Originally Published: December 20, 2010

Texas, Purdue's Johnson highlight past week

Jordan HamiltonBob Donnan/US PresswireJordan Hamilton (24 points, 10 boards) and Texas pulled off a win against Carolina in Greensboro.

Editor's note: This edition is for games played from Monday, Dec. 13, through Sunday, Dec. 19.

Team of the week: Texas

Last week: Beat North Florida 70-48; beat North Carolina 78-76 in Greensboro

The Longhorns had their one dud of the season when they were offensively stagnant against USC on Dec. 5. Losing to Pitt in the Garden on Nov. 19 was hardly an issue, especially since it was by two points to the Big East favorite and in mid-November. But the Longhorns needed to prove they could close out a game of significance and make a money shot to win. They did both in a "neutral" win over North Carolina in Greensboro. The Tar Heels still have stars in Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller who can go on a run. Texas does, too, and the Longhorns proved they can hold their composure and return the volley with a key shot. Jordan Hamilton was the leading scorer with 24 points and 10 rebounds, but freshman Cory Joseph made the shot of the game, a turnaround jumper with 1.4 seconds left over Dexter Strickland to win the game. Joseph scored 21 points and matured before everyone's eyes with his ability to handle adverse situations. This win should do wonders for Texas long-term, no matter what happens Wednesday in East Lansing against Michigan State.

-- Andy Katz

More teams that impressed us

Central Florida: The Knights picked up yet another significant win, this time beating Miami in Sunrise, Fla., to remain undefeated and stay on course to be a C-USA title contender.

Drexel: The Dragons handed Louisville its first loss of the season by defending the Cards and changing the tempo of the game. Drexel then won at St. Francis (Pa.) to ensure there wouldn't be a letdown. Drexel should be in the Colonial race all season long.

[+] EnlargeKenny Boynton
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireKenny Boynton and Florida knocked off Kansas State.

Florida: The Gators picked up their most impressive win to date, beating No. 6 Kansas State in Sunrise, Fla., with a balanced attack and a strong defensive effort that left the Wildcats with only 44 points.

Charlotte: Alan Major has his first signature victory. The 49ers played one game this week and beat Tennessee at home in front of a raucous crowd. Not a bad week, even with all the struggles and troubles the 49ers have endured so far this season.

St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies won the game of the season so far, beating Ohio 112-107 in four overtimes. Now if they could find some consistency after winning at St. John's and losing to lowly Niagara in the previous week.

UCLA: The Bruins started the week by knocking off UC Davis (nothing is a given now in Westwood), and then handed BYU its first loss of the season at the Wooden Classic in Anaheim. A year ago, Anaheim was a nightmare for the Bruins, who lost four games played there (three in the 76 Classic and the Wooden Classic). Not this year.

Gonzaga: The Zags had to win against Baylor in Dallas or all the good vibes from a tremendous strength of schedule would have been for naught. Gonzaga lost three straight against Illinois (Seattle), at Washington State and at Notre Dame. Winning a neutral-site game against No. 9 Baylor should do wonders for this team's confidence and profile.

-- Andy Katz

Player of the Week: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue

Johnson was a preseason first-team all-American but still hadn't fully emerged from the shadow of Robbie Hummel's season-ending ACL injury. The Boilermakers were offensively challenged and Johnson didn't stand out consistently enough in the one loss to Richmond in suburban Chicago. He put up 29 points in 44 minutes in the Boilers' most impressive win -- a bounce-back road game at Virginia Tech. But it was this past week when Johnson emerged as the go-to guy on the Boilermakers, a legit first-team all-American candidate and a major reason Purdue can't be dismissed as a Big Ten title contender. Johnson was the catalyst in leading his team to a 65-52 win over Indiana State in Indianapolis, scoring a career-high 31 points, making 11 of 12 free throws and blocking three shots. Johnson scored 25 of the 31 in the first half. If he can be this dominant, the Boilermakers will be in the mix for the Big Ten title. Johnson will have competition inside, as Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger had a phenomenal game against South Carolina. Sullinger scored 30 points and had 19 rebounds in a convincing 22-point win over the Gamecocks. Of course, one could argue that Sullinger's performance was more dominant than Johnson's and against better competition. But the significance of how Johnson took over the game for Purdue means more at this juncture.

