Posted on: January 19, 2012 10:26 am
By Matt Norlander
Unbeknownst to me, there was no Night Court last night. If you came by for a nightly recap, allow me to apologize on behalf of the whole blog. But I think I'll blame it all on Parrish, even though he was stuck in an airport for like four hours, waiting for any plane to whisk him back to Memphis.
So because we lacked a Night Court, we didn't yet get the chance to share this video. Iowa State beat Oklahoma State at home last night. That is not surprising; Iowa State is better than Oklahoma State. But Hilton Coliseum, that building can shake when the team's good. And it will rattle when something big happens.
Something big happened last night. Scott Christopherson (a man who sounds like his forefathers couldn't decide on a last name, and one who undoubtedly is on his way to becoming a singer-songwriter) banked home the game-winner. One of the fans in attendance had their phone going. It is very loud, so dial down the volume on your computer before hitting play.
My buddy, Jeff Eisenberg, got on his horse and tracked down Christopherson after the win. The young man claims getting to 3-2 in the Big 12 was more near and dear to his heart than making that shot, which is a less-than-impeccable lie. Hey, it happens. I had Cincinnati players telling me winning at Pitt was bigger than winning at UConn.
Anyway, great shot by Christopherson, and I eagerly await his indie folk album upon completing his college career. Iowa State is now 13-5 and floating into the bubble conversation.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 1:07 am
Here’s everything you need to know about Monday’s slate of college basketball games …
Game of the day: Certainly not the BCS title game. Cincinnati bounced back from Saturday’s last-second loss to St. John’s with an impressive four-point win at Georgetown. The game was tied with 1:07 remaining, when Cashmere Wright hit two free throws. Cincinnati went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 67 seconds, holding off the Hoyas, which lost their second straight game. Sean Kilpatrick had 27 points for Cincinnati.
Win to brag about: Monday’s game against West Virginia was a game Connecticut should have won. And the Huskies did, 64-57. But the way they did it had to give them confidence going forward. Andre Drummond had his best game of the season, putting up 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, while Jeremy Lamb scored 25. Connecticut also held the Mountaineers to 32.3 percent shooting.
Loss to hide from: There weren’t any terrible losses on Monday, but Oklahoma is reeling and needed a solid performance against Oklahoma State. The Sooners didn’t get it, trailing by as many as 17 points en route to a 72-65 loss. Le’Bryan Nash had 21 points for Oklahoma State, which has now won four of its last five against Oklahoma. Oklahoma is now 0-3 in the Big 12 after going 10-2 in non-conference play.
Player who deserves improper benefits: Matthew Dellavedova hit six 3-pointers en route to a career-high 27 points, helping Saint Mary’s beat San Francisco, 87-72. Dellavedova also dished out four assists and grabbed six rebounds. His teammate Stephen Holt came one rebound short of a triple-double, getting 11 points and 10 assists.
Player(s) who does not deserve improper benefits: West Virginia’s Darryl Bryant had been rolling lately, scoring at least 25 points in three of his last four games. On Monday against Connecticut, however, the senior guard shot 2-for-13 from the field and finished with just eight points. Bryant was 1-for-7 from 3-point range.
Numbers don’t lie:
Three other notable results:
Posted on: January 4, 2012 3:16 pm
By Jeff Goodman
I wasn't certain that Travis Ford could match the recruiting class he assembled while at UMass back in 2007. Ford received nine commitments in that group - four transferred, two never arrived, two were seldom-used role guys and one wound up being a solid contributor.
Now Ford has gone 0-for-7 with his 2009 class at Oklahoma State.
That's two complete classes and virtually nothing to show for it. No wonder why Derek Kellogg is still trying to get things going at UMass and why Ford's team is struggling and just 7-6 this season.
With point guards Reger Dowell and Fred Gulley both deciding to transfer, there isn't a single member of Ford's recruiting haul that resides in Stillwater. Six of the seven have left via transfer - and the prize of the class never made it academically.
