Opening Night Highlights

13 Nov

Opening night of the season certainly was not devoid of highlights, with a couple of surprises sprinkled in for good measure.  Here is a look at what went down Friday night.

The top two teams in the country, Duke and Kentucky both cruised to easy victories but also showed off why they are ranked #1 and #2.  The Blue Devils nearly doubled up Marist 94-49 while holding the Red Foxes to just 23% shooting from the field and having five guys reach double figures led by Frank Jackson who poured in 18 off the bench.  Oh and Duke played without any of its three highly-touted freshmen Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles or Marques Bolden.  Meanwhile in Lexington Kentucky forced 28 Stephen F. Austin turnovers en route to an 87-64 victory.  Offensively the Wildcats had five guys score at least 10 points and were led by their three-headed monster in the back court of sophomore Isaiah Briscoe and freshmen Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox who combined for 39 points and 15 assists (12 of which came from Fox in his collegiate debut, a school record for a freshman).

The two best games of the night took place in Hawaii at the Armed Forces Classic.  In the first game #10 Arizona stormed back to defeat #12 Michigan State 65-63.  The Spartans raced out to a 17-2 lead before Arizona even knew what hit them.  The Wildcats finished the half on a 32-13 run to take a four point lead heading into the break.  The second half was a back and forth affair that culminated in Kadeem Allen’s layup with just two seconds left to give Arizona the win.  Both teams were led offensively by freshmen as Kobi Simmons had 18 for Arizona and Miles Bridges was a highlight reel as the only Spartan in double figures with 21.   The nightcap saw #11 Indiana take down #3 Kansas 103-99 in overtime.   This was a back and forth tussle all night as neither team led by more than nine points (that was Kansas early in the second half).  Frank Mason, whose30 points led the Jayhawks knocked down two free throws with three seconds left to send the game, but Kansas could never quite get over the hump.  Both teams had five players reach double figures.  The victorious Hoosiers were led by a returning James Blackmon, Jr. who had 26.

UCLA is looking to have a bounce back year after failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the last three seasons and boy did they get off to good start.  They beat Pacific by 39 and put up 119 in the process.  That wasn’t the impressive part however, what was impressive was the start of the Bruins’ two star freshmen in T.J. Leaf and Lonzo Ball who combined for 41 points on 15-21 shooting, 23 rebounds, 15 assists and just four turnovers.  In fact, the entire UCLA starting five did most of the damage combining for 94 of the team’s 119 points, led by Bryce Alford’s 30 point effort.

The lone major upset of the night took place in Connecticut as Wagner went on the road and never trailed in a 67-58 upset of #18 UConn.  The game statistically was relatively even across the board but every time the Huskies would make a run to cut into the Wagner lead the Seahawks had an answer to stop any momentum cold.  Wagner was led offensively Mike Aaman and Romone Saunders who each scored 15 points.  Bashir Mason’s squad also shared the ball well adding 13 assists on 20 made baskets.  The Huskies however had just two players reach double figures, Terry Larrier (19) and Alterique Gilbert (14).

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