Thunder vs. Kings: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

A sudden midseason coaching change isn’t exactly ideal preparation for one of the hottest teams in the NBA

In their first game since firing head coach Michael Malone, the Sacramento Kings put up a valiant effort but ultimately came up short, as the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder earned their seventh straight victory with a 104-92 win Tuesday night. 

Before the game, Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said the firing wasn’t about the team’s record, even though Sacramento had lost seven of its nine games without star DeMarcus Cousins, who is out with viral meningitis.

“It wasn’t about wins and losses,” the GM told reporters, via ESPN.com. “I don’t really care what our record was. It’s really about who we want to be, what we want our identity to be as a team.”

Notably, D’Alessandro and owner Vivek Ranadive wished for the Kings to employ a faster pace. They were able to get just eight fast-break points on Tuesday night under interim coach Tyrone Corbin, though, a result of an inability to slow down Oklahoma City’s offense and create transition opportunities. 

The Thunder shot 47.1 percent from the field, led mostly by their pair of MVP candidates. 

Russell Westbrook finished with a game-high 32 points to go with six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Despite averaging under 32 minutes over his last nine games, he is on a historically hot run since his return from a hand injury, per ESPN’s Royce Young:

Kevin Durant added 26 points of his own, cementing himself among a couple of all-time greats, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Rudy Gay had 22 points, and the Sacramento bench outscored Oklahoma City’s, 44-28, but the Kings had 19 turnovers en route to their fourth loss in a row. 

The Thunder poured in 34 first-quarter points and led by double-digits for most of the first half. But Gay awoke Sleep Train Arena just before intermission, slashing into the lane and putting Serge Ibaka on a poster to cut the lead to seven. 

NBA’s Twitter feed provided a look at the gargantuan two-handed slam:

Behind several buckets from Gay, the Kings continued to chip away at the lead in the third quarter. But the Thunder answered every time, taking a 10-point cushion into the final period. 

With both teams’ second units in the game, though, Sacramento went on a 13-2 run. Ryan Hollins, Nik Stauskas and Carl Landry each hit big shots, as the Kings took their first lead of the game with 8:04 remaining. 

CSN’s Jon Wilson noted the impressive production from Sacramento’s bench:

But then Thunder coach Scott Brooks put Westbrook and Durant back into the game, and sometimes it’s as simple as that. The duo poured in 16 points as part of a 19-6 run, giving the Thunder a 12-point lead and sealing the win. 

CJ Fogler gave a look at the exclamation mark:

The Thunder get a day off before a marquee matchup against the Golden State Warriors, who just had their 16-game winning streak snapped by the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s early, but with the way both teams are playing, it could easily be a preview of a late-May matchup. 

Sacramento, meanwhile, will host the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday, looking to quickly establish its identity under Corbin and put to an end to its losing ways. 

A Cousins return wouldn’t hurt, either. 

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DeMarcus Cousins found out about Mike Malone firing on Twitter

Mike Malone wasn’t given much of a chance to turn the misfortunes of the struggling Sacramento Kings around. After a disappointing 28-54 season last year, Malone had the Kings off to an 11-13 start this season. He was fired on Sunday — one day after the team lost its third consecutive game. Many of us…Read More

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DeMarcus Cousins learned of Mike Malone’s firing on Twitter

You can just tell when an organization isn’t run the right way. One indicator of this is a lack of communication from the front office as it relates to star players on the team.
Shortly after it was announced that the Sacramento Kings had fired head coach Mike Malone on Sunday evening, the response from a undoubtedly skeptical fan base took over the social media world. Why fire a coach that had helped turn the team into what could be considered a competitive squad on a nightly basis?
It made no sense.
What makes even less sense now is how a certain star on the Kings roster found out about Malone’s firing.
DeMarcus Cousins, the face of the the franchise in Sacramento, found out about Malone’s ousting on Twitter. And he didn’t seem too happy about that fact. 
How in the world does this happen? It’s up to the front office and ownership group to keep the players in the loop when it comes to something like this.
For Cousins to learn of the firing on social media, well it’s just another example o

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DeMarcus Cousins Found out on Twitter That Kings Fired Coach Mike Malone

The Sacramento Kings’ firing of coach Mike Malone came as a bit of a surprise to everyone, including the players.

