The weekend hoops session saw some surprising results, some intriguing ones, and at least one non-conference head-scratcher. Let us take a brief walk through the league:
WKU – La Tech 1-1
WKU 66-64 La Tech
WKU 58-63 La Tech
Charles Bassey is probably the best player in this league — he certainly has the most NBA talk surrounding him. He put up 38 points and 30 rebounds and 7 blocks in the series. He was not quite cancelled out by the Tech big men, but they closed the gap enough to make it an interesting game. If you saw my tweeting about Andrew Gordon it was because he was awesome against such good competition — setting good screens, competing, and getting buckets like a big man should.
Tech has played well against Marshall and WKU, enough to think they can win this conference. The things that hold them back: shooting, ball-handling late, execution of their sets late, could be their downfall. There is a lot to like there.
WKU has split both weekends thus far and can blame that inconsistency on their inability to shoot well from distance. The Tops did really well to overcome the very slow start and make this a game again. Taveion Hollingsworth had a chance late but blew a layup. The Tops will be disappointed and need to find some shooting.
UAB – USM 2-0
UAB 72-60 USM
UAB 62-58 USM
The Blazers came into this game with a built-in excuse if they split or dropped both games. They had not played in about a month and has an injury to Quan Jackson. The Blazers led wire-to-wire in both games, won by 12 in the first and held off a rally by USM in the second. It is impressive stuff. Tyreek Scott-Grayson had 16 in both games for the Blazers, while Tyler Stevenson had 33 in two games.
In four games thus far, USM has displayed some heart and athleticism. There is still a lot of work to do to polish and put it all together, but that kind of toughness is a great place from which to build a program.
UNT – UTSA 1-1
UNT 77-70 UTSA
UNT 69-77 UTSA
The Mean Green experienced their first back-to-back and they looked a bit sluggish in game two, shooting only 5/22 from three in the second game despite some really good looks. UTSA had lost both on the road to Rice to start conference play while UNT vs UAB was cancelled. The Runners had their backs to the wall after dropping the first game. Jackson and Wallace played much better in the series, and Jackson in particular hit some huge shots. There was some weirdness where a little bit of the “your turn/my turn” stuff took place. In one moment, Jackson who was balling, briefly lost the ball. Keaton Wallace picked it up, took it as an opportunity to go one-on-one and missed. Jackson still has a tendency to get a little loose with it.
North Texas played well enough to win over two games but made enough mistakes (foul trouble, hesitancy on offense, turnovers) in the second game that it came down to whether or not they could hit open shots. They could not. James Reese and Thomas Bell (who had both played well) missed big shots while Wallace and Jackson made theirs. Ball game.
ODU vs FAU 2-0
ODU 71-67 FAU
ODU 64-55 FAU
The Monarchs took two at home against FAU, but in exciting fashion. In the second game, ODU came back from a 14-point deficit to take the series. Malik Curry and Xavier Green carried ODU in game one (along with Austin Trice’s 17) while AJ Oliver and Joe Reece led the scoring in the second. The real start was the defense, that held FAU scoreless for about 4:30 in the second half.
Jailyn Ingram had 26 in the first game, but was the focus of the defense in the second (only had 11). FAU needs to find some support for Ingram.
Rice vs UTEP 1-1
Rice came into this weekend’s games with a little bit of shine, having won both home games vs UTSA last week. They were met with a good team in El Paso as UTEP raced out to a 101-89 win in the first game. Two of the lead transfer trio for the Miners played well — Bryson Williams had 29, Jamal Bieniemy had 24 (and 6 assists). Travis Evee who was awesome last week, had 21 in both games. UTEP could not shoot well in game two, hitting 8 of 20 after shooting 12/38 in game one.
We said we had to wait to see what Rice did vs non-UTSA defenses before we made more of a decision about them. UTEP is a flawed squad but we can say that Rice is right there in that group of exciting teams that you need to be ready to compete with. They run and gun and make you play at their pace at times and that can get you loose and out of your rhythm. Travis Evee is tough, moves non-stop and can shoot and drive it. Max Fielder did his job as a big man getting dives and scoring — that’s all you can ask for.
FIU vs MTSU 1-1
FIU 68-55 MTSU
FIU 56-67 MTSU
Middle battled quarantine restrictions and had only nine active players. They blew out FIU in the second game, and head coach Nick McDevitt said, “I thought we showed a little bit of maturity after yesterday’s game, but also … they just haven’t dropped their heads and their effort hasn’t wavered over the last about 10 days as we’ve been in and out of quarantines and struggling to find enough bodies to even do small group workouts.”
FIU had a similar situation last week in which they basically put in a Jekyll-Hyde performance. Here, they pulled away late in the first game to win by 13, and then started super slowly in the second to get behind big.
Bonus: Charlotte 72-Belmont Abbey 75
The good news for the 49ers is that this game does not count toward the league standings. This team played so well vs WKU lost the plot halfway through this one and blew a big lead (19 at one point) and Belmont Abbey won in OT. Not good.