College basketball action is well underway in the USA... - First review (November and early December 2016)

Having been a Member of the USBWA-U.S. Basketball Writers Association since September 2003, I usually welcome fall and winter with great enthusiasm since the NCAA basketball season usually starts then. I have always followed college basketball action with great attention. I remember having been a great fan of e.g. Steve Alford of Indiana, Patrick Ewing of Georgetown, David Rivers of Notre Dame, Danny Ferry of Duke, Danny Manning of Kansas, Rony Seikaly of Syracuse, J.R. Reid of North Carolina or Christian Laettner of Duke when they were involved in their own university basketball program. Not to mention that I have often been impressed by coaching legends like Bobby Knight (esp. when he was at Indiana), Jerry Tarkanian, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Lute Olson, John ThompsonRick Pitino or the late Jim Valvano.
Now that the 2016-17 NCAA basketball season has just started, I get hooked on YouTube and watch talented young athletes play hoops again. It is always a pleasure to discover some new prospects who will end up whether in the NBA or in major European leagues years later. This also reminds me the time when young U.S. players came to my hometown Fleurus, Belgium where they played in a very small gym for the local club's semi-pro team! For CEP Fleurus, the club so dear to my heart! Speak of a cultural shock for those guys who crossed the Atlantic! For most of them, it was also a first experience outside the United States. Guys like Rick Suttle from Kansas (my very first coach), Dean Marquardt from Marquette, Edward Young from Dayton, Tyrone Black from Louisiana State, Mark Plansky from Villanova or Alvin Heggs from Texas have passed by my hometown. Even Cincinnati's legend Lloyd Batts impressed the fans and supporters of my hometown's team. Some of those college basketball stars were more successful than others but all of them have left good memories to the local teenagers who, through these players, kept dreaming of the U.S. college sports system.
Nowadays, simply hearing the voice of TV analyst Dick Vitale commenting NCAA basketball makes me feel great about this game!
Several games, watched in streaming or on YouTube, were already on my list in late November and early December:

Wisconsin Badgers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels: 56-71 (played on 2016-11-23)
Score at the half: 20-29.

Wisconsin had a hard time to score in the first minutes of the game while North Carolina defended very well. UNC quickly digged a gap, thanks to a starting 0-8 run. The Tar Heels looked at ease but were suddenly then threatened by the Badgers when Ethan Happ (6'9", forward/center, age 20) and his mates came back first at -3 (8-11 and 14-17) some point in the first half. A Tar Heels' rush in the last five minutes of the first half allowed UNC to build a larger advantage of +9 points when both teams walked back to the locker rooms. 6'10" forward Kennedy Meeks of North Carolina was well present inside while young stars Nigel Hayes (6'8", forward, age 22) and Bronson Koenig (6'4", guard) had been rather disappointing on the Badgers' side in the first period.
The 21-year-old guard Joel Berry II kept playing well for North Carolina in the second half. He scored and regularly finished actions with a dish to give his Tar Heels an even larger lead in the second half (24-33, 27-37 on a pretty jump shot by Joel Berry II, 29-47 on a lay-up and a bonus by Kennedy Meeks). Meeks was impressive on both ends of the court and kept grabbing rebounds. He even recorded a double-double (15 points and 16 rebounds) in this game. Vitto Brown, Ethan Happ, D'Mitrik Trice and Nigel Hayes managed to challenge the Tar Heels but only on very rare occasions after the scoreboard had shown 36-60.
The Badgers eventually fell to the North Carolina Tar Heels in this Maui Invitational title game at the Lahaina Civic Center.
Also to be mentioned: the great presence of both 6'8" forward Justin Jackson and 6'9" forward Isaiah Hicks in offense for the Tar Heels.
Best scorers:
Wisconsin: Vitto Brown 15, Ethan Happ 13, Charles Thomas 2, Nigel Hayes 8, Zak Showalter 5, D'Mitrik Trice 8, Brevin Pritzl 3, Bronson Koenig 2.
North Carolina: Isaiah Hicks 14, Tony Bradley 6, Kennedy Meeks 15, Shea Rush 2, Justin Jackson 12, Joel Berry II 22.

Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Iowa State Cyclones: 55-54, after OT (played on 2016-12-01)
Score at the half: 25-24.
Score after regular time: 50-50.

