Welcome to the second half of the best two days in basketball. Kansas, Marquette, Tennessee, Oklahoma State and Syracuse headline the early session. If you missed Thursday’s action, get the full recaps HERE …
* Syracuse is about to tip with Stephen F. Austin. Is Dime’s Matty D announcing this game? Somebody just said, “Jonny Flynn might be the best point guard in the nation.”
* SFA’s point guard, Eric Bell is listed at 5-foot-3. Their starting two-guard, Girod Adams, is 5-10. (And you thought the Cavs had a small backcourt.) Their center, Benson Akban, is 27 years old. This is like a rec league team. Flynn shoots over Bell easily and ‘Cuse is out to a 6-0 lead.
* Bell and Josh Alexander set up a nice alley-oop out of the halfcourt, but Alexander mishandles the pass. Five and a half minutes in, SFA still has just two points.
* After Rick Jackson scores inside easily (again), ‘Cuse is up 10-2 and CBS switches over to the start of Marquette/Utah State. Stew Morrill looks stuck in the ’80s as usual, and Marquette’s Buzz Williams looks more like a personal-injury lawyer than a big-time college coach.
* Morrill’s assistants each have to hold this goofy-looking stack of gigantic flash cards that doubles as the team’s playbook. Each stack has like 72 tabs in it, and the back of each play — the one the players see on the court when they hold it up — says something like “THUMB UP.”
* Marquette’s best inside player, Lazar Hayward, can also shoot threes. He hits his first one, which if you’re pulling for Utah State, could be a good thing if that leads to Rasheed Wallace-ish heat-check jacking. Hayward misses his next trey attempt. Marquette is up 13-7 at the 12:30 mark.
* Utah State is getting killed on the boards (10-2), but they’re creating some turnovers on D and Marquette is missing a lot of jumpers. On the other end, though, the Aggies are missing their own shots.
* Back from a breakfast run … every game is at halftime. Marquette is up 26-16 (the Aggies are shooting 7-for-26), Syracuse is up 16 on SFA, Kansas is beating North Dakota State by nine, and Oklahoma State’s beating Tennessee by four.
* CBS takes us to ‘Cuse/SFA, where the Orange are up by 22. Flynn crossover over his man and causes him to touch the floor before burying a jumper.
* Now they’re not even guarding Flynn; he gets into the paint and buries a pull-up with nobody in front of him. He’s got 14 points and ‘Cuse is up 50-28.
* Back to Marquette/Utah State. Announcer Bob Wenzel wonders if the altitude in Boise, Idaho, has anything to do with the poor shooting. Um, sure.
* Corner three and a dunk gets Utah State within four, then Marquette turns it over when Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews miscommunicate. A free throw and another bucket cut the lead to one. I picked Utah State to win this game because I figured Marquette would struggle offensively without senior PG Dominic James, but right now their biggest problem is simply not making the shots they’re getting.
* Matthews and McNeal are missing everything, but Utah State keeps missing threes that could tie or give them the lead. They finally got inside to Tai Wesley, who completes a three-point play, and now we’re tied and the Boise crowd is fully behind the Aggies.
* And THERE’S McNeal: crossover, spin, floater, plus-one to put Marquette back up.
* I went online to look up when exactly Marquette changed their nickname from “Warriors” to “Golden Eagles” (1994), and in the process found out that the MU football team — which hasn’t been in existence since the 1960s — used to be called the “Golden Avalanche.” What’s your feeling on sports teams using Native American nicknames and mascots?
* Scoreboard check: Oklahoma State is up one on Tennessee with eight minutes left, Kansas is only up five on North Dakota State with eight minutes left, and ‘Cuse is 30 seconds away from putting the finishing touches on SFA.
* Tied up with 5:30 to go, and Jared Quayle buries a three to give Utah State their first lead, then Tyler Newbold knocks one down to stretch the lead to six. On the other end, McNeal air-balls a three.
* Quayle is slinging daggers from NBA range, but he’s also got four fouls with three and a half minutes left. Marquette should attack him offensively and try to get him out of there. Since Marquette can’t hit a jumper, they’re just driving and getting to the line. Up by one, Utah State misses a three and Gary Wilkinson gets knocked out of bounds trying to chase down the loose ball. No whistle, and the crowd is pissed. Hayward gets to the line again, hitting a pair to give Marquette the lead.
* Wilkinson goes to the line and Utah State goes back up. On the other end, Hayward tries a corner three, but Tai Wesley closes on him and sends it to the mop kid. Then Quayle fouls out with 1:45 to go. Not good for Utah State.
* CBS switches to Tennessee/Oklahoma State, as the Vols take a one-point lead with 24 seconds left. OK State’s Byron Eaton drives and gets a layup, plus the foul, with 6.7 seconds left, and there’s a timeout before the free throw.
* Cut back to Marquette, who have since taken the lead and McNeal gets a huge runner to put them up three with under a minute left. Maybe the biggest possession of the game for the Aggies, and Wesley not only misses a hook shot, he fouls out after Marquette gets the board. Not looking good at all for Utah State, with their two best players on the bench and trailing by three with 34 seconds left.
* Back to OK State; Eaton makes the free throw, and Tennessee misses a three. Ballgame.
* Back to Marquette; Utah State’s Pooh Williams picks up a loose ball and banks in a three, cutting the lead to two. Pooh looks like he’s about 15 years old, and the designer braids don’t make him look any older. Exactly who did he find in Utah to braid him up anyway?
* McNeal misses a free throw to leave the door open for Utah State to tie, but Wilkinson misses a three. Hayward is at the line … bricks the first, makes the second, and although Utah State sprints down and hits a three, they still lose by one.
* Notable stats from the first batch of games: Eaton had 20 points and seven assists in Oklahoma State’s win; Sherron Collins dropped 32 points and eight assists in a closer-than-expected win over North Dakota State, while Ben Woodside went for 37 points in the loss; Flynn had 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Syracuse; and Hayward put up 26 points for Marquette.