NEW YORK -- Here’s a few things to look for in the consolation and championship games at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Friday night.
Maryland vs. Illinois (ESPN2/ESPN3, 5 p.m. ET):
The Terps need another strong night from Cliff Tucker to have a chance against the Illini. He had 17 against Pittsburgh.
Illinois needs to shore up its defense. The game against Texas was entertaining and it was fun to watch the Flyin’ Illini, but Illinois can’t expect to outscore everyone this season. They are, after all, in the Big Ten, a conference that prides itself on defense. The Illini did a better job against Texas in the second half but need to start the game with a similar intensity.
Maryland has to get big man Jordan Williams involved. He had 14 points against Pittsburgh, but took only nine shots. The sophomore is as dominant a low-post player as there is in the country and the Terps have to make him their focus.
Expect Demetri McCamey and D.J. Richardson to score in bunches. The two dynamic guards put up 37 against Texas, a team loaded with guards. Maryland’s backcourt is decidedly younger and less experienced, which should give McCamey and Richardson a big edge.
Pittsburgh vs. Texas (ESPN2/ESPN3, 7 ET):
If the Longhorns come into the game expecting to score 90, they’re out of their minds. Pitt has given up 90 points once in the last four years -- and West Virginia needed three overtimes to get there last season. Texas absolutely has to be able to play a half-court, controlled game against the Panthers’ defense.
I liked that the Panthers showed they were more than their talented guards against Maryland. Talib Zanna looked terrific with 14 points and 12 rebounds. He’ll need to be all that and more against the Longhorns’ frontcourt of Gary Johnson, Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson.
As much fun as Texas is to watch, the Longhorns’ tendency to take poor shots and play with abandon could really hurt them against a disciplined, savvy team like Pittsburgh. Every bad shot will cost the Longhorns against the Panthers. That includes free throws. Texas is woeful at the line -- 25-of-44 against Illinois -- and will pay dearly for it against Pitt.
Tristan Thompson is for real. The freshman had 20 points, seven rebounds and five blocks against Illinois. His playmaking abilities and strength for a freshman are especially impressive.