Here's the complete rundown:
Reger Dowell: Started three of the first 11 games and averaged 5.5 points in 19.2 minutes per game. Recently opted to transfer.
Fred Gulley: The Arkansas native started 14 games as a freshman and suffered a shoulder injury last season. He had started five games this season and was averaging 4.0 points in 18.4 minutes when he decided to leave.
Ray Penn: Yet another point guard who didn't make it. Penn started 15 games his freshman season, but was kicked off the team last year after starting 10 games and averaging 5.9 points. He reportedly transferred to Texas Southern, but isn't on the roster.
Roger Franklin: Was a heralded recruit who barely played (averaged 1.7 points last season) and transferred to North Texas. He received a waiver to play immediately due to an illness in the family. He's averaging 7.3 points and 4.5 boards for the Mean Green so far this season.
Jarred Shaw: The 6-foot-11 Texan played sparingly in 26 games over two seasons before transferring to Utah State. He's sitting out this year.
Torin Walker: The 6-foot-11 Georgia native played 10 games as a freshman before transferring to Middle Tennessee. He sat out last season and is averaging 0.6 points and 0.3 rebounds this season.
Karron Johnson: Talented, but enigmatic. He's bounced around plenty and never qualified. He went to junior college for two years and is now at D-3 Shaw University, where he has yet to play this season.
Now let's take a refresher course with that UMASS GROUP FROM 2007:
Travon Wilcher: He transferred to Maine, averaged 1.0 point per game last season in six games and hasn't played a single minute this year.
Papa Lo: After averaging 0.3 points as a freshman at UMass, he transferred to Bryant and averaged 0.4 points and 0.8 rebounds last season.
Max Groebe: He transferred to Cornell after logging a total of 104 minutes as a freshman under Ford and is averaging 1.5 points in 5.5 minutes this season for the Big Red.
Matt Glass: He transferred to Vermont after averaging 3.4 points in 13.1 minutes per game at UMass as a sophomore. He's the star of this class, averaging 9.3 points per game this season.
Marcus Matthews: He never arrived and is now at Division II Southern New Hampshire, where he is averaging 1.8 points per game in six contests this season.
Trey Lang: He finished his UMass career under Derek Kellogg last season as a walk-on and averaged 1.0 point per game.
Matt Hill: He averaged 9.5 minutes per game last season and has appeared in just two games this year, scoring a total of six points.
Tyrell Lynch: Ford compared him to his former Kentucky teammate, Jamal Mashburn. Lynch ended up transferring after a freshman season that saw him average 3.7 points and 3.6 rebounds. His whereabouts now are unknown.
Gary Correia: He played 27 games last season as a senior and averaged 4.3 points per game as the starting point guard.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 11:45 am
By Gary Parrish
Oklahoma State's bad season has turned worse.
Coach Travis Ford announced Monday that Jean-Paul Olukemi will miss the remainder of the year with a torn ACL, according to the Tulsa World's Jimmie Trammel. The 6-foot-5 wing was averaging 9.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He suffered the injury in Saturday's loss to Virginia Tech.
Oklahoma State has lost four of its past five to drop to 7-6.
The Cowboys open Big 12 play Wednesday night against Texas Tech.
Posted on: December 10, 2011 7:26 pm
By Matt Norlander
NEW YORK — Pitt doesn’t do pretty. Never has, and under Jamie Dixon it never will.
But good God, if the Panthers are able to continually rebound the way they have, then yes: Pitt will put itself in a position for a high seed in the NCAA tournament and have a chance to get to the Final Four. (Let’s save the Pitt/March talk, jokes and doubts for March, though.)
What’s clear as of now: the best rebounding team in the country keeps getting better, and as long as that’s the case, Pitt’s still in the class of the Big East’s best. It can plough its way to the rim in league games to remain respected and the toughest of outs.
My mea culpa comes now, because even if the Panthers haven’t played a terrific schedule, with all the youth they have, they still haven’t deviated from how they play. I didn’t think the Panthers were set to have another big year in the paint, thought they had backcourt problems and would take a significant step back. But it’s not looking like the case. Even if Pitt winds up not being as good this year as it was last, a “significant step back” seems highly unlikely now.