That might be because the organization apparently didn’t even let the players know about the change in command before the news hit the Internet.

Late Sunday night (on the West Coast), Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Malone had been fired.

Malone was just starting his second season as coach.

Sacramento (11-13) was just one game back in the win column of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, which may actually have exceeded expectations. However, that apparently wasn’t good enough for the organization.

How did some of the players find out? DeMarcus Cousins—the Kings’ best player—found out about the news via Twitter, according to USA Today Sports’ Sam Amick:

That’s a rough way to find out about a franchise-altering move.

The news came as a shock to Cousins, per Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:

Now, the players have to move on and try to make the best out of a tough situation.

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UNC vs. Kentucky: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

Laugh all you want at the notion that the Kentucky basketball team could go undefeated in the 2014-15 season, but it looked completely dominant against yet another nationally ranked team Saturday.

The Wildcats destroyed North Carolina to the tune of 84-70, but the game wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated. The Wildcats went on a run to open up a double-digit lead late in the first half and never looked back.

Willie Cauley-Stein led the way with 15 points, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks while Devin Booker chipped in 15 points off the bench. In all, four Wildcats ended up in double figures. Kentucky’s athleticism and depth were simply too much for North Carolina to handle for the entire 40 minutes.

Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige spearheaded the North Carolina attack with a combined 29 points, but it was far too little, too late.

The natural assumption whenever Kentucky takes the floor is that it will blow away the competition because of its length, size, depth and overall talent, but Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports noted before the game that North Carolina could also cause some problems for the same reasons: 

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they lost some of that depth during Thursday’s practice when Alex Poythress tore his ACL. Head coach John Calipari discussed the significance of the loss, via ESPN.com:

“Things that people can’t do, he can doand they all came at great times. I can remember last year against Louisville his three-minute span was ridiculous. So now we don’t have that guy that we can play poorly and he’ll go do something that will get you back in the game.”

Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal noted that Poythress was on the crowd’s mind at tipoff:

It didn’t take long for Kentucky to feed off the crowd’s energy. Andrew Carter of The News & Observer explained why UNC got off to a slow start:

It was particularly concerning for the Tar Heels that Kentucky was hitting from the outside, which is the one thing the Wildcats don’t do well. Coming into this game, Kentucky was only shooting 27.7 percent from three-point range. Nick Gray of The Kentucky Kernel acknowledged the shooting:

North Carolina survived the early storm and cut into the lead with a first-half run of its own. Carter described the action and opined about the importance of the pace of play:

While North Carolina hung within striking distance in the first half, Seth Davis of CBS Sports had an interesting observation: 

The Tar Heels may have kept the game close in the early going, but Kentucky’s overwhelming talent took over down the stretch before halftime. The Wildcats drilled six three-pointers, forced North Carolina into 10 turnovers and held superstar Marcus Paige to a measly two points in the first 20 minutes. 

It was good enough for a 49-34 lead. Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, Jeff Goodman of ESPN and John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader pointed out some of the problems that were crippling North Carolina’s upset efforts:

North Carolina came out of the locker room energized and cut into the lead a bit when Paige hit a three-pointer. Gray passed along one of the interactions from the Wildcats on the floor in response:

The problem with pushing the pace against Kentucky, though, is that its incredible athleticism all over the floor shines through that way. Anytime the Tar Heels cut the lead down to fewer than 15 in the initial minutes after intermission, the Wildcats would respond by forcing a turnover and getting out in transition for an easy basket on the other end.

