After the morning session provided two thrillers and a near-upset in a 3-vs-14 game, the afternoon session features Pitt, West Virginia, Temple, Arizona State and Missouri.
* Right into Temple/Arizona State, as it’s James Harden and Dionte Christmas going at it like everyone expected. “Christmas has unlimited range,” one announcer says as he sticks a three. Harden hasn’t made a field goal yet, getting at least one of his shots blocked, but has gotten to the line twice.
* Temple really hasn’t won a Tournament game since 2001? They’re down 16-11 after a couple free throws from ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph with 11:30 to go in the half. Derek Glasser hits a long two-pointer, then Christmas responds with a three; Christmas is seriously Temple’s only offense.
* Back from commercial, Harden is on the bench and ASU is being carried by Glasser and Pendergraph. During the Pac-10 Tournament, Fox did a feature segment on Glasser and Harden, who were high school teammates, one of those standard, “They’re friends on AND off the court” bits. During one of the interviews at their apartment, I swear Harden was sitting there in a hoodie and boxers.
* Harden’s back in the game — along with Jamelle McMillan, son of Nate — but he doesn’t even have to do anything. Pendergraph is getting whatever shots he wants inside, and Glasser can’t miss with his jumpers. Fran Dunphy calls a quick timeout to figure out how to stop those two.
* Christmas makes one from about 27 feet, cutting ASU’s lead to eight. Harden turns it over, and Temple’s Ryan Brooks steps into a three. The Owls are on an 8-0 run as Herb Sendek gets a timeout to yell at his defense for not guarding the arc.
* ASU’s Rihard Kuksiks takes about four steps on a drive without dribbling. “You can’t do that,” Jim Spanarkel laughs after the traveling call. “Maybe in Latvia,” Ian Eagle responds.
* The Owls are locked in on stopping Harden; he gets stuffed again trying to get a shot off. After Christmas gets to the line, Ian Eagle says, “As a play-by-play man, with every fiber of my soul, I’m trying not to go with the Christmas puns.” Then he and Spanarkel start clowning Bill Raftery. “You know what he’d be doing: IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME!!”
* Glasser hits another three, giving him 17 points in the half and the Sun Devils a nine-point lead with under a minute to go.
* Temple has a freshman guard named T.J. DiLeo, whose dad is Sixers coach Tony DiLeo. So that’s two NBA coaching legacies in this game with DiLeo and McMillan.
* Right before the buzzer, Glasser drives and gets cracked in the face, no foul. ASU is up nine at the break. Scoreboard check: Pitt 17-15 over East Tennessee State; Dayton 16-12 over West Virginia; and Missouri 11-8 over Cornell.
* After a three-minute display of bricks and turnovers on both sides to open the second half, Christmas finally gets somebody on the board with a three-point play, then hits a three on the next possession. “It’s Christmas Time!” Ian Eagle shouts, and Spanarkel immediately calls him on it.
* Temple obviously spent like 75% of their practice time talking about how to stop Harden, because they’ve got him on lock. He only has two points, both of them on free throws. It’s going to be up to Glasser and Pendergraph to win this game.
* Harden fouls Christmas on a three attempt, and Herb Sendek takes him out for McMillan while Christmas cuts the ASU lead to six. Pendergraph is scoring at will inside, hitting a turnaround J after getting a hook shot and a dunk earlier in the half.
* Apparently Christmas used to be a star football player, but when he was 12 he got hit by a car and broke both his ankles, and after that focused on basketball.
* Pendergraph was at the line when the closest Owl to him on the block literally stepped in front of his face when he anticipated the release wrong. And the refs didn’t call anything. If that’s not a lane violation, what is?
* Close-up on Harden and his — as my Dad calls it — “Osama Bin Laden beard” catches Harden saying “F*ck” after another frustrating possession. Not only is he getting shut down, Christmas is raining on him. Christmas just hit a three to give himself 25 points, then scores on a drive to make it a three-point game.
* Under three minutes, ASU is up five. Harden gets to the line and has kinda-sorta started to heat up; he’s scored the team’s last seven points, mostly from getting to the line. The announcers point out that Harden attended Paul Pierce‘s Nike Skills Academy this summer, and that’s actually a great comparison for him. He’s a pure scorer (albeit you wouldn’t know that today) who relies on everything but his athleticism, just like Pierce. And he’s an expert at getting to the line.
* Scoreboard check: Dayton leads West Virginia 41-37, Missouri leads Cornell 44-35, and Pitt barely leads ETSU 37-35.
* Harden gets to the line again with under a minute to go and ASU up five. He misses the first of a one-and-one, but Christmas gets called for traveling on the other end as he does a crab dribble while trying to split a double team. Now Temple is missing layups and ASU is making its free throws. This looks just about over.
* After ASU makes it official, we cut to Pitt/ETSU, and the No. 1 seed is getting all they can handle, up by just four with 11: 30 to go. The stats graphic says ETSU is killing Pitt on the offensive glass (13-4), despite a 20-11 stat line already for DaJuan Blair. Pitt is also turning the ball over; they just committed their 15th after ETSU cut the lead to two.
* Blair throws up an ugly quick-release one-hander that looked like something Kevin Garnett might do if he sprained his elbow in mid-air. Blair has “Next Jason Maxiell” written all over him. He’s a beast on the glass — and as I wrote that, he snatches an offensive board and wins another possession for his team.
* Blair jumps a pass on the perimeter and forces an ETSU turnover, then tips in a miss by Sam Young after Young broke out The Best Up-Fake In Basketball. “It’s the shoulders! The width! The impact!” screams Raftery. Eight minutes to go, Pitt leads by five and Blair is starting to really assert himself.
* Raftery on ETSU coach Murray Bartow‘s defensive schemes: “He’s got a good package. A lot of different things to eyeball.” Take it away, Gus Johnson: “PAUSE.”
* ETSU’s Isiah Brown gets an and-one, but I don’t know why he’s happy, because dude is a 42-percent shooter from the line. He bricks, but ETSU gets it back and hits a three, cutting the lead to two with 4:14 left. Then Pitt turns it over. But ETSU can’t get anything out of it, and Blair gets a plus-one on the other end.
* Young hits a three with a little over a minute left to put Pitt up by nine, but ETSU comes right back to cut the lead to six. The key here: ETSU has gone 11-22 from the line.
* Pitt closes it out by hitting their free throws and ETSU missing threes. Stats from this batch of games: Blair posted 27 points and 15 boards; Christmas scored 29 in the loss to ASU, while Harden was held to nine points (1-8 FG); Leo Lyons had 23 points and 11 boards in Missouri’s win over Cornell; and Chris Wright went for 27 points and 10 boards in Dayton’s win over West Virginia.
* About a two-hour break before the next set of games. I’m off to watch anything BUT basketball until then; except CBS’ airing of “The Price is Right.” Bob Barker was like a third parent to me growing up — I refuse to watch Drew Carey host Bob’s show.