Jamie Dixon’s team looks really good. It was gruff and won despite only forcing four turnovers against Oklahoma State Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
You don’t need a lot of turnovers if you’re grabbing so many rebounds. Rebounds are really disguised as turnovers that require more work and less luck. The Panthers covet them like Christmas cookies. Heading into the game, Pitt had a nation-leading 45.5 offensive-rebounding percentage. It took down 61 percent (14 offensive boards) of second-chance snares against Oklahoma State, 43 rebounds in all.
“It’s ingrained in our program. We recruit guys with a nose for the ball, and our offense is predicated on offensive rebounding, too,” Dixon said. “I know that may sound strange or inconsistent, but good offense leads to good offensive rebounding.”
Dixon’s club did what it does best because it had to, since Travon Woodall did not play. Woodall’s the Pitt point guard who will be out until early January with a groin injury. Most teams would slag without a Woodall-type guy. Maybe Pitt does over the course of his absence, but it made just fine without him Saturday. One-time and still-for-hire Pitt 1 Ashton Gibbs was fine scoring 17 — but only getting two dimes. Gibbs played 39 minutes against that ab workout of a Pokes press.
“Ashton Gibbs just controls the game,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “And Nasir Robinson may be my favorite player. I was afraid I was scaring my team with the way I was hyping him up (to them). He’s not trying to be something that he’s not, and so many guys these days try to (prove to) guys, ‘I can shoot jump shots.’”
(Quick aside on Oklahoma State: Travis Ford joked about how he was sick of the Garden, since all his team’s losses (three) came in MSG this season.)
As for the early-season talk, Dixon gets it and concurs with the majority on this team. He doesn’t think they deserved to be talked about among the nation’s best, and it’s still a work-in-progress. Yeah, yeah, every coach spits out that rhetoric, but at least Dixon owns up to the rebounding personality of his team and admits it’s all of what they are right now. He said the turnovers are low because he doesn’t encourage his team to chase after steals when he considers rebounds more important.
“We were a little bit off the radar because of our youth, but we have six freshmen and it’s understandable,” Dixon said. “But we didn’t want to be one of those elite teams in November. We’ve got work to do, so we don’t feel we are [the best], so I’ve no problems with whoever’s saying it. This is a good win but we have a lot of work to do.”
Robinson, Khem Birch, Lamar Patterson — who arguably had his best game in a Pitt uniform, grabbing 10 board, scoring 12 points and tallying seven assists — and Dante Taylor (pictured above) are budding as a formidable forward/frontline foursome. They don’t all play at once, but the reliability of so many capable guys down low is something different from what Dixon’s had before, when there’s usually been one or two studs surrounded by undersized overachievers.
They need those bigs to continue to play ike this, because “no one is playing with three freshmen guards. I don’t recommend it,” Dixon said. “We’re fighting through some things, but I’ve liked how we’ve responded.”
The schedule gets tougher soon, but so far Pitt’s not shown any true sign of dropping off or defaulting from what it’s been about with Dixon.
Posted on: November 25, 2011 6:13 pm
NEW YORK – At times during Oklahoma State’s loss to Virginia Tech on Friday, it seemed like the Cowboys were missing something.
That something was LeBryan Nash, and he was sitting on the bench. The team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder played only 11 minutes in the 59-57 defeat, not starting for the first time all season. He went 0-for-3 from the field and not getting a point or rebound.
Nash also didn’t seem overly excited about sitting on the bench, often standing on the periphery of team huddles and not showing the same enthusiasm as his teammates.
“I don’t know,” head coach Travis Ford said when asked how he thought Nash dealt with the decreased playing time. “I haven’t even thought about it. I don’t know.”
In order for Oklahoma State to be a factor in the Big 12 standings, or even come close to competing for an NCAA tournament bid, Nash is going to have to be the Cowboys’ go-to player. He’s certainly the most talented guy on the roster, entering Stillwater as a five-star recruit and a top-10 prospect by everyone.