Another problem for the Tar Heels was Kentucky’s shooting, as Tucker pointed out:

With Kentucky up 18 on the court, Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio passed along an inspiring development off the floor:

Paige carried the Tar Heels back to within nine points with a couple of threes and assists. Gray acknowledged how important Paige was to the comeback efforts: 

The mini-spurt from North Carolina was a minor concern for Kentucky, but the most alarming development in the second half was Tyler Ulis leaving with an injury, as Tucker noted:

Even without Ulis on the floor, things appeared hopeless for North Carolina. Tucker pointed out that even with Paige playing up to his potential in the second half, the Tar Heels were struggling to get within striking distance: 

Kentucky also received more good news with just less than seven minutes remaining in the game when Ulis returned to the floor. It ended up only being a cramp, which was encouraging considering he missed the recent victory over Columbia with a minor injury.

The Wildcats effectively put the game away in a one-minute stretch with five minutes remaining. They broke North Carolina’s press and set up Cauley-Stein for an emphatic alley-oop slam to go up 14. Kentucky then found Cauley-Stein for another dunk in transition on the next possession.

By the time North Carolina looked up, it was 78-62, and the crowd was going crazy with about four minutes remaining in the game. Both Tucker and Gray praised Cauley-Stein for his incredible efforts:

From there, the rest of the game was just a formality. That allowed Goodman to take a bigger-picture look at Kentucky:

The Wildcats put it on cruise control for the last few minutes and won in dominating fashion, 84-70.

Jon Bois of SB Nation put it best:

 

What’s Next?

This showdown with North Carolina was just the first in a grueling series of three games for the Wildcats before SEC play begins.

Kentucky plays UCLA in Chicago on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic and then travels to Louisville to take on the archrival Cardinals and their suffocating defense. North Carolina will also be in Chicago on Saturday for the CBS Sports Classic, but it will take on Ohio State in the first game of the doubleheader.

Before the clash with the Buckeyes, the Tar Heels get a warm-up game Tuesday against UNC Greensboro.

These type of nonconference showdowns are exactly what the selection committee is looking for come Selection Sunday. Strength of schedule is important, especially when competing for a No. 1 seed, and the scheduling from North Carolina and Kentucky will not go unrecognized.

Neither will 14-point victories over ranked teams.

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Michigan vs. Arizona: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

The No. 3 Arizona Wildcats ran their record to 10-0 on Saturday night with a dominant 80-53 win over the Michigan Wolverines in Tucson, Arizona.

From the very beginning, Arizona’s size and interior defense were deciding factors. After leading 36-25 at the half, Arizona ran away with the game in the final 20 minutes. The loss dropped Michigan to 6-4 on the season and marked its third consecutive defeat.

Wildcats super-freshman Stanley Johnson led the way with 15 points and seven rebounds. The Score captured this impressive two-handed jam in the first half that sparked Arizona to the early lead:

Rebounding was a huge reason Arizona dominated the game. The Wildcats beat the Wolverines 40-26 on the glass. Arizona also got just about any shot it wanted on the floor. The Wildcats shot 58 percent from the field, and their defense limited Michigan to just 35 percent shooting and 27 percent from beyond the three-point line.

At one point, ESPN Stats and Info captured just how dominant Arizona had been on the inside, and it compared it to how futile Michigan’s offense was on the whole:

Wolverines star Caris LeVert could not get anything going. Stingy and aggressive defense from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was one of the main reasons. LeVert had just eight points on 2-of-9 shooting. He came into the game averaging 17.7 points per contest. 

The eight points are LeVert’s second-lowest total of the season; Saturday’s game was just the second time he failed to reach double figures this year. Hollis-Jefferson finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Before the game, Mike Schmitz of Draft Express said he was looking forward to the LeVert vs. Hollis-Jefferson matchup:

It’s clear who won that duel.

Sophomore Zak Irvin led Michigan in scoring, finishing with 14 points, but the team clearly struggled to get buckets from anyone.

Arizona wasn’t perfect. Sean Miller’s kids have to really work on their free-throw shooting. They made just 50 percent of their attempts. In a closer game, this deficiency could have come back to bite them.

Once the game was over, Miller harped on the positives his team displayed, and he gave a shout-out to the McKale Center crowd in Tucson on Twitter:

From here, Arizona will have three days off before it heads into what figures to be another blowout win. The Wildcats will host the Horizon League’s Oakland Golden Grizzlies on Tuesday night. It would be a shock if Arizona didn’t run its record to 11-0 after that one.

