NCAA basketball - Season 2019-20 - First review (November and December 2019)

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Villanova Wildcats: 76-51 (played on 2019-11-13)
Score at the half: 40-22

The Gavitt Tipoff Games are an annual eight-game series played between the Big Ten Conference and the Big East Conference to tip-off the college basketball season. One of the games played in mid-November 2019 was held at the Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The Ohio State Buckeyes hosted then the Villanova Wildcats in front of a huge attendance of 16,419. It was Villanova's first ever game at OSU. After a 9-0 run for the home squad, with Duane Washington Jr. (guard, 1.90m, freshman) hitting two shots from three-point range, Villanova's Head Coach Jay Wright took a first timeout. 'Nova's guard Collin Gillespie (guard, 1.90m, junior) had been called two quick personal fouls and went back to sit on the Wildcats' bench after only 2 minutes spent on the court. Washington Jr. made 17-3 for the Buckeyes on a nice dunk followed by another three-pointer. OSU even recorded a 10-0 run (19-3 on the scoreboard) mainly thanks to the great presence of Kaleb Wesson (forward, 2.06m, sophomore), E.J. Liddell (forward, 2.03m, freshman) and Kyle Young (forward, 2.03m, sophomore) in the paint and good playmaking by C.J. Walker (point guard, 1.85 m, junior). Nice efforts displayed by both Wildcats Jermaine Samuels (forward, 2.01m, junior) and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (power forward, 2.06m, freshman) are worth being highlighted. On the Buckeyes' side, E.J. Lidell and D.J. Carton (point guard, 1.86m, freshman) are two young players to be watched closely. Something tells me that they are going to perform well all season long... The scoreboard showed 31-10 (on a basket by Kaleb Wesson for the Buckeyes) at halfway in the first period. Villanova had a poor field-goal percentage and way too many turnovers thus far in the contest. Luther Muhammad (guard/forward, 1.90m, freshman) looked also very precise from long range for OSU while 'Nova players kept forcing and missing shots from behind the arc. Collin Gillespie tried to reboost his guys by setting a good tempo and having a few pretty drives for Villanova. The Wildcats finished the first period with a 0-9 run but were nevertheless 18 points behind at the half (40-22).

There was a clock situation after less than 1 minute in the second half (at 22-42) and it took a while to be repaired. Kaleb Wesson showed all his skills during the game against Villanova but his older brother Andre Wesson (forward, 1.98m, junior), injured, remained seated on the side. He did not play for Ohio State that night. Only Cole Swider (forward, 2.06m, sophomore) and Collin Gillespie looked able to keep the Wildcats competitive at some point in the game but they still forced their shots. C.J. Walker gave great rhythm and his Buckeyes were still in front (51-30) when Kaleb Wesson nicely finished an action in the paint with 13'31" remaining in the second half. The score evolved and, past the halfway in the second period, it was 60-32 with D.J. Carton on fire for the Ohioans! He hit free-throws and had an impressive dunk. The Buckeyes kept cruising and played well in defense. Villanova was also outscored in the paint. Jermaine Samuels and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl still attempted to reduce the gap but it was already too late (70-46). A few moments later, the home crowd could enjoy two beautiful alley-oops in a row by Alonzo Gaffney (forward, 2.07m, freshman) with the dunk and C.J. Walker with the dishes. The final score reached 76-51 in favour of Ohio State. On one hand, it was definitely not Villanova's night. On the other hand, the Buckeyes' freshmen looked in good shape, pretty efficient and ambitious.

Best scorers:
Ohio State Buckeyes: Kyle Young 8, Kaleb Wesson 10, C.J. Walker 10, Luther Muhammad 11, Duane Washington Jr. 14, E.J. Liddell 8, Alonzo Gaffney 4, D.J. Carton 11.
Villanova Wildcats: Jermaine Samuels 14, Saddiq Bey 2, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 8, Justin Moore 6, Collin Gillespie 10, Cole Swider 11.

