Kansas vs. Tennessee: Score and Twitter Reaction from Orlando Classic 2014

The No. 11 Kansas Jayhawks advanced to the finals of the Orlando Classic Friday with an 82-67 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers at HP Field House in Orlando, Florida.

Kansas improved to 4-1 with the win and it will take on the winner of Friday night’s clash between Michigan State and Marquette in Sunday’s tournament title game, according to Gary Parrish of CBS Sports:

The Jayhawks were bolstered by 40 combined points from forwards Perry Ellis III and Cliff Alexander, but Tennessee managed to remain competitive for much of the game with strong play from several youngsters.

The final score didn’t exactly do the game justice in terms of how close it was, and Michael Spencer of WATE in Knoxville, Tennessee is of the belief that the Volunteers’ performance could be a positive moving forward:

With this Orlando Classic semifinal in the books, here is a look at how the intriguing Big 12 vs. SEC clash played out.

 

Score Breakdown

 

Recap and Twitter Reaction

While Kansas led for much of the first half, Tennessee was able to hang tough. It was quite clear from the start that the Jayhawks intended to use their size and athleticism to their advantage.

According to Ben Frederickson of GoVolsXtra, however, the Volunteers were more than willing to sell out in an effort to prevent Kansas from scoring easy buckets around the basket:

Although that did prove effective at various points, the Jayhawks were able to make them pay by converting from the free-throw line. Kansas hit 11 of 14 attempts while Tennessee was converted on just 50 percent of its 12 freebies.

Another area in which the Jayhawks excelled early was jump shooting against Tennessee’s zone defense. They made a modest five of 14 shots from long range. However, the threat of the three-point shot from the likes of junior forward Perry Ellis forced the Vols to move out defensively, per Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star:

Ellis scored 11 points in the first half to lead Kansas, but it was a true team effort as seven Jayhawks dropped at least three points in the opening half.

Conversely, Kevin Punter, Jabari McGhee and Detrick Mostella accounted for all but 10 of Tennessee’s first-half points. Mostella was especially deadly from downtown, as he made a pair of trifectas, including a four-point play that reminded The Times Free Press‘ Patrick Brown of a certain NBA star:

With Tennessee trailing by eight with just over two minutes remaining in the half, a potential momentum shift occurred as Kansas sophomore guard Wayne Selden Jr. committed a flagrant foul, according to Benton Smith of KUSports.com:

Punter converted both free-throw attempts, but the Vols were unable to cut into the lead more than that as they squandered their ensuing possession.

A three by Kansas freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk stretched the lead to seven, and the Jayhawks led by as many as nine in the closing seconds, but a McGhee layup made the Tennessee deficit 40-33 entering the locker room.

In addition to poor free-throw shooting, the Volunteers suffered from an inability to box out the big, athletic Jayhawks in rebound situations, per Brown:

The Jayhawks came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, and freshman forward Cliff Alexander led the way. With Kansas leading 49-40, Alexander threw down two consecutive alley-oop dunks off passes from sophomore guard Frank Mason III.

As pointed out by Wes Rucker of 247Sports, the Volunteers made it far too easy for the explosive debutante:

Also, Dodd was left scratching his head regarding Tennessee’s decision to shift its focus away from protecting the rim:

While everything seemed to be going Kansas’ way, Tennessee managed to stop the bleeding. Another Mostella three with just over 13 minutes remaining in the game allowed the Vols to cut the Jayhawks’ lead to just six points.

Following a wasted Kansas possession, Mostella stepped up once again and hit another three. According to Frederickson, the sharpshooting freshman clearly found himself in the zone after sinking that shot:

Mostella‘s make to pull within three was supplemented by a Derek Reese steal and layup from Punter to make the score 54-53 in favor of Kansas. Jayhawks head coach Bill Self called for a much-needed timeout after that in hopes of getting his team refocused.

The tactic worked well for Kansas as it finally ended a lengthy field-goal drought with a Mason three-pointer to extend the lead to four.

Kansas nursed a two-point lead with roughly seven minutes remaining, and while forward Jamari Traylor had a golden opportunity to add to it, he was called for a charge on an attempted dunk.

According to Bleacher Report’s CJ Moore, Self was burned by his seemingly unwavering support of Traylor despite his poor play throughout the game:

Tennessee’s Armani Moore tied the game shortly thereafter, but Kansas was able to seize the lead once again after a pair of free throws as well as an old-fashioned three-point play from Alexander with less than six minutes left.

A Mason runner put Kansas up 71-64 when the final television timeout occurred with just over three minutes remaining, which meant the Volunteers’ backs were firmly against the wall.

