Syracuse vs. Iowa: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2K Classic 2014

One day after being upset by California in the semifinals of the 2K Classic, the Syracuse Orange got back on track with a 66-63 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes to secure third place in the annual tournament at Madison Square Garden. 

This was a vintage performance by Jim Boeheim’s team, in good and bad ways. The Orange didn’t have a great day shooting the ball, but that swarming 2-3 zone kept Iowa off balance most of the game and they held on. That defensive effort allowed Syracuse to pull away early in the second half. 

Iowa will look to get back on track in its next game against Pepperdine. Fran McCaffery’s group was put in a bad spot starting with Thursday’s game against No. 10 Texas. California’s upset over Syracuse meant the Hawkeyes had to go against ranked teams on back-to-back nights, though they put up a great fight. 

Syracuse led the game 50-35 with just over 12 minutes to play before making a 23-9 run that cut the lead to one with 3.5 minutes to play, per ESPN’s Jeff Goodman:

The size of Syracuse, as well as sloppy fundamental basketball in the final minutes, wound up costing the Hawkeyes a potential victory. Adam Woodbury made a bad pass into the paint with Iowa down 63-62 that Chris McCullough was able to intercept and all but seal the game. 

There was a lot to digest from Syracuse’s win. Here’s reaction from around the Internet, as well as a look at the scoring breakdown. 

It was interesting to see how Syracuse responded in this game, especially in light of Boeheim’s comments following the loss to Cal. Here’s what he said about how the team was adjusting to a new starting point guard in Kaleb Joseph, who is taking over for Tyler Ennis, via Zach Braziller of The New York Post:

We got spoiled a little bit last year. We had an unusual freshman point guard. That’s a once in a coach’s career that you get a freshman that can play with that kind of understanding of the game. Kaleb is a very good freshman point guard, very talented, but he has got a lot to learn about the game. 

He’s got to make better decisions. He shot when he should’ve passed and passed when he should’ve shot.

While Joseph didn’t have a great shooting game, he was much better at distributing and protecting the ball to set up Syracuse’s second half surge, finishing the game with nine assists and just five turnovers. 

As far as the offensive heroes for the Orange, Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough led the way with dominating efforts. 

Per Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv, Boeheim said after Thursday’s loss that McCullough wasn’t big enough to be a physical player:

However, as Braziller tweeted out during Friday’s game, McCullough was a force to be reckoned with except Iowa didn’t have an answer:

Bleacher Report NBA Draft Lead Writer Jonathan Wasserman was also complimentary of McCullough, while acknowledging the forward’s thin frame:

One problem that Syracuse has had for years is a lack of impact scorers. The Orange have players capable of averaging 12-15 points per game, but as was evidenced in this game when the opponent makes a run, they struggle to get a basket to squash momentum. 

There are times McCullough can look like that player. He just needs to find more consistency away from the basket. It would also help if the Orange had an outside shooter teams had to focus on. Iowa exploited that lack of offensive firepower during the comeback attempt. 

Aaron White was one of Iowa’s two stars in the game. He was all over the floor throughout the game, though that did get him in trouble early, as noted by Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com:

When the Hawkeyes needed White to make a play he stepped up, as Chad Leistikow of The Des Moines Register highlighted one of the game’s key plays:

Unfortunately, Iowa’s 18 turnovers cost it late in the game. Syracuse didn’t play a perfect game by any stretch, but it was able to escape with a victory. For a team that’s trying to integrate young starters, including Joseph, that’s all you can ask. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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Andrei Kirilenko Takes Leave of Absence from Nets: Latest Details and Reaction

Andrei Kirilenko has taken a leave of absence from the Brooklyn Nets for “personal reasons.”

According to Rod Boone of Newsday, the Nets announced on Friday that Kirilenko wouldn’t make a road trip with the team to Oklahoma City and San Antonio over the weekend.

It doesn’t end there, as Boone also tweeted a quote from Nets head coach Lionel Hollins when he was asked if the veteran forward would return for the team’s game at Philadelphia on November 26:

While it’s unclear exactly why Kirilenko is taking a leave of absence from the Nets, Tim Bontemps of the New York Post recently wrote about how the team has been steadily decreasing his playing time due to poor performances:

But Kirilenko has struggled mightily in the minutes he has received early this season, and has scored just three points in the 35 minutes he’s played across seven games. And now he doesn’t appear to be anywhere near the major contributor he was expected to be after agreeing to opt in to the second year of his two-year deal this summer.

Within that Bontemps piece, Kirilenko certainly didn’t seem to be happy about his decreased playing time but noted that Hollins has been direct with him about it.

“It’s tough, but there’s nothing I can do,” Kirilenko said. “I’m not the one making decisions, and it is what it is. … I really appreciate [Hollins' openness], but it doesn’t make things easier.”

Kirilenko also added in the piece that there’s no injury that would prevent him from playing. 

