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The Morning Dish – Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 23, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments

With teams looking to squeeze in games before Christmas and the holidays, the full schedule of games on Tuesday had the feeling of a Saturday. And boy, did the day deliver.

Tuesday’s slate of 109 games involving NCAA Division I teams included 11 games decided in overtime-more than 10% of all games played. A whopping 27 games were decided by five points or less or in overtime. The Associated Press No. 1, 5 and 6 teams nearly lost, while No. 20 was blown out by a team already with six losses.

If your pleasure is single OT games, there were eight of them, from top-ranked Michigan State’s 99-93 escape from Oakland to Drexel and Penn’s 53-52 game (tied at 44 after regulation) eventually won by the Dragons. If you like two overtimes, there were two of those (Houston 94-89 over Wyoming and Marist edging Brown 84-83).

If you wanted three overtimes, you had it with Canisius and Louisiana-Monroe, where in one of the wildest games you’ll ever see the Golden Griffins came back from 13 points down with 1:02 left in regulation. Each team had a chance but failed to win in the first two overtimes with free throws in the final seconds, and then Canisius blanked ULM 12-0 in the third extra session.

As mentioned, No. 1 Michigan State almost went down in its first game without Denzel Valentine. The Spartans trailed by 13 at halftime before the two teams settled into a terrific back-and-forth at the end of regulation and in overtime. It’s possible the only thing that kept the game from going longer was a very poor charging foul on Oakland’s Kahlil Felder (37 points, nine assists) late in overtime, most noticeable for a lack of consistency as it came immediately after the exact same call had been ignored on the other end the play before.

No. 5 Virginia was behind California by 11 in the second half and needed a late rally and then overtime to nip the Golden Bears 63-62. No. 6 Xavier trailed Wake Forest by 15 at the half but thundered back to win 78-70, but No. 20 George Washington wasn’t as fortunate against DePaul, as the Colonials were routed 82-61 by a team that came in with a 5-6 record.

What a night. With all that and more packed into one evening, many will be ready to take a deep breath for a few days. But only a few, for steps knee-deep into conference play now lurk very close around the corner for all teams.

Side Dishes

  • Tuesday also included a few holiday tourneys in action. The Diamond Head Classic opened, and semifinal games on Wednesday will feature Auburn against Harvard and Oklahoma facing host Hawaii. Auburn held off New Mexico 83-78 in the opener, and Harvard surprised BYU 85-82 in OT in the second game, which also sets up a consolation game between former WAC and Mountain West rivals in the Lobos and Cougars. In the night session, the Sooners pulled away from Washington State, and the Rainbow Warriors handled Northern Iowa with surprising ease, 68-52.
  • UC Irvine won the 54th annual Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, jumping on Norfolk State early in an 80-62 win. Also, Grand Canyon is your surprise winner of the Global Sports Classic after coming back late to beat Marshall 85-81.
  • Speaking of Hawaii, the school received its punishment from the NCAA after an investigation into the program, and the Rainbow Warriors have been banned from the postseason for the 2016-17 season while also losing two scholarships for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. Former coach Gib Arnold also was given a three-year show-cause order. Of immediate note is that Hawaii is still eligible for the NCAA Tournament this year, when the team is among the top challengers to UC Irvine in the Big West.
  • Connecticut is a talented team, but aside from Amida Brimah the Huskies’ rotation also has been fairly small. Brimah now is out for 6-8 weeks after having surgery for a broken finger, according to the school. Though not a focal point offensively, Brimah is the reigning defensive player of the year in the American Athletic Conference who averages 7.8 points, 5.2 boards and 3.0 blocks per game.
  • When Bo Ryan retired and Greg Gard was named Wisconsin interim coach, it left an opening on the Badgers’ coaching staff. Gard had said he would only fill the spot if he could find the right fit, but on Tuesday it was announced that Howard Moore will join the staff. It’s hard to think of a more perfect fit than Moore, a player and graduate of Wisconsin who also was an assistant with Gard under Ryan and recently spent five years as the head coach at Illinois-Chicago.

Today’s menu:

  • Illinois and Missouri meet in the annual Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis (7 p.m., ESPN2).
  • A pair of Wisconsin state schools challenge Big Ten foes on the road as Wisconsin-Milwaukee-already a winner at Wisconsin-faces Minnesota while Wisconsin-Green Bay faces the Badgers (9 p.m., BTN).
  • The second night of West Coast Conference play sees Gonzaga hosting Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine at Portland (9 p.m., ESPNU) and rivals Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara facing off.

Have a terrific Wednesday.

Twitter: @HoopvilleAdam


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