The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of last night's best hoops action. It recommends watching as many YouTube clips of Terrence Jones as you can find.
No. 16 Kentucky 72, No. 23 Notre Dame 58: For the first three weeks of the season, before Kyrie Irving dropped 31 on Michigan State and announced his presence as the nation's best freshman -- and maybe the best player on the nation's best team -- Kentucky's Terrence Jones was that dude. Last night, after a thoroughly dominating performance in a win over Notre Dame, Jones might just have retaken the mantle.
You hate to be so wishy-washy about these sorts of things, but what's the alternative? Each player keeps topping the other. (And Irving has lost some steam in this regard, given the toe injury that will reportedly sideline him indefinitely.) For the time being, though, Jones has taken over the mantle. He's been impressive all year, but Wednesday night was his crowning achievement to date: 27 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, one steal. Jones was equally impressive in his confidence and poise: He powered his way (and shot with surprising accuracy) to big bucket after big bucket when Kentucky, having built a not insurmountable second-half lead with stifling perimeter defense, needed them most.
Notre Dame, in the meantime, should probably feel OK about the performance. The Irish's offense has played, and will play, better than this; most of Notre Dame's second-half woes can be attributed to an ugly shooting performance from usually capable performers. Give credit to John Calipari's team; give little blame to the Irish. Notre Dame isn't a top 10 team, but they should be just fine.
No. 11 Missouri 85, Vanderbilt 82 (OT): Kentucky-Notre Dame was the featured game of the evening, but it wasn't the best. That honor goes to Missouri's overtime win over Vanderbilt, which established a couple of things:
1. Missouri is, per the usual, one of the most entertaining teams in the country.
2. Missouri and Vanderbilt are both well-balanced, intelligent squads who fight for -- and this sounds like a cliché, but it's true -- every inch on the basketball court.
3. Missouri and Vanderbilt are both NCAA tournament teams.
We sort of knew that last one already, but Vanderbilt's performance confirmed it Wednesday night. With a couple of bounces in the other direction -- and if poor Brad Tinsley doesn't miss that last open shot in regulation, or commit the crucial overtime turnover that led to Marcus Denmon's lightning-quick three-point play -- the Commodores walk out of Columbia, Mo., with a signature nonconference road win. As it stands, Vandy fans will have to settle for a thoroughly encouraging performance and the promise of future success that comes with it.
Everywhere else: Gonzaga's season is on serious tilt. The Zags not only lost at Washington State last night; they were thoroughly dominated by a Wazzu team that lacked a good win before Wednesday night ... San Diego State continues to roll along, playing well against teams both good and bad; last night's win over Cal probably falls somewhere in the middle ... Corey Stokes scored 34 points to lead Villanova in an occasionally challenging win over Penn at the Palestra ... Illinois survived an Oakland team that is going to give lots of good teams problems this season ... Boise State made a crazy late run to cut a 16-point deficit to three at UNLV, but the Rebels held on for the win ... Jimmer Fredette's big homecoming in New York went as well as planned; Fredette scored 26 and BYU rolled ... Boston College held off Providence and won its fourth straight ... Texas Tech is officially in trouble: TCU beat Pat Knight's team at home, 81-77 ... and Kemba Walker was held to an off night against Fairleigh Dickinson, scoring a mere 21 points -- nearly 10 below his average! -- in the UConn win.