He’s shown flashes of his potential, going for 18 points and nine rebounds against UTSA in an overtime win earlier this season. Moreover, his numbers look pretty good overall – 13.0 points and 5.5 rebounds.
What Nash still needs to improve upon, though, is bringing complete effort on a consistent basis.
“LeBryan’s a very important part of our team,” Ford said. “For us to maximize our team, you need your best players, your most talented players, to play hard. Just because you’re talented, things aren’t going to come easy for you.”
Oklahoma State was competitive without him, making an impressive run in the second half – a half where Nash only played two minutes. J.P. Olukemi and Markel Brown stepped up on the wings, combining for 32 points and 16 rebounds.
Nash, though, takes the team to a new level. The Cowboys needed his size and athleticism at the forward position, as they were allowed Virginia Tech to nab 21 offensive rebounds, converting them into 22 second-chance points.
Offensively, Nash has the potential to be a matchup nightmare. He’s long, athletic and he knows how to score in different ways. There are other players on Oklahoma State who can create their own shot, but not to the same extent as Nash. He’s one of the most explosive offensive players in the Big 12.
“He’s a very talented individual,” Ford said. “He’s in the process of learning. He’s learning about playing with a competitive edge, playing every possession like it’s your last possession.”
After back-to-back losses, Oklahoma State needs to bounce back. Ford liked the effort and body language in this game much better than Wednesday’s loss to Stanford, but that alone might not be enough during a tough four-game stretch in mid-December. The Cowboys play Missouri State, Pittsburgh, New Mexico and Alabama in a two-week span, before facing SMU and this same Virginia Tech team before Big 12 play.
Ford is confident Nash will be a factor in the near future.
“LeBryan’s going to be fine,” Ford said. “He may play 30 minutes next game.
Oklahoma State better hope that’s true.
Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: November 25, 2011 6:03 pm
NEW YORK — If this were tennis at deuce, advantage: Virginia Tech.
But there is a return serve coming.
The Hokies mucked their way to a 59-57, just-held-on-to-it win over Oklahoma State Friday afternoon in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Decent W. Thing is, these two get another crack at each other on New Year’s Eve, at Oklahoma State, so who’s to say how big this win ultimately will be; the teams could cancel each other out if Okie State wins on Dec. 31. But Virginia Tech won on Nov. 25, and for now, that’s all that matters.
(The reason these two non-conference opponents get each other twice in one year is the unlikelihood and unpredictability of an early-season tournament like the NIT — Oklahoma State and Va. Tech scheduled each other long before they knew they’d get each other in NYC.)
Seth Greenberg’s team got a win, a confidence-builder. Still feeling the sting of the snub to last year’s NCAA tournament, winning a close one means something to Greenberg. It always does.
“The system’s flawed,” Greenberg said of the RPI, warming the cockles of my heart in the process. “We have a very difficult schedule … Kansas State, Minnesota, BYU, Rhode Island, it’s an extremely difficult schedule for such a young team. … I’ve never been able to figure out the RPI.”
To counterpoint Greenberg, none of the teams he mentioned are surefire tournament teams right now. Not easy ones, but nothing close to a Syracuse, which took beat Virginia Tech 69-58 on the eve of Thanksgiving.
I asked Greenberg if he considered bubble implications of this win for down the road, if he and his coaches were aware how winning this game and potentially earning a sweep over OSU in a month would possibly be paramount to his groups tournament chances. He already went into (and I offer this up playfully, not as a critique) defending-his-team’s-resume mode.
“The East Tennessee [State] win is going to help us; that team’s going to win 20-something games this year,” Greenberg said.
I couldn't believe it as he was saying it to me with a straight face. You can’t be using East Tennessee State as a defense ... ever. And he probably knows that, but he can’t help himself. It was funny to see Greenberg default back to that “mode,” if you will.
