Fast Break: Player of the week, best win, glue guy, much more
There's no question which team has put together November's best resume: Duke
Jim Boeheim says James Southerland is able to start, but is effective off the bench
Michigan has shown strength at both ends of the floor, in rebound margin this year
Welcome to the inaugural edition of Fast Break, my wrap-up of the week that was. Check back here every Monday for a look at the best, the worst, and everything in between from the last seven days.
Green had been putting up stellar numbers all season, but he had yet to prove himself against top-level competition. Consider him proven. Green had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists in a win at home over Iowa Tuesday, and he followed that up by going for 28 points and seven rebounds in Saturday's big win at home over then-No. 15 Oklahoma State. Remarkably, Green only played 26 minutes for the Hokies because of foul trouble, and he did not score a field goal in the final 16 minutes, 53 seconds. He also made a combined 20 of his 22 attempts from the free throw line in the two wins. Thanks to Green, the Hokies under first-year coach James Johnson are 7-0 for the first time in 30 years.
Since there was no Fast Break, you can consider this the team of the fortnight. But in many ways, the Blue Devils' wins over Ohio State and Delaware were even more impressive than their romp through the Battle 4 Atlantis over Thanksgiving weekend. Duke was clearly gassed last Wednesday against fourth-ranked Ohio State, but the team found a way to dig in and rally from a 10-point deficit. On Saturday, the Blue Devils were playing without an injured Seth Curry and could have been forgiven for coming out flat against a plucky Delaware squad. Instead, they ran the Blue Hens out of Cameron Indoor Stadium in an 88-50 blowout. You can debate all you want about who deserves to be ranked No. 1, but there is no question who has put together the most impressive resume during the season's first four weeks.
Gathers wasn't as heralded as fellow freshman Isaiah Austin, not to mention those blue-chip recruits at Kentucky. Yet, he provided Baylor with a critical, efficient presence during Saturday's win in Rupp Arena. Even though Gathers was limited to 15 minutes because of foul trouble, he still snared seven rebounds, including two at the offensive end, and scored five points. He made arguably the most critical play of the game with five minutes remaining and Baylor trailing by five. After Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson missed a shot, Gathers fought through several Wildcats to grab the rebound and convert the put-back while being fouled. Toughness on the boards is a prime quality in a Glue Guy, as is the willingness to come off the bench and supplement the main stars. Gathers could serve the same purpose for Baylor as did Quincy Acy, a member of SI.com's 2012 All-Glue team.
We knew the Wolverines had a stellar recruiting class, but we didn't know that Stauskas was the gemstone. While most of the preseason attention was focused on Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, Stauskas, who was ranked 71st in the Class of 2012 by Rivals, has thrived in John Beilein's penetrate-and-kick offense. He shot 4-for-7 from three-point range and scored 20 points in a win at home over N.C. State on Tuesday. On Saturday, he had 22 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting in an eight-point win over Bradley.
Don't look now, but the Bison are off to a 7-1 start, and Muscala is the biggest reason why. He had 17 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Dartmouth last Tuesday, and he went for 29 points and a career-high 19 rebounds in a win at Columbia on Saturday. That was Muscala's sixth double-double of the season. He was also a combined 15-for-17 from the free throw line in those two wins.
Southerland's performance last Friday night in a win at Arkansas was good enough to be considered player of the week, not just sixth man. He was sensational in draining nine three-pointers during a 35-point performance. It was the second time this season Southerland has reached a new career high in scoring, and it came on the heels of an 18-point effort in a win over Colgate last Sunday.
I picked this not just because it was John Calipari's first home loss in Rupp Arena, or because it ended Kentucky's 55-game home winning streak. I picked it because in the Bears' previous game, they lost at home to College of Charleston. The win validated Baylor as a top-25 squad, but more important it illustrated just how valuable 6-2 junior guard Brady Heslip is to this team. Heslip did not play against Charleston because he was recovering from an appendectomy, but he returned to score 10 points against UK.
There's no shame in losing in Assembly Hall to the No. 1-ranked team in America. It's quite another to get embarrassed -- especially considering North Carolina was also outclassed by Butler during the Maui Invitational. At one point, the Heels trailed by 32 points, and the final 24-point margin would have been a lot worse if Tom Crean had not emptied his bench. The Tar Heels have more talent than they're showing. Yes, they lack experience, but the bigger problem is that they lack toughness.
When the Broncos nearly knocked off Michigan State at the Breslin Center two weeks ago before losing by four, most people chalked it up to an off night by the Spartans. We know better after Boise State waxed Creighton, 83-70, in Omaha last Wednesday night, marking the school's first win over a ranked opponent in nearly four years. The star of the game was 6-3 sophomore guard Derrick Marks, who scored a career-high 35 points, including one 10-minute stretch where he scored 18 consecutive points for his team. After beating Seattle, 87-64 on Sunday, the Broncos are 6-1.
This bout between two tough, athletic teams in Cincinnati was nip and tuck throughout the second half. It finally ended when Bearcats senior guard Cashmere Wright hit a buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper over the outstretched arms of Alabama's 7-foot center Moussa Gueye. The best part of the win was UC coach Mick Cronin's eye-roll look at Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant, as if to say, "I have no idea how he pulled that shot out of his ass." Then again, maybe it was just the basketball gods getting even with Alabama, which won its season opener over South Dakota State on a buzzer-beating three-pointer by sophomore guard Trevor Lacey.
South Dakota State junior guard Chad White hit his second buzzer-beating three-point game winner in 12 days to lift the Jackrabbits to a 71-70 win last Wednesday night. These are the same Jackrabbits who lost to Alabama on that buzzer-beating three by Trevor Lacey. Between those dramatics and the Jimmerific performances by Nate Wolters, you might want to keep your eye on this bunch over the next few months.
When Hoyas coach John Thompson III said this was the ugliest game he had been a part of "at any level," he wasn't kidding. Not one player in this game scored in double figures. The Vols shot 33 percent, the Hoyas shot 36 percent, and the teams combined to make 7-for-20 from the free throw line. The only good thing about it was that the game didn't go into overtime.
Northern Illinois scored five -- count em, five -- points during the first half of its game at Dayton on Saturday night. And yet, the Huskies still ended up with 43 points in the loss, more than either Georgetown or Tennessee scored against each other.
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