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Young UNLV team grows in Brooklyn

by - Published November 23, 2014 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Sometimes a young team grows up in an early tournament. There is reason to believe that happened with UNLV in Brooklyn this time around. A night after the Runnin’ Rebels were humbled by Stanford, they used a strong second half to beat Temple 57-50 in the consolation game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

“It was a character win for us,” UNLV head coach Dave Rice said. “I think, certainly, with a new group the stage was pretty big last night and we got off to a tough start and we, quite frankly, panicked and tried to hit home runs.”

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Texas has come a long way from the “Chaminade Crew”

by - Published November 22, 2014 in Columns
texas

NEW YORK – Texas has come a long way from a couple of years ago. There were bad memories then, and there will be good ones from right now.

Two years ago, Texas had fallen on hard times. A consistently very good program, with a Final Four run in 2003, the Longhorns lost to Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. That was the start of a bad year, and the continuation of a downward trend for the program from one that was a consistent big winner. The year before, they barely made the NCAA Tournament. It got so bad that there was speculation that Rick Barnes’ job may be on the line.

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Simply put, Syracuse needs to improve offensively

by - Published November 22, 2014 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
syracuse

NEW YORK – Jim Boeheim’s responses to questions are almost legendary. He had one on Friday that basically said it all about his team, despite few words.

“Very little,” was what Boeheim said when asked how much offensive progress he saw from his team over the two days in New York at the 2K Classic. Asked a short time after that where he thinks the offense needs to improve, he then added, “I don’t think we have time.”

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The Morning Dish – Saturday, November 22, 2014

by - Published November 22, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-cyan

Early season tournaments continue to lead the way, and will for much of the next week. Friday featured plenty of such action leading into the weekend, setting the stage for what’s to come. In one of them, a champion was crowned.

At Madison Square Garden, Texas won the 2K Classic 71-55 over California, frustrating the Golden Bears with their defense all night long, especially the 10 shots they blocked. In the consolation game, Syracuse held off Iowa 66-63 behind a career-high 20 points and nine rebounds from freshman Chris McCullough, who also got the game-sealing steal in the final seconds. More coverage on this is coming soon, so stay tuned.

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Bryant has talent to contend and room to grow

by - Published November 21, 2014 in Columns
bryant

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The first two years that Bryant was eligible for the Northeast Conference Tournament (and ultimately, any postseason play) were good times. The Bulldogs fielded experienced teams and finished in the top four each of the past two seasons, earning a home game in the conference tournament each time. The Bears aren’t exactly a young team now, but they’re a lot less experienced, and Thursday’s 72-63 win over New Hampshire will give them some lessons for the future.

Bryant had about as good a first half as you could ask for on Thursday night, shooting 56.3 percent from the field, giving the ball away just twice and putting 50 points on the board for a 24-point lead. It looked like they would cruise, put a bunch of players in double figures and even their record. Then the second half came, and the Wildcats gradually cut into the lead before finally going up 61-60 with 6:21 left to play. That capped off a run of 17 unanswered points.

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Growing pains are here for talented Brown team

by - Published November 20, 2014 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
brown

WORCESTER, Mass. – Growing pains are likely to be common for Brown, at least in non-league play. The Bears have a fine collection of talent, especially among underclassmen. If you’re looking at potential, the Bears are up there with the best of them in the Ivy League. But Wednesday night’s 80-65 loss at Holy Cross is indicative of how Brown is not yet ready to beat a potential league champion right now, especially while short-handed.

Wednesday night was a trial by fire for Tyler Williams, a freshman point guard, along with other Brown perimeter players. With Tavon Blackmon out due to a concussion sustained Monday night, Williams was thrust right into the middle of Holy Cross pressing. That’s the same Holy Cross that forced Harvard’s Siyani Chambers – the best point guard in the Ivy League – into nine turnovers on Sunday. It was sure to be a tall order.

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Chris Collins has Northwestern on the verge

by - Published November 18, 2014 in Columns
northwestern

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – At Northwestern, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future. In some respects, the Wildcats will be better this season than last, although they are young. Beyond this year, there’s a lot of reason to think the program will get its first taste of NCAA Tournament action sooner rather than later.

The Wildcats are off to a 2-0 start, including an impressive 69-56 win at Brown on Monday night. There, they showed both the potential and the room for growth this team has. They have as high a ceiling as they ever have, but also a long way to go to reach it. It’s a sign of how quickly Chris Collins and his staff have made an impact in their second season in Evanston.

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Season opener a big boost for Holy Cross as they keep growing

by - Published November 17, 2014 in Columns
holycross

BOSTON – The Holy Cross players have believed in what Milan Brown and his staff are trying to do. The buy-in has been there and the team has grown in part by believing in the process and the game plan every time out. The gains have been incremental, with some good wins along the way, but there’s nothing like a big win to really drive it home and make them believe in it that much more.

The Crusaders got that with a 58-57 win over Harvard on Sunday, and in a game that showed how much they have grown up.

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Northeastern’s maturity wins out in their opener

by - Published November 17, 2014 in Columns
northeastern

BOSTON – You could see it coming for a lot of the second half. There were interruptions, as the upstarts always had an answer and at times the veteran team shot themselves in the foot. Still, the momentum was unmistakably with the veterans, and eventually they broke through and later took control.

Yes, it was a rivalry game, but in time the mature Northeastern team played like a veteran team and rode the performance of those steady veterans to a season-opening 71-65 victory over Boston University.

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The Morning Dish – Monday November 17, 2014

by - Published November 17, 2014 in The Morning Dish
hoopguy-orange

There will be plenty of chatter about Kentucky this season; in fact, there already has been. That will always be the case, as Kentucky will be relevant whether they win a national championship or have a losing record. Ever since several players decided to pass on early entry to the NBA Draft last spring, the hyperbole surrounding this team has been non-stop given the talent they have. And on Sunday, that was demonstrated even more.

Buffalo led Kentucky at halftime 38-33. The Bulls didn’t succumb to an early run, either, as Kentucky scored the first nine points of the second half only to see Buffalo rally to regain the lead. The Wildcats eventually won going away, but that’s not the big headline to take out of this game.

A lot of people are talking about how John Calipari didn’t go with a platoon in the second half. The talk is that he’s already abandoned it. The reality, of course, is a bit more complicated.

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Your Phil of Hoops

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