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The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 29, 2014

December 28, 2014 The Morning Dish No Comments

The Kentucky hype wagon, already rolling along at NASCAR-like speeds, will only gain even more momentum after yesterday.

Whereas that wagon was humming at, say, Bristol Motor Speedway speeds before, though, it now is flying along at a Daytona-like pace after the Wildcats’ 58-50 win over Louisville Saturday afternoon.

And truthfully, why wouldn’t it be? Kentucky has beaten all comers this year, frequently in impressive fashion. In this one, UK held the Cardinals to 25.9% shooting and was so good that Louisville finished with one assist. One. In a road game against a bitter rival and top five team that has blown out almost everyone it faced.

Kentucky is really, really good. At the same time, this game changed nothing.

The Wildcats are still beatable, just like anyone else in the country. Not easily beatable, of course, but they can be toppled.

This is the same team that struggled mightily to put away Buffalo and Columbia. If the Columbia Lions can play Kentucky within 10 points, there’s no doubt-none-that the Wildcats can still lose to an Alabama or LSU this season.

Saturday’s Action:

  • Georgetown rallied from a 12-point second half deficit, then nearly coughed up a five-point lead in the final seconds of regulation before finishing off Indiana 91-87 in overtime. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 29 and was one of five players to score at least 20 points in an excellent game, one that overall speaks well of both teams.
  • The West Coast Conference tipped off its conference season in earnest. The headliner was Gonzaga winning at BYU 87-80, meaning the Bulldogs have already taken care of arguably their toughest conference road game (St. Mary’s will have something to say about that). Meanwhile, it’s way too early to pronounce the Cougars’ NCAA Tournament hopes to be in rough shape, but it is perfectly fair to say that Brigham Young’s margin for getting an at-large bid is getting slimmer and slimmer.
  • Also in the WCC, St. Mary’s defeated rival Santa Clara 73-60 while San Francisco (77-71 over Pacific) and Portland (61-58 over San Diego) both earned road wins. Portland scored the final nine points of the game, with Alec Wintering hitting the game-winning three-pointer with 0.3 left at the Slim Gym.
  • Colorado State remained undefeated-barely. The Rams nipped New Mexico State 59-58 in Las Cruces after the Aggies Pascal Siakam missed two free throws with four seconds left in overtime. CSU is 13-0, while NMSU (5-9 against a rotten-tough schedule) has five losses-to UTEP, Wyoming, Oral Roberts, New Mexico and Colorado State) by a combined 10 points.
  • North Carolina avenged its loss to UAB last year with an 89-58 blowout win Saturday.
  • Maryland held off Oakland 72-56 after the Golden Grizzlies trimmed a 23-point second half deficit to six. Dez Wells scored 10 points in his first game back from injury.
  • Seton Hall routed Maine 72-43 in its first game after Isaiah Whitehead’s injury. Sterling Gibbs stepped up with 18 points and the Pirates blew this open with a 21-0 run in the first half.
  • Wisconsin-Green Bay earned the split of its home-and-home with Georgia State this year with a 78-61 win. Don’t be misled by that final score; UWGB closed the game on a 21-3 run. The Phoenix continue to prove to be more than Keifer Sykes, as Carrington Love had a career-best 28 points.
  • Georgia outlasted Mercer 86-77 in three overtimes. Both teams had multiple chances to close this one out but the Bulldogs finally did in the third extra period. It also says a lot about Mercer that it would’ve surprised pretty much no one if it had won this game. Even with an almost new team from last year, Bob Hoffman’s Bears are still dangerous.
  • Finally, don’t normally like to give much credence to lopsided guarantee games, but Ohio State’s 100-55 win over Wright State is notable because a) Wright State is not that bad of a team from the Horizon League and b) D’Angelo Russell scored 24 points while making 7 of 8 shots, including all six of his three-point attempts.

Side Dishes:

  • CBSSports.com is reporting that former Duke forward Semi Ojeleye will transfer to SMU. Ojeleye will be eligible in December of 2015 and will have 2 1/2 years of eligibility remaining.

Today’s Menu:

Florida Gulf Coast at Xavier (4 p.m. EST, FS1)  Tasty matchup. Not sure the Eagles have enough to compete with the Musketeers inside, but they certainly do have enough to try to run up and down at the Cintas Center, where this Xavier team has been especially comfortable and likes to push the pace.
UCLA at Alabama (6:30 p.m. EST, ESPNU)  The Crimson Tide is impossible to get a read on (near-losses to Iowa State and Wichita State, near-wins against Western Carolina and Appalachian State). When Bama is on, though, it looks like a borderline NCAA Tournament team.
South Dakota State at Northern Iowa  Don’t be surprised at all if this is a tough one for the Panthers.
Harvard at Arizona State  The Crimson will have had a full week to think about their embarrassing performance against Virginia. Many will be curious to see how Harvard bounces back.
Belmont at Butler (6 p.m. EST, FS1)  The Bulldogs should be the better team at home, but Belmont is 8-1 when when Craig Bradshaw is in the lineup and 0-3 without him. Bradshaw is back. This one should be good.
Long Beach State at Syracuse (2 p.m. EST, ESPNU)  The 49ers’ death march of a December schedule continues.
Texas Southern at Kansas State  There are a number of games today involving SWAC or MEAC teams with rough-looking non-conference records that are not indicative of the quality of the teams (see also: Delaware State at Temple, Morgan State at Marquette). All of them are capable of making their games closer than some would expect.

Have an enjoyable holiday weekend Sunday.

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