Stefan Bondy of Daily News, citing a source, tweeted that any resolution between Kirilenko and the Nets won’t come until he’s playing somewhere else:

To say this has been a bad season for Kirilenko is being kind. He’s averaging 5.1 minutes, 0.4 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. He’s appeared in seven games so far and hasn’t made a field goal. His only points this year, all three of them, came from the free-throw line in the season opener against Boston

Kirilenko is in the final year of his contract with the Nets. He had the choice to opt out after last season, in which he appeared in 45 games and averaged a career-low five points per game, but decided to exercise his player option for $3.3 million. 

Now with his diminished playing time and a coach who doesn’t seem to have a spot for him anymore, Kirilenko looks to be in a state of limbo. He’s still young enough at 33 to be a productive player somewhere, but Brooklyn doesn’t appear to be a fit anymore. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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Michigan State Basketball: Takeaways from Spartans’ Opening Games

Despite being only two games into the season, there is plenty to take away from Michigan State’s opening games.

MSU won its first matchup of the season against Navy 64-59 and was upended by Duke 81-71 on Tuesday night.

Evidently, there are positives and negatives. Individual players have stood out, while others have faltered.  But collectively, the Spartans are off to a pretty solid start, despite barely surviving against a lesser-talented Midshipmen team.

Playing a perennially dominant program this early in the season usually shows a lot about a team. Now, with over a month to go until official Big Ten play begins, let’s reflect on where MSU stands after its first two games.

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Cleveland Cavaliers: Frustration from Lebron James

Lebron James is not happy with the amount of games the Cleveland Cavaliers are losing right now and wants to win more consistently. After the loss against the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night it only makes it tougher. Right now the Cavaliers are 5-5 in the win/loss column.
James says that leading this Cavaliers team and teaching them how to win is the most challenging thing he has faced thus far in his career.
“It’s going to take a while. When you’re losing, you pick up a lot of bad habits. When you walk into the building every night and don’t even expect to win,” James said. “That wears on you, and it takes a while to break it.”
It is crazy to think that James goes into a game not even expecting to win. If you are a leader of a team you have to think positive and motivate the rest of your team to perform well. He should know better than this, being as he is one the best players (if not the best) in the league. The Cavaliers have to simply come together as a whole and be on the same page if the

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College Basketball Recruiting: Biggest Winners, Losers from Early Signing Period

As college basketball teams are just getting started on playing this season, work off the court continues to get next year’s roster bolstered with future talent. But not everyone had as good a week in the recruiting department as others.

The early signing period for college hoops began November 12 and ended Wednesday, with dozens of the nation’s top players in the Class of 2015 either signing with schools or announcing their commitments for next season. These decisions made for much movement on 247Sports’ composite recruiting rankings, with schools moving up and down after each high school senior made his choice.

Who won and who lost? We take a look at the teams that had the best and worst early signing periods, detailing what went well (or didn’t).

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Kentucky Basketball: 5 Takeaways from Wildcats’ Opening Games

Kentucky basketball jumped right into its 2014-15 season by playing three games in five days, including a neutral-site game against the No. 5 team in the country.

In those three games, we’ve seen both the good and bad of the Wildcats this season. After dismantling Grand Canyon in the season opener, Kentucky struggled against Buffalo, even trailing at halftime. However, a strong second half gave Kentucky a win before it dominated No. 5 Kansas on Tuesday in Indianapolis.

The win against Kansas has many across the country, especially those part of Big Blue Nation, excited. But, was that game a sign of how good Kentucky is, or was it a fluke game for the Jayhawks? 

There are plenty of challenges left this season for Kentucky with games against North Carolina, Texas, Louisville and UCLA still ahead before conference play. We’ll take a look at the five takeaways from the Wildcats’ opening games. 

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Ranking the 10 Best Performances from Opening Games of the 2014-15 CBB Season

This is where we all stand up and say, “We’re all reeeeeal impressed.” Several overachieving, high-flying players had, by any standard, a great opening weekend on the court.

Getting off to a fast start can’t be shortchanged. What it does is set the tone. Also, given that many of the Top 25 teams play such soft opponents, if anyone is worth their scholarship he better have a strong game against the junior varsity varietal.

All across the land, players put up 30, pulled down 16 or stole eight. Dozens of players had great opening weekends. Read on to see who made the list.

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Lakers vs. Rockets: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

In Round 1, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard said what they thought of the other in a near-brawl. In Round 2, Howard killed a large part of the intrigue by sitting out with an injury. But at least the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets gave fans a basketball game worth watching this time around.

Kobe Bryant scored 29 points, Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill each turned in double-doubles and the Lakers scored the game’s last nine points en route to a 98-92 victory over the Howard-less Rockets on Wednesday. 

Howard’s presence was felt throughout the game, but Houston’s plight without its All-Star center came to a head on a critical sequence that helped decide the game. Following a wild missed three-pointer from Bryant, the Rockets allowed an offensive rebound that resulted in Wesley Johnson finishing a lay-up plus the foul. Johnson’s free-throw gave Los Angeles a 94-92 lead with 43 seconds remaining. 