Kansas made the situation even bleaker as Ellis immediately converted a three-point play, which gave him 20 on the afternoon and put Tennessee down by double-digits.

Per Troy Machir of Sporting News, Ellis was the difference for Kansas, as he helped the Jayhawks maintain and extend their lead in the closing minutes:

Tennessee needed to be perfect down the stretch in order to pull off the unlikely comeback, but the Vols went cold from the field and ultimately could not avoid being serenaded by the tune of “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.”

 

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Arizona vs. SDSU: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Maui Invitational

 With a championship on the line in the Maui Invitational, No. 3 Arizona proved to be too much for No. 15 San Diego State, 61-59, at the Lahaina Civic Center. The title for Arizona marks its first since 2000 and became the sixth team to win multiple Maui Invitational championships.

ESPN Stats & Info provides a look at the final from Maui:

Freshman Stanley Johnson led the Wildcats, finishing with 18 points and nine rebounds while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added another 14 points off the bench. Arizona also applied pressure on the defensive end with seven steals and seven blocks—three of which came from Hollis-Jefferson.

Arizona coach Sean Miller spoke about winning the title, via the ESPN broadcast.

“It means a lot,” Miller said. “We talk a lot to each team that we have about not riding the coattails of the teams of the past. … When you come to a tournament where you’re challenged for three games in three days at this level it takes a little bit of everything. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Johnson struggled at times, going 4-for-14 from the floor, but contributed in a multitude of ways for the Wildcats. Anthony Gimino of Fox Sports Arizona offered his take on the freshman’s potential moving forward:

SDSU proved to be one of the toughest tests for the Wildcats on the young season after Kansas State pushed them in the semifinals. The Aztecs were paced by Trey Kell yet again, who finished the night with 14 points on 4-of-10 from the field.

Kell was clutch down the stretch, helping close the lead with a four-point play on a foul from behind the arc, but it wouldn’t be enough. Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports noted how much the Aztecs were struggling prior to that play:

Ultimately, the game came down to struggles from the free-throw line and an inability to close from San Diego State. The Aztecs went 13-for-24 from the line and couldn’t quite close the window of opportunity for Arizona as it continued to hit free throws.

Both teams come away from Maui battle tested, but it’s Arizona that remains undefeated.

The Wildcats still have several tough non-conference matchups ahead, including both Gonzaga and Michigan in December. Looking to win a second consecutive Pac-12 regular season title, the Wildcats look like a dangerous team.

Despite the loss, Steve Fisher’s team still looks like a competitor in the Mountain West Conference. After already knocking off a Top 25 opponent in Utah earlier this season, the Aztecs will likely have the resume to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament.

 

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Wizards vs. Cavaliers: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

The Cleveland Cavaliers needed a quality victory to truly get on course for a rise toward the top of the Eastern Conference. They achieved that in an impressive 113-87 win over the Washington Wizards at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday.

Washington entered the evening second in the East, while Cleveland, though coming off a blowout win over Orlando, hovered below .500.

Cavs superstar LeBron James led by example, stuffing the stat sheet with 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals. He sank 14 of 17 free throws and provided the stable, high level of play this young team’s nucleus needs to learn how to win.

Fox Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico felt Cleveland put together its best overall effort of the young 2014-15 NBA campaign:

Keith Britton of 92.3 The Fan had a similar take:

Anderson Varejao (10 points, seven rebounds) knows how to click with James thanks to their time together in James’ previous Cleveland stint. Conrad Kaczmarek of NBA.com observed this phenomenon as James fed Varejao for a ton of easy buckets in the first half:

James is trying to deliver a championship for his home team, and while he has two fellow All-Stars in Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving flanking him, they’ve never played in the postseason.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst documented James’ thoughts before the Cavs rattled off their two most recent wins:

I’m a winner, I want to win, and I want to win now. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not down the line, I want to win now. So it’s a fine line for me, but I understand what we’re enduring right now. …

… I have a low tolerance for things of this nature. So it’s something I’m working on, as well, which I knew from the beginning that that was going to be my biggest test to see how much patience I’ve got.

That killer instinct and mindset to get the job done are characteristics James exuded Wednesday, attacking the Wizards and getting to the free-throw line frequently.

Cleveland.com’s Chris Haynes noted how James set the tone from the start, sparking the Cavs to a 31-18 lead after the first quarter:

Zach Love of Grantland noticed how the Cavs made adjustments on defense to stymie the Wizards, whose dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 16 points on 16 shot attempts:

Cavs.com’s Joe Gabriele weighed in:

Rasual Butler led the Wizards with 23 points off the bench, but the Cavs did an admirable job shutting down most of Washington’s top offensive threats.

