Friday, November 16, 2012

UMass Wins Another Game At The Buzzer

Massachusetts 77, Providence 75
It's impossible to think of a team that's had a more exciting start to their season than UMass. After Sampson Carter hit a three to deliver a win over Harvard, it was Terrell Vinson with a spectacular tip-in at the buzzer to deliver a win over Providence. Chaz Williams was sloppy at times, but he again sparked the UMass offense. Jesse Morgan (18 points, including 4-for-8 behind the arc) again provided a scoring punch off the bench.

Bryce Cotton (23 points and 5 assists) was excellent for Providence, but the Friars are running out of players. Ricardo Ledo will not be playing this year. Kris Dunn might play this year, but it won't be anytime soon. And now Vincent Council is out for at least a month with a hamstring injury. Ed Cooley is demanding heavy minutes from guys like Cotton and LaDontae Henton, and you have to wonder if they're just going to start wearing out.

UMass has played well so far, of course, but they will have a much stiffer test next: NC State. In their final Puerto Rico game they'll play either Tennessee or Oklahoma State. Providence will play Penn State next. Their final game in Puerto Rico will be against either Akron or UNC-Asheville.

Murray State 79, Auburn 59
This game was a romp... to say the least. Murray State actually led by 26 points at halftime. In Auburn's defense, they badly outrebounded Murray State (a 50.0 OR%), and would have made this game a lot closer if they could have hit a shot (a 35.0 eFG% compared to a 63.7 eFG% for Murray State), but they deserved to lose. Isaiah Canaan was unstoppable for Murray State, scoring 26 points and adding six assists. And the reality is that Auburn's offense is just bad. They were dead last in the SEC in offensive efficiency last season, and don't look to be any better so far this season. They just don't have anybody who can make a shot.

Murray State will move forward in the Charleston Classic, taking on St. John's next. Their final game will be against either Colorado or Baylor. Auburn is in no way a heavy favorite against the home Charleston team next. Their final game at the Charleston Classic will be against either Dayton or Boston College.

Villanova 89, Purdue 81, OT
Both the good and bad of this very young Purdue team was on display here in Madison Square Garden. Villanova led for most of the game, and after stretching that lead out to double-digits midway through the second half they could have broken the will of the Boilermakers. But Purdue fought back with a 27-10 run to grab a seven point lead. That was the good - Matt Painter will always have his teams playing hard and smart. The bad was that these inexperienced Purdue players really allowed the reffing to get in their head. And yes, the reffing was a bit ridiculous. DJ Byrd was ejected for mystifying reasons after he accidentally elbowed a Nova player, while Terone Johnson took two bad blows to his head on separate plays and couldn't even get a foul called. But experienced teams know how to forget about those calls and focus on the task at hand, while Purdue was clearly chasing the previous whistle, and lashing out with frustration fouls.

I've been thinking of how to describe this Purdue team and what they will bring to the table in Big Ten play this season, and I think I've figured it out. They're going to be a rich man's Penn State. They are young and they likely lack the ability to contend for one of the top spots in the conference. But they are going to play hard every night and they will never be an easy team to beat. The reason they're the "rich man's" Penn State is because I do still think that they can contend for an at-large bid, while that's a very unlikely possibility for the Nittany Lions.

Villanova will take on Alabama in the title game of the 2k Sports Classic. Their next game after that will be on Tuesday against a frisky Columbia team. Purdue will try to bounce back against Oregon State in the 2k Sports Classic consolation game. They certainly would like to avoid falling to 1-3. With several tough games remaining in their non-conference slate (Notre Dame, Clemson and Xavier), Purdue could have a rough looking won-loss record heading into Big Ten play.

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