As for what this team is this year, without the departed Malcolm Delaney, the team's most valuable player last year, Greenberg said, “This team likes each other, is extremely unselfish. They have good trust and the upperclassmen, the few we have, are doing a good job with leadership. Dorenzo (Hudson) is the voice of the team. Erick (Green) leads by example and has total respect of his teammates, and Victor (Davila) is a guy that, when he opens up, people go, ‘Whoa,’ and pay attention.”
What Virginia Tech is best at right now: defending the long shot. The Hokies entered the game as the ninth-most efficient defense nationally against 3-pointers. Oklahoma State was 4-of-16 Friday afternoon — expect the Hokies back in the top five (they were No. 1 before losing to Syracuse Wednesday) by Saturday morning. Hard to judge Dorian Finney-Smith’s performance on an island, since he was a non-factor against Syracuse’s bigs, but he looked very nice against the Pokes. He helped out on a lot of second-chance points and had 14 boards, more offensive (eight) than not. He put up 10 points.
“He’s got a feel for the way the ball’s going to come off,” Greenberg said. “The big improvement was range. … He has a gift to rebound, but I think the best thing he does — he’s a facilitator. I think he makes other people better. He’s like a little kid on Christmas that has a lot of toys. He affects the game in a lot of ways. He can make enough shots to people honest, he can guard multiple positions, and he’s still learning a lot.”
The Hokies have another quick turnaround, as they host St. Bonaventure Sunday.
Posted on: November 23, 2011 10:34 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 10:35 pm
NEW YORK — As much as they’ll always try, coaches can’t cure a team’s ills with one locker room speech.
I’d love to know what Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said/scolded to his team Friday night after his Cowboys lost 82-67 to Stanford in what amounted to one of the laziest, most careless performances by a team I’ve seen this season.
I don’t know what Ford said because I didn’t get the chance for him to tell me. I and others couldn’t wait any longer in the press conference room after he left us twiddling our thumbs 40 minutes after the game had ended. I’ve waited less time to speak to state championship-losing football coaches following the biggest games of their lives. (Officially file this under “#sportswriterproblems,” by the way. I only offer up the anecdote so you realize why I don’t have any quotes from Ford in this blog post.)
Ford eventually did come out and speak to the media, but the Syracuse-Virginia Tech game was already halfway through the first half.
As for Ford’s team, I didn’t think it was NCAA tournament-worthy before the season started. After the lackadaisical effort at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night, the feeling’s only reinforced. It can be a team with athletic and fun potential, a team that steals some games in a Big 12 that’s not top-heavy like normal.
Even if improvement comes (and I think it will), take a look at the Pokes’ schedule before Big 12 play begins in January.
Nov. 30: Tulsa
How many of those wins are achievable? That’s still to be determined, but not one, not even SMU, is a gimme. Tulsa’s an underrate group right now. The Virginia Tech battles could ultimately be bubble deciders.
And it’s not like — let me pause here and say I respect Oklahoma State and Ford for this — the majority of those games are at home. Even without true road games mixed in, outside of the Missouri State one, the Pokes have to get on the plane or bus and pick up Ws.
It’s going to be tough. Oklahoma State has the sort of opportunities that a team like Virginia Tech doesn’t. I just can’t help but wonder if the bad loss against Stanford Wednesday night was an early sign, the first big heap of dirt ripped out of the ground in what amounts to the hole Okie State could be in by the time you put up your Christmas tree. Stanford’s not that great, folks.
Wednesday night, it looked great. A team that lost its best player from last season (Pac-10 First-Teamer Jeremy Green) made little ordeal out of the Cowboys.
Le’Bryan Nash is still raw and will probably play like the freshman he is on more nights than not for the next month, the most critical month of OSU’s season, by my estimation.
The Friday game lines up as a big one, whether it’s Virginia Tech, which would be the first of two matcups this season, or Syracuse — an opportunity OSU needs desperately to capitalize one.
At 3-1, no reason to panic, but seeing the schedule line up the way it does, things look daunting for Oklahoma State if it plays even close to the way it did tonight.