Freshmen Shine In Debuts

By Josh Herwitt - November 12, 2007


Week 2 of the 2007-08 college basketball season kicked off with a full slate of action from around the country Monday night, and while there's so much to talk about already, I'll try to keep the rambling to a minimum -- at least for now.

Freshmen seemed to be theme of the night as Syracuse's Johnny Flynn and Indiana's Eric Gordon both shined for their teams in early-season victories at home.

Flynn, the Niagara Falls, N.Y., native, was explosive in the Orangemen's 97-89 victory over Siena in the first round of the Preseason NIT Tip-off Monday night, lighting it up from downtown to finish 6-of-7 from beyond the arc and 10-of-13 from the field for a game-high 28 points. That marked a new Syracuse record for points scored by a freshman making his debut, as Flynn eclipsed Carmelo Anthony's 27-point effort against Memphis in 2002.

"I do what I can do to help my team out," Flynn said. "One thing that's important that I had to do was know when to take over the game and know when to take your shots. I went to the bench one time in the second half and Coach [Jim] Boeheim told me to go back to the high school days and just score. I credit him for lighting that fire under me to go out and score some points."

Gordon, amazingly enough, was just as good if not better than Flynn. Despite seeing his team trail by four at halftime, the 6-foot-4 guard spurred a 99-79 win for No. 8 Indiana by dropping in a game-high 33 points -- the most during a debut by an Indiana freshman since George McGinnis recorded 26 against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 1, 1970 -- on 9-of-15 shooting. And much like Flynn, Gordon was unconscious from three, knocking down 7-of-11 attempts, while the Hoosiers shut down Chattanooga's offense in the second half in yielding just 29 points on 10 field goals.

"I was feeling it early, but that's what I expect to do," Gordon said afterward. "I expect myself to score points and bring it on defense like coach tells me. I just have to come out and play and worry about working hard each day."

Indiana, on the other hand, shot a blistering 60 percent from the field after halftime as five players finished in double figures. Sophomore Armon Bassett and senior D.J. White were two of those five, as they contributed 20 and 17, respectively, to the Hoosiers' scoring line.

"The story of this game was the second half, holding them to 29 points and 33 percent shooting," Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said in the post-game press conference. "[Our] defense was great, as far as different lineups in the second half. Our ball pressure was a lot better, it was more active and more aggressive. You can't get that against a team that you come out and jump by 40 points. We needed a game like this, that first half was good for us. It was great to see us respond like we did in the second half."

No. 13 Duke, meanwhile, saw its own trio of freshmen lead the way against New Mexico State, who couldn't muster up much with the Cameron Crazies breathing down their necks. The Blue Devils didn't waste too much time with the Aggies, using a 12-0 spurt early in the first half to run away with a dominating 86-61 victory.

While sophomore Jon Scheyer came off the bench and caught fire from outside with a game-high 22 points, freshman forward Kyle Singler continued to show his steadiness for the Blue Devils, registering a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. And Duke will need that as it heads next week to Lahaina, Hawaii, for the EA Sports Maui Invitational, where it will meet Ivy League foe Princeton in the opening round before facing any of the remaining teams -- Arizona State, Chaminade, Illinois, LSU, Marquette and Oklahoma State -- in this year's field.

****

In returning to our earlier discussion about freshmen, specifically Flynn and Gordon, breaking school school records in their collegiate debuts, there were a couple of freshmen big men, first Kosta Koufos and then Kevin Love, that looked dominate at both ends of the floor in leading their teams to victory Monday night.

Koufos, the 7-foot freshman center, had a solid debut for Ohio State, shooting 8-for-14 from the floor and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc to finish with 18 points and eight rebounds in a 91-68 rout of Wisconsin-Green Bay at Value City Arena.

So after watching the Buckeyes take care of business in the first round of the Preseason NIT Tip-off, I made sure to stay up to watch No. 2 UCLA take on Youngstown State in the first round of the CBE Classic. And if you thought Koufos looked good against the Phoenix, Love, believe it or not, looked even better as that missing piece that UCLA coach Ben Howland was yearning for when he was facing Florida the past two years in the Final Four.

Following up on his 21-point, 13-rebound debut against Portland State last Friday, the 6-foot-10 Lake Oswego, Ore., native just his missed his second double-double with 21 points and nine rebounds in Monday night's 83-52 pounding of the Penguins.

But while the Bruins certainly looked great at times, they also looked sloppy at other junctures as sophomore Russell Westbrook struggled to run the point with preseason All-American Darren Collison sidelined with a sprained left knee.

And though Collison's injury shouldn't hurt UCLA's chances of getting by Cal State San Bernardino Tuesday night, there's no doubt that Howland would like to see his spidery floor leader back on the floor by the time UCLA hits Kansas City for a Nov. 19 semifinal date with ACC foe Maryland.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 11:30 PM on November 12, 2007
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