Seminoles light up Tar Heels to headline upset-laden afternoon
No. 3 North Carolina has work to do after Saturday's 90-57 loss to Florida State
With its close loss to No. 2 Kentucky, Tennessee proved not to be rebuilding
Plus: Northwestern's big day, Michigan's flaws, UConn's survival and more
Here's a roundup of Saturday's upset-laden day of college basketball:
Florida State 90, North Carolina 57: Tell the truth: you thought I got the scores reversed there, didn't you? Florida State took advantage of 22 UNC turnovers and a stunning 32-point game from Lithuanian senior Deividas Dulkys to forge the day's most jaw-dropping upset. It was a game difficult to believe even as it unfolded in real time.
The pharmaceutical industry couldn't make a medicated powder strong enough to relieve the discomfort of a road game in Tallahassee. If such existed, John Henson would have to take a bath in the stuff. The 6-11 Tar Heel junior -- no defensive slouch himself -- grew restive in the smothering clutches of Seminole Okaro White, drawing a technical for smacking the ball out of White's hands on a dead ball, then yanking the arm of his opposite number under the basket late in the second half. White had no blocks and swiped none of FSU's 12 steals, but he was amply paid in the coin of opponent frustration.
When I talked to Leonard Hamilton about his team this summer, he must have used the word "consistency" 17 times. It was a recipe for the steady, successful season his team has been unable to follow thus far, losing big to Florida, Clemson, UConn and Michigan State in each of his marquee matchups to date. If there's anyone happier than Tallahassee residents about the UNC blowout, it must be members of the Ivy League. Both Harvard and Princeton saw close wins over FSU devalued over the past month, but this unexpected result put a little starch back in the ol' RPI.
So, is this a fluke, or the harbinger of a new world order? Let's be frank: Deividas Dulkys was Florida State's sixth-leading scorer (6.2 ppg) before alien invaders used his body to astonish on Saturday morning. Kendall Marshall, owner of a career 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, gave the ball up seven times. Both performances are outliers, unlikely to be repeated. Florida State may very well grind out some more wins along the way, but the team has a long ways to go to find Hamilton's vaunted consistency. For UNC, there will be five games against lower-echelon ACC teams before they host Duke and Virginia in back-to-back games in February. Plenty of time to apply lessons learned in Tallahassee.
Kentucky 65, Tennessee 62: Let's be clear about what's happening in Knoxville, because it's not rebuilding. The Vols pushed No. 2 Kentucky to the limit with a new-look lineup featuring freshman forward Jarnell Stokes (nine points) in his collegiate debut, and generally looked ready for prime time. John Calipari saw his team make another leap in maturity, as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis made veteran plays to close out the game after sophomore Terrence Jones fouled out with four minutes left to play. The trip to Thompson-Boling was just Kentucky's third true road game of the season, and they'll no doubt be happy to return to Rupp for the upcoming week.
Tennessee's first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin wisely used sure-handed big man Jeronne Maymon to break the occasional UK press and entice big-man fouls, but very few SEC opponents have a player who can do the same. Martin set the stage for a strong first season in his first couple of weeks on UT's campus. When the dust from the firing of Bruce Pearl settled, Martin had lost NBA prospects Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris as expected, but he held on to Cam Tatum, Maymon and the rest of the Vols. Getting experienced players to buy into his leadership made all the difference.
Martin's road to respectability won't get any easier, though: UConn comes to town next weekend.
Northwestern 81, Michigan State 74: Michigan State got strong play from the usual suspects in this game. Draymond Green and Keith Appling were rock solid yet again. But the Wildcats countered with four starters -- all upperclassmen -- in double figures.
John Shurna's 22 points came as no surprise, nor did junior Drew Crawford's 20. The monkey wrenches were thrown by Reggie Hearn, who came into the game nursing a career 2.4 ppg mark, and senior Davide Curletti, a first-time starter with just five double-digit scoring games to his credit in four seasons. Curletti stuffed the stat sheet and gave hungry Wildcat fans a ray of hope as they eye -- again -- a longed-for first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament.
Truth be told, Northwestern's Magic 8 Ball is probably permanently stuck on "Reply Hazy, Try Again". Six bench points are not the hallmark of a champion, and both Hearn and Curletti appear to be lucky rather than good based on their long-term body of work. For the Spartans, this was their first setback since season-opening losses to North Carolina and Duke. They travel to Ann Arbor on Tuesday to renew their rivalry with a Michigan team that is also smarting from an upset.
Iowa 75, Michigan 59: Michigan has flaws that are often camouflaged. Those shortcomings were on full display at Iowa this weekend. When the Wolverines shot 40 percent against Wisconsin, it was okay, because the Badgers shot even worse. Wednesday's overtime win over visiting Northwestern -- dragged down by miserable 33 percent UM shooting -- was rescued by a 15-of-16 night at the free-throw line. Everything broke down in Iowa City, as the Hawkeyes, perhaps chastened by Fran McCaffery's unapologetic Tuesday chair slam, victimized Michigan's suspect perimeter defense and took advantage of the maize and blue's errant marksmanship in all aspects of the game. Tim Hardaway, Jr. may be the key to the Wolverine slump. Hardaway is a volume shooter who has connected on just 33-of-87 shots in Big Ten play.
San Diego State 69, UNLV 67: Give Steve Fisher credit. Last season, his Aztecs were nationally ranked Mountain West favorites due to an experienced front line that was the envy of many BCS-level programs. Kawhi Leonard left early for the NBA and his frontcourt mates graduated, and San Diego State was expected to struggle. Instead, Fisher has his Aztecs ranked and challenging for the league title yet again, this time with a four-guard lineup that has only fallen to unbeaten Baylor and fellow ranked mid Creighton. UNLV's power conference upsets are impressive, but they'd like to take this early league loss back.
Connecticut 67, Notre Dame 53: Altering your approach mid-stream during political primary season makes you a flip-flopper. Do it in the middle of a college basketball game, and you're a Hall-of-Fame coach. Take as a given that it was never Jim Calhoun's idea for his guards to bang away from three-point distance in the first half -- they went 0-6 from deep, and staked Notre Dame to a 25-24 halftime lead -- but he must have made his true desires crystal clear during intermission. UConn came out determined to exploit mismatches inside, where Alex Oriakhi scored 12 points to break out of a mini-slump, and freshman Andre Drummond laid on his sixth career double-double. Notre Dame's Eric Atkins led all scorers with 20 points, but the Domers have become a bit one-dimensional without senior forward Tim Abromaitis, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Oregon 59, Arizona 57: Just like there's good and bad cholesterol, there is good and bad parity. The Pac-12 has the bad kind, the kind that makes you wonder if it'll actually be a one-bid conference this year. Still, nice road win for Dana Altman's team on the road in Tucson. In a game of no stars, it was Oregon's team effort that made the difference. Four Ducks scored in double figures, and E.J. Singler -- younger brother of Duke's Kyle -- dished out seven crucial assists.
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