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The Morning Dish – Friday, December 2, 2016

December 2, 2016 The Morning Dish No Comments

Cincinnati won the battle against Iowa State Thursday night, and then the Bearcats went ahead and won the war too.

In a game that displayed just how captivating college basketball can be when teams with vastly different styles of play collide, the Bearcats earned a decisive decision in the category of controlling tempo, and eventually toughed out a 55-54 road win at ISU’s Hilton Coliseum, one of the toughest places to play in the country. While the former became obvious fairly quickly in the early going, the latter was hardly a given at any point. Cincy trailed by four late in regulation and by three with less than two minutes left in overtime, but got the stops it needed and received two free throws from Jacob Evans with 20 seconds left.

On a night when the TV schedule for hoops was limited, this game had center stage, and these two teams were worthy. Cincinnati was ferocious on the glass (46-34 advantage) and outstanding defensively against the Cyclones’ potent offense. It was a typical performance from a program that, perhaps more than anyone not named Virginia, has built an identity on defense and toughness.

At the same time, Iowa State-though unable to get its offense cranking-also did an excellent job defensively, frustrating Troy Caupain into 2-for-11 shooting and contesting seemingly every shot and pass, and the Cyclones seemed to have this in control (albeit tenuously) any number of times. And Hilton Coliseum also again was a winning stage for the cameras, again showing it is one of the best atmospheres in person and on TV anywhere in the sport.

Some, maybe even many, will label this game as ‘ugly’ or ‘unwatchable’ because it didn’t have three-pointers raining or players driving 100 miles per hour and then throwing themselves at the rim. We’d beg to differ a thousand times over.

Indeed, the shooting percentages were poor (neither shot above 37%), especially from three-point range, where the two combined to make eight of 42 attempts. And both teams’ low offensive outputs were at least partially self-induced-ISU by its penchant for standing around, Cincinnati for its patience and lack of attack in a sport where a 30-second shot clock now mandates individuals taking things into their own hands and allows little time for working for a good shot.

The back-and-forth in this game on the surface was terrific (16 lead changes, which is particularly impressive in a game with so few points), and so was the constant tug of war between them to impose their will. The differences in how these teams like to play highlighted one of the things that makes college basketball so intriguing on a national basis, and that it wasn’t perfect does not detract from how fascinating this was.

Two different styles of play clashing is part of what sets the sport apart from the professional or international ranks; the NBA can’t remotely duplicate games like this one. Some of the most memorable-and highly rated on TV-games of the past 30+ years came when opposites came together and played games down to the wire (N.C. State/Houston in 1983, Princeton vs. Georgetown in 1989 and Arkansas in 1990).

The final score of this game couldn’t have been much more right, perfectly displaying how valuable every point and every possession was. Cincinnati won this game, Iowa State didn’t lose so much as it came up one point short. And fans who enjoy variety in this sport also won, too.

Side Dishes:

  • Seton Hall brushed away Columbia 95-71, with Angel Delgado dominating the paint (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Myles Powell drilling seven three-pointers for a career-high 21 points. The Lions hung in for a while, but the Pirates handled this exactly the way they should have, keeping a working margin all night and blowing it open late as frustration clearly set in for Columbia.
  • Despite the thin schedule, it was a night for career highs, and South Carolina’s P.J. Dozier set a new best with 21 in the Gamecocks’ 68-50 win over Vermont.
  • The opening night in the Metro Atlantic saw Monmouth roll at Quinnipiac 91-72 while Fairfield defeated Rider 76-67 on the road. Je’lon Hornbeak and sweet-shooting Collin Stewart both hit five three-pointers each for Monmouth, while Tyler Nelson was the star for the Stags in the latter game with a career-high 38 points. Keep an eye on Fairfield in the MAAC.
  • Just 10 days ago, Mississippi State was announcing that leading scorer Quinndary Weatherspoon was out for the rest of the season with a wrist injury. And yet, there he was last night, scoring an efficient 21 points by hitting 6 of 7 from the field and 4 of 5 from the line, as the Bulldogs handled struggling Oregon State 74-57. Seems like perhaps schools shouldn’t share such a dire prognosis until it’s a sure thing that it’s correct, but obviously Weatherspoon’s return is huge for MSU.
  • Also in the ACC, Florida rolled at North Florida 91-60 while Arkansas topped Stephen F. Austin 78-62. The Gators shot 58.5%-as if they were playing at home, per UNF coach Matthew Driscoll.
  • Michigan State has had a start to the season that can be labeled as challenging in more than just its schedule, and it got worse on Thursday as it was revealed that star freshman Miles Bridges will be out “at least a couple of weeks.” Obviously, as the Mississippi State situation shows, it’s become harder and harder to take these estimations seriously in recent years, but if he is out that long it comes at probably the best time for the Spartans, in a relatively soft spot in the schedule and before Big Ten play starts. What it might do is delay the gelling process for this team. Also from the Detroit Free Press story, the returns of big men Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling are also nowhere near returning for MSU and may not play at all this year.

Today’s Menu:

  • It’s a very thin slate, but at least includes some afternoon hoops if you’re stuck at the computer. The Citadel is hosting the Holy City Hoops Classic, one of those exempted tournaments that is not really a tournament and thus shouldn’t really be exempted, either, but the NCAA has yet to figure that out. Anyway, the event starts with a doubleheader of Colgate at The Citadel at 2 p.m. Eastern, with Campbell facing South Carolina Upstate after.
  • Alabama goes to Texas (9:30 p.m., ESPNU) in a good game that probably looked even more appealing before the season, but still is important for both teams to try to gain some momentum. The Longhorns in particular need to turn it around.
  • Duquesne and Pittsburgh renew their City Game rivalry. The Panthers have won 15 straight over the Dukes, many of them recently by convincing scores, and Pitt will be a heavy favorite again.
  • The first round of MAAC games continues with three more games. The best game has Iona, fresh off its Great Alaska Shootout title, on the road at the St. Peter’s Peacocks.
  • Delaware State is at Delaware in another state rivalry, and the visiting Hornets carry some serious momentum after knocking off St. John’s this week.
  • Cal State Bakersfield is at SMU, a better game than many might think, and even moreso if the Mustangs struggle like they have been of late.
  • The other national TV game is St. John’s at Tulane (8 p.m., ESPNews).
  • Finally, Lamar plays at San Francisco in a game featuring two teams probably off to better starts than expected (the Cardinals are 4-2, while the Dons are 5-1).

Enjoy your Friday and have a great weekend.

Twitter: @HoopvilleAdam
Email: hoopvilleadam@yahoo.com

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