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The Morning Dish – Thursday, December 18, 2014

December 18, 2014 The Morning Dish No Comments

There may not be another game this entire college basketball season that was more predictable than last night’s interconference matchup between Cincinnati and San Diego State.

As expected, the game between the Bearcats and Aztecs was an evenly matched defensive grinder. Even with both teams trying to disrupt by picking up the pace at times with full-court pressure, the score was firmly in the 50s at the end of regulation. And, sure enough, the game did go to overtime, where Cincinnati pulled away for a 71-62 win, a quality win for Cincy and the American Athletic Conference.

Both teams are really, really good and really feisty defensive units, and they performed exactly as expected in that regard. At the same time, the game also presented some surprises to contrast those things that didn’t surprise us in the least:

Not surprising: That both teams struggled to score.
Surprising: That both teams scored 50 in regulation. Most had this game pegged to reach the mid-40s at best, though the next-best guess was that the first team to 50 would win. In which case, they were right, as indeed the first team to 50 did win.

Not surprising: Both teams were bad from three-point range-a combined 9 of 36.
Surprising: That final number actually represents an improvement from late in regulation, as both hit some big shots down the stretch. Cincinnati hit two late in regulation and another in overtime, while SDSU hit two in the final 29 seconds of regulation just to send the game to an extra session.

Not surprising: The Bearcats didn’t even put a single player into double figures until overtime. Cincy is a balanced team anyway.
Surprising: The player who provided the biggest boost late for Cincinnati was Farad Cobb, who had previously scored in double figures just once all year. All 12 of Cobb’s points came after less than eight minutes were remaining in regulation, and he had huge three-pointers late in the second half and again in OT to spur the Bearcats offensively.

Wednesday’s action:

  • Michigan State did what rival Michigan couldn’t do, handling Eastern Michigan at home 66-46. As expected, the Eagles didn’t have enough offense to win at MSU (freezing-cold 22.6% shooting) and the Spartans won the battle on the glass 43-31.
  • Elsewhere, the night was dotted with surprise results and some huge scoring outbursts. Perhaps the biggest upset was Arkansas-Pine Bluff getting through overtime and winning 61-56 at Houston. Marcel Mosley scored 33 for the Golden Lions. Hard-earned win for UAPB, which still has not played a home game yet this year.
  • Arkansas State posted a 69-56 win at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs looked like they were ready to turn a corner early this year, but now have lost four straight, while obviously this is a big win for ASU.
  • Central Michigan hammered Northwestern on the road 80-67 in a game not as close as the final score. Is Keno Davis starting to turn things around at CMU? The Chippewas are now 7-1 after shooting 58.3% in this one.
  • In other games, North Carolina State got a nice win, defeating Tennessee 83-72. Ralston Turner lit it up for 33 for the Wolfpack, including eight three-pointers.
  • The individual performance of the night-and of the season so far-came from Amere May of Delaware State. May scored 48 points for the Hornets in a 72-64 win over St. Francis (N.Y.). If you like efficiency, you can’t argue with his stat line: 16 of 25 from the field, 6-for-10 from three-point range, and a beautiful 10 of 10 from the charity stripe. Tyshawn Bell also added 17, meaning two players alone outscored the Terriers in this one! Delaware State has provided several highlights for the MEAC early this year, also winning at Wake Forest.
  • Baylor continues to play well. The Bears are 9-1 after a 66-55 win over depleted New Mexico State. Seems to be a different guy every game for Baylor, and this time it was Jonathan Motley leading with 16 points.
  • Old Dominion outlasted Georgia State 58-54 in overtime in an excellent matchup. ODU still has just one loss and is now 8-1. The Monarchs are primed for a possible at-large bid in March if they don’t stumble too badly in Conference USA.
  • The Monarchs’ only loss was to Illinois State, which won again Wednesday, holding off much-improved Tennessee-Martin 64-54. The Redbirds finished the game on a 12-2 run.
  • Finally, Tulsa nipped Missouri State 74-70, getting a career-high 26 from James Woodard. The Golden Hurricane needed it because the Bears’ Marcus Marshall was another scoring star last night, tallying 36 points for MSU, including seven three-pointers.

Side Dishes

  • Wednesday’s biggest news came from Dayton, where starting center Devon Scott and his backup Jalen Robinson both were dismissed from the team for alleged roles in stealing from dorms on campus. First off, it’s always disappointing to hear stories like these where young men have made big mistakes that cost them a tremendous opportunity. For the Flyers on the court, they are important personnel losses as UD now has no active players taller than 6-foot-6. Scott in particular was averaging 9.1 points and 7.4 rebounds, so this is a huge blow. Will be very interesting to see what Archie Miller’s options are for adjusting for the rest of the season.
  • Staying in the Atlantic 10, senior Erik Copes has left the George Mason team for personal reasons. Copes averaged 4.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in four games this year and ranks fourth on GMU’s all-time list in blocked shots.
  • The Big Four Classic, the annual doubleheader featuring Iowa’s four Division I basketball teams and played in Des Moines every year, has been extended two more years through 2017. While the event is good, certainly better than nothing, it still doesn’t measure up to the old every year series each team had with each other in the past, and still should have. Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa are all generally evenly matched year-in and year-out, and while that is not always the case with Drake, the Bulldogs also have the carrot of being located in Des Moines, the capital and largest city in the state. No reason why these four teams don’t continue to play each other regularly.

Tonight’s Menu:
Connecticut at Duke (8 p.m. EST, ESPN) For name brands, this is an A+ matchup. The truth is, the Blue Devils are obvious favorites here, but so were a number of other teams against the Huskies in the NCAA Tournament last year. Let’s see what UConn does as the underdog here.
Coastal Carolina at Mississippi  Other than two of the top 5 programs over the last 25 years in the sport meeting, this is the best game of the night. Ole Miss has struggled at home (2-3 record, including one loss already to a Big South school in Charleston Southern), and if the Rebels do again then Coastal is very capable of pulling this one off.
Seton Hall at South Florida (7 p.m. EST, CBSSN) A manageable road tilt for the Pirates. The Bulls are the type of opponent that will bust you if you don’t bring your best, but also one that an NCAA at-large caliber team should beat. If SHU fancies itself as such, they would be advised to grab this game.
DePaul at Oregon State  The Blue Demons begin a trip to Hawaii with a stop-off in Corvallis. The Beavers are already showing some signs of life in Wayne Tinkle’s first year.
Cleveland State at Virginia
 (7 p.m. EST, ESPNU) It’s hard to bet against the Cavaliers with how they’re playing. The Vikings have been a mild disappointment plagued by suspensions and inconsistency, but they’re good enough to make this interesting if the Wahoos are off.
Yale at Vermont  The Catamounts were thought to be rebuilding this year, but are right back to their usual spot as a pest to just about everyone they play.
Ohio U. at Evansville  Per usual, the Bobcats have played one of the lightest early season schedules around, and this is just their third game of December. Solid matchup.

Have a fantastic Thursday.

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