Michigan has a full seven-day layoff after Saturday night’s loss.

The tough SMU Mustangs are next on the schedule for the Wolverines on Dec. 20. Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown has the Mustangs at 6-3, but the American Athletic Conference leaders have struggled against ranked and big-name teams. Their three losses came to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, the Arkansas Razorbacks and Indiana Hoosiers. Only the Hoosiers weren’t ranked when they faced SMU.

Heading into Ann Arbor with a chance to knock off Michigan represents a big opportunity for the Mustangs. If Michigan is going to avoid a fourth straight loss, it will have to play better than it did on Saturday.

 

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

On a night when Kobe Bryant was supposed to make history, Nick Young stole the show, hitting a go-ahead three-pointer with 7.4 seconds left in overtime to propel the Los Angeles Lakers to a 112-110 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the AT&T Center on Friday night.

The Lakers were less than a minute from pulling off arguably their best win of the season in regulation.

After trying and failing to overtake Los Angeles for much of the second half, the Spurs mounted a late charge. Manu Ginobili hit a three-pointer with 1:22 left in the fourth quarter to close the Lakers’ lead to four points, 101-97. A little less than 40 seconds later, Danny Green capitalized on a Bryant turnover with another three to make it a one-point game, 101-100.

Zach Harper of CBSSports.com joked that Bryant was stealthily finding a way to prolong the game so as to allow himself more time to pass Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list:

Bryant’s poor play was again at the fore as he let Ginobili get the baseline and set up for the potential game-winner in the dying seconds. Bomani Jones described the move in simple terms:

Jordan Hill fouled Ginobili on the shot, sending the Argentine to the foul line for two shots. Ginobili, a career 83.2 percent free-throw shooter, only hit one of the two free throws, tying the game.

Both the Lakers and Spurs had a chance to win the game before time expired in regulation, but Bryant and Tim Duncan had shots go begging.

The overtime period was similarly competitive, with the Lakers building a three-point lead, 109-106, with 1:47 to go. Duncan then put the Spurs in the lead with consecutive baskets, the last of which came with 64 seconds remaining.

That merely set the stage for Young’s frantic heave from well beyond the arc as the shot clock approached zeroes.

Young played well all game, leading all scorers with 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting. After the win, he admitted that a little prodding from Kobe helped to give him the added incentive to make the game-winner, per Mike Trudell of Lakers.com:

Green and Duncan scored 19 apiece for the Spurs in the loss, with Duncan passing Jerry West on the all-time scoring list, per NBA TV:

Tony Parker struggled to find his shot, finishing 2-of-5 from the floor with five points, which led to some of the Spurs’ problems on the offensive end. Cory Joseph added some much-needed scoring at point guard, playing 35 minutes off the bench and finishing with 16 points.

The biggest storyline entering the game was Kobe Bryant’s pursuit of Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Coming into Friday night, he needed 31 points to pass Jordan to take sole possession of third.

Now into his 19th season, Bryant’s been inextricably linked with Jordan throughout his career, and USA Today‘s Adi Joseph argued that the two are cut from the same cloth:

The influence is obvious. Watch Bryant operate from the low post or on the baseline, then imagine those moves being done in a red-and-black No. 23 jersey instead of his purple-and-gold No. 24. There’s a presence, a competitive fire that defines each legend. Jordan’s tongue-wagging has been replaced by Bryant’s jutting chin and jersey-gnawing.

“I think Kobe Bryant studied MJ, to be honest,” Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said. “The way he moves, even after he won his fifth championship he did the same celebration that MJ did (pumping his fist and rallying the home crowd). … I think he models most of the things he does after Jordan.”

FiveThirtyEight weighed in with a metric comparison between the two, and Jordan won decisively:

While that debate will continue to rage on for decades, what isn’t in doubt is that Kobe remains behind MJ in the record books. Bryant only scored 22 points on 7-of-22 shooting, now needing nine points to overtake Jordan.

