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The Morning Dish – Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 1, 2016 The Morning Dish No Comments

Good morning. Welcome to December.

When you get past a couple splashy games, road teams were the story of the night in college basketball on Wednesday. Now there’s something you don’t say often in this sport at the end of November.

A total of 24 teams won on the road in last night’s 90-game schedule in college hoops, and while that win percentage of less than 27% is right around the norm for road teams out of conference as a whole, it was a night with a number of nationally significant road wins.

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge had its share of glossy games again (Indiana’s 76-67 win over North Carolina will be most talked about for the Hoosiers knocking off another blueblood, Louisville held off Purdue 71-64 in a classic contrast of styles, and Virginia received a major challenge from Ohio State before prevailing at home-barely), but bragging rights in the event came down to who could win on the road. Pittsburgh accomplished the feat at Maryland Tuesday night, and last night it was gritty Virginia Tech rallying to win 73-70 at Michigan. The two road conquests gave the ACC a commanding nine wins in the Challenge’s 14 games this year.

Wins against good teams on the road out of conference are also what many have been calling for Saint Mary’s to pick up more of, and the Gaels showed their mettle with a 66-51 win at Stanford. No. 12-ranked SMC trailed by four at halftime but took command in the second half, with bespectacled, bearded, headband-sporting three-point bomber Calvin Hermanson scoring 25 points. More and more early on, this is looking like a different Saint Mary’s team from the past, one possibly ready to take a step up to a top 5-6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Temple continues to surge, with a 78-72 win at Saint Joseph’s in a good Big 5 game. In just a few short weeks, the Owls have gone from looking like in a serious rebuild to looking like a contender at the top of the AAC again. Middle Tennessee State punched Mississippi in the mouth, building a 29-point halftime lead and cruising to an eye-opening 77-62 win, a sign that MTSU may be even better than last year’s team that topped Michigan State in the NCAAs. And Colorado State picked up a big win for area bragging rights and for the Mountain West, winning at Colorado-and handily-72-58. Don’t count out Larry Eustachy putting together a contender in the MWC again this year.

Also: honorable mention to George Mason, a 54-50 winner at Northern Iowa, and to South Alabama, which hammered Southern Mississippi 78-55 to move to 6-1. And this doesn’t even mention a pair of Atlantic 10 teams getting shocked at home (Maryland-Baltimore County defeated Duquesne 81-72, while Sacred Heart won at Fordham 71-70).

Side Dishes:

  • It probably won’t, but Virginia’s 63-61 win over Ohio State “should” go down as the signature game of this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Give a lot of credit to the Buckeyes, who were very impressive on the road and led almost the whole way, fighting off UVA’s trademark stifling defense and a charged-up crowd that almost willed the Cavaliers back into this themselves. London Perrantes was terrific with 19 points, and OSU has little to be ashamed of-as long as the Buckeyes build on this.
  • TCU is now 7-0 after dismissing Washington 86-71. The Huskies shot an unsightly 7 of 18 from the free throw line.
  • Providence made relatively easy work of New Hampshire-one of the teams that has beaten Temple-taking a 16-point halftime lead and cruising to a 76-62 win, but the big story was Rodney Bullock, who was awesome in scoring a career-high 36 points, scoring inside, outside, even bouncing shots off the backboard intentionally to go grab the rebound and putback.
  • Bucknell picked up another solid win, defeating Richmond 73-68. Also, a call to Boise State, which looked rough at the Charleston Classic last week but then nearly beat Oregon and last night knocked off SMU 71-62.
  • St. Bonaventure defeated Siena 81-74 to regain the Franciscan Cup for the first time in four years. The Saints are now off to a 2-5 start, including 0-5 in five chances on the road.
  • The Pac-12 was on the wrong end of a couple of those instances of road teams winning last night, and several winning teams also received some bad news. USC remained undefeated with a 76-55 win at San Diego at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, a.k.a. Slim Gym, but the Trojans lost Bennie Boatwright to a knee injury after a hard fall. Southern Cal is hoping that it is just an MCL sprain and not a tear, but will find out more with an MRI Thursday. Also, Arizona defeated Texas Southern 85-63, but the Wildcats lost their go-go-go point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright to a sprained ankle, and the fear is he could be out for a “significant” amount of time.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • Unbeaten South Carolina best be at attention when it hosts a solid Vermont team.
  • The best game of the night is a notable contrast of styles as bruising Cincinnati takes on high-octane Iowa State (9 p.m. Eastern, ESPN). Hilton Coliseum no doubt will be a big advantage for ISU, but the Bearcats are tough enough to win there.
  • The MAAC is again the first conference to go full-on into conference play with several games, including Monmouth at Quinnipiac and Fairfield at Rider.
  • Defending CIT champion Columbia faces a Seton Hall team that lost two of three in the AdvoCare Invitational last weekend (7 p.m., FS1).
  • Stephen F. Austin is already in a transition year and is playing shorthanded with Ty Charles out with a broken finger, but the Lumberjacks have an opportunity to gain some momentum when they play at Arkansas.
  • Oregon State is at Mississippi State (9 p.m., ESPNU) in a game between two teams many might call disappointments but who also have been hit by injuries to their best players.

Have a great Thursday.

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