Tsuj’s Ten: College basketball, 2/15
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • February 15, 2012 @ 2:57pm
In perhaps its best chance to win at Kent State’s M.A.C. Center, the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team came up just short again, falling 76-71. Kent State erased an eight-point halftime deficit with an 18-2 run in the first six minutes of the second half—and although the Bulls responded with a run of their own—a dagger three-pointer from Carlton Guyton with 1:20 proved insurmountable.
The Golden Flashes’ three-point efficiency helped them respond to Buffalo’s late 13-0 run, and Kent State shot a sparkling 11-18 from beyond the arc—and the Bulls’ shaky zone defense left their perimeter defenders a few steps away from Kent’s open shooters, and head coach Rob Senderoff’s squad wasn’t bashful with its open looks.
Buffalo’s eight-game winning streak, one victory shy of tying its longest of the decade, has come to an end. The Golden Flashes have quietly won their last seven and, as I found out this week, haven’t lost to a MAC West opponent in a ridiculous 30 games.
1) Deja vu: Unfortunately, this scene looks pretty familiar, as UB led Kent State by 10 at halftime last year at the M.A.C. Center, only to fall 72-69 after several Guyton buckets late. Tuesday’s dagger came with Kent State nursing a 70-68 lead. Guyton, dribbling nonchalantly well outside of the three-point arc, suddenly rose over a surprised Dave Barnett to release a 25-footer—it swished through, and Buffalo would never recover. (The SportsTime Ohio commentators insisted that the shot was 28 or 29 feet, but I think they failed to realize that the college three-point arc is 20’, 9”.)
2) Knowing Guyton: A lanky 6’4 senior—he’s probably 175 pounds soaking wet (and no, I haven’t seen him soaking wet)—JUCO transfer Carlton Guyton is only in his first season as a full-time starter after winning the MAC’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 2011. Like several Kent State players, he’s been in trouble with the law—Guyton was charged with sexual assault and felony theft but, after passing a polygraph test, his charges were lowered to a misdemeanor. The link further details the criminal histories of Justin Manns, Michael Porrini and Randal Holt. Given Senderoff’s recruiting violations while with Indiana University, the image of the Golden Flash program certainly isn’t rosy.
3) Proficient Porrini: The Bulls will be thankful once Kent State point guard Michael Porrini graduates, because he’s proven to be a handful. After Buffalo went on a 13-0 run to take a 61-57 lead with 7:29 left, the senior guard stuck two consecutive threes and assisted on a Justin Greene turnaround bucket. Minutes later, Porrini found Green again with a bullet pass through traffic for a lay-in from the left block. A physical, fearless leader, Porrini closed the game with 16 points, six rebounds and nine assists. If I had to choose my own team, I’d take him over Justin Greene in a heartbeat.
4) Figuring out Filzen: Knowing how difficult it is to win on the road at Kent, it was exciting to see Zach Filzen’s 17 points at halftime. Aside from the explosion against Dayton, Filzen’s been terrible on the road this season—he was 1-21 from downtown (combined) in three road games against Bowling Green, Ohio and Miami (OH)—and he was much sharper in the first 20 minutes Tuesday, peppering in threes and moving well off the ball.
5) But then…: The second half wasn’t as smooth for the senior shooter, however, as the Bulls were outscored by 15 points (29-14) when he was in the lineup. Interestingly, the Bulls outscored Kent 18-16 with Filzen on the pine. I don’t put a ton of stock in (+/-) in basketball, but Kent did a fine job of closing out on Filzen in the second half, forcing him to put the ball on the floor where he’s much less comfortable. Battling a pesky cold that affects his wind, Filzen remains well below full health. Still putting together a consistent 40 minutes is a real chore for Filzen, and he’ll need to elevate his performance for the Bulls to have a chance in the MAC Tournament.
6) McCrea stymied, too: Kent State did a solid job defending Javon McCrea, who played surprisingly poor basketball in the second half, tossing up a wild runner, getting called for traveling and failing to grab a defensive rebound in only 11 minutes (not due to foul trouble). Perhaps the Golden Flashes have learned from when McCrea marauded KSU for 25 points at Alumni this year or embarrassed them for 28 in last year’s MAC Tournament. The super soph has scored in double-figures in his last 10 games, but he hasn’t reached the 20-point plateau since Jan. 7 against the Flashes. Food for thought: does UB’s offense play better as a unit when McCrea isn’t overly featured?
7) Canisius vs. Niagara tonight: After getting thumped at Koessler on Jan. 19, Canisius (4-21) has the opportunity for revenge tonight against the Niagara Purple Eagles (11-16) at the Gallagher Center. The match-up, according to the NU website’s splash page, is “the Battle of the Bridge: Canal Cup.” Sounds dramatic (and watery!) Is a Griffin upset likely? Probably not. Canisius fell to Siena 60-50 last Saturday despite the Saints’ six man rotation due to injuries and eligibility issues. While the Griffins’ woes persist, Niagara has won its last two, highlighted by a thrilling 84-82 win over Rider in which Juan’ya Green dropped 28 points to earn his second MAAC Rookie of the Week honor. Ticket information here.
8-10) Around the Nation:
—Kentucky: I was able to catch John Calipari’s crew squeak out a road win over Vanderbilt Saturday night, 69-63. It got to the point where the Commodores shied away from dribble penetration, as Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones—a combined 11 blocks—contested everything. Davis is, as I’m sure you’ve heard, a physical freak, and he has the knack for avoiding foul trouble (no more than three fouls in a game since Dec. 10, ironically the team’s last loss). Because Kentucky employs such a tight rotation—only two subs and 27 bench minutes were used Saturday—it’s imperative for Davis to avoid fouls since backups Eloy Vargas and Kyle Wiltjer inspire little confidence. I’m not alone in saying this, but the sophomore Jones is the wild card for Kentucky, the difference between a Final Four loss and a National Championship win.
—Mississippi State: I have a hard time seeing the Bulldogs advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament, even if I’m basing that assertion off their OT loss to LSU last night. My purpose for watching the game was to check on big men Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney, the two key players for Mississippi State. Moultrie (10 points, 11 rebounds) fell to the court late in regulation, clutching his shoulder after barreling into a defender and committing an offensive foul. The stud 6’11 transfer from UTEP did not play in overtime, and there’s no word on his status moving forward. If Moultrie—projected as the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft—is out for the year, “X” out the Bulldogs from your NCAA Tournament bracket as early as possible.
—Meyers Leonard?: Speaking of the craziness of NBA Draft projections, Illinois center Meyers Leonard is flying up boards and now in top-ten consideration. I can sympathize if you find Illinois—and Big Ten basketball in general—tough to watch at times, and there’s always the scary possibility that the Illini, who’ve lost six of their last seven, won’t reach 50 points in a game. Still, if you can stomach offensive ineptitude and a snail’s pace, Leonard is worth a little of your time. He’s no Brian Zoubek.