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Big East Tournament 2012 - Second Round, Day Two

Thursday, March 08, 2012



UConn’s Huskies shouldn’t have anything left to prove to the NCAA Tournament selection committee. But West Virginia?

They’ve got something to prove not only to the same selection committee, but perhaps to their new and old conference homes as well, after the Huskies dealt them a 71-67 defeat in overtime at Madison Square Garden in Wednesday’s 2nd round of the 2012 Big East Championships.

“Well, it’s been a good run,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins, who hasn’t exactly been a cheerleader for the Mountaineers’ move into the Big XII for next season. “We’ve enjoyed it, most of it anyway. I mean, there’s nothing like coming to the Garden.”

The last trip to the Garden for West Virginia almost turned out to be a memorable one, as the Mountaineers methodically pounded a bigger Husky team inside early. Trailing by three with 3:53 to go before the half, first-team all-Big East senior forward Kevin Jones hit a driving layup, and his heir apparent on the inside in junior Dominique Rutledge hit another to give WVU a lead. Baskets by Gary Browne and again by Jones kept West Virginia on top at the break, 30-26.

In the second half, the Mountaineers kept up their momentum, and in turn, kept up the pressure on the UConn defense. Jones (25 points, 10 rebounds) hit from short range to put his team up by seven with 12:45 left, a lead that would eventually stretch to 11 before Connecticut could begin a run. It was still a nine-point WVU lead with 5:00 minutes left, when something just “clicked” for the Huskies.

“Well, their front court dominated the game for most of the game,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun noted, “but our backcourt held its own and then took over and won the game for us.”

Sophomore guard Shabazz Napier was primarily responsible for that take-over. During a regulation-ending 13-4 run, Napier scored nine of the 13 UConn points, none bigger than a layup following a Napier steal with just over 2:00 minutes left on the clock that tied the score at 63. Then, in the overtime tied at 65, Napier again hit shots from the foul line to give his team a lead, and Jeremy Lamb (22 points) hit the dagger with a three-pointer that gave the Huskies a 70-67 advantage with a minute to play. They would not lose it.

“I told Jeremy, you’ve got to be willing to shoot now, you’ve got to be looking for hits, and when he came off that curve, there was not doubt in my mind it was going in because that’s what he works on in practice, that’s what we work on in practice,” Napier said.

UConn is now 20-12 on the year, and the Huskies have won 13 straight post-season games dating to their national title run a year ago. They’ll fact top-seeded Syracuse Thursday at 12 Noon in the opening Big East quarterfinal match-up. West Virginia drops to 19-13, and they’ll await their post-season fate on selection Sunday.

Before the moving trucks arrive in Morgantown.


With Pittsburgh and Georgetown, you usually know what you’re going to get. Physical play, tough rebounding, solid defense.

And maybe a little pain along the way as well.

In this one, the pain was all Pittsburgh’s, as the Hoya defense not only stifled the Panthers’ outside game, it flat out shut it down in a 64-52 win Tuesday afternoon.

“A major focus was protecting the paint,” said Georgetown coach John Thompson III, “because last time (in a 72-60 Pittsburgh win during the regular season) they had layups and dunks for almost all of their points, so we made sure we held that to a minimum today.”

That they did. And the Hoyas also received a boost on both ends from unlikely heroes in freshman forward Otto Porter, and senior center Henry Sims. With the Panthers’ defense focused on the top two offensive options in Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson, Georgetown received a huge boost from two players who combine for about 20 points per game. They scored 40 together in this one (20 points each), picking up the slack for Clark and Thompson who average 28 together, and could manage only 10.

“I think it’s evolution maybe in Henry’s case,” coach Thompson said. “We have seen a steady progression to where tonight was probably one of his better games, if not his best game.”

“Tonight it happened to be me and Otto,” Sims added, who also picked up his second career double-double with 13 rebounds. “Tomorrow night it could be Jason and Hollis. They know we’ve got another one tomorrow, not to dwell on this one because you’ve got another chance.”