Clemson Tigers vs. Alabama A&M Bulldogs: 87-51 (played on 2019-11-21)
Score at the half: 54-19

Thanks to the ACC Network Basketball, I was able to freely watch online the game between Clemson and Alabama A&M played on Nov. 22nd, 2019. Point guard Nick Honor (1.78m, sophomore), who was one member of the 2018-19 Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team, was missing for the Clemson Tigers. Curran Scott, a veteran guard at Clemson, accepted the role of leader in this game. Alabama A&M of Coach Dylan Howard is a rebuilding program with many freshmen among the team. After a bad start and 0/6 from the field by the Bulldogs, Coach Howard had to take a first timeout. The scoreboard showed 6-0 for the Tigers. Alabama A&M had first points in this game on a three-pointer after 5'32" played in the first half (8-3). Al-Amir Dawes (guard, 1.88m, freshman) hit shots from downtown for Clemson and the Tigers were leading 14-7 right before their forward Hunter Tyson (forward, 2.03m, sophomore) started his show when he got off the bench. Curran Scott and Hunter Tyson efficiently organized the game for the Tigers. The Bulldogs had a hard time in defense: 22-7 after 10 minutes in the first half. The visitors turned the ball over too many times. Clemson's center Trey Jemison (2.13m, sophomore) controlled the air but was not really contested by the Bulldogs. Tevin Mack (guard/forward, 1.98m, senior), John Newman III (guard, 1.96m, sophomore), Hunter Tyson and Al-Amir Dawes showed their talent and it looked like a great easy run for the Tigers. Clemson's Coach Brad Brownell took a timeout at 40-16 with 5'04" left in the first half. Alabama A&M players like Garrett Hicks (guard, 1.83m, freshman) and Cameron Tucker (guard, 1.86m, freshman) started to hit treys to slowly reduce the gap but the Tigers had already built a large lead. The scoreboard showed 54-19 when both teams went back to the locker rooms at the break. Most points scored by the Tigers in a half under Coach Brad Brownell!

The second half started with a few interesting moves in the paint by Clemson's center Trey Jemison. Alabama A&M's proactive guard Cameron Alford (1.86m, freshman) showed some will to challenge the Tigers and the scoreboard suddenly displayed 58-27. It was then 63-32 with 15 minutes remaining in the game and a nice three-point shot hit by Cameron Tucker for the Bulldogs. The Tigers were also pretty successful from behind the three-point line that night (12/29, 41.4%). T.J. Parham (forward, 2.01m, senior), Brandon Miller (point guard, 1.83m, junior) and Jalen Johnson (forward, 2.03m, freshman) are also three interesting prospects. They helped the Alabama A&M Bulldogs keep their head above the water: 68-35, 69-38 and 74-41. Clemson's sophomore Wells Hoag (guard, 1.88m) scored his first points of the season (one layup followed by a three-pointer) a while later. Brandon Miller and Cameron Alford hit nice shots and tried to bother the Tigers who were rolling to another win: 75-46 with 7 minutes left in the contest. Around 2 minutes later, the scoreboard showed 79-46 after a nice basket in the paint by Paul Grinde (forward, 2.08m, senior), one of Clemson's big men. Al-Amir Dawes and John Newman III kept playing well for the home team. They were helped by young mates like O'Neil McBride (forward, 2.01m, freshman) and Parker Fox (guard, 1.98m, sophomore) who were given some playing time. We cannot say that it was a thrilling end of game. The Tigers rather easily remained on top until the final buzzer: 87-51. Tigers' freshman Al-Amir Dawes had a career-high 19 points. Clemson scored 23 straight points in the first half to put away the Bulldogs for its fourth consecutive victory this season. To be noted: the Bulldogs lost the second half by only one point (33-32). Big win for Clemson!

Best scorers:
Clemson Tigers: Aamir Simms 4, Al-Amir Dawes 19, Curran Scott 5, Tevin Mack 16, John Newman III 9, Paul Grinde 6, Hunter Tyson 10, Trey Jemison 10, Wells Hoag 5, Khavon Moore 3.
Alabama A&M Bulldogs: T.J. Parham 7, E.J. Williams 2, Cameron Tucker 6, Garrett Hicks 8, Cameron Alford 8, Jalen Johnson 3, Brandon Miller 17.

