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The Morning Dish – Friday, January 5, 2017

January 5, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

Wichita State and Cincinnati were poised to be the hottest things going in the American Athletic Conference this year, and both have generally delivered early in the season, if going through minor hiccups.

Who else is going to join them at the top? Is it possible it could be…Tulane?

The Shockers and Bearcats demonstrated their might in the AAC Thursday night, in completely different ways. For Wichita State it was with dominance in an 81-63 domination of Houston. For Cincinnati, it was in the form of a gritty comeback ending in a 55-53 victory at Temple. And Tulane made sure that SMU will have a harder time hanging with those top two by upending the Mustangs 73-70 at home in a nice surprise for an improving Green Wave program.

The Shockers delivered one of those deadly offensive performances at Koch Arena that they regularly did in the Missouri Valley in recent years, shooting 59.4% in the first half in building a 21-point halftime lead and cruising from there.

Landry Shamet (18 points), Connor Frankamp (15) and Shaq Morris (14) combined to make 17 of 23 shots as WSU again displayed its underrated trait of being one the better shooting teams in the country (don’t be misled by the final 44.8% shooting, a mark influenced by the team missing its last 13 shots, well after the outcome had been decided). Houston played without leading rebounder and interior hoss Breaon Brady, who was out with an ankle injury, and it definitely hurt the Cougars’ chances of staying closer to the Shockers, who are tough anywhere but devastating at home.

Cincinnati seemed to be playing from behind all night, falling behind Temple midway through the first half and chasing from then on. The Bearcats finally caught up with a 10-0 run late to take the lead (aided by a technical foul called on TU coach Fran Dunphy after he knocked his water bottle onto the floor and inadvertently on the court), but the Owls tied it back up, setting the stage for Jacob Evans to hit a dagger with less than a second left.

This was what has become a prototypical AAC game: low-scoring, dominated by defense and ugly offense (Temple shot just 32.1%; Cincy hit 39.2% but just 3 of 14 from three-point land). Cincy is as good as any team in winning these, though, while Temple lost a golden opportunity to get its season back on track after some early wins over Auburn and Clemson have been followed by struggles.

Tulane appeared to be fodder for SMU to continue its chase of the AAC’s presumed top two teams, and indeed the Mustangs led by seven at halftime and by 12 in the second half. The Green Wave have one of the most awesome logos in the country, though-the unceasingly retro-cool Angry Wave-and in that spirit fought back, taking the lead for good with 2:16 left and holding on for another big win for a team that already has won at Temple.

Tulane has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1995, when Perry Clark took the school to its third trip in four years. The Green Wave has often been a doormat since, but it assuredly is not anymore, and this was an attention-getting victory that makes it definitive: Tulane is back. Mike Dunleavy has turned out to be a pretty smart hire after all, and it makes the sport a whole lot more fun to save the Green Wave playing well again.

Side Dishes:

  • Hoopville presents its latest Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis podcast, with Phil Kasiecki joining Ted to discuss multiple topics here.
  • It was a wild night in the Pac-12 dominated by overtime. First, Colorado stunned Arizona State 90-81 in overtime, capitalizing on/forcing a bad shooting night by the Sun Devils (36.0% from the field) and getting generous contributions off the bench-38 points, including 19 from Namon Wright. Great win for the Buffaloes and Tad Boyle, who’ve had their struggles this year and had lost six of eight coming in.
  • Then, Stanford came back from 11 down late in regulation and upended UCLA 107-99 in double-overtime in a laid-best west coaster that had even less defense than the final score indicates (sorry, but for much of the game it was true). Dorian Pickens scored a career-best 26 in just his second game back after an early-season injury. And we’re just not sure we can trust the young Bruins yet after watching this one.
  • Also, Arizona got a battle on the road but finally took care of Utah 94-82. DeAndre Ayton rolled up another 24 points and 14 boards and the Wildcats hit 30 of 36 from the line.
  • Gonzaga (89-59 over Pepperdine) and Saint Mary’s (74-56 over Pacific) rolled in the West Coast Conference, while San Diego also used overtime after surrendering a sizeable lead late in regulation, finally topping Portland 81-74. Chalk up another career high this night, this one for USD’s Isaiah Wright (30 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer in OT). The Toreros are now 12-3, and their wins at Colorado and New Mexico State are starting to look better and better.
  • Missouri State is tied with Drake for first in the MVC early on, with the Bears now 3-0 after a 62-55 grinder over now-struggling Northern Iowa. Alize Johnson continues to hit his stride, and he had 24 points and 20 rebounds in this one. The Bears are starting to look like the conference favorites they were expected to be before the season.
  • For whatever reason, Middle Tennessee State always seems to get a battle from Florida International, and the Blue Raiders did again as they needed overtime to complete a 71-66 win. Giddy Potts saved the day with 25, but another good development is MTSU got 26 points from its bench, including 14 from David Simmons plus 12 points and seven boards from Brandon Walters.
  • Ohio State is now 3-0 in the Big Ten after dumping disappointing Iowa 92-81 on the road. Keita Bates-Diop continued a terrific season with 27 points and 13 rebounds. The Hawkeyes meanwhile…ugh.
  • East Tennessee State continues to play well. The Buccaneers are off to a 2-0 start in the Southern Conference and have won nine of 10 overall (the only loss when they let one get away at Xavier) after another convincing win, ripping Samford 90-72 on the road. That’s two conference wins on the road now by a total of 37 points. The Bucs shot 60.8% and led by double digits the entire second half.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette has quietly built up a sparkling 13-3 record, its latest win a 78-45 destruction of Appalachian State to get to 3-0 in the Sun Belt.
  • Andrew Toole just keeps finding ways to reload at Robert Morris, no matter how many players transfer out. The Colonials are now 3-0 in the Northeast Conference after squeezing past St. Francis (N.Y.) 80-79 in overtime. That came after the Terriers’ Glenn Sanabria hit two incredible three-pointers in the final :00.7 of regulation to tie it, and then put his team ahead with :15 left in overtime before Matty McConnell raced down and converted a three-point play for the winning points.
  • Austin Peay for one of the most surprising teams of the first half of the season? The Governors aren’t a bad candidate, and they’re now 3-0 in the Ohio Valley after a 75-69 win over Tennessee-Martin in a fun defensive battle that featured Matt Figger and his Frank Martin-inspired denial D while UTM employs its tricky matchup zone.
  • Also in the OVC, Murray State is now 11-3 after an 89-73 win over SE Missouri State. Jonathan Stark lit it up for 36 points and also made 14 of 14 from the line. Stark extended his consecutive free throws made streak to 39, breaking the old mark of 33 set by Greg Coble in the Popeye Jones days back in 1989-90.
  • News from Minnesota late in the night, and it’s not good: starting center Reggie Lynch has been suspended from the team and pending appeal faces suspension from the school until 2020 after being found to have violated the school’s sexual misconduct policy by the school’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, per the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. Lynch does have the opportunity to appeal, so it’s possible this may not take effect just yet. This comes from an incident back in 2016, but it is not the one widely reported back then, one he was arrested for but wasn’t charged and was cleared after an investigation by the school. Lynch served a suspension at the time but returned, but it turns out there was a second incident which involved no police investigation, but which happened near that same time in the spring of 2016. This will commence the debate about whether Lynch ever should’ve been playing for the Golden Gophers at all, whether any charges should’ve resulted in suspension, or if presumed innocence should’ve allowed him to play.

Tonight’s Menu: One of the busier Fridays of the season

  • Start it off with some Mid-American Conference play with Akron at Toledo (6:30 p.m. Eastern, CBSSN).
  • A couple ‘why are these on national television?’ games in the Big Ten. Wisconsin is at Rutgers (7 p.m., ESPN2), with the Badgers now having to use walk-ons and former walk-ons for regular minutes now while the Scarlet Knights are smarting from being drilled by Purdue. Later, Northwestern is at Penn State (8 p.m., FS1).
  • The CAA is busy on a Friday night, the best games of which include College of Charleston at feisty Drexel plus Elon at always-dangerous Northeastern. Also, hot-shooting William & Mary goes to Delaware.
  • The MAAC also has a full schedule, including the great coaching matchup of John Dunne against Tim Cluess as St. Peter’s faces Iona on national television (7 p.m., ESPNU).
  • The Patriot League joins the CAA as Eastern leagues with a rare Friday slate. Among the five 7 p.m. tips are co-leader Boston University at Loyola (Md.), plus the other 2-0 team Colgate hosting Lafayette.
  • Princeton is at Pennsylvania in a key early Ivy League contest.
  • A pair of Horizon League games, including arguably the two top teams squaring off as Northern Kentucky is at Oakland (9 p.m., ESPN2). Also, Wright State is at Detroit Mercy (9 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Maybe the best game of the night is the last one as the Civil War rivalry resumes with Oregon at Oregon State (10 p.m., FS1). The most-played rivalry in college hoops, this is the 349th meeting (these two used to play 3-4 times a year in the old Far West Classic days).

Have a terrific 12th day of Christmas and a great weekend.


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