Pitt grabbed an early lead after leading scorer Ashton Gibbs drew the attention away from forward Lamar Patterson and guard Tray Woodall. Gibbs connected on a line-drive three point shot and a free throw to put the Panthers up 19-13 with 8:08 to go in the half. From this point, the Hoyas’ defense began to extend to the Pitt shooters, and effectively shut them down. Sims hit a layup that started an 18-4 run to close the half over the final eight minutes, giving Georgetown the lead at 31-23.

In the second half, the Hoyas grew the lead to 19 points with penetration by Sims and Porter inside, and Porter and freshman Greg Whittington hitting from outside. The Panthers never found their rhythm on either end.

“I thought they were patient on the offensive end, and then defense, I really thought their zone hurt us more than I anticipated,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon explained. “We didn’t get offensive rebounds which is something we usually do against the zone, and that’s usually the way we hurt it, too, and didn’t get that done.”

Pittsburgh’s pain, in this instance, was clearly Georgetown’s gain.


This was the game the Friars should have been in. And judging by the way the first half was played, they probably could have at least had a lead – even as bad as it might have been on Tuesday night for PC.

That’s because Seton Hall, who beat Providence 79-47, faced a 7th seeded Louisville team that clearly ended the regular season on a slide…losing four of their last six games, and the last two in a row prior to tournament time this week. But the Pirates were no offensive juggernaut, either. In the end, it was the Cardinals who found a way to “out-ugly” the Pirates 61-55 and advance to the Big East quarterfinals Thursday night.

"Real proud of our guys," Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said.  "I told them it's just got to be about defense.  Defense helps you advance.  In the second half we started hitting some shots and it was much better."

Louisville managed a slim 23-22 lead at the end of the first half, thanks primarily to connecting on three three-point buckets (out of 10 attempted) to Seton Hall’s two (out of 10). The rest was, well…not good. Both teams shot the ball poorly overall (Pirates 25%, Cards 27%) from the floor, and SHU managed to keep it close thanks to an 8-for-10 performance from the free-throw line.

In the second half, it was a different story – at least for Louisville. Peyton Siva (14 points) scored seven points in the first seven minutes to spark a 16-4 run, giving the Cardinals some breathing room at 39-28. On the other end, shots that fell with frequency against the Friars Tuesday night could not find their way into the bottom of any basket Wednesday night. Jordan Theodore (17 points) managed to hit just one of his first six shots, Herb Pope (11 points, 15 rebounds) 3-of-9 and Fuquan Edwin (11 points) only 4-of-10.

Seton Hall did score six unanswered points as the teams’ neared the 5:00 minute mark, with Theodore capping the run on an 18-foot jumper to pull the Pirates within five. Kyle Kuric (13 points) answered with a jumper to put the Cards back up seven with just under four minutes to play, and Russ Smith (11 points) hit consecutive shots to stretch the lead back to nine with 1:31 remaining. Despite a three from Theodore with less than a minute to play, 17 turnovers for SHU ultimately helped Louisville put it away.

"I mean, they're one of the better defensive teams in the conference," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard pointed out.  "We had some really good looks early in the game that I think if we had knocked down we could have loosened it up a bit.  And we didn't knock them down, and we kind of had a battle from that point on."

For Louisville, the win comes at the right place, and certainly the right time after late-season struggles. The Cardinals advance to the quarterfinals to play 2nd seeded Marquette Thursday night. For Seton Hall, now 20-12, it means a restless remainder to the week, with someone else deciding their post-season fate.


Does South Florida still need help getting to the big dance – the NCAA Tournament?

Not if they win the Big East Championship. Don’t laugh. Defensively, the Bulls can stop an offense cold – which is precisely what they did to Villanova in the Wednesday night finale at Madison Square Garden, beating the Wildcats 56-47.

And even though their offense is sporadic at best, when USF hits outside shots to compliment a big, NBA-like front court, there aren’t too many teams capable of slowing them down. Syracuse, perhaps. But they only beat USF by eight at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse this season.  And the Bulls did sweep two from the Wildcats earlier this season.

USF’s Big East-best scoring defense, holding teams to a mere 57 points per game, was in top form from the outset against Villanova. Led by Victor Rudd’s 10 points and five rebounds, the Bulls got out of the chute with a 19-6 lead in the opening 10 minutes.

That’s right. Six points in 10 minutes.