Many wondered if Bryant would prioritize passing Jordan over winning the game, but that didn’t prove to be true. His final shot tally was almost directly in line with his average of 22.4 shots a game entering Friday night, and that’s after the extra period.

At times, it was as if Bryant got more satisfaction from stringing the fans along. Per the Twitter account netw3rk, Kobe was using “MJ-record rope-a-dope passes”:

As a result, the Lakers’ supporting cast stole the show. In addition to Young, L.A.’s bench played a pivotal role. Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin each added 14 points. Boozer finished with a double-double, grabbing 13 boards in addition to his point total. Even Robert Sacre contributed productive minutes, scoring four points and collecting six rebounds.

As if Bryant’s attempt to catch Jordan didn’t add enough intrigue to the game, this was also the first time the Lakers took the court since Kobe unleashed an expletive-laden rant against his teammates during a practice on Thursday, per ESPN.com’s Arash Markazi.

While Magic Johnson may be content to see the Lakers tank this year, Bryant won’t sit idly by as the team hovers near the bottom of the Western Conference.

His teammates responded positively in the first half against the Spurs, helping Los Angeles run out to a 54-50 halftime lead. Bryant struggled to find a groove, shooting 3-of-9 and scoring 11 points in the first two quarters.

Luckily for the Lakers, Young and Lin stepped up, combining to score 27 points and shoot 7-of-8 from three-point range. Young in particular started out hot, hitting his first five attempts from behind the arc.

Trudell compared Young’s hot start to catching fire in NBA Jam:

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times pondered that Young might manage to catch up with Kobe and MJ on the scoring list:

Kawhi Leonard didn’t suit up for the Spurs on Friday, which meant the rest of the team would have to compensate. The majority of the scoring burden fell to Duncan and Parker. While the former nearly posted a double-double in the first half (10 points, nine rebounds), the latter failed to score a single point.

As Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News pointed out, San Antonio received little production from its French contingent:

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News felt the game was playing against type in almost every respect:

Los Angeles continued to strike a great balance on the offensive end and remained committed on defense, building an 11-point lead, 86-75, heading into the fourth quarter. The Spurs kept getting to within arm’s reach of the Lakers, and then L.A. would quickly turn a two- or three-point lead into a five- or six-point lead.

The first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter were essentially a carbon copy of the third. The Spurs continued hanging around, but they couldn’t string together enough of an offensive run to take the lead. Then came San Antonio’s late push that sent the game into OT.

On balance of the entire game, the Lakers earned the win. They were the better team for the majority of the game.

The Lakers have a day off prior to their next game, after which they travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s obviously foolish to add too much importance to a game in December, but Friday night was one of Los Angeles’ best performances of the season. It will be interesting to see if the team can build on that.

The Spurs also get Saturday off before they hit the road on Sunday to play the Denver Nuggets. San Antonio won’t put too much stock into a loss to the Lakers, even at home.

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

After the first quarter, it appeared the Cleveland Cavaliers would be just fine without LeBron James. Too bad there were three more remaining.

Russell Westbrook scored 26 points and Kevin Durant added 19, as the Oklahoma City Thunder held on late to earn a 103-94 victory over the LeBron-less Cavs.

The margin between the two teams was greater than the final score indicated. Oklahoma City held an 86-66 lead with under 10 minutes remaining and appeared to take its foot off the pedal with a trip to Minnesota looming Friday.

In what might be a significant moral victory for the Cavaliers, they came roaring back. An extended Oklahoma City scoring drought coupled with a team-wide scoring effort allowed Cleveland to close the gap to just four points with two minutes remaining.

Durant, though, would have none of it, as he scored the Thunder’s final eight points to avoid what would have been a frustrating collapse against the undermanned Cavs.

James, who has played all season despite a back issue, was ruled out Thursday with left knee soreness. Coach David Blatt indicated there was no incident that caused James to miss his first game since returning to Cleveland, but the team will be careful about reinserting him into the lineup.

“Nothing major,” Blatt told ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin. “Again, not a serious problem. We’ll monitor it, we’ll treat him and we’ll see how he’s feeling tomorrow.”

