There were by my count five nationally televised basketball games that involved mid major teams (and no I am not including Temple -Kansas..remember here A10 teams are not mid majors) and only one of them, Drake, ended up winning their game. And the ironic thing is that three of the games started around the same time.
The first game involved #2 UConn vs. #8 Gonzaga in the Battle of Seattle and it was a battle. UConn got out to an early 13-2 lead before the Bulldogs bounced back to cut the deficit to one, 38-37 at the half. The Zags then went on an early 20-8 run to go ahead 57-46 led largely by the play of reserve guard Stephen Gray who had 23 points on the game. But despite Hasheem Thabeet being in foul trouble, the Huskies rallied back behind guard AJ Price and reserve forward Gavin Edwards to cut the lead to one 72-71 with 33 seconds left.
Matt Bouldin hit two free throws to make it 74-71. Then after getting an offensive rebound, the Huskies got the ball to Price. With Jeremy Pargo all over him, Price hit an off balance three to tie the game at 74. Price then stripped the ball from Pargo to force overtime. In overtime, a combination of several Bulldogs fouling out and the Huskies hitting big shots resulted in an 88-83 overtime win for UConn.
It really was a NCAA Elite Eight tournament quality game with a raucous Key Arena crowd cheering on the Zags (and yes this was considered a neutral site game - and thanks Stan for pointing out some other neutral site games to me after my post yesterday). You had back and forth swings, excellent basketball from two very talented teams with some very talented players. Austin Daye, Pargo and Gray had solid games or the Bulldogs, while Price, Edwards and Jerome Dyson did as well for the Huskies. Gonzaga shot 50 percent from the field for the game, but led by Price, UConn stayed in the game by shooting 7 of 14 from three and 29 of 38 from the line).
CBS was showing regional action on Saturday. The early game shown in the NY area, Duke-Xavier was such a rout, they switched to Texas-Michigan State in the second half. We got the UConn-Gonzaga game here in NY for the second game, while other regions of the country got Purdue vs. Davidson in the Wooden Classic in Indiana. They were not switching to that game as the Boilermakers went out to a 25-2 lead enroute to a 76-58 drubbing of the Wildcats. When I saw the 25-2 score originally on ESPN's online scores, I thought it was a typo. Nope, Purdue went out to a 21-0 lead as all world Davidson guard Stephen Curry missed his first eight shots and went 3 of 18 from the field in the first half including 1 of 9 from three. Purdue hit 7 of 11 three pointers and shot 56 percent from the field in the first half.
Curry was held to 13 points on 5 of 26 shooting. A lot of the credit goes to the Big Ten defensive player of the year last season, Chris Kramer. Curry noted that, saying "He did a great job, just attacking and staying on me the whole game. I haven't seen that all year, just the constant pressure of the ball." The Wildcats only shot 35 percent from the field and only attempted seven free throws.
Meanwhile, the third game on around the same time featured top ranked North Carolina vs Valpo in Chicago on ESPNU. It started off competitive with Valpo actually moving out to an early 12-3 lead as Howard Little scored 5 of the first 12 Crusader points. Then North Carolina remembered they were North Carolina and went on a 14-2 run to go ahead 17-14. Valpo actually came back to take the lead at 19-17 before the Tar Heels went back ahead to stay. The lead was only one, 24-23 with 5:20 left before NC went on a 17-8 lead to go up 10 at the half. The Tar Heels never looked back winning 86-63.
The fourth game on at the same time featured Drake vs. Iowa on ESPN2 as Drake looked to win the state of Iowa Bball bragging rights after beating Iowa State earlier in the season. This game was also never really that close as the Bulldogs were much too quick for the Hawkeyes. Drake went out to a 32-18 halftime lead on their way to a 60-43 win. Josh Young, one of the remaining starters from last year's Missouri Valley Champions, had 23 points including 14 of 15 from the line as Drake shot 23 of 29 from the line. Drake held Iowa to 31 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded the Hawkeyes 37-21.
Finally late last night on ESPN, VCU went to Norman to take on Oklahoma and former VCU now Sooner coach Jeff Capel. Unfortunately, Eric Maynor picked a bad time to have his worse game of the season as Maynor was held to 15 points on 5 of 18 shooting including 2 of 9 from three with 8 turnovers as Oklahoma downed VCU 81-70.
In other news, Hofstra had won eight straight games going into their road game at UMass yesterday. The game against the Minutemen, who had come off a recent big road win against #25 Kansas, was their biggest test since their opening season loss to undefeated Clemson. Well, the Pride flunked the test as UMass stormed out to a 28-10 lead on their way to a 97-81 win over Hofstra. Hofstra would only come as close as 35-25 the rest of the game. The Pride outrebounded the Minutemen 61-37 but that was due in large part to grabbing rebounds off their own missed shots. UMass torched the Pride by shooting 15 of 26 from three and shooting 52 percent overall. The Pride shot 32 percent from the field and only 12 of 24 from the free throw line.
The good news for Hofstra; Cornelius Vines had 22 points (18 in the first half) and Greg Washington continued his improved play with a career high 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. The bad news for Hofstra; Charles Jenkins was held to 13 points on 4 of 13 shooting and 7 turnovers. NIT finalists from a year ago, UMass forced 19 Pride turnovers. Hofstra coach Tom Pecora noted at the post game press conference that his team would be more focused for their next opponent, Iona. " Pecora stated "Trust me, I don't know if we'll win or lose, but I'll get them focused for Iona." Here's the problem with that. If you can't be "focused" for a road game against a team that made the NIT finals last season and had recently beat Kansas, how can you be "focused" for Iona? I'll be there Tuesday night to see if the Pride will be more "focused".
Chris Gadley Resurrection Update - Chris has struggled in his last three games. He did have a double double vs Navy with 10 points and 11 rebounds. However Gadley only shot 4 of 11 from the line and 3 of 8 from the field. He had his worst game of the season as the Cuse crushed the Golden Grifs 82-60 in a Big East televised matchup. Gadley picked up three quick early fouls and only played 13 minutes with zero points and one rebounded. The couple of minutes of the second half that I watched was like watching Gadley from two years ago. He seemed unfocused and lost. I could see why coach Tom Parotta benched him for the rest of the second half. He still has the same body he had two seasons ago, in fact he looks a little heavier (and looks more like Omar Alston, if Hofstra fans remember that name). Previously Gadley struggled against Albany, Gadley again struggled scoring only 3 points on 1 of 4 shooting and 1 of 4 from the line with 7 rebounds in 26 minutes. Gadley's scoring average has dropped three points to 11 points per game. Gadley must be more "focused", as Tom Pecora would say, and work on his game and his body if he ever wants to be truly successful.