Saturday, December 01, 2012

Cashmere Wright Lifts Cincinnati Over Alabama

#17 Cincinnati 58, Alabama 56
This was a tight, hard-fought game all the way through the second half. And in the end the game was won on a tremendous fade-away jumper by Cashmere Wright at the buzzer. This was probably the cleanest game that Cincinnati has played all year. They got their turnovers down (11) and improved on their putrid free throw shooting (71% here). Their interior defense remains really, really good (8 blocks today), so their offense doesn't need to be all that great for them to challenge Louisville and Syracuse atop the Big East.

This is a tough missed opportunity for Alabama, but they should be happy with how they've played to start the season. This is a quality loss, and they have wins over Oregon State, Villanova and South Dakota State. They're certainly playing like an NCAA Tournament team, if they can avoid bad losses. They will play Dayton on Wednesday, and then on the road at VCU next Saturday.

Cincinnati moves to 7-0 with this win, with a couple of easy games up next. Their next test will be on the road at Marshall on December 15th. After that they'll get their re-match of that brawl they had last year against Xavier (they might play a basketball game, too).

Xavier 63, Purdue 57
Purdue hit 0 of the 17 three-pointers that they attempted in this game. DJ Byrd, who had hit 6-for-11 in Purdue's last game, chipped in with an 0-for-9 here. As a team, Purdue's outside shooting hasn't been good this year, but 0-for-17 is just absurd. And it led to a defeat against a very mediocre Xavier team in a game where they actually dominated the boards (15 offensive rebounds vs 3 for Xavier).

Purdue had this stinker right after a nice road win at Clemson. They have been up and down all season, which I suppose is a sign of a very young team, which Purdue is. You have to wonder whether they will have the consistency to go 9-9 or 10-8 in the Big Ten, the minimum that they will probably need to earn an at-large bid. Matt Painter will try to get his team's offensive flow back against a couple of cream puffs before they take on Notre Dame on December 15th.

The star of this game for Xavier was their breakout freshman, Semaj Christon. Christon had 25 points (on 8-for-12 shooting) with 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. For the season he's up to 14.2 points and 6.6 assists per game. He's still a little turnover prone and needs to work on an outside shot, but for a freshman he's been excellent. When he gets those two flaws fixed, he'll be one of the best players in the Atlantic Ten.

Now 6-1, Xavier has a couple of pretty good wins (Purdue and Butler) to counter that bad loss to Pacific. The top of the Atlantic Ten is awfully good this year, so I still don't think they are likely to finish higher than sixth or seventh in the conference standings, but they're definitely getting better. Their next game will be on Thursday, against Vanderbilt.

Miami (Fl) 75, UMass 62
I don't think Reggie Johnson gets as many fat jokes as he used to. He could still use to lose some more weight, but he's definitely in better shape this season and is off to the best start of his college career. He led Miami with 19 points and 13 rebounds here, pushing his season average on the glass to 10.3 per game. Johnson is really the only good rebounder on the team (though Kenny Kadji has his moments), and his hard work is paying off in a much improved Miami offense, particularly with the return of Durand Scott.

After nice wins over Harvard and Providence to start the season, UMass has now lost to NC State, Tennessee and Miami in short order. None of the losses are "bad" losses, but UMass isn't playing like the NCAA Tournament team I thought they'd be preseason. They will try to bounce back on Tuesday at Northeastern, and have an intriguing home game on December 19th against Ohio.

Miami looks completely refreshed since getting back Durant Scott. Two games aren't a gigantic sample size, but back-to-back wins over Michigan State and UMass are very nice. They have a tricky stretch upcoming, though, with a series of opponents good enough to beat them but not good enough to really move the dial with casual fans/pollsters: vs Charlotte, at UCF, at Hawaii, vs La Salle. If they can get through that stretch with only one loss, I think that will be good enough.

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