With the spotlight brightly shone on the hardwood as we transition from gridiron season into hoops, the Pac-12 took center stage amidst what was a stacked day of college basketball that reminds me us madness can happen in December as well.
There were dreadful losses, horrific blowouts, and nail-biting finishes, all of which saw the Pac-12 go a combined 3-3 in the magical gauntlet that has become non-conference play.
Oregon 83, Delaware State 70: Two hours with the Ducks is about as enjoyable of an afternoon as one can have with all things considered. There are a few guarantees you'll get with Oregon basketball: a ridiculous amount of three-point attempts from Joseph Young, a gorgeous home court, and Elgin Cook manhandling bodies on the block for rebounds.
We'd get all of the above from the Ducks as they ran away from the Hornets in a game they never trailed. After taking a commanding 16-3 lead early on, the Ducks would never relinquish the lead and get on the back of Cook's double-double and Young's 23 points and seven rebounds.
Despite looking quite ordinary at points, it serves as a reminder that the only losses the Ducks have suffered this year have been to Michigan, VCU, and Ole Miss, all schools that boast either impressive recent histories or play in a power conference. It's full speed ahead for Oregon as conference play approaches.
#1 Kentucky 83, UCLA 44: Where in the world to begin? Hmm, UCLA scored seven points in the first half, that's...the worst first half they've ever had. Like ever. So, that's a start. At the break, the Wildcats led 41-7, which resembles a football game with a missed extra point than a basketball contest between arguably the two most legendary programs of all-time.
To show just how thin the Bruins' depth truly is, take this stat in: despite scoring seven points in the first half and I don't know, changing up the rotation, coach Alford still played only Thomas Welsh off the bench for nine minutes or more.
Starting center Tony Parker would go 1-for-10 from the field, good for just two points as he was swallowed whole by the sheer size of Kentucky's interior. Normally reliable wing Norman Powell went just 1-for-13 from the field, missing all five three-pointers he took, having more turnovers (four) than points (two).
The Bruins would shoot just 19-for-71 (26.8%) from the floor and assist on only nine of those made baskets while turning the ball over 15 times. The assists were so few, because, well shit, no one could get anything resembling a good shot and Kentucky could be the best basketball team ever assembled at the college level. And no, that's not an overstatement or hyperbole. I'd be stunned if someone found a way to beat the ‘Cats over 40 minutes of basketball.
Lehigh 84, Arizona State 81 (3 OT): Um...right. Absolutely no one saw this coming. The Sun Devils have been the ultimate streaky team where they kind of sorta look good for a half or so, and then they look like Wazzu for the remainder of the contest, but this is all kinds of bizarre.
Coming into this game, the Mountain Hawks were just 4-5 and coming off a 15-point loss on the road at Quinnipiac, which there's a very good chance you mispronounced when you read it in your head. All that can be said for ASU is thank the heavens for Savon Goodman. Going for 24 points, 12 rebounds, and three steals; Goodman was everything for the Sun Devils in his debut game in 2014-15.
If you can figure out what the hell Herb Sendek is doing with his rotations, please step forward and claim your prize. The starting trio of Willie Atwood, Gerry Blakes, and Kodi Justice played a combined 38 minutes, and scored just five points. Super-sub Bo Barnes would play an astounding 42 minutes himself, only to attempt just four shots, miss all three of his three-pointers, and score just two points and grab one rebound.
Chance Murray would have two chances to win it late, but ultimately the three double-doubles from Tim Kempton, Justin Goldsborough, and Kahron Ross were too much for ASU to combat. They now limp into two consecutive home games against Detroit, and Harvard, which look considerably more difficult than they did 24 hours ago.
#16 Washington 69, #15 Oklahoma 67: With so many teams in the Pac-12 dealing with depth issues, the still undefeated Huskies (now 10-0) are one of the few that goes eight deep.
After leading by 13 at the break, Washington's lead would dwindle down to one in the game's final seconds. Jordan Woodard's jumper would go begging for Oklahoma with a second remaining, allowing UW to stay undefeated and pick up a massive non-conference win on a neutral court.
As steady as the day is long was Nigel Williams-Goss, who would have his typical flirtation with a triple-double, scoring eight points, snagging eight boards, and assisting on six Husky buckets. Despite turning the ball over (14 times) more than they would assist (12 times), UW fended off a furious Sooners comeback.
All roads are clear for the Huskies to roll into conference play undefeated as they take on Tulane and then Stony Brook (yours truly alma mater).
BYU 79, Stanford 77: Despite a sustained comeback towards the end of the game, the Cardinal fell a bucket short of topping the Cougars. In the scheme of things, this is a reasonable loss, as BYU is more than likely an NCAA Tournament team, and losing a true road game in their house is a loss Stanford can absolutely bounce back from.
The difference in the game would be the free throw line. The Cougars would make 21 free throws, while Stanford would take just 10 all evening.
Junior guard Kyle Collinsworth would throw in 15 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists, as he combined with backcourt mate Tyler Haws, who would have a game-high 24 points. The Cardinal were a two-man show, led by Chasson Randle's 24 points and Stefan Nastic's near double-double of 20 points and nine rebounds.
Next up for the Cardinal will be the #9 Texas Longhorns on Tuesday night. Still without a road win this year, Stanford would severely swing the momentum in their favor should they be able to pull off the big time upset.
#14 Utah 59, UNLV 46: Despite the Washington Huskies being the other undefeated team alongside the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12, the Utes are still my second-best team in the conference. They don't play nearly as flashy a style of ball as the Huskies, but their methodical, plotting style will serve well come later in the season, especially when Jordan Loveridge returns.
Although Delon Wright wouldn't have a wildly successful shooting night (just 5-for-16), the Utes defense was got them through. The combination of Wright and Brandon Taylor would have a combined 10 steals, while also pouring in more than half of the team's points.
The Rebels would shoot only 17-for-52, and just 2-for-11 from long distance, as Utah befuddled any and everything UNLV tried to accomplish offensively.
Their win on Saturday will serve as their final home game until they travel to Tempe, Arizona, to play the Sun Devils on January 15, 2015, with them playing five home games before that, allowing them to bulk up on their victories. When they travel to Tucson on January 17, 2015, to take on the Wildcats, that contest could easily be a top-10 collision.