For the second season in a row, the Bearcats and the Cyclones battled through a non-conference match-up. Despite 14 turnovers and very low three-point shooting average of 14.3%, Cincinnati was on the winning end this time and had to use its size to upset Iowa State. After a very low scoring game, the Bearcats defeated the Cyclones at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa on Dec. 1st, 2016. Junior forward Gary Clark hit a mid-range jump shot with only 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 50-50. A last attempt by Iowa State’s forward Naz Mitrou-Long from Canada at the buzzer was off target and sent the game to overtime.
Junior forward Kyle Washington finished with 13 points for the Bearcats. Sophomore guard Jacob Evans, senior guard Kevin Johnson and Gary Clark all scored 11 points for Cincinnati. Bearcats' senior guard Troy Caupain, Kyle Washington and Gary Clark grabbed 10 rebounds each in this game.
The Bearcats spent most of the game imposing their superior size on the Cyclones. Cincinnati outrebounded Iowa State 46-34 and took advantage of 16 second-chance points. They also outscored Iowa State 30-26 in the paint.
Cincinnati trailed 42-36 in the second half. The Bearcats went on an 8-0 run afterwards and Kyle Washington even gave them a 44-42 lead.
Iowa State would get the lead back. Cincinnati nevertheless remained within striking distance until Gary Clark’s basket to tie the game.
It eventually came in dramatic fashion in the overtime. The Bearcats eventually knocked off Iowa State with a 55-54 win over the Cyclones in front of a nice crowd of 14,384. Jacob Evans connected on a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left to give Cincinnati a 55-54 lead in the overtime. He made his free throws amid the noise of Cyclones' fans. Another missed shot by Iowa State’s Naz Mitrou-Long ended this thrilling game.
It was the fourth straight win for Cincinnati this season. This one dealt a rare home defeat to Iowa State. Cincinnati’s victory ended a 37-game winning streak for Iowa State at home against non-conference foes indeed. Special mention to Cyclones' star Monte Morris (whom I saw in action at the 25th U20 World Tournament in Tourcoing, France in June 2014) who had 15 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in this game.
Best scorers:
Cincinnati: Kyle Washington 13, Gary Clark 11, Troy Caupain 7, Kevin Johnson 11, Jacob Evans 11, Nysier Brooks 2.
Iowa State: Monte Morris 15, Matt Thomas 13, Deonte Burton 9, Darrell Bowie 11, Nick Weiler-Babb 2, Donovan Jackson 4.

Morehead State Eagles vs. Purdue Boilermakers: 56-90 (played on 2016-12-03)
Score at the half: 25-47.

The game was played at the Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana in front of a nice attendance. 6'2" guard Xavier Moon was the man to watch on the Eagles' side. All observers knew that size would matter in this game and having a big man like 7'2" center Isaac Haas is certainly one advantage for Purdue. The Boilermakers' Coach Matt Painter decided to add freshman 6'0" point guard Carsen Edwards in his starting five. After 5 minutes played in this game, the scoreboard showed 9-12. Carsen Edwards even made 9-15 for the Boilermakers from three-point range right afterwards. Speed and team work made the difference and Purdue cruised through most of the first half. Young 6'9" forward Caleb Swanigan did a great job on both ends of the court for the Boilermakers and the scoreboard quickly reached 9-25. Senior Xavier Moon hit a three-pointer from downtown to make 12-25. Thanks to a nice 8-0 run, the Eagles came back closer at 17-25 a few minutes later. Purdue's coach took a time-out at 17-29 with less than 8 minutes remaining in the first half. 6'4" guard Dakota Mathias and young talented player Carsen Edwards hit three-pointers for the Boilermakers and their tall mates Haas and Swanigan controlled the air. Haas had to go back and sit on the bench due to what looked as a possible ankle injury with 3 minutes left in the first period. The scoreboard showed 25-47 when half-time was reached. The performance of both teams from behind the three-point arc was simply amazing (Purdue began the game 6-of-6 from three-point range).
Isaac Haas was quickly back on the court in the second half and, together with his tall and very athletic mate Swanigan, did an excellent job in the paint: 25-49. The Eagles, thanks to 6'3" player Miguel Dicent from the Dominican Republic and senior 6'6" forward DeJuan Marrero softened the deficit for the Eagles at 33-56 and 39-64. The Boilermakers remained strong and solid. 6'5" shooter Ryan Cline made 41-72 for Purdue also from long range and was imitated by his 5'10" pal P.J. Thompson who made 41-74 from behind the three-point line. Some players came off the bench to enjoy action on the court in the end of the game. Final score: 56-90 for the Boilermakers.
The Eagles barely lost the rebounding battle, 38-34. Morehead State did not shoot one single free throw in this game. Special mention to Lamontray Harris who had 9 points and 9 boards for the Eagles in this game.
Best scorers:
Morehead State: Miguel Dicent 11, DeJuan Marrero 10, Xavier Moon 5, Malik Maitland 3, Treshaad Williams 2, Lamontray Harris 9, Jordan Walker 3, Ronnye Beamon 2, Soufiyane Diakite 8, Djimon Henson 3.
Purdue: Carsen Edwards 16, Caleb Swanigan 13, P.J. Thompson 13, Mathias Dakota 12, Isaac Haas 11, Ryan Cline 9, Basil Smotherman 9, Vincent Edwards 7.
(Pictures:; Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America; US Presswire and Indianapolis Star)

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