Another great Saturday of college basketball followed by an amazing week ahead!! There should be some fantastic games ahead as the pressure mounts toward March Madness. I decided that in addition to my usual comments about Michigan State, I would also feature the Villanova-Georgetown game...Enjoy!
VILLANOVA @ GEORGETOWN
I was really excited to watch this game, mostly because I haven't gotten a chance to see too much of Nova or Georgetown and really like both teams. I figured it would be a good one, with Villanova holding an undefeated Big East record and Georgetown fired up after an unexpected loss to South Florida. I didn't quite expect what the actual game entailed.
Georgetown came out swinging the first half and seemed to be clicking on all cylinders. They were hitting 3's left and right, their big guys made beautiful cuts down the lane for layups, their passes were crisp and they hit almost every free throw. They jumped out to an early 17 to 20 point lead and although Nova would make a run every once in awhile, it never got much below 14 or 15 points.
The fouls were very unbalanced--Nova got called for multiple offensive fouls and didn't even get to the free throw line until 6:25 left in the half. Jay Wright worked the refs the entire time and his hot temper eventually led to a techincal with about 8 minutes left in the first half. What's interesting about that technical though, was that it seemed sort of calculated. He got warned a couple of times and just kept going and going....he was pretty animated about it, more so than usual...then he got the T and his team suddenly played with a little more intensity, a little more aggression and the refs started calling a few more fouls on Georgetown. Even Doris Burke mentioned that it seemed like Wright was asking for it and hoping it would get his team fired up...I've often heard rumblings that coaches sometimes get T's on purpose for whatever reason, but this was the first time I've seen it so blatant. And maybe it wasn't, who knows....but either way, it definitely seemed to serve a purpose.
Nova struggled a bit in the half and despite shooting 50% from the field found themselves down by 21. Turnovers were a big problem and the Wildcats normally spectacular guards (Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes) had a pretty quiet showing. Reynolds alone only had 5 points. There were a few shining moments from Dominique Cheek on the defensive side of the ball, snagging two key steals that turned into Nova baskets. Beyond that, Nova's game wasn't on par with their usual production.
On the other side, Georgetown reserve Jason Clark had a career game, hitting 4 three-pointers in the that half alone. Incredible.
The second half got a little better for the Cats, but the lead was too large and Georgetown, to their credit, never let up. Nova banged the boards, got a few more offensive rebounds, tightened up defensively and cut the lead down, but the Hoyas had fantastic ball movement, unselfish play and an all-around team effort that was actually pretty cool to see. As a fan of the team it's happening to, watching your opponent mop the floor with your guys is pretty painful (trust me, I can relate), but as a neutral fan....it's awesome.
And frankly, I'm sure the emotional aspect played a role as well. Georgetown, it seemed, had more of a sense of urgency regarding this game. They were most likely frustrated and embarassed over losing to South Florida, sitting in the middle of the Big East conference, given a chance to redeem themselves by taking out a big opponent...and of course, while no team WANTS to lose or TRIES to lose, Georgetown needed and wanted this one just a little bit more. Villanova had one off game against a great team--they'll regroup and be just fine.
MICHIGAN STATE vs. ILLINOIS
I think Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman are bad luck for MSU. No, really. They are. I'm not getting personal here, they are both very nice men and do a great job...but the odds are NOT in their favor. Think about it. The last FOUR BIG GAMES they've called, MSU has lost.
MSU vs. UNC in 2008....MSU loss.
MSU vs. UNC in 2009....MSU loss.
MSU vs. Purdue last season....MSU loss.
MSU vs. Illinois on Saturday night....MSU loss.
Yes, yes, I get it. MSU is in control of their own destiny and how they play. So true. I totally agree. But you are also talking to a girl who stops wearing a shirt/sweatshirt she was wearing after a loss....I am a little superstitious. So can we please eliminate anything that makes it harder to win? Please and thank you.
That said, I have mixed emotions about that game. I am obviously bummed they lost (especially since they totally could have won), but I would rather lose at the buzzer as opposed to the way we did at Wisconsin. Also, may I please point out what I wrote the other day? That if the Spartans couldn't close out opponents, their "squeaking out a win because the other team missed the game-winning shot" luck would run out?!!? Consider the well dry kids.
However, there were a lot of good things there. First off, Illinois played pretty much the best game of their entire season, so kudos to them. Secondly, MSU constantly fought back, right until the end. No matter what the score, they played hard and hit some really big shots. The big men produced REALLY well, especially Draymond Green. There were a lot of rebounds, strong moves inside and hustle. Awesome. Kalin Lucas showed some fantastic leadership from the bench...even MORE awesome. But really, I just can't take the turnovers. I mean, seriously. That and missed free throws are driving me CRAZY. There's another big one against Purdue on Tuesday night. Kalin or no Kalin, these guys need this one. Let's get it.