Oklahoma and Kansas survive gritty challenges

SONG SELECTION:

Tame Impala, “Let It Happen”
Found on Currents album

Released July 17, 2015 on Interscope Records

Buddy Hield goes off again, but smartly plays decoy for winning basket

Billed as a game with National player of the year candidates on both sides, the Pete Maravich Assembly Center was really rocking early on Saturday night.

Although Ben Simmons tried his best Magic Johnson impersonation circa 1979, it was not enough in the end.

Buddy Hield may have only scored 11 points by halftime, but he simply went off on a scoring binge by nailing 7 of 8 attempts from three-point land.  But the smartest play came at the end of the contest, when he found Isaiah Cousins (finished the game with 18 points) inside the paint.  His lean-in jumper with four seconds left provided the winning margin at Oklahoma rallied from a 14 point deficit to stun LSU 77-75.  Ryan Spangler had a double-double with 16 points to go along with 10 rebounds as the nation’s top ranked team moved their overall mark to 18-2 with this impressive and gritty road win.

LSU certainly made things interesting before Cousins’ winning basket.  Antonio Blakeney drilled a pair of threes, with the second one tying the game with 24 seconds remaining on the second half clock.

But in those final frantic seconds, Tim Quarterman of LSU (13-8) had his final shot blocked by Khadeem Lattin.  ESPN cameras quickly showcased the Oklahoma players chest-bumping each other in triumph, but the cameras did not show what CBSSports.com reported on their website, and I quote:

“Many fans seemed to think Quarterman (who led the Tigers in a losing effort with 18 points) was fouled. Some even hurled garbage toward the court, showering those below them with bits of ice.”

There is simply no place for that kind of disrespectful behavior to take place at any sporting venue, college or professional.

I don’t wish to speculate, but if I was on the Athletic board–I would reprimand those specific fans and whomever else threw the garbage for at least the last part of the home schedule.  I would subsequently ask them to send a handwritten (not emailed) or typed letter stating why they felt they had to do it and in turn, hopefully show lots of remorse in saying how sorry they were and they would never do it again when stepping inside that gym or arena.

Hield led all scorers with 32 points, his eighth game of scoring at least 30 as he clearly is running away with being the 2016 national player of the year based on his ability to score and defend over this past month.

After a spectacular reverse two handed dunk that pushed LSU’s lead to 50-38 early in the second half, Ben Simmons attempted only one shot in the final ten minutes.  His stat line was 6 of 7 from the field for 14 points, along with a team high 9 rebounds and five assists.  Oklahoma overcame a 49% percent shooting clip by LSU in making the key shots when they were needed most.

Another heavyweight fight, but only five extra minutes were needed this time in The Phog

Kentucky controlled a majority of the nightcap, but thanks to Wayne Selden’s driving layups and consistent ability to keep Kentucky’s big men off balance, Kansas dominated the overtime to win going away 90-84.  Kansas outscored UK 14-8 in the extra session.

Kentucky was whistled for 33 fouls during the game, Kansas just 20 times.  You could tell by the expressions on Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s face as he pleaded and tried to will his guys to get over the top–but in the end, Kansas had the fresher bodies and more depth as UK’s big men consistently fouled out.

It all started with Derek Willis committing an over-the-back violation with 4:51 to go in a 64-all game.   Kansas would score on the next possession and brought the Kansas crowd pumping back to life.

Marcus Lee fouled out with 1:24 remaining with UK then nursing a slim 72-71 lead.  Skal Labissiere picked up two quick fouls in overtime, the last one coming with Kentucky trailing 81-78 with 2:11 left.  Alex Poythress fouled out with 25 seconds remaining when Kansas salted away the game from the free throw line.  Kansas made eight more foul shots (30) than Kentucky attempted (22).  That was the difference in an otherwise well played game.

But the night belonged to the junior shooting guard Wayne Selden, Jr.  He scored a career-high 33 points on 12 of 20 shooting.  Tyler Ulis played all 45 minutes for Kentucky as he led the Wildcats with 26 points on 11 of 19 shooting.  The telling stat in this game besides the free-throw shooting was the rebounding.  Kansas dominated 12-5 on the offensive glass, and won the rebounding battle 38-29.  It was only the seventh win in 29 attempts for the top two winningest college basketball programs in history of the sport.

Obviously, this was the second best game of the year after the three overtime barnburner on January 4 when Kansas outlasted Oklahoma.  However, the start of the season with the annual Champions Classic should not be the only time these true basketball blue bloods should be meeting on the court.

This CBSSports.com article late on Saturday night nailed things right on the head, as Kansas head coach Bill Self expressed his thoughts on the subject and what ramifications might present themselves in future summer scheduling sessions:

http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/eye-on-college-basketball/25467793/kentucky-kansas-are-best-of-college-hoops-and-should-play-every-year

A few other upsets marked a memorable Saturday

North Carolina State stopped Miami’s hot streak 85-69, while Texas A&M earned a signature win over Iowa State 72-62.  An even bigger upset was Florida upending West Virginia in The Swamp by an 88-71 count.  But the crazy stat of the day was in Louisville, as Rick Pitino’s team was held to tying the fourth lowest point total in his coaching career for a single game as Virginia chopped, sliced, and diced through the Louisville defense in tune to an impressive 63-47 win.

More cool games to come this coming week, as we enter the Dog Days of February come Monday.  And yes, LSU will be featured in my next installment of the “Under the Microscope” series.  Look for that either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Please enjoy the rest of your weekend.  The best games are yet to come.

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