For 39 minutes, Louisville and Georgia Tech was another ugly game this year in a season filled with ugly games. Then, in the final minute, the two teams reminded us of what fun college basketball can be when it is allowed to just be.
In a game where both teams were fortunate to shoot better than 40% from the free throw line, the Cardinals rallied from a 13-point deficit for a 52-51 win after Terry Rozier scored on driving baskets twice in the final minute. This season has turned into a grind for the Cards, so any win is a good one right now, even one in a game that was far more beast than beauty.
A game involving a supposedly up-tempo team (Louisville) saw both teams struggle to score 50 points. It saw that same very hands-on defensive team whistled for 10 fouls in the entire game, as officials once again played the role of highly paid spectators. Both teams chipped enough paint off the rims to cover a small house on an HGTV show. Even with a few entertaining sequences in the first half, the game was nearly unwatchable…until the last minute, which was packed with edge-of-the-seat (if imperfect) action.
There were 10 possessions in the final minute-and just three of those were for free throws. The two squads played at a breakneck pace, and if they had scored as proficiently for 40 minutes as they did in the last minute, both teams would’ve topped the 50-point mark midway through a half. The last minute included just one timeout, including Rozier’s pedal-to-the-medal layup with 20 seconds left when he blew through Pitino’s stop sign imploring his team to hold for a final shot.
The result was one of the most exciting back-and-forth finishes of the season, even as the Cardinals bricked the front end of two one-and-ones in the final 30 seconds while Tech forced a number of poor shots. It wasn’t perfect, and at times it was a borderline mess, but it sure beat four timeouts and teams all but handing the ball over to the other team so they can intentionally foul them. The sport is still so, so much better to watch when teams are allowed to play without coaches micromanaging every second down the stretch.
- It’s been a season short on memorable buzzer beaters, but Alabama State provided one Monday night. Jamel Waters nailed a heavily contested leaning 19-footer with :00.5 left to give the Hornets a 56-54 win over Southern in a good game in the SWAC. Waters nearly let the clock run down too far, waiting until four seconds were left to start making a move and then dribbling right into trouble, but in this case it worked out as his slightly awkward-looking shot touched all net. ASU remains tied with Texas Southern for the top spot in the league after the Tigers defeated Mississippi Valley State 83-73 on Monday.
- St. John’s and Xavier traded scoring spurts and massive periods of ineptitude on Monday. First, it was the Musketeers getting off to an 11-0 lead in just over three minutes, and then scoring four points total over the next 16 minutes. Leading by 10 early in the second half, the Red Storm returned the favor by scoring two points over a span of eight minutes to fall behind by five. Both teams displayed plenty of terrible halfcourt offense but enough baskets in transition to cancel it out, and in the end it was SJU heating up again last and holding on for an important 58-57 win.
- Kansas and Kansas State is a rivalry, so there should be little that surprises us when they play. Still, all one can think of is just what an enigma the Wildcats are this year after a 70-63 win over the Jayhawks. Nigel Johnson scored 20 off the bench, while Perry Ellis and Kelly Oubre were the only two KU players of real impact, with Ellis finishing with 24 points and nine boards. Also, the game included a messy court-storming incident after the game. Good grief. Rivalry or not, a win over a team having a slightly down year by its lofty standards (Kansas) by your own disappointing team (K-State) should not be reason for rushing the court. Have some standards, people. If fans can’t control themselves better than this, then they’ll have eventually earned it when the day comes that these celebrations (which typically are more centered on the celebrators themselves than the team they are celebrating) are banned.
- Stephen F. Austin didn’t need a shorter shot clock in hitting the century mark in a 103-74 win over Lamar. It’s amazing what happens when teams coach offense; the Lumberjacks are one of the best-versed offensive teams in the country, and they shot 62.1% in this one.
- Coastal Carolina improved to 21-8 with a 72-59 win at Longwood in which five Chanticleers scored in double figures. CCU is half a game behind High Point and Charleston Southern for the Big South lead.
- Manhattan won at Marist 67-54 to tie Monmouth for third in the MAAC with two regular season games left. Remember former Cincinnati touted recruit Jermaine Lawrence? He scored a career-high 19 for the Jaspers.
- Eastern Kentucky defeated Austin Peay 76-64 to stay half a game behind Belmont in the OVC East Division. Morehead State is also just a game behind the Bruins after an 86-70 win at Tennessee State.
- Virginia’s London Perrantes is day-to-day with a broken nose after the collision with teammate Malcolm Brogdon Sunday night in the Cavaliers’ win over Florida State. Reports also are that Perrantes suffered a mild concussion on the play.
- Houston guard L.J. Rose is done for the rest of the season after reinjuring a bothersome right foot. Rose averaged 9.8 points this season and led the Cougars with 5.3 assists per game.
Providence at Villanova (7 p.m. EST, FS1) The Friars are a quality team, but the Wildcats out-toughed them in the first one at PC and can just about wrap up the Big East regular season title with a win here.
Wisconsin at Maryland (7 p.m. EST, ESPN) The Badgers haven’t lost in a while, but it’s easy to imagine this as potentially their final slip-up before things get serious in March.
Texas at West Virginia (7 p.m. EST, ESPN2) The Longhorns are officially in trouble. Undoubtedly it’s a team that looks the part of an NCAA tourney team, but 1-9 against the RPI top 50 is most definitely not. Road games this week against WVU and Kansas aren’t promising, either.
N.C. State at North Carolina While Duke-UNC is great, never really understand why this rivalry doesn’t get more attention nationally, too. Wolfpack would take a big step towards an NCAA bid with a win here.
Texas A&M at Arkansas (9 p.m. EST, ESPN) Former SWC rivals face off, and both are near-locks for the NCAA Tournament.
Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan, Akron at Buffalo The two biggest game on another night of MAC play. EMU has rebounded from a midseason skid to win 3 of its last 4. The latter game features two teams that are both two games behind Kent State for the top spot in the MAC East but still with legitimate hopes for the division title.
Niagara at Canisius The 178th meeting in a long-running rivalry in which one can truly throw out the record books, but especially this year with a Niagara team that is just 6-21 but has beaten some good teams and is coming off a win over MAAC No. 2 team Rider.
Enjoy your Tuesday.