Love has had a rocky start to his time in Cleveland, yet he was far more proficient versus Washington and shot 7-of-10 from the field with 21 points.

Wizards star Paul Pierce started to go to the bucket often himself in the third quarter with Washington down 58-46 by halftime. Bob Finnan of The News-Herald noted how the veteran was rising to the challenge, while Irving was struggling in the big game:

But that dynamic didn’t hurt the Cavs overall. Irving turned it on in the fourth as a scorer to finish with 18 points and was still helping facilitate improved execution in the half-court offense before his late surge.

Passions were high, as the home crowd was in full support of the energized Cleveland squad—and even head coach David Blatt implored the fans, per the Akron Beacon Journal‘s Jason Lloyd:

Now the Cavs have some serious momentum to build on ahead of a favorable stretch of their schedule. Before a road trip to Toronto on December 5, Cleveland faces Indiana, Milwaukee and New York, with a golden opportunity to vault up the East standings.

Zac Jackson of Fox Sports Ohio brought up a relevant point regarding the Cavs’ ongoing search for synergy:

One alarming development is the volume of shots Dion Waiters takes off the bench.

Waiters, who missed 11 of a team-high 17 attempts from the field, has dubious shot selection and must be more of a complementary player given the superior talent on his team. The fact that Waiters had six assists is a good sign moving forward, though.

Bouncing back from Wednesday’s loss right away won’t be simple for the Wizards. They open a four-game homestand against New Orleans and Miami, then play the Los Angeles Lakers before taking on the streaking Denver Nuggets.

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UNC vs. Butler: Score and Twitter Reaction for Bulldogs’ Upset Win

Some things never change. Whether it’s Brad Stevens, Brandon Miller or Chris Holtmann leading the way as head coach, Butler will always be a dangerous threat in tournament play.      

The Bulldogs proved that once again Wednesday afternoon, dominating No. 5 North Carolina on the glass en route to a 74-66 win in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein noted Butler’s recent run of success against UNC:

No one will be showing this game tape at shooting clinics anytime soon. The Tar Heels finished 38.6 percent from the field, while preseason All-American Marcus Paige hit just 5 of 17 shots for 18 points.

As Sports Illustrated‘s Seth Davis noted, the lack of shooters is a very real concern for Roy Williams’ squad, which went 25.0 percent from beyond the arc and 56.3 percent from the charity stripe:

Paige heated up in the final minutesas he almost always doesbut he did so too late, as the Tar Heels’ 19th turnover thwarted a late comeback attempt.

The Bulldogs’ shooting display wasn’t any better. They shot a ghastly 30.6 percent, with leading scorer Kellen Dunham making just 1 of 10 three-point attempts on his way to an inefficient 11 points.

Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press put the win in perspective:

Butler accomplished that feat by controlling the interior. The Bulldogs, who entered the game 218th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbed over 50 percent of their misses, finishing with 29 offensive rebounds against just 26 defensive rebounds for Carolina.

“The dudes from this locker room are really tough guys,” said Holtmann, who is filling in as interim head coach while Miller remains on medical leave, via ESPN’s broadcast. “That’s what this was about.”

Former North Carolina star Sean May noticed an important difference between both teams:

In addition to its toughness and effort, Butler also displayed its depth with this win.

With Dunham struggling, Alex Barlow had 17 points and provided tremendous defense on Paige. Roosevelt Jones filled out the box score with 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Kameron Woods pulled down 13 rebounds, and freshman Kelan Martin was huge off the bench, pouring in 17 points.

College hoops writer Dick Weiss put it simply:

Butler missed out on the NCAA tournament a year ago, but the Bulldogs look ready to make some significant noise in the Big East.

As for the Tar Heels, this is a team with some of the most talented pieces in the country. But it’s clear Williams hasn’t yet found out how those pieces best fit together.

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Michigan vs. Oregon: Score and Twitter Reaction from Legends Classic 2014

Oregon and No. 19 Michigan came into the semifinal of the Legends Classic with unblemished records. When the final buzzer sounded, it was the Wolverines coming away with a 70-63 win and a trip to the final for a clash with No. 12 Villanova.

Michigan’s official account provides a look at the final result and reaction from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn:

Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert stepped up in a big way with a combined 37 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolverines. Derrick Walton Jr. struggled throughout the game to finish with just six points along with Kameron Chatman, who finished 1-of-4 on the night.