Without James, the Cavaliers raced out to a 26-18 first-quarter lead and led by as many as 11 points. Kevin Love (18 points, 16 rebounds) started out strong as the offensive fulcrum, and their defense did an excellent job of keeping Durant at bay.

Those good times for the Cavs were short-lived. The second quarter quickly evolved into an all-Oklahoma City affair, which bled into the blowout second half.

The Thunder held Cleveland to 36.5 percent shooting, frustrating the Cavs with their length and aggressiveness. Cleveland made only 14 of 37 shots inside the restricted area and Oklahoma City did a fine job of closing out on three-point attempts, holding the Eastern Conference favorites to 32.1 percent from behind the arc.

Westbrook, who has been lights out since returning to the floor Nov. 28, had eight assists and seven rebounds to go along with his game-high 26 points. He’s had at least 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds in six straight games, the longest such streak of his career. It’s been a surprisingly easy transition back into the lineup for Westbrook, who has been the leader of the Thunder’s four-game winning streak. 

“We got a lot of people that have been around this organization for a while, a lot of veterans that know how to play the game,” Westbrook told NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury. “It’s easy to come back and kind of find a rhythm how we’re supposed to play. Everybody on this team knows Thunder basketball.”

Durant, who is still working under a 30-minute cap, never quite got into a consistent rhythm. He made six of his 14 baskets en route to his 19 points, adding six rebounds and five assists. Before his late-game heroics, Durant’s night was a mirror of his lackluster performance in Oklahoma City’s win in Philadelphia last Friday.

“He’s not going to have 30 points every night,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks told reporters last week. “What you see now is a player who hasn’t played in six or seven weeks. He’s going to continue to improve and the rhythm is going to come back around.”

The co-starring roles, particularly as the Thunder extended their lead, went to Anthony Morrow and Reggie Jackson. Morrow scored 11 points off the bench, knocking down three of his five three-point attempts to kick-start Oklahoma City out of a slump. The Thunder began the game 1-of-15 from beyond the arc before finishing 7-of-26. 

Jackson scored 13 points and had three assists. The offensive leader with Durant and Westbrook out, Jackson has scored in double figures five out of six games since his return to the bench. Overall, the Thunder reserves scored 39 points compared to 31 for the Cavaliers.

Despite the disappointing second half, it’s likely Cleveland be relieved to walk away in one piece.

With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Irving appeared to suffer a serious knee injury after his knee buckled contesting a Westbrook shot. He was down on the floor for several minutes and appeared to be in significant pain. After being attended to by trainers, Irving was helped to the locker room and most thought his night was done. 

Thankfully, the injury proved minor and he was back for the second half. Irving scored 20 points and made six assists, showing few noticeable signs of discomfort. He shot 7-of-21 from the field and had trouble with his jumper, but those issues were there before the injury. 

The Cavaliers may also leave having to consider a new starting shooting guard. Matthew Dellavedova, receiving the start in place of James, had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. His four three-pointers helped stretch the floor, and Dellavedova is arguably Cleveland’s best perimeter defender behind its four-time NBA MVP.

With Shawn Marion and Mike Miller struggling, it might behoove Blatt to experiment with keeping Dellavedova in the starting lineup. At the very least, James’ absence offered him a chance to turn in an impressive audition.

These moral victories ring largely hollow. But as the Thunder know, sometimes moral victories are the only type you can get when playing without your best player.

 

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Indiana vs. Louisville: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Jimmy V Classic

Montrezl Harrell led No. 4 Louisville to a 94-74 win over Indiana to keep the Cardinals undefeated. The Hoosiers hung around throughout the night, but Harrell was too much inside on a historic night for the big man.

NCAA March Madness reported the final from Madison Square Garden:

As he has been all season, Harrell was a force down low for the Cardinals, finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds. The double-double was his fourth of the season, with each coming in the last four games.

