Northwestern, Purdue, and Butler score nice victories

Bob Huggins earns his 800th win as West Virginia wins, Roy Williams briefly loses his cool in Las Vegas, and Georgetown upends Syracuse in long-awaited renewal of once bitter rivalry

SONG SELECTION:

“Jingle Bells” and “Run, Run Rudolph”–pick your own version to rock along to when wrapping your presents

The State Farm Legends Classic in snowy Chicago and the Crossroads Classic in somewhat icy, sleety Indianapolis entertained fans on Saturday afternoon.

As longtime Notre Dame announcer Jack Nolan said to his radio audience,

“It was a tale of two halves–Notre Dame clicked on all cylinders in the first half.  Purdue dominated in the second half.”

Notre Dame was unable to hold a 17 point lead late in the first half.  Purdue went on a 12-2 run to trim a 52-38 deficit down to four points, then utilized another 10-0 run to take the lead for good.  One might recall, the Fighting Irish blew a similar game in the Crossroads Classic to Indiana leading by 16 en route to losing to the Hoosiers 80-73.

Leading the way for Matt Painter’s bunch in Purdue’s alternate home court was Caleb Swanigan with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Vincent Edwards also having a double-double scoring 20 points and 10 rebounds.  Notre Dame has lost two straight after losing to Villanova on December 10.  The Irish were led by Bonzie Colson had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Matt Farrell had a nice game with 22 points, 10 assists to go along with five rebounds.  It was Purdue’s first win in six tries since the Crossroads Classic replaced the old Boilermaker Blockbuster series in 2011.

The other game in Nap Town was Butler surprising Indiana 83-77 as Tyler Lewis found Tyler Wideman for a dunk with 15.6 seconds.  The Hoosiers never had a chance to either tie the game to force overtime or take the lead as they were mostly fighting from behind.  Indiana managed to trim a 11 point Butler lead down to two at 79-77 with 70 seconds left, it was not enough.

For the Bulldogs, it was not only their first win against Indiana since 2012 but even sweeter for their school mascot.  Butler Blue III returned triumphantly after undergoing surgery in October to repair a torn ACL.  Even his Twitter account could not contain his true excitement saying simply:

“DAWG GONE IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK!”

Even though Butler lost at Indiana State earlier in the week, they are 3-0 against the Top 25 according to the Associated Press polls and two other victories in the Top 10.  This is one of many criteria that the Men’s Selection Committee looks at in evaluating teams for inclusion to the NCAA Tournament.

Senior forward Senior forward Andrew Chrabascz became the 38th Butler player in history to score at least 1,000 points while wearing the Bulldogs blue and white.  The Rhode Island product had a nice game scoring 14 points to go along with three rebounds and four assists.  Kelan Martin led the charge with 28 points and he is only 35 away from joining Chrabascz as 1,000 point Butler career scorers.

About that jacket fling, it was not for rolling snake eyes at the blackjack table

Instead, it took place a few feet away from the Strip at the third annual CBS Sports Classic as Kentucky survived a furious comeback from North Carolina in a dizzying final score of 103-100.  The two winningest programs in the history of the sport met for the first time in two years and the 38th meeting all-time inside the new T-Mobile Arena proved to have a true Elite Eight/Final Four feel.

Upset over a foul against Isaiah Hicks midway through the first half, North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams flung his trademark baby blue jacket towards his teams’ bench.  It elicited a technical foul from veteran referee Roger Ayres.

Kentucky led most of the first 39 minutes shooting a blistering 54 percent from the field.  However, the Tar Heels clawed their way back as Justin Jackson scored two of his team high 34 points with 45 seconds on the clock

North Carolina’s Justin Jackson nearly outshined Monk with 34 points, and his basket with 45 seconds left put the Tar Heels (10-2) ahead 100-98 after trailing much of the second half.  Malik Monk (by this point had broken the Kentucky single game record for points scored by a freshman player, which was previously shared by Jamal Murray in 2015 and Terrence Jones in 2011 when they both scored 35 in a game) nailed a right-wing three of his own with 16.7 seconds left to give UK a 101-100 lead.

