Irish more than lucky, OSU exposes Wisky and more Snap Judgments
Patrick Connaughton, a freshman wing, went for 23 points, 11 boards, three assists and two huge blocks on two important defensive stops to lead the way for the Irish. And while the score speaks for itself, this was a close game midway through the second half. Notre Dame used a late 18-2 run to break the game open. In other words, they won this game going away. That's a pretty impressive thing to do against a team as good as Marquette.
As they did when Luke Harangody was injured during the 2010 season, the Irish have gone to Mike Brey's patented Burn Offense. What's the Burn Offense? Well, exactly what it sounds like. Notre Dame burns 20 to 25 seconds off the clock before initiating its offense. The thinking is that by reducing the number of possessions, the Irish take the flow out of the game and get their opponents out of rhythm. With playmakers like Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant in the back court, a greatly improved Jack Cooley in the middle and veteran Scott Martin at the four, the Irish have a solid core. Their patience offensively and belief in Brey's game plan is the reason Notre Dame is once again relevant.
This was the fourth straight win for the Irish. It looks like that victory against Syracuse wasn't so much of a fluke after all.
In fact, Ohio State's box score is one of the most interesting of the season. The three reserves that got playing time didn't attempt a single shot. Starters Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith combined to go just 2-5 from the floor with seven points. William Buford had 11 points, but it took 4-15 shooting to get there. This was a two-man show. The Buckeyes knew where their advantage was, and they capitalized on it.
It used to be that a win in the Kohl Center was nearly impossible to get. Prior to this season, Bo Ryan had lost just 11 home games in his 10-year tenure. His record during Big Ten play? 78-6. That's changed this year. After Saturday's loss, Wisconsin has now lost four games at home this year, three of them coming in Big Ten play. More importantly, Wisconsin dropped into fourth place in the Big Ten standings and 0-3 against the top three teams in the league -- OSU, Michigan and Michigan State -- with games remaining at Ohio State and Michigan State. It will be a tough task to make up a two-game deficit in the loss column.
Of note: Wisconsin has lost six games. In those six games, they have shot 22.9 percent (33-144) from the 3-point line. In their 18 wins, they are knocking down threes at a 40.7 percent clip.
That said, the credit needs to be given to Wyoming here. Larry Shyatt has sparked quite the turnaround. The Cowboys are now 4-3 in league play and just a game behind UNLV for second place. At 18-5 on the season, they are now back in the bubble conversation, although they probably need another big win or two to have a real shot at earning a bid.
The Gators shot 11-24 from three and used their press to force 17 Vanderbilt turnovers, which is how they were able to win despite getting just 14 foul-plagued minutes out of Patric Young. Florida plays at Kentucky on Tuesday. That should be fun.
As far as Vanderbilt is concerned, there is reason to be optimistic about this performance. The 'Dores turned the ball over 17 times, they shot just 8-25 from three, they got just three rebounds from their center Festus Ezeli and they did it all on the road. But Vandy only lost by eight, holding the nation's most-efficient offense to just 1.09 PPP, .13 PPP below their season average.
The irony in this outcome is that Xavier, before their issues, was the team known for its improbable late-game comebacks.
Those issues disappeared pretty quickly once UConn was faced with the realistic possibility of missing the NCAA Tournament. Granted, the on-court issues are still there -- Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier shot 4-16 combined and UConn turned the ball over 16 times -- but those kinks will eventually work themselves out. The fact that UConn is playing together is a much bigger deal.