His huge point total helped lead the Cards to an 8-0 start, but his authority around the rim helped him make it into the Louisville record books. Nick Stover of GoCards.com notes his sixth dunk of the night led to him eclipsing the school record:

ESPN College Basketball passed along video of one of the most impressive dunks:

After the game, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv had Pitino’s thoughts on Harrell:

Along with Harrell, the backcourt combination of Terry Rozier and Chris Jones got the job done from outside. The two guards combined to go 7-for-12 from behind the arc and a combined total of 40 points for the Cardinals.

Jones’ 24 points were a career high on a night where the Cardinals scored over 90 points for the first time all season. Jeff Greer of The Courier-Journal noted how efficient Jones was against the Hoosiers:

One of the main reasons for the Cardinals taking the decisive win was thanks to having second-chance opportunities. Louisville finished the game with 24 offensive rebounds compared to just 10 for Indiana with Harrell pulling down six on his own.

Yogi Ferrell finished the game as the leading rebounder with just seven, while also adding 13 points. Ferrell’s leadership shined for the Hoosiers, but Jeff Rabjohns of Rivals.com offered his take on the guard doing it all:

Despite the huge deficit at the end of the game, the Hoosiers hung around with one of the most talented teams in the country. A few huge runs in the second half for Louisville led to the second loss for Indiana, but the program still has an impressive team.

Louisville heads back home to face UNC-Wilmington before warmups against Western Kentucky and CS Northridge. Following that trio of contests, Louisville will host No. 1 Kentucky in what is sure to be a resume-builder for two of the top teams in the country.

As for Indiana, the Hoosiers have two more tough matchups with Butler and Georgetown before starting conference play. Despite having two losses already, Indiana still looks like a team that can make some noise in the Big Ten.

 

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Villanova vs. Illinois: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Jimmy V Classic

Every year, the Jimmy V Classic is a special tournament, and Tuesday was a special night for Villanova. The No. 7 Wildcats moved to 9-0 with a 73-59 win over Illinois, handing the Fighting Illini their second loss of the season.

NCAA March Madness passed along the result from Madison Square Garden:

As they have for much of the season, the Wildcats shared the wealth throughout the game. Dylan Ennis led Villanova with 18 points. Meanwhile, JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu cleaned up in the paint with a combined 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Coming off of a season where Villanova won the Big East regular-season championship, the Wildcats look even more deadly with a wealth of shooters. Illini coach John Groce discussed the strength of Villanova prior to the game, via Mark Tupper of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

They don’t really have any weaknesses or holes. They can score inside and out, drive it and post it. They play together and get a high number of assists. They turn you over and they rebound well at both ends. They take charges and dive on loose balls.

This is one of the best teams in the country. We’re going to find out a lot about our team.

Both teams traded blows early in the first half, with Illinois keeping the margin close leading up to the half. Pinkston was the story early, but it was all Ennis late, as he took control of the game in the second half with 12 points in the final 10 minutes.

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports offered his analysis of Ennis’ game:

After being tied up at 38-38 in the second half, Villanova began to pull away. The Wildcats went on an 8-0 run and finally had a comfortable cushion, never relinquishing the lead after that point.

A huge part of the crushing play for Villanova during the run and throughout the game was generated by swarming defense. The ‘Cats combined for eight steals and three Ochefu blocks. ESPN Stats & Info point out how the defense impacted the game:

Illinois was able to close the gap several times thanks to phenomenal play from Malcolm Hill. The sophomore paced the Illini with 20 points and four rebounds in the losing effort. However, Illinois was outrebounded, 36-27, as Hill couldn’t do it all in New York.

Illinois Basketball provides a look at some of the best plays from Hill on the night:

Jonathan Givony of Draft Express also offers his take on the young player:

Despite the strong effort from Hill, Illinois fell for the second time in its past three games. After starting the season undefeated, the Illini will look to stop the bleeding against the likes of Oregon and Missouri over the next two weeks.

Coming off of the win, Villanova heads home to face Temple on Sunday before a tough schedule. Both Syracuse and Butler will visit The Pavilion, with the Bulldogs starting Big East play for the Wildcats.

Luckily for both teams, this might not be the only time they match up this season. Given the immense talent and start for the two programs, a trip to the NCAA tournament seems like an obvious destination after a tight game on the big stage.

 

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