DAVIS, Ca. -- We have a system here, we do a California trip every season and alternate between Southern (odd-numbered years) and Northern (even). We're going to go recover from the jet lag before charging into our annual West Coast Bias weekend, but we have some Easty bits to clean up. UNC-Asheville.
High Point was pretty jazzed up -- the Panthers had just cracked its long drought
against defending champion Winthrop Eagles (a 62-61 win that featured a floor-storming), and was feeling pretty sure of themselves. That is, until they traveled east to Asheville, and were thwacked by 7'7" Kenny George and the Bulldogs. A 17-4 run out of halftime settled it, and UNCA is 2-0 in the BSC after a huge 74-58
When Kenny George goes into a ballgame, reality warps and bends. My head literally started to hurt, because I was trying to process whether he was too big or the other players were too small. He's the most dangerous set-piece player since David Beckham... on an inbound play under the basket, he'll camp out in the lane, wait for a high lob, and flick it effortlessly into the basket for an easy two. High Point's strategy was to drape three smaller players all over him before the ball came in from the endline, and watching three guards rub and bump on George was like watching some sort of weird basketball Caligula
or something. It didn't work.
But, believe it or not, the run that iced the game occurred without the big guy in the lineup. It's true, Asheville isn't some one-man show or a circus act. Bryan Smithson
, a full 19 inches shorter than George, scored seven of those 17 points as well as 27 in total. Together, the Bulldogs held reigning MMBOW "AZ" Reid
to 7-for-22 shooting, and which he did have a 15-and-15 double-double, no other Panther really did much of anything.
And on offense? Well, the folks in the mountains would like to remind you that UNCA is the seventh-best shooting team in the country (50.5 percent), and George only plays half the game. This team has depth, and I ain't kidding.
Despite the big guy's relatively poor game (if you can consider 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting anything resembling poor), he was so kind as to answer a few of our reader-viewers' questions before going to the trainer's room to work his knees. Thanks to all the folks who submitted questions yesterday, apologies that I was only able to get a few of them in.
Christian asks: With your size as such an asset, why did you choose UNCA over other options?KG:
It's a nice town and a small school, I like it a lot. It reminds me of where I went to prep school, there were only about 500 students there.
John A. asks: What parts of your game do you think need more work.KG:
My endurance and speed are coming along.
Eric asks: Have you ever eaten at the Melting Pot here in town?KG:
No, I've never been.
Ellen asks: Why did you change your number from 45 to 22 this year?KG:
(shrugs) I like 22.
Side note: his hands are about twice as big as mine. Virginia Commonwealth.
Well, ummm, that wasn't very exciting. In the battle at the top of the CAA last night, VCU opened up a 25-9 lead and destroyed formerly 5-0 Delaware 60-39
. Jamal Shuler
roasted the highly-ranked Blue Hen perimeter defense until it turned into KFC's rotisserie chicken, connecting on five 3's and scoring 21 points on the night. Xavier.
We've said it a hundred thousand times, but mid-majorness has nothing to do with on-court performance, which goes up and down. Smaller schools have smaller resources, and when a school from the Atlantic 14 excels, it's a wonderful thing.
But seriously, the whining out of this league. For the past few years, when the conference was fighting for a second bid with double-digit conference RPI's, there was a lot of complaining that the A-14 wasn't getting enough respect or coverage -- not even from me, the "mid-major guy." In the past two months, with the multiple ranked teams and the big wins, these schools are suddenly too big-time for any designation that doesn't put them in the same class as the Big Ten and ACC and Big East. Seriously, what won't
these people complain about?
For the most part, and we've mentioned this before in detail, the fans in this league are great, have suffered through the bad times, and are enjoying this success for what it is. They have very little to do with all of this belly-aching. We just don't know about the league office and some of these athletic departments, which are now dead-set on telling everybody that the conference is big-time. Most of these are the same people who were whining and complaining that the league wasn't getting enough respect in 2005..
Xavier certainly didn't look very high-major last night, going to Temple and being thoroughly thrashed in the second half by a clearly inferior team, 78-59
. We still like them in this conference, but I hope the higher-ups there know that they -- and all of these A-14 teams who are having their moments in the sun -- are just losing streaks away from being completely forgotten again by the very media outlets that have fawned over them since November -- they only care about wins, and when those aren't coming, they're going to look elsewhere for stories.
While we're talking hoops...How 'Bout™
Drake? Sometimes you need dramatics to keep a run going, and the Bulldogs got a buzzer-beater
from Adam Emmenecker to win at Bradley, 69-68
. If you're keeping track -- and you know you are -- that's 14 straight for the Bulldogs. Illinois State
won too last night, setting up that unlikely 6-0 superbattle on Saturday.
And How 'Bout™
Charlotte? We've been talking up Saint Joe's a lot, but the 49ers defended their home court in a 70-66
win, holding off a hard-charging Joe run late in the second half.
And How 'Bout™
UMass? We (and our State index) aren't quite convinced of Dayton's ability to shoot well on a consistent basis, and the visiting Minutemen held their hosts to 37 percent from the floor, in addition to an abysmal 4-for-25 (16 percent) behind-the-arc mark. All this, even though the Flyers dominated on the boards, .49-34. UMass pulls back even at .500 in the crowded A-14 race with a 82-71
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