The easy thing to do after the College of Charleston’s resounding win over LSU Monday night would be to talk about all that’s wrong with the Tigers. With that in mind, we’ll focus first on just what the Cougars are doing right.
The story of Monday night’s hoops slate was Charleston, which spanked LSU 70-58. Not upset-the Cougars controlled this game from the start, and were clearly the better team on this night. It’s a big, big win for second-year head coach Earl Grant, who is already showing signs of returning a proud program back to power.
Canyon Barry is the son of former NBA star Rick Barry, and he starred in this one with 19 points. Charleston won the rebounding battle and frustrated the Tigers with a 2-3 zone defense and at 4-2 is now almost halfway to its win from all of last year, when a 9-24 record was the worst in school history.
This game should put the Colonial Athletic Association on notice: if Charleston isn’t “back,” it’s knocking on the doorstep. The first signs came just over a week ago, when the Cougars went to former Southern Conference rival Davidson and the Wildcats needed two free throws with five seconds left to win 82-81.
This game also adds another chapter for a program that has made wins over bigger names a fairly regular occurrence. Charleston has had more success than most schools its size in getting football schools to come to its home court, and the Cougars added to a list that includes North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee since TD Arena opened. The school also has three wins over top 10 teams in its relatively short 22-year history as an NCAA Division I school.
As far as LSU goes, it’s time to slow down the hype machine for a bit and not confuse the future with the present.
Ben Simmons is a tremendous talent and a player of unique skills, and someday will almost certainly become an outstanding professional basketball player. Right now, though, he is still a collegiate freshman who can get significantly better, even as he piles up double-doubles early in his college career.
Simmons had 15 points and 18 rebounds but was 4 of 15 from the field and 6 of 10 from the foul line Monday against Charleston. He also is still improving defensively-he was victimized by Barry on an open-court move that was a popular highlight last night.
Suffice to say Simmons is the least of the Tigers’ issues-teammates Antonio Blakeney and Tim Quarterman combining to go 4-for-24 Monday night also was more than a little problem. LSU now has lost three straight games against perceived weaker teams, though. We are seeing-again-that stepping in and dominating at the college level is not a given for five-star high school players. Even ones as good as Ben Simmons.
- For anyone who is up-to-date on Illinois State, it wasn’t a surprise in the least that Kentucky had to sweat for a while before putting away the Redbirds 75-63 Monday night. ISU has size and athleticism and regularly plays top teams tough, and sure enough, Monday’s game was tied at 31-31 before the Wildcats came out strong in the second half, building a 16-point lead and maintaining a workable margin even as the pesky visitors continued to hang around. UK played without Tyler Ulis, who rested his sore elbow but should be back for the Wildcats’ next game against UCLA.
- Oregon held off Fresno State 78-73 to win a battle of unbeatens. The Bulldogs owned the glass 41-32 but Dillon Brooks scored 21 and added 10 boards and the Ducks shot 22 more free throws than Fresno.
- A quality off-the-radar matchup had James Madison hold on to beat Radford 70-68. The Highlanders rallied from a 19-point second half deficit to tie it late but Joey McLean hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 57 seconds left.
- Louisiana-Monroe handed Tennessee-Chattanooga its second loss, defeating the Mocs 64-54 behind 22 points from Majok Deng. An appealing matchup in the post between Deng and Chattanooga’s Justin Tuoyo never materialized after Tuoyo missed the game with an injury.
- South Carolina is now 7-0 after dismissing Western Carolina 76-53. The Gamecocks are becoming a team to keep an eye on.
- Individual stars of the night: James Blackmon scored 33 in Indiana’s 112-70 blowout of Alcorn State, while Devin Thomas totaled 23 points and 17 rebounds in Wake Forest’s 69-68 road win at Rutgers.
- Also, all kinds of numbers put up in Elon’s 103-93 overtime win over Kennesaw State. The Owls’ Yonel Brown scored 31 and Kendrick Ray added 28 points and 12 rebounds, but Elon got 31 points and 11 boards from Tanner Samson plus Christian Hairston chipping in 21 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. This game also had an almost unfathomable comeback in regulation, when the Phoenix rallied from down eight with 16 seconds left to force overtime. Almost as incredible as the Memphis (then Memphis State) rally against Oral Roberts in 1987, when the Tigers came back from eight down with 14 seconds left to win-in regulation.
- Illinois was just starting to get healthy with the return of Kendrick Nunn when the injury bug struck again. Senior forward Mike Thorne injured his knee on Saturday against Iowa State and is out indefinitely after having surgery for a torn meniscus. Thorne was providing 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for the Fighting Illini.
Tonight’s menu: It’s a busy night, as teams get busy again after the Thanksgiving holiday and squeeze in games before final exams.
- After a soft start Monday night where Wake Forest and Minnesota posted wins, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge really gets cranking with six games. The best one is, and one of the most appealing of the entire non-conference season, has Maryland at North Carolina, and the school has announced that Marcus Paige should be back from injury for the game. Other important games include Michigan at North Carolina State and Purdue going to Pittsburgh.
- Villanova will get a stiff test from a hostile crowd in its own city when it travels to St. Joseph’s for a Philadelphia Big 5 game.
- Suddenly, Texas hosting Texas-Arlington is one of the most intriguing games of the day. Can the Mavericks pick off a third quality road win?
- Several SEC teams will get serious tests at home. Richmond has already picked up some early quality wins, and the Spiders have a shot at another when they go to Florida. Georgia also hosts a dangerous Oakland team.
- Old Dominion faces William & Mary in a tussle between old CAA rivals. Still miss the Monarchs, George Mason and VCU as CAA members because of the one-time regularity of outstanding matchups like this.
- Louisiana Tech puts its undefeated record on the line when it travels to Memphis. The Bulldogs already have wins over Ohio State and UT-Arlington.
- The Battle of the Boulevard is renewed when Nashville rivals Lipcomb and Belmont square off.
- Out west, San Diego State has a tricky road game at Long Beach State. The Aztecs won this matchup last year at home by a single point.
- Finally, a good in-state game and fun because of the contrasting names: Eastern Kentucky is at Western Kentucky.
Have a great Tuesday.