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The Morning Dish – Sunday, December 3, 2017

December 3, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

Saturday was a day characterized in the sports world as being about college football, but if a big college basketball fan fell for that, they missed out on a great day of hoops.

While a number of mostly underwhelming college football conference title games were played, college basketball had far superior depth and quality in its biggest games. It was a huge day for rivalry games, and if the first Saturday in December may have been a weird day for them, it didn’t diminish from a number of rabid gatherings.

The game of the day-frankly, the game of the month and one of the games of the year, if it were our call-was in Cincinnati, where Xavier got off to a smokin’ hot start and took down rival Cincinnati 89-76, the Musketeers’ eighth win over UC in the last 11 Crosstown Shootouts.

Trevon Bluiett followed up his 40-point effort against the Bearcats last year with 28 points in this one, but as happens every so often with these two, the on-court play was only part of the story. The game included three technical fouls, and Cincy coach Mick Cronin had some words with Xavier senior/frequent villain J.P. Macura during the postgame handshakes. Ah, rivals. You have to love the intensity in this series, one of the crown jewels of this sport.

That was hardly the only biggie of the day. Rhode Island had lost seven straight to in-state rival Providence but had a chance at home this year, and the Rams took advantage with a 75-68 victory to finally to get Dan Hurley his first win over the Friars in six tries. Freshman Daron (Fatts) Russell-superb nickname-scored 20 off the bench, one of five to score in double figures for URI in another statement win.

The Rams have now beaten both Seton Hall and Providence of the Big East, and both without star guard E.C. Matthews. These are signs of a maturing program, one that is equipped to be a national factor and looks like it is taking the mantel as the Atlantic 10’s signature program right now.

VCU and Old Dominion isn’t a rivalry as well-known as some or as easily identifiable by city or state as others, but those who have followed it know few produce better atmospheres. The two go back to their days together in the Sun Belt Conference in the 1980s, but really heated up in their later years in the Colonial Athletic Association.

VCU’s Siegel Center was hopping again for this one, and even moreso after the Rams fought back from an 11-point deficit in the second half to win 82-75 in a classic contrast of styles. The games are great and these two teams are regularly good. This is a series that deserves to be on national television every year.

Those weren’t all the rivalry matchups, either. BYU picked up a quality road win, taking down Utah State 75-66. Colorado State came into its clash with Colorado with four losses while the Buffaloes had none, but the Rams prevailed 72-63 for their second straight victory over CU. And in the Philadelphia Big 5, an anticipated matchup with Villanova at St. Joseph’s turned into a rout, the Wildcats blowing out the Hawks in clinically dominant fashion, 94-53.

Side Dishes:

  • Saturday also had a buffet of overtime games-an incredible 14 in all. The wildest was UNC Greensboro nipping Liberty 76-75 in triple-OT, while double-overtime games included Oral Roberts winning at Arkansas-Little Rock 74-66, Memphis coming back to upend Mercer 83-81, Wyoming outlasting Drake 96-89, Elon over St. Peter’s 71-65 and Miami (Ohio) holding off Western Illinois 76-73. Perhaps none was bigger than Arizona outrunning UNLV 91-88 in “only” one extra session, with the Wildcats coming back from a double-digit second half hole to win.
  • The day also had all kinds of surprises. Perhaps SMU defeating USC wasn’t a stunner, but a 72-56 score for a 16-point margin of victory certainly was. The Trojans looked surprisingly ordinary in this one. UC Davis sent Washington State to its first loss by a convincing 81-67 score on the road. And in the Big Ten, Ohio State pummeled Wisconsin in Madison 83-58-a very young Badgers team looks like it’s in some trouble right now-and Penn State won at Iowa 77-73 for a key road win to start the league slate. There also was Houston blowing out old SWC rival Arkansas 91-65, with Devin Davis scoring 28.
  • A pair of in-season tourneys wrapped up. Towson won its second tournament title of the season, getting the game-winner from Mike Morsell with two seconds left to win 56-55 over Manhattan to win the Belfast Classic. Also, Army defeated Marist 82-75 to win the Bulldog Bash hosted by The Citadel.
  • A truly scary scene took place in Raleigh, where North Carolina State hosted South Carolina State. S.C. State senior guard Ty Solomon collapsed on the sideline and went into cardiac arrest. He was revived by Bulldogs athletic trainer Tyler Long, and as of last night was in the hospital awake and responsive and remaining there for tests. Incredible work by Long and the first responders at a truly scary scene, special people are those who dedicate their lives to caring for others.’ The game did resume after a lengthy delay and the Wolfpack won 103-71.

Today’s Menu:

  • The biggie of the day is Seton Hall on the road at Louisville (4 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2). It’s a golden opportunity for the Pirates to obtain a primo road win. All kinds of good individual matchups to watch here, none better than the Hall’s Angel Delgado against Deng Adel and the rest of Louisville’s frontline.
  • Tulane was undefeated until a loss at Georgia State last week. Now the Green Wave have the tall task of going to North Carolina (2 p.m., ESPN2).
  • Central Florida is running out of chances to make some noise in its non-conference. Sounds like a football problem. Unlike in football, the Knights get a chance at teams like Alabama in basketball
  • Kansas State is at Vanderbilt in a game that has all the scents of being two teams sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble again in March.
  • Temple goes to George Washington in a matchup of former Atlantic 10 foes.
  • Small-but-feisty UNC Asheville tries again for a major win this year when it goes to Clemson. The Bulldogs just missed at Vanderbilt and were defeated soundly by Rhode Island, though they did top Monmouth.
  • Way-too-early Big Ten play continues highlighted by Northwestern at Purdue (4 p.m., Big Ten Network), plus Maryland on the road against Brad Underwood’s Illinois team (8 p.m., BTN). The Terps try to avoid a 0-2 start in league.
  • The enigma that is Georgia Tech is home again and has a chance for redemption for its loss to Grambling State when it hosts a good Tennessee squad (6 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Former Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford faces his former school as Seattle welcomes EWU for what is sure to be an emotional one.
  • The Mountain West/MVC Challenge wraps up with Bradley at San Diego State. Home teams have won every game in this event, and the Aztecs will be expected to do so here to lock up the draw between the two leagues, though the Braves are stingy enough to push SDSU.

Have a relaxing Sunday.

 

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