Friday Night Lights

By - November 11, 2006

Twelve Top 25 teams took the court Friday. Twelve came away with victories. But just because high-profile upsets were scarce on the first evening of widespread college basketball action doesn’t mean that last night didn’t yield plenty of stuff to talk about. Here’s a quick look at what you might have missed:

    The Good
    • Nevada’s Nick Fazekas made the opening statement in his case for National Player of the Year in his team’s 85-62 victory over Alaska Anchorage. In just 21 minutes, the 6-foot-11 center deposited 29 points on 11-for-14 from the floor while grabbing 10 rebounds and logging four assists for the No. 24 Wolf Pack.

    • When I attended Big South media day a few weeks ago, I spent most of my time with Winthrop’s Torrell Martin, the conference's Preseason Player of the Year. But Martin’s teammate Michael Jenkins proved Friday that the Eagles are hardly a one-man show. The junior combo guard poured in a career-high 40 points — matching a program and Big South record with 12 three-pointers — to spirit Winthrop to an 89-46 win over North Greenville.

    • Joakim Noah helped kick off top-ranked Florida’s title defense with a bang as the Gators coasted to a 79-54 triumph over Samford at the O’Connell Center. The Gothamite scored 11 points, pulled a career-high 15 rebounds and logged game-highs with six assists and four blocked shots. Said coach Billy Donovan following the victory: "There's obviously a lot of talk about a target on our back and defending this and defending that. We're going to get everybody's best shot. Everybody wants a shot at us. People are talking about playing the national champions. That's going on in the other locker room. It's like a heavyweight fight every game. Here comes a new challenge. Let's go play."

    • America, meet Patrick Beverley. In his first collegiate game, the Arkansas frosh torched Southeast Missouri State for 29 points on 11-for-13 shooting in just 28 minutes. The 6-foot-2 guard from Chicago's Marshall High was 6-for-7 from downtown and added five rebounds to go with four assists in a 92-52 rout of the Redhawks.

    • Oregon State junior Marcel Jones recorded game-highs with 25 points (on 11-for-18 shooting) and 12 rebounds as Oregon State rolled to a 65-48 decision over Portland.

    The Bad
    • I didn’t even see highlights of Penn’s three-point loss to UTEP in the first round of the BCA Invitational at the Carrier Dome, but Ibrahim Jaaber’s line is a head-scratcher. The reigning Ivy League Player of the Year — whom many believe is positioned for a national breakout in 2006-07 — recorded as many points (five) as turnovers and played just 23 minutes before fouling out.

    • Loyola (Chi.) — the No. 16 team in the Searching For Cinderella slipper rankings — handled Princeton in the SportsTime Ohio BCA Classic semifinals. But star guard Blake Schlib, who returned for his senior season after flirting with the NBA draft, mustered just six points on 3-for-9 shooting and turned the ball over five times. With the win, the Ramblers will get a shot Saturday at seventh-ranked Ohio State, who throttled VMI in a 107-69 laugher behind a game-high 22 points from freshman Daequan Cook.

    • Norfolk State’s Mike Deloach connected on just 1-of-11 from the floor in his side’s 99-36 loss to Oklahoma.

    The Ugly
    • Somewhere six feet beneath a plot of grass in Lawrence, Kan., Dr. James Naismith was turning in his grave while Davidson and Eastern Michigan combined for an eye-popping 58 turnovers in their John Thompson Challenge meeting. (Here's the box score to prove it.) The two sides combined for eight more turnovers than field goals as the Wildcats held on for an 81-77 victory over the Eagles. Davidson point guard Stephen Curry was the most egregious offender. The 6-foot freshman out of Charlotte Christian High scored 15 but committed 13 turnovers as Davidson tallied 32 as a team.

    • Another team that played like it had a bunch of underclassmen on the roster was West Virginia, which graduated four starters and one key reserve from last year’s group. In a 50-42 victory over Mount St. Mary's, Mountaineers produced their lowest-scoring output in a win under coach John Beilein, shooting just 17-of-57 (29.8 percent) from the floor and just 8-for-15 (53.3 percent) from the line.

    The Youthful

    Aside from Beverley, a number of heralded first-year players saw action Friday night. Here’s a sampling:

    • Connecticut freshman Hasheem Thabeet, a 7-foot-3 native of Tanzania, didn’t look too sharp on offense in his collegiate debut — scoring just six points on 1-for-6 shooting. But Thabeet grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked a game-high seven shots as the No. 18-ranked Huskies survived a second-half scoring drought to escape with a 53-46 victory over in-state rival Quinnipiac.

    • Paul Harris recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards in 22 minutes off the bench as No. 20 Syracuse roared to an 83-51 decision over St. Francis (N.Y.).

    • Georgia Tech freshman floor general Javarris Crittenton scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and matched a game-high with five assists as the No. 23 Yellow Jackets scored a decisive 83-49 victory over Elon.

    • Texas frosh Kevin Durant followed up his impressive collegiate debut with his first-ever double-double Friday: a 21-point, 13-rebound performance in a 92-66 thumping of Chicago State in the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer regional final.

    The Persistent

    Trey Johnson did everything in his power to keep Jackson State alive in a 96-65 defeat at the hands of No. 11-ranked Alabama. The 6-foot-5 swingman put down 36 points — more than half his team’s total output — on 11-for-30 shooting, including 6-of-12 attempts from downtown.

      The Upsetting

      Nothing too major happened on the upset front Friday — but among the results of note:

      • Ancient Eight also-ran Cornell edged Northwestern, 64-61, to record the Big Red's first victory over a Big Ten team in nearly 40 years.

      • Southern Utah of the Mid-Continent Conference scored a narrow victory over Mountain West staple Utah, a team that harbors NCAA tournament hopes.

      • Remember North Dakota State, the school in the middle of its reclassification from Division II to Division I that took down Wisconsin at the Kohl Center last January? The Bison — playing as an Independent in 2006-07 — topped Idaho of the WAC in a 91-76 victory at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow. Junior swingman Brett Winkelman poured in 32 points on 9-for-12 from the field, canning 12-of-15 attempts from the charity stripe.

      Graham Crackers
      • San Diego State has been a trendy pick to enjoy a breakthrough year throughout the preseason, as its No. 3 standing in the slipper rankings would indicate. But the Aztecs won’t be killing too many giants in March or any other month as long as they’re turning the ball over 21 times a game. That’s how many giveaways Steve Fisher’s team tallied in a narrow 87-84 victory over Murray State. Brandon Heath, the prohibitive favorite for MWC Player of the Year, stole a pass in the final seconds and drained a buzzer-beater from just inside half-court that propelled the Aztecs to the dramatic victory. The Los Angeles native would finish with 27 points, five boards and three assists for the winners.

      • How about that Southern Illinois defense? The Salukis stormed out of the gate against Washington (Mo.) like a team of veterans miffed that Creighton is hogging all of the Valley pub. Throughout their streak of five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (and counting), the Salukis have always been known for their suffocating defense. But Chris Lowery’s team took it to a new level Friday night against their Division III opponents, limiting the Bears to an abysmal 18.6 percent shooting from the floor in a dominating 59-28 victory at SIU Arena.

      Posted by at 10:12 AM on November 11, 2006

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