ago. They are playing like a national power once again, and on Sunday they went up to Connecticut and did what such a team sometimes does – not play their best and beat a good team on the road. They didn’t do it convincingly – it took a three-pointer with 2.2 seconds left by Jonathan Holmes for the final 55-54 margin – but a win is a win, and this has to do wonders for Texas.
In just over a week and a half, Texas has come to the Northeast to beat Iowa, California and Connecticut, the first two at a neutral site and the last one a true road game. The last two wins plus some of the Iowa win came without starting point guard Isaiah Taylor, a sign that this team can overcome adversity and adjust without someone. And anytime you can beat a team like Connecticut on the road when you don’t play your best, it’s a great sign for a team’s potential.
What’s more, Texas is doing this led by veterans like Holmes, a guy who has stuck around and developed his game. If you had a national player of the month for November, he’s as good a pick for that as anyone, and he’s playing like an All-American and a great player development story. He’s a tough matchup and playing like one, and he led the way on Sunday like he has all season.
Texas will play Kentucky on Friday night, and that game looks more and more like a must-see game after Sunday. The Longhorns have a lot of length just like the Wildcats, though they will miss Taylor against such a good defensive team. But with what the Longhorns have shown thus far, there’s every reason to think they can win that game, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The aforementioned game had another bad sight to the ending for Connecticut. Ryan Boatright tried to switch on the last play, and ended up rolling his left ankle. The senior guard left the arena on crutches, and the seriousness is not known.
Two more big tournaments wrapped up on Sunday. First up was the championship game in the Orlando Classic between a couple of powerhouse programs, and it was a battle as one might expect. Michigan State led for some of the first half, but Kansas slowed them down in the second half and then held off the Spartans late to take home the title with a 61-56 win. Later, Marquette beat Tennessee 67-59 to take third place.
The day ended with the championship in the Wooden Legacy. Washington had the lead at halftime and a lot of the second half, but blew what was at one time a 13-point lead and then had to make late free throws to seal a 68-65 win over UTEP to take home the title. Nigel Williams-Goss had 16 points and six assists en route to tournament MVP honors. Long Beach State beat Xavier 73-70 to take third place earlier in the day.
Kentucky met up with previously undefeated but slightly undermanned Providence in the afternoon, and while Providence gave them all they could handle in the first half, the second half was all Kentucky as the Wildcats beat the Friars 58-38. Providence had recently injured guards Kris Dunn and Jalen Lindsey in the game, but neither was much of a factor and Dunn played a little less than he usually does, struggling with ten turnovers.
DePaul surprised Stanford 87-72 behind 29 points from Myke Henry. The Cardinal turned the ball over 21 times as well.
Northern Iowa quietly remained undefeated with a 55-50 win over a good Richmond team, led by a double-double by Seth Tuttle (17 points, 11 rebounds).
In-season tournaments are now mostly in the rearview mirror, so it’s back to your typical non-conference matchups with a relatively light night of action.
- The ACC-Big Ten Challenge gets going tonight with Rutgers at Clemson and Nebraska at Florida State.
- South Carolina travels to take on Marshall.
- Weber State hosts Oral Roberts in an intriguing mid-major matchup.