-- Andy Katz

More performances that wowed us

Xavier Silas, Northern Illinois: In a win over UIC that looks even more impressive now, Silas scored 40 points and made an amazing 22 of 24 free throws. He followed it up with 27 points, six rebounds and five assists in a competitive loss at Temple. The former Colorado player is tied with Kemba Walker as the nation's leading scorer (28.1 ppg).

Ryan Rossiter, Siena: The senior Saint put up his seventh double-double in nine games with 27 points (11-13 FG) and 13 boards in a much-needed win over Florida Atlantic.

[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Tim CookKeith Benson was a star in Oakland's win over Tennessee.

Keith Benson, Oakland: Despite battling an injury, Benson contributed 26 points and 10 rebounds and made all six free throw attempts as his Golden Grizzlies finally broke through and beat a big boy with a 89-82 victory at previously unbeaten Tennessee.

Brian Qvale, Montana: Speaking of Grizzlies, Montana was able to get a rare home game against a major-conference team, and its 6-foot-11 senior center took advantage in a big way. Qvale's stat line: 27 points (11-15 FG), 18 rebounds (nine offensive) and five blocks in a 71-66 win over Oregon State.

James Nunnally, UC Santa Barbara: The Gauchos followed it up with a dud at San Diego State, but in the team's surprising win at UNLV earlier in the week, Nunnally led the way with 23 points, seven boards and a 6-of-6 performance from the free throw line.

Khris Middleton, Texas A&M: After a scrum with Arkansas, the Aggies rallied against the Razorbacks and Middleton led the charge, scoring a career-high 31 points.

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: It's a testament to how great Sullinger has been as a freshman that we barely blinked when he put up 30 points and 19 rebounds against South Carolina this weekend. For good measure, he even banked in a 30-footer right before the halftime buzzer.

Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure: In the longest game in school history, a 112-107 four-OT win over Ohio, the big man from Canada made 14 of 19 shots, scored 44 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and contributed five assists.

D.J. Cooper, Ohio: It wouldn't be fair to mention Nicholson without giving some love to Cooper, who wasn't all that far from a quadruple-double. Sure, it took 55 minutes and 41 shot attempts, but the sophomore guard put up 43 points, 13 assists, eight assists and eight steals.

Matt Howard, Butler: In a blowout of Stanford that the Bulldogs desperately needed, Howard contributed 27 points (9-13 FG, 7-7 FT) and 10 boards.

Tu Holloway, Xavier: In a 83-75 victory over Wake Forest in the Skip Prosser Classic, Holloway totaled 14 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds, the first triple-double by a Musketeer since David West in 2001. The 14 assists and 10 boards were career highs.

Michael Glover, Iona: The Gaels lost by only six at Syracuse thanks to Glover's 25 points (9-11 FG) and 16 boards. Jim Boeheim's postgame comments are all you need to know about the emerging star: "Glover is about as good as anybody we'll play against. We didn't control Glover … I'm not sure who can."

-- Brett Edgerton

More scores that caught our eye

[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/ Mark WeberMemphis might be 8-1, but it hasn't looked like a team with a stellar record.

Memphis 70, Austin Peay 68 (OT): This sure doesn't feel like an 8-1 team. Give Memphis credit for rallying from 15 down in the second half, but at some point messing around with small-conference foes at home (remember the OT win over Arkansas State?) has to catch up with Memphis, right?

Utah 86, Boise State 84: Will Clyburn was again the key as his go-ahead 3-pointer with 11 seconds to go capped a 16-point rally in the final 14 minutes and a nine-point rally in the final four-plus minutes.

Charlotte 49, Tennessee 48: The Vols' loss to Oakland