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The Morning Dish – Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 22, 2016 The Morning Dish No Comments

As heated as it has become, with two power broker coaches and both teams annually in the top 10, if you didn’t know the history it would be hard to imagine a team could have dominated the Kentucky/Louisville series recently, but entering their matchup this year the Wildcats were doing exactly that.

Kentucky entered Wednesday’s meeting having won eight of nine over the Cardinals, including four straight. A few more UK wins and it might be argued that there is no rivalry anymore, not until Louisville starts taking victory honors a little more frequently.

Suffice to say there are no such worries of this series diminishing any time soon. Not as long as John Calipari and Rick Pitino are on the sidelines and as long as the two play hotly contested games like they did last night, when Louisville earned a 73-70 victory at home.

The Cardinals survived in a game that included 10 ties and nine lead changes and neither team ever getting too far ahead of the other. A brief 8-0 run late in the game gave Louisville control, and the hosts held on down the stretch, even as the Wildcats had a three-point attempt to tie in the final seconds.

Quentin Snider was the star for U of L, with a game-high 22 points, six rebounds, five assists and seemingly complete command in the game’s final minutes. He was most responsible for the Cardinals being in a position to have the upper hand down the stretch and was the best player in a game filled with stars.

With the win, Pitino picked up his 756th career win, passing the legendary Hank Iba for 14th on the Division I all-time wins list. He also came closer to evening his all-time record in games against Calipari’s teams, as the Kentucky head man now holds a slight 11-10 lead in matchups when both were college head coaches. As long as these two coaches are here, this rivalry isn’t going anywhere, and it would be no surprise if these teams again meet at some point in the NCAA Tournament.

Side Dishes:

  • Duke had some trouble against an unheralded opponent for the second straight game, rallying from a halftime deficit to defeat Elon 72-61. The game was mostly talked afterwards, though, because Blue Devils star Grayson Allen was once again involved in a kicking incident, this time drawing a technical foul. Allen also was seen wildly emotional on the bench after the play, and afterward a good deal of the talk online was calling for Duke to suspend its All-American guard. Allen has at times taken more criticism than he deserves simply because of the name on the front of his jersey, but indeed it’s very hard to defend his actions or the repeated nature of them.
  • Virginia squeezed by California 56-52 on the road in a good old-fashioned slow-paced rumble where every possession was valuable. Kyle Guy was a hero for UVA with 17 points off the bench.
  • Clemson also got a big road win, edging in-state rival South Carolina 62-60. Neither team led by more than four points in the entire contest, but the Tigers got a big boost from recently eligible transfer Elijah Thomas, who posted 12 points and seven rebounds.
  • Baylor and Gonzaga both stayed undefeated, with the Bears handling Texas Southern 89-63 and Gonzaga hammering South Dakota 102-65.
  • Butler won again, fighting off stubborn Vermont for an 81-69 win. Andrew Chrabascz continues to be one of the most valuable players in the country, and he scored 28 in this one for the Bulldogs.
  • Yesterday was the 125th anniversary of the invention of the sport of basketball, an occasion unquestionably worth commemorating. The Birth of Basketball Classic doubleheader was held, with Fairfield outlasting Boston College 89-83 and Auburn edging Oklahoma 74-70. Perhaps not the results many expected beforehand, but these were no fluke-Fairfield led almost the whole way, while Auburn’s final margin was deceiving-the Tigers led by 17 in the second half. OU was certainly hampered severely by an injury to veteran guard Jordan Woodard, who missed the game after suffered a leg injury in practice Tuesday and did not play against the Tigers.
  • Among the most head-scratching scores of the entire season: St. John’s destroying Syracuse 93-60 at the Carrier Dome. These are the same Johnnies who surrendered a 35-5 run at the end of the first half in being routed by Penn State on Sunday. The same Johnnies who already have losses to LIU and Delaware State. Syracuse shot 32.8% in the loss.
  • Another almost inexplicable result: UAB was blasted by Texas 96-60. A good win for the Longhorns, but the Blazers are trending towards being a major disappointment.
  • The Sun Bowl football game has been getting some undeserved negative attention in recent days, with the bandwagon of cynics making the bowl game a target of scorn, because heaven forbid that some point out that a player ditching his team before the end of the season may not be what team sports is about and is far more disappointing than enlightened. Anyway, the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational basketball tourney also continues, though, in its 55th year which makes it the oldest holiday tournament format event in the country. The semifinals on Wednesday saw Akron outlast UC Irvine 88-80, while the second game provided a significant upset as host Texas-El Paso was dumped by Maryland-Eastern Shore 71-66, marking just the fifth time in 35 years that the Miners have failed to reach the championship game of their home event.
  • Finally, Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene did it again, exploding for 44 points in the Chippewas’ 106-103 win at Montana State. Keene outdueled the Bobcats’ terrific Tyler Hall (29 points) in an entertaining matchup.

Today’s Menu:

  • If you’re stuck at the office, you can watch games pretty much all day starting at 11 a.m. Eastern when Navy plays Hartford and Dartmouth travels to Bryant.
  • The Diamond Head Classic begins in Hawaii with quarterfinal games. The most competitive likely will be Tulsa against Stephen F. Austin (4:30 p.m., ESPNU) and Illinois State at the host school Hawaii (1:30 a.m., ESPN2), while San Francisco also gets a shot at Utah (11 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Georgetown faces a major trap game when it hosts UNC Greensboro (6:30 p.m., FS1). The Spartans are a solid team with a good frontcourt and are the type of squad the Hoyas have lost to at home the last two years.
  • Big game for East Tennessee State, which gets a rare opportunity to host SEC state school Tennessee. The Buccaneers are certainly good enough to take advantage.
  • George Washington goes to Miami (Fla.), a chance for the Colonials to grab another nice road win.
  • High-scoring Marshall travels to face suddenly high-scoring Cincinnati, which scored 96 and 119 in its last two games (7 p.m., CBSSN). Also on TV at the same time, Yale at Temple is a solid matchup in the East (7 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Big Four games in western New York are always good ones, and Canisius won’t be a pushover when it travels to St. Bonaventure for the 165th meeting between these rivals.
  • LSU goes to Wake Forest with a chance to avenge a home loss to the Demon Deacons last year (9 p.m., ESPNU).
  • A good Cal State Bakersfield team hits the road to face BYU, and while the Cougars are always tough at the Marriott Center, the Roadrunners are a team that won’t fear the surroundings (9 p.m., BYU Network).
  • The Sun Bowl Invitational concludes with the championship and consolation games, with Akron facing Maryland-Eastern Shore for the title.
  • Finally, something called the Las Vegas Classic (another of the potpourri of these exempted “tournaments” with predetermined semifinals has DePaul against Wyoming (8:30 p.m., FS1) and Missouri State taking on USC (11 p.m., FS1).

Have a super Thursday.

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