An exciting night of hoops was highlighted by No. 18 UConn’s 59-58 win over Indiana in the 2K Sports Classic Championship game. Other important outcomes included No. 14 Michigan beating Florida State and UMass beating No. 19 New Mexico.
(18) UConn 59, Indiana 58
The Huskies and Hoosiers entered Friday night’s 2K Sports Classic Championship game at Madison Square Garden with offenses ranked in the nation’s top-20 in points per possession. UConn boasted one of the best backcourt scoring tandems in the country in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Indiana had a talented freshman big man, Noah Vonleh, and a cast of capable scorers around him.
It seemed a fair bet this game would be decided somewhere in the 70s or 80s. Instead, the teams combined to score 117 points. In the end, UConn – behind a 27-point effort from Napier – held off Indiana, 59-58, to move to 6-0 on the season and cement its status as the prime threat to No. 3 Louisville in the American Athletic Conference.
UConn sealed the win after Napier converted a driving lay-up with 1:34 remaining and Ferrell, who finished with 19 points, missed a 10-foot jumper inside the final 10 seconds. The Hoosiers failed to get one last shot off an inbounds play with 0.7 seconds left.
Neither team played its best offensive game of the season to date. Napier shined – after the game, Indiana coach Tom Crean told reporters he thought UConn’s senior guard was a “13-year pro” – and Ferrell (despite going just 6-for-19 from the field) continued to show he’s capable of shouldering more of the scoring load this season.
But the biggest takeaway from this game, besides Napier’s tremendous performance, was how well both teams defended. Nothing seemed to come easy on offense for the Huskies or the Hoosiers. There were only three double-digit scorers across both teams: Napier, Ferrell and Hoosiers forward Will Sheehey (12 points). UConn guard Boatright hounded Ferrell, who committed five of the Hoosiers' 19 turnovers, while Vonleh – who sat on the bench for much of the first half after picking up two fouls – struggled mightily. Even Napier (7 turnovers) made a few mistakes.
The tight defense on both ends made for a thrilling game (one that featured 13 lead changes). SI.com college hoops writer Seth Davis was entertained.
After being ruled ineligible for postseason play last season, the Huskies look well on their way to qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Now 6-0, UConn welcomes Loyola Maryland to Storrs, Conn., in four days before matching up with No. 16 Florida.
Indiana may have dropped its first game of the season, but the Hoosiers acquitted themselves well in their first test against an NCAA Tournament-caliber team. After losing four career 1000-point scorers, including two top-four draft picks, last season, it was fair to wonder whether Tom Crean’s team would be able to compete in the upper-half of the Big Ten this season. The answer won’t come until after the New Year, but early results – and Friday night’s game in particular – suggest Indiana will at the very least be in the running for a second consecutive Tournament berth.
(14) Michigan 82, Florida State 80
If it wasn’t clear when target="_blank">this video was released in August, now it is: Nik Stauskas is more than a shooter. The sophomore shooting guard poured in a career-high 26 points on 7-of-16 shooting to help the Wolverines erase a 16-point halftime deficit and edge the Seminoles in overtime. Florida State notched an attention-grabbing win Thursday by throttling No. 10 VCU, 85-67, and it was a few plays away from sealing another top-15 victory Friday night. But the Wolverines, after struggling early against the same stifling defense that unsettled Shaka Smart’s team Thursday, proved too explosive to lock down for 40 minutes. Stauskas’s performance stood out, but center Mitch McGary (14 points, 12 rebounds) and freshman point guard Derrick Walton (15 points, six assists, four rebounds) made key plays down the stretch. Since losing at Iowa State last Sunday, the Wolverines have picked up wins against Long Beach State and the Seminoles. They’ll face Charlotte Sunday in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Championship game.
Stauskas threw down this two-handed dunk in the second half over Seminoles seven-foot big man Boris Bojanovsky.
UMass 81, (19) New Mexico 65
Few teams in the country have a better collection of wins at this point of the season than UMass, who added to its impressive resumé Friday night by knocking off No. 19 New Mexico in the semifinals of the Charleston Classic. Point guard Chaz Williams led the Minutemen with 19 points, and center Cody LaLanne chipped in 16 to go along with 14 rebounds. Derek Kellog’s team overcame a 32-point, 11-rebound effort from Lobos center Alex Kirk and held Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year Kendall Williams, who scored 29 points Thursday in a win over UAB, to only 13. UMass entered Friday having already picked up wins over power conference foes Nebraska, LSU and Boston College. Add New Mexico, the favorite to win the Mountain West, to that list, and it’s easy to see why the Minutemen are putting together a nonconference resumé the selection committee will view favorably in March. UMass will face Clemson, who beat Davidson on Friday, in the Charleston Classic championship game Sunday night.
Georgetown 90, Kansas State 63
Before the season, did anyone expect to see Georgetown and Kansas State matching up in the semifinals of the loser’s bracket of a November non-conference Tournament? That’s exactly what happened Friday night – the product of the Hoyas losing to Northeastern and the Wildcats falling to Charlotte on Thursday. The less surprising of those two losses was Kansas State’s. Bruce Weber’s team was expected to take a step back this season. Georgetown, meanwhile, fell to a Northeastern team that, while talented, had already dropped games against Stony Brook and Boston University. The Hoyas bounced back in a big way Friday night against Kansas State, with sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scoring 25 points to lead four Georgetown players in double figures. John Thompson III’s team moves to 2-2 with the win and faces a string of creampuff opponents (Lipscomb, High Point and Colgate) before traveling to No. 2 Kansas on December 21.
- Guard C.J. Wilcox shot 11-of-16 from the field and 6-of-7 on threes for 30 points in Washington’s 11-point loss (89-78) to Boston College in the third-place game of the 2K Sports Classic. The Huskies, playing without injured big men Jernard Jerreau (who will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL) and Desmond Simmons, struggled to defend the Eagles for much of the game. BC guards Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon combined for 42 points and 8 assists.
- Providence ripped off an 18-0 run to erase a 16-point, second-half deficit and top Vanderbilt, 67-60. Sophomore forward Tyler Harris scored 15 points to lead the Friars (5-0), who play Fairfield at home Nov. 29 before facing No. 4 Kentucky at the Barclays Center two days later.
- Adreian Payne scored 29 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots to help Michigan State cruise past Virginia Tech. The Spartans had struggled in previous home wins against Columbia and Portland, but looked more like a No. 1 team should Friday night, overwhelming the Hokies and pulling away in the second half for a 19-point win (96-77).
- Notre Dame bounced back from a 13-point home loss to Indiana State this week to beat Santa Clara, 84-69. Guard Jerian Grant scored 20 points, while forward Garrick Sherman and guard Eric Atkins both had 16. The Irish should handle their next two opponents, Army and Cornell, with relative ease before a Dec. 3 date with Big Ten contender Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
- Andrew Wiggins scored 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Kansas to an 88-58 win over Colonial Athletic contender Towson. After winning three straight to open the season, the Tigers have lost consecutive games to Villanova and the Jayhawks.
- After falling to New Mexico in double overtime Thursday, UAB got 32 points from guard Chad Frazier in an 87-74 win over Nebraska. The Blazers now have two wins (Rutgers and the Huskers) over major conference opponents this season.