The Rockets’ next trip down the floor was a stilted offensive possession that ended in a post-up—for Howard replacement Tarik Black. Black’s twisting turnaround attempt missed, and Nick Young knocked down two clutch free throws to seal the game after the Lakers grabbed the rebound.

Howard, who played 28 minutes in the Rockets’ 119-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, was seen limping by reporters after the game. Though he initially downplayed the injury and was expected to be in the lineup, the Rockets ruled him out with a strained knee just before tip-off. Howard did not watch the game from the Houston bench and no timetable has been given for his return.

“Bumps and bruises,” Howard told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “I’m getting old. I’m going to need a cane in a second. But it’s all good. This is just the usual post-game pain. I’ll be all right though, God willing.”

James Harden, who was flustered into a six-point performance from Tony Allen on Monday, again started slowly. He went scoreless for nearly the entire first half and had attempted only two shots at the halftime break, taking on far more of a distributor role.

Instead the first-half scoring burden went to Papanikolaou, who scored 16 of his career-high 19 points before the break. The Greek rookie was left wide-open at points thanks to poor defensive rotations, blitzing the Lakers from the wing and corners. Consistent shooting has been the only thing to hold Papanikolaou back in his young NBA career, as he’s shown above-average rebounding capabilities and is a plus passer for a forward.

Harden reclaimed his status as the offensive fulcrum in the second half, expertly weaving his way into the paint for easy shots near the rim or to draw the foul. Stylistically, Harden has taken a beating as his career progresses for the at-times aesthetic horror show that is his game. But he’s arguably the best in the world at drawing fouls and finished with his 24 points on only 11 shots. It’s not pretty, but it is good basketball. 

The Lakers, coming off their first road win of the season Tuesday night in Atlanta, earned their first win over a Western Conference opponent this season. Bryant threw up 28 shots to get his 29 points but added seven assists, and the Los Angeles offense at times bordered on cohesive. Boozer turned in his second straight double-double and Hill had his fourth.

Hill and Boozer were able to keep going to the back-to-the-basket well for most of the night. With Howard out, the Rockets started the undrafted Black at center. While Black has looked fine in limited minutes this season and may carve out a long-term niche as a backup big, Wednesday night served as proof of how desperately Houston needs Howard to stay on the floor.

The Lakers were able to break through the Rockets’ so-so perimeter defense and get decent looks at the basket, though some players (mostly wings) struggled finishing. Houston came into the game with the league’s most efficient defense, but the Lakers’ offensive rebounding numbers and the looks they got at the rim exposed the Rockets’ depth problems.

Last season Houston could have plugged Omer Asik, among the league’s best half-dozen rim protectors, into Howard’s spot. Asik’s trade to New Orleans and the Rockets’ lack of proper replacement left Kevin McHale at times running a five-out system with no obvious rim protector on the floor. Those lineups can work in short spurts against below-average, but it’s an issue that may have long-term ramifications.

Outside the Howard injury, the Lakers’ effort was also boosted by Young, providing a spark off the bench in his second game of the season. Young scored 16 points, 13 of which came in the second half. He hasn’t shown many adverse signs from the thumb injury that kept him out the first 10 games. It’s also worth noting—mostly because he’ll tell us all even if we ignore it—that the Lakers are undefeated with Swaggy P back in the lineup.

“That’s the thing that I love about Nick,” Lakers coach Byron Scott told reporters. “He brings positive energy. He’s an energy giver, not taker, and that’s what we need.” 

The widespread praise of Young comes largely from his infectious personality, but he’s not without merit on this team. Young will likely become the de-facto second scoring option next to Bryant over the course of the season. Anyone who watched the Lakers in their first 10 games knows Bryant needs help anywhere he can get it—even if it comes in the redundant chucker department.

Young’s swag may not rub off on his teammates enough to make the Lakers a playoff team. But it could make help them competent. And after the first few weeks, that’s a reason to be positive.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl Hits Shot from Top of Arena, Yells ‘War Damn Eagle!’

Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl looks to be embracing his new team.

Pearl joined Legendary Shots as they went to Auburn Arena to pull off some trick shots, including one from the top of the arena by Pearl himself.

Afterward, Pearl shouted “War damn Eagle!” 

(It should be noted that this may have taken more than one attempt.)

[247 Sports]

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Ranking the Best Freshman Seasons from College Basketball in the 2000s

The NBA’s one-and-done rule, if nothing else, has given college basketball some of the greatest freshman performances over the last 10 years or so.

We’ve seen any number of NBA talents take the college detour and leave an indelible impression on the landscape. 

Some, like Carmelo Anthony, graced college basketball for 35 games and cut down the nets. Others, like Greg Oden, put his team on his back all the way to the Finals. 

There are Crock Pot players that stew for several seasons in college hoops, while others, namely the freshmen, combust on the scene like alcohol in a skillet, giving us one flash of brilliance before moving on.

Read on to see some of the more iconic freshman seasons of the 2000s.

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