After Hicks hit only the backboard at the other end, De’Aaron Fox was fouled and consequently hit two free throws with 1.9 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 103-100 lead. North Carolina gathered the inbounds from the front court but Kenny Williams’ desperation three at the buzzer got lodged between the rim and backboard.

Monk hit 18 of 28 shots, including 8 of 12 from long distance as UK will no doubt have little time to think before their in-state grudge match against Louisville on Wednesday night.  For North Carolina, they return to familiar territory at the Dean Smith Center to take on Northern Iowa on Wednesday and Monmouth on December 28 before their ACC opener on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta at the Wramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech.

Georgetown holds in at Syracuse in renewal of classic rivals

Thanks to L.J. Peak and Rodney Prior, they helped Georgetown in ruining a nice tribute to former Syrcause legend Pearl Washington–who sadly died this past April at age 52 from cancer.  A video tribute and an unveiling of his Number 31 on the court at the Carrier Dome was a very nice touch to one of the original Big East stars.

Peak had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Pryor added 20 points to help the Hoyas win a huge game on the road over struggling Syracuse 78-71.  Georgetown also feasted at the free-throw line, converting on 22 of 25 attempts for the game which included nine free points in the final 38 seconds of action.  Syracuse was not as fortunate in missing 11 of their 25 attempts to the charity stripe.  Syracuse is 6-4 and really scuffling at the guard position, even though sophomore Tyler Lydon had a nice game for the Orange hitting on 12 of his 13 shots from the field in finishing up with a career high and game high 29 points.

Finally, congratulations to Bob Huggins of West Virginia as he watched his Mountaineers give him win number 800 in his career with a comfortable 112-67 win over the UMKC Kangaroos.  The Mountaineers forced 27 Kangaroos turnovers, which led to 38 points.  Leading the way for West Virginia was Nathan Adrian with 13 points, along with Esa Ahmad and Daxter Miles Jr. each tabbing 12 points apiece.  Seven Mountaineers players finished in double figures.  Elijah Macon led the Mountaineers with seven rebounds and Jevon Carter had six assists.

Shortly after the game, numerous video tributes from the likes of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Kentucky coach John Calipari, famous West Virginia alumnus and current Golden State Warriors executive board member Jerry West, along with numerous former Cincinnati and West Virginia players all sent their congratulations.

Consider that Bob Huggins is only the tenth coach in all of NCAA history to amass 800 wins, but only the third to do so at his alma mater.  The others were Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and the late, great Adolph Rupp in Kentucky.

If you also count one-time Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, he also earned his 800th win on Wednesday at tiny Keiser College, who defeated Trinity Baptist by 30 points 77-47.

Late night dibs

USC rallies late to stun Troy at home and the Men of Troy are 10-0.

Luke Kornet’s late trey helped lift Vanderbilt over Tennessee-Chattanooga 76-74 and Illinois scored a nice win 75-73 in Chicago over BYU as Tracy Abrams led the way for the Orange Crush with 15 points.

Another surprise was Wichita State losing at home, along with Oklahoma losing early in the day to an upstart Memphis Tigers squad.

Finally, Belmont was supposed to play at Wisconsin-Green Bay.  But white out conditions and very dangerous wind chill readings between -25 and -40 (that’s frostbite of the worst kind for people living in warm climates) forced the game to be postponed.  A makeup date will be determined soon.

Season’s Greetings To One And All

This will be my final blog before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

It has been a pleasure and I will try my best to make the blogs really fun, fully realizing there are only 84 days until Selection Sunday.

And although Villanova continues to lead the polls, many schools with lots of tradition and some schools hoping to rewrite history in the likes of Gonzaga, Creighton, and Butler are hoping to crash the party (and maybe scores of people’s online brackets) come late March.

See you all back in the first week of January with the return of “Under The Microscope”–those blogs during parts of January and February are always insightful and truly provocative at the same time.

May Santa get what you really wish for underneath your holiday trees.

Lucky for me, I scored tons of deals online during 2016 so my list was not as huge as in years past.  Please have a fun Christmas and may 2017 bring all of us lots of joy (in a mostly uncertain world) and hopefully tons of successful days and nights.

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