"Our defense is what got us here right now, and we've got to hang our hat on it," USF coach Stan Heath said, named Big East Coach of the Year by his peers. "I'm really proud of the effort the guys gave out there on the court. We've got to play a little bit better tomorrow."

The half ended with a 27-17 USF lead. But the tempo and physical play had already been established, leaving the Wildcats to scratch from behind all night. The Bulls, with their length and overall size in the backcourt, forced Villanova into an 0-for-9 start beyond the arc. And it didn’t get much better from there.

The lead stayed between eight and 13 points until 13:30 left in the second half, when the Wildcats’ James Bell hit their first three-point shot of the night to cut the deficit down to nine at 37-28. Maalik Wayns followed with a drive to the rim amongst the trees, and a turnover leading to another layup made it a five point game with less than 12 minutes to play.

A Hugh Robertson drive to the hoop with 10 minutes to play put South Florida back up by eight, and Big East all-rookie guard Anthony Collins hit a driving runner in the lane to stretch the lead back to 11 with 2:06 left. Mouphtaou Yarou hit a three with less than a minute remaining to make it close at 48-43, but the rodeo was effectively over for the Wildcats at that point.

"When we're grinding out possessions, you can't deny the fact that normally teams, their scoring is down (against us) as well," Heath said after his team held an opponent for the ninth straight time under 60 points.  "We were number one in field goal percentage in the Big East Conference.  It's a statement that we don't give up a lot of easy baskets, we challenge shots, and we really help each other."

USF, now 20-12 on the season, moves into the quarterfinal round Thursday for the first-time as a Big East member, and will face 3rd seeded Notre Dame at 9:00 pm.

Big East Tournament Notes

Jeremy Lamb’s 22 points gives him double figures in scoring for all seven of his career Big East tournament games…UConn has now won seven straight BET games, tying Georgetown for the third-longest winning streak in tournament history…the Huskies also become the 8th 20-win team this year in the Big East…West Virginia’s Kevin Jones had his 21st double-double of the year, and the Mountaineers finish their tenure in the conference with a 12-15 all-time record. They won the 2010 championship, and played in two title games…the game featured the last two Big East tournament winners, as UConn claimed the 2011 crown, West Virginia won it all in 2010…Georgetown, as the fifth seed in this year’s tournament, advances to play #4 seed Cincinnati in the 2:00 pm quarterfinal game on Thursday. The Hoyas lost to the Bearcats 68-64 in their only meeting during the regular season…the win over Pitt was Georgetown’s 50th in the Big East Championships, with GU now 50-25 all time in the 33 year history of the event…Pittsburgh fell to 0-12 on the season when trailing a game at halftime…

In between games of the two sessions, the Big East Conference officially announced that Temple would join the league for football in 2012, effectively replacing West Virginia in time for the ’12 football season. The Owls will later join the Big East in all sports, beginning in 2013. Temple was kicked out of the Big East in 2004 as a football-only member, as their program failed to meet the minimum requirements for membership (competitiveness, and a lack of attendance and program commitment among them). Since that time, the program has risen to championship level within the Mid-American Conference with two bowl game appearances, including a post-season win this past year under first-year coach Steve Addazio

This year is the second straight year for Louisville and Marquette to meet in the quarterfinals.  The Cardinals won 81-56 last season, but lost during the regular season this year 74-63 to the Golden Eagles on January 16th...Seton Hall's Herb Pope had his 17th double-double of the season...the #7 seed is now 14-4 all time against the 10/15 seed in the second round of the Big East tournament...Louisville has now won nine of its last 14 games at Madison Square Garden...Anthony Collins led South Florida with 17 points and four assists, but also committed seven turnovers.  Victor Rudd, Jr. finished with 13 points and six boards, and the Bulls held a 37-25 edge on the rebounding side...USF is now 3-3 all-time in BET play...USF became the 9th Big East team to reach 20 wins, and since the NCAA adopted automatic bids, 147 of 152 Big East teams with at least 20 wins have reached the NCAA tournament...Mouphtaou Yarou scored a season-best 20 points as the only Wildcat in double figures.  Villanova managed to shoot 34% from the floor, and only 18% from three (3-16) for the game...the Wildcats end their season at 12-19...


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