Today started bright and early at 8:30 local time with Purdue taking on the Oklahoma fightin” Capels, and it actually ended up being the best game of the tournament so far. Here’s the recap, and of course, a picture of Rick Majerus’ comically large head. I don’t know what it is about him but you can’t take your eyes off him when you’re in the same building as the guy. It’s almost like you can’t believe anyone associated with a sport like basketball could possibly look like him. He seems like a nice enough guy and I don’t mean any offense by this – sorry if I’m talking about Majerus it should be “Oh-fense” – but someone needs to step in and help this guy or he’ll eat himself to death like Pizza the Hut in Spaceballs. Anyway, on to the recap of the game.
Purdue v. Oklahoma
Purdue 73, Oklahoma 71
This was the first matchup in the consolation bracket and it was a great game. These were two evenly-matched, mid-level major conference teams going back and forth for the entire game. A very well played game that would have been even better if the worst official in college sports, Ed Hightower, hadn’t been involved. It’s not that Eddie did anything particularly egregious today, it’s that I kept waiting for him to blow a huge call costing one team the game.
The largest lead for either team was five and the momentum shifted every two minutes or so. The bottom line for Oklahoma in this one was too much Carl Landry, as the Boilermakers’ senior forward scored 30 points on 10-13 shooting, and grabbed nine rebounds. Mr. Landry is obviously back after missing all of last year with a knee injury. If today was any indication, he’s on his way to an All-Big Ten year. I feel obligated to mention that the Purdue fans were incredibly annoying not to mention overly-hostile to the Sooner fans. I totally expected it to be the other way around but Oklahoma’s crowd was fairly tame. Oh and to you Purdue-lovers, what the hell does “Boiler Up!” mean anyway? Is there a lamer chant in all of college sports? No seriously, I’m asking, I’m willing to be enlightened.
The Sooners did impress me with how much the improved from yesterday though. They rebounded well and were much smoother on offense. They are a young team, with only one senior starter and should continue to get better. Guys like sophomores Taylor Griffin and Austin Johnson and freshmen Keith Clark and Tony Crocker all impressed me. They’ll likely play Chaminade tomorrow in the 7th place game, so that should be a confidence builder.
—UPDATE, Games 2 & 3—
DePaul v. Chaminade
DePaul 93, Chaminade 74
I didn’t actually watch this game. We went and had lunch instead because you can’t blog from the Maui Invitational on and empty stomach. OK, OK, we didn’t stay because it’s painful seeing Chaminade get blasted by average competition. Plus, I was getting creeped out by being in the same room as Majerus and DePaul’s head coach Jerry Wainwright, who looks like either a villain from a Bond movie or a loan shark. Anyway, DePaul won big, if you want a recap click the link.
#19 Georgia Tech v. #11 Memphis
Georgia Tech 92, Memphis 85
I thought this was kind of nice, right before the tip, the stellar announcing team of Bill Raftery, Jay Bilas and Sean McDonough all did the “fist-tap” thing to pump themselves up and have a good broadcast. All I can say is I’m glad I was at the game and didn’t have to watch on TV/listen on TV.
Memphis did the classic “we don’t know how to play with a lead” collapse. They led by as much as 19 in the first half but lost by seven. How does that happen? A.) You shoot 62% from the free throw line, B.) you shoot 31 three pointers (making only 10), C.) you get out-rebounded 29-9 in the second half, D.) you put the Yellow Jackets on the free throw line 50 times. You read that right, 50 times. Jeremis Smith and Ra’Sean Dickey were huge in this game, as the junior post duo absolutely dominted the second half for Georgia Tech and carried them to the finals. Memphis needs to realize that they can’t just be impressively athletic and win games.
Here’s what you didn’t see on TV: During halftime Bilas and Raftery were glad-handing and chatting it up with everyone on press row, while McDonough was sitting in his chair, breaking down the first half stats and working pretty hard. It’s pretty obvious that he’s the whipping boy of that trio. He was also wearing an orange shirt and stood at maybe 5’7.
—Update Game 4—
#5 UCLA v. #22 Kentucky
UCLA 73, Kentucky 68
This was a great game between two of the best programs in college basketball history. Two great coaches and two deep, talent-laden rosters met with one spot in the final game at stake, and it lived up to the hype. Unfortunamtely, I didn’t have a chance to take any pictures of the actual game because I ran down the camera’s battery snapping shots of the aforementioned ESPN broadcasting team of McDonough, Raftery and Bilas. I’m sorry but I couldn’t help but take tons of candid pictures of these guys.
As for the game itself, UCLA got contributions from their entire starting lineup and they were one point from having all five in double figures (Josh Shipp finished with nine). Cameroon’s favorite prince, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (18 points, five rebounds) was impressive. He’s a really solid defender, doesn’t make many mistakes and is always looking to cut hard to the hoop and use his size inside. You have to give Ben Howland credit, the Bruins only turned the ball over 8 times and they didn’t panic in the midst of Kentucky’s hard charging comeback. Aronn Afflalo was just plain off tonight. He finished with 14 points but was an atrocious 5-18 from the field and only 1-8 from behind the arc. I’m sure he’ll get it together tomorrow night an UCLA will probably run away from Georgia Tech in the final.
Kentucky got a nice performance from junior guard Joe Crawford, he ended up with 16 points, three rebounds and five assists. He ran the team well, and hit three clutch shots from behind the arc. Tubby’s Wildcats look like a solid squad, they just ran into a better team tonight.
As for the best team in the gym this evening, here’s some of the pictures I took of ESPN’s juggernaut announcing crew.