Louisville Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Panthers: 64-46 (played on 2019-12-06)
Score at the half: 35-21

A classic in the ACC was played on Dec. 6th, 2019: the Louisville Cardinals of Head Coach Chris Mack against the Pittsburgh Panthers of Coach Jeff Capel. Both coaches have started their second season at the head of their respective college team. The game began with a beautiful play in front of a huge attendance of 17,249 enthusiastic basketball fans: US-Armenian player Steven Enoch (center, 2.08m, senior) dunked the ball to open up the game. The Cardinals played in a grey outfit for very first time. Despite the efforts of Pittsburgh's guard Xavier Johnson, Louisville (ranked first in the nation back then) took the lead 11-7 mainly thanks to a great three-point shooting percentage. Jeff Capel quickly had to take a timeout. A few moments later, Xavier Johnson (1.90m, sophomore) tied the game at 11-11. Coach Capel looked pleased with the way his Panthers played defense. The Cardinals also played a tough defense and a first gap was digged by the local squad: 22-11. A few words were exchanged after a sixth trey for Louisville (this time hit by young forward Malik Williams) in this game. You could feel that there was high intensity on the court and the referees eventually got the situation under control. It was 24-15 for the Cardinals on a fastbreak ended with a uncontested layup by Nigeria's national team player Jordan Nwora (forward, 2.03m, junior). Louisville's freshman Samuell Williamson (guard/forward, 2.01m), a very interesting prospect, nailed a shot from behind the arc to make 27-15. The visitors managed to reduce the gap afterwards: 27-21 with 5'39" remaining in the first half. The Cardinals hit 8 three-point shots thus far in the game, each of them by a different player! The scoreboard displayed 30-21. Pitt could not score in the last 5'35" of the first period. Louisville's guard Ryan McMahon (1.83m, senior) hit another three-point shot and the Cards still digged the gap by halftime: 35-21.

When the second half started, Louisville Cardinals' forward Jordan Nwora showed all his efficient skills in the paint. Eric Hamilton (forward, 2.06m, senior) with a nice spin, Au'Diese Toney (guard, 1.98m, sophomore) and Xavier Johnson also scored points for the Panthers early in the second period (37-29). It remained a pretty physical game with hardworking players being involved on each side: Justin Champagnie (forward, 2.01m, freshman) for Pittsburgh or Malik Williams (forward/center, 2.11m, junior) for Louisville. Xavier Johnson of Pitt was called a third personal foul by the referees and went back to the bench. The score evolved slowly but surely as follows: 43-30, 43-33, 43-36, 43-38 (Au'Diese Toney with two buckets in a row), 45-38 and 47-38 (with an impressive dunk by Enoch after a pretty alley-oop). After not much contact at 47-38, Louisville's star Jordan Nwora also temporarily went out to the tunnel leading to the locker rooms for some treatment when he got injured. He came back in the arena shortly afterwards. In the meantime, Xavier Johnson brought back his team closer at 47-42 when a technical foul was whistled against Pitt's sports director who was sitting at the very end of the bench. The home crowd pushed the Cards who, after the technical foul, re-digged a large gap: 60-42 on a three-pointer by McMahon and a poster dunk by Nwora. Pitt's player Au'Diese Toney was fouled out with 3'10" left on the clock and his mate Xavier Johnson joined him on the bench 10 seconds later. The Cardinals finished the game with a 17-4 run after the technical foul. They controlled the end of the match. Despite last efforts by Justin Champagnie, Eric Hamilton, Ryan Murphy (guard, 1.88m, junior), Terrell Brown (forward/center, 2.08m, junior) or Trey McGowens (guard, 1.90m, sophomore) of Pittsburgh, the 64-46 final score in favour of Louisville was displayed on the board.

Best scorers:
Louisville Cardinals: Jordan Nwora 19, Dwayne Sutton 3, Steven Enoch 7, Darius Perry 3, Ryan McMahon 11, Malik Williams 13, Lamarr Kimble 3, Samuell Williamson 5.
Pittsburgh Panthers: Eric Hamilton 10, Xavier Johnson 15, Trey McGowens 4, Au'Diese Toney 7, Ryan Murphy 5, Terrell Brown 4, Justin Champagnie 1.

Pictures: Casey Cascaldo - PhotoEditor/; Maddie Meyer - Getty Images/;; and Janice Rhodes - USA Today Sports

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