Irvin’s great play was thanks to his willingness to take nearly any shot, as Rod Beard of The Detroit News points out:

One of the big questions coming into the game was whether Chatman would remain a starter in the crucial game. Coach John Beilein spoke about the freshman’s rough start, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press:

We’re not thinking about any changes in that at all right now. …

Just continue to give him more opportunities to grow at that position and the game will slow down more for him. Usually it’s more defense than offense for freshmen. But he’s really played well in practices. He has a great attitude. Just in games the shot hasn’t fallen.

While Chatman was generally ineffective on offense, he did contribute three rebounds and three assists on the night. Meanwhile, freshman Ricky Doyle came off the bench to add 10 points of his own.

For the Ducks, Joseph Young put on a show in Brooklyn. He finished the night with 20 points against LeVert for much of the game. Jeff Borzello of ESPN passed along his thoughts on the matchup:

Jonathan Givony of Draft Express also noted his observations of LeVert throughout the game:

Both teams traded blows throughout the night, but it was Michigan’s closing ability in the second half that led it to a win. A late three-pointer and clutch free throws from Irvin made the difference, as Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports points out:

Michigan moves on to take on Villanova in the championship game of the early-season tournament. The Wildcats are coming off a 24-point win over VCU and offer another explosive offense behind Dylan Ennis.

By virtue of its loss, Oregon moves to 3-1 and misses out on a crucial resume-building win. The Ducks still look the part of a strong team moving forward but have a difficult road ahead when Pac-12 play gets underway.

 

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Duke vs. Stanford: Score, Twitter Reaction from Coaches vs. Cancer Classic 2014

The AP fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils lived up to their gaudy early-season standing on Saturday, defeating Stanford 70-59 in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic championship at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Even though the Cardinal aren’t ranked, they presented a considerable challenge for the mighty Blue Devils, with key pieces from last year’s nucleus that went to the Sweet 16 returning.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com highlighted how Stanford matched up rather favorably:

Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski was squaring off with one of his former standout players in Johnny Dawkins, which added an interesting dynamic to Saturday’s championship matchup. Krzyzewski lauded Hawkins as a person away from the court as well as a coach on it prior to the game.

“It’s an older bond. Johnny’s family and ours we’re like family,” said Krzyzewski, per The Herald Sun‘s Steve Wiseman. “You can’t get any closer than that. Johnny was the first great player to commit to me. He was as good a player as we’ve ever had at Duke and a great man. Johnny has got the whole package, the whole package.”

That promised to make matters more difficult for the favorites, yet Duke was up for the challenge.

Laura Keeley of The News & Observer noticed how quickly the Blue Devils’ lethal offense could turn the tide on even the most formidable foes:

When the momentum started going the Cardinal’s way in the second half, ESPN’s Dana O’Neil made what turned out to be a prophetic prediction:

Thanks to characteristic three-point shooting prowess and an imposing presence on the inside from freshman phenom Jahlil Okafor (10 points, 12 rebounds), it turned out to be a hard-fought but rather stress-free victory.

Duke Basketball (via The Chronicle) alluded to the all-around impact Okafor can have on the offensive end, which revealed itself on one of the opening possessions:

It was on the Blue Devils’ perimeter players to pick up the slack for the most part, and they rose to the occasion. This was a phenomenon Grantland’s Shane Ryan observed amid Duke’s dominant performance:

Guard Quinn Cook set the tone with a team-high 18 points and five assists, while Matt Jones had seven quick points off the bench in the first half for the winners.

Seth Davis of CBS Sports alluded to how important the senior, experienced Cook is to Duke’s cause this year:

Cook had a seasoned senior foil in Stanford star guard Chasson Randle, who’d hit six three-pointers versus UNLV in the previous contest. Randle again shouldered the scoring load for the Cardinal, leading everyone with 22 points, along with savvy big man Stefan Nastic (13 points, 13 rebounds).

David Aldridge of DukeReport.com thinks highly of Randle and his standing in the Pac-12:

Versatile first-year Duke star Justise Winslow also continued to live up to his massive hype. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg weighed in on Winslow’s talent:

Turner Sports’ Greg Anthony couldn’t help but be impressed, too, as Winslow stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists:

NBA executives believe in Winslow, per ESPN’s Jeff Goodman:

The Cardinal boast decent depth, but it was Duke who proved to have the superior personnel as it got deeper into its rotation. Jones provided a key spark to help the lead swell to double digits before halftime, while guard Rasheed Sulaimon is another scoring threat on the wing to help with spacing.

The Blue Devils deploy two other true freshman starters in Winslow and Tyus Jones, but they also have the bench to be a consistent contender throughout the season. That they’re already jelling bodes well for whatever lies ahead.

