Marathon Madness: Which Win Was Most Impressive?
Josh Pastner led Memphis to an impressive victory over Belmont. (Icon SMI)
By Ryan Feldman
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
ESPN's 24-hour college basketball marathon got the sport off to a thunderous start on Tuesday. The marathon got underway late Monday night and saw 62 games take place on Tuesday. We saw some NCAA tournament-quality games, some upsets, and some exciting individual performances.
Of the games that took place during the marathon, which team's win was the most impressive?
5. DREXEL over Rider (80-62)
Rider may be 0-3, but the Broncs are much better than that. They have a chance to compete for a MAAC title this season but are off to a tough start. Drexel, a team that will contend for a CAA title, went into a hostile environment in a small gym at 6 a.m. and came away with a victory. After the game was tied at the half, the Dragons rallied with an impressive second half performance. Samme Givens and Frantz Massenat led the charge with 21 points each.
4. KENT STATE over West Virginia (70-60)
West Virginia may not have the same expectations it has had the past few years, but it's still Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers. And they were at home. But Kent State, always a tough out in the MAC, came to Morgantown and showed it's for real this year. It's the first time WVU hasn't been 2-0 since 2003. Kent State's Carlton Guyton made a name for himself with a game-high 17 points, including a variety of impressive plays. The Golden Flashes held WVU to 37 percent shooting from the field.
3. KENTUCKY over Kansas (75-65)
John Calipari's teams often take a few weeks to get into the flow of things because of their youth. But the Wildcats took no time to get a meaningful win this year, defeating mighty Kansas on a neutral court at Madison Square Garden. With the game tied at the half, the 'Cats pulled away in the second half as all five starters scored in double figures. Anthony Davis was super impressive around the basket with 14 points, six rebounds and seven blocks, including a handful of ferocious throw-downs. This could be Calipari's most talented team he's ever had. If they can beat a team like Kansas on a neutral court in November, imagine what they'll be able to do in March after they learn how to play together.
2. MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE over UCLA (86-66)
We understand that UCLA is not the same old UCLA that we're used to. Reeves Nelson has been suspended and the team is struggling right now. And of course the Bruins are playing in LA Sports Arena while Pauley Pavilion is being renovated. But Middle Tennessee State went to UCLA's "home court" and absolutely dominated the Bruins. This is a Middle Tennessee State team that is not known for ever accomplishing anything in basketball. Yet, they're now 3-0 with previous wins over Austin Peay and Loyola Marymount, which also won at UCLA. But here's the most impressive part: In their win over UCLA, the Blue Raiders shot 71.4 percent from the field. They had more turnovers than missed shots. They shot a better field goal percentage than free throw percentage. Seventy-one percent! That's unreal. Good offense or bad defense? Maybe both.
1. MEMPHIS over Belmont (97-81)
Sure, the Tigers were favored to beat Belmont. Memphis came into the game ranked in the top 15, while Belmont was not ranked. And it was at Memphis. But many believed the Bruins might pull off the upset, after coming within a point of Duke to start the season. Memphis started off up 16-4 but Belmont quickly got back into the game. Multiple times, after Memphis took a double-digit lead, the Bruins went on a run to cut the lead to just a few points. Finally, Memphis held off the furious comeback attempts for the win. But the Tigers impressed with their combination of speed, athleticism, length and outside shooting. They shot 59 percent from the field and 7-of-14 from 3-point range with only nine turnovers. Three different Memphis players scored at least 20 points (Will Barton, Wesley Witherspoon and Joe Jackson).