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The Morning Dish – Saturday, December 20, 2014

December 20, 2014 The Morning Dish No Comments

Every year, there’s one or two game results that are beyond head-scratchers. They may be proof of a team being capable of an off night, or perhaps a harbinger of things to come. They can also be an example of what the winning team is capable of, even though that doesn’t tend to get as much attention.

In Miami’s case, their hope is that it’s not the first of those three.

An Eastern Kentucky team that has shown some promise during non-conference play broke through in a big way on Friday night, never trailing en route to a 72-44 thumping of Miami. The bottom line result is one thing; a 28-point margin? That raises questions.

A 22-2 run in the second half broke open a close game, and the Colonels never looked back. They held Miami below 30 percent shooting on the evening while shooting nearly 51 percent themselves, including 14-26 from long range. It simply wasn’t a good night for Miami, whose two losses both came to mid-majors and by double digits, but Eastern Kentucky had a lot to do with that.

The Colonels are setting the stage for another Ohio Valley Conference run. Belmont and Murray State figure to be formidable foes there, but the Colonels will enter OVC play well-tested after a number of road games and against top competition (Brigham Young, Kentucky and Miami).

Miami should be fine come ACC play. But they also have two more challenges beforehand, taking on Providence in Brooklyn on Monday and hosting College of Charleston over a week later. Then we’ll get a sense of just where they stand very quickly, as three of their first four games are against Virginia, then road trips to Duke and Notre Dame. They won’t be able to have nights like Friday night and get away with it.

Side Dishes

The Pac-12 closed the night out well, with Arizona holding off UTEP 60-55 and California beating Eastern Washington 78-67. Arizona played their first true road game of the year, and UTEP had a chance despite Vince Hunter (18 points, 12 rebounds) fouling out with over eight minutes left. In the second game, California got 21 points and 11 rebounds from Tyrone Wallace to win their seventh straight and hand Eastern Washington their third straight loss, all on the road.

A huge second half was what St. John’s needed to knock off Saint Mary’s on Friday night. Trailing 33-18 at the half, the Red Storm rallied to hold the Gaels to just 14 points in the second half of their 53-47 win. A 27-8 run got it going, and better interior defense helped the Red Storm limit Gaels star Brad Waldow to just seven of his 26 points (along with 11 rebounds) in the second half.

South Carolina won the big rivalry game of the evening, blowing out Clemson 68-45. Fellow SEC member Tennessee, meanwhile, got all it could handle and had to rally to beat Tennessee Tech 61-58.

Speaking of Tennessee, they will be without freshman Jabari McGhee for 6-8 weeks after he had surgery on his right foot. The 6’8″ freshman was injured in Wednesday night’s loss to North Carolina State, and this makes them even thinner up front after Dominic Woodson transferred recently.

SMU will get a much-needed boost today when they meet Michigan, as ESPN reported that big man Markus Kennedy will be academically eligible to play. The Mustangs have certainly missed him thus far, as he has not played due to academics and the Mustangs are 7-3 but lack a signature win like a lot of the American Athletic Conference teams.

Tonight’s Menu

Another full Saturday is ahead of us, and here are some of the matchups to keep an eye on.

  • Early on, we get several good ones. Two that are of big interest to the American Athletic Conference are VCU at Cincinnati and SMU at Michigan, as the conference needs more wins like Cincinnati’s over San Diego State on Wednesday night.
  • Syracuse heads to Villanova for an old Big East matchup.
  • Ohio State and North Carolina get the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago started, followed by UCLA and Kentucky.
  • UMass heads to Providence for a good matchup, one that went to overtime in Amherst last year.
  • The Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise features South Florida and Florida State opening up, followed by Wake Forest taking on Florida.
  • In St. Louis, the Braggin’ Rights Game takes place between Missouri and Illinois.
  • Western Michigan heads to Northwestern for a sleepy good matchup.
  • Des Moines is home to the Big Four Classic, which has Iowa State and Drake in the first game before Iowa and Northern Iowa match up in the nightcap.
  • Purdue takes on Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis.
  • An old Big 12 matchup takes place in Kansas City between Texas A&M and Kansas State.
  • Long Beach State visits Texas in an intriguing matchup.
  • A rivalry matchup takes place as New Mexico visits New Mexico State.
  • The Gotham Classic features Richmond and Pepperdine early, then ends with NC State and West Virginia at Madison Square Garden.
  • Stanford heads to Brigham Young in a matchup worth staying up for.
  • The MGM Grand Showcase in Las Vegas features a nice doubleheader with Oklahoma battling Washington, then Utah and UNLV to close the night.

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