What should be an easy home contest against Fordham looms on Duke’s schedule this next Wednesday, while Stanford will seek to bounce back against Delaware at Maples Pavilion.

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Duke vs. Temple: Score and Twitter Reaction from Coaches vs. Cancer Classic 2014

The No. 4 Duke Blue Devils were far from their best on Friday and had to overcome a poor shooting night to beat the Temple Owls, 74-54, in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic inside the Barclays Center.

Despite winning by 20 points, Duke was far from dominant for most of the game. The Blue Devils shot 39.1 percent from the field as a team, with Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook the only players scoring in double figures.

Winslow was arguably the best player on the court, with his contribution on the offensive end only telling half of the story. The freshman forward is an incredible defender and played a large part in the Owls going 22-of-59 from the field and 1-of-12 from behind the arc.

Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress couldn’t say enough about Winslow’s game:

CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein feels that Winslow’s skill set also serves as a perfect contrast to those of his teammates:

The Blue Devils aren’t left wanting for talent. It says a lot that even on a somewhat disappointing night, they can beat Temple by such a large margin.

Before the game, head coach Fran Dunphy acknowledged that his Owls were in for a major test, but at the same time, he added that his players should relish playing a team as talented as Duke.

“They are a terrific, terrific team,” said Dunphy regarding the Blue Devils, per John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We will welcome the opportunity, because it’s a great team. We know what we are in for. We know how good they are. Once we hit the floor, we know what we are in for. They are a talented and well-coached team. But that’s what you want.”

He saw first hand just how good Duke is.

That said, Temple had a chance early on to jump on the Blue Devils and apply some pressure.

Okafor’s hit the ground running so far in his freshman year, shooting a combined 25-of-30 from the floor over his first three games. His output in the first half couldn’t have been in more contrast to that hot start, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Okafor went 3-of-13 heading into the half with eight points. He did grab seven rebounds to cover somewhat for his poor shooting.

His performance wasn’t an outlier, either. As a team, Duke struggled mightily in the first half, only making 12 of its 39 field-goal attempts. The Blue Devils were also 3-of-12 from long range, which is well below their 47.8 percent three-point shooting clip coming into the night.

While there was no way of escaping all of those misses, Duke was otherwise strong in almost every other facet of the game. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated highlighted how Mike Krzyzewski’s team wasn’t shooting itself in the foot and also created a lot of second-chance opportunities:

Duke also did a good job of locking down on Will Cummings, Temple’s leading scorer. The senior guard had as many points (five) as he had turnovers in the first half. Cummings also struggled to stay out of foul trouble, compounding his frustration:

As bad as things were for the Blue Devils in the first half, they still had a 10-point halftime lead, 36-26. One big run to start the second half, and they’d be in firm control of the game.

That’s exactly what happened as Duke outscored the Owls 21-9 to begin the second frame, opening up a 22-point advantage. The Blue Devils found their shooting stroke, hitting 9-of-17 field goals during the stretch.

Cummings made it a 14-point game, 62-48, with 5:31 to play, but that’s as close as the Owls got to a comeback. The Blue Devils defense continued to smother Temple, and Duke’s shooting was good enough to not have long scoreless stretches.

Put the two together, and the Blue Devils rolled to a win in which the final score somewhat belies the difficulty.

With the victory, the Blue Devils advance to the final of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, where they’ll play Stanford. The Cardinal beat UNLV by 29 points, 89-60, in Friday’s other semifinal game.

Temple’s time in the tournament isn’t over just yet. The Owls will meet the Rebels in Saturday’s consolation game.

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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. 

 

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Lakers vs. Rockets: Score and Twitter Reaction

In Round 1, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard said what they thought of each 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.

Houston missed Howard’s presence throughout the game, but its 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 layup 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 played 28 minutes in the Rockets’ 119-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, but reporters saw him 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 tipoff. Howard did not watch the game from the Houston bench, and the team has not given a timetable for his return.

“Bumps and bruises,” Howard told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle on Monday. “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, flustered into a six-point performance by 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 Kostas Papanikolaou, who scored 16 of his career-high 19 points before the break. The Lakers left the Greek rookie wide-open at points thanks to poor defensive rotations, and he blitzed them 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 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 consecutive.

Hill and Boozer kept 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 a 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 offenses, but it’s an issue that may have long-term ramifications.

Outside of the Howard injury, the Lakers’ effort also received a boost from Young, who provided 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 Tuesday. “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. After the first few weeks, that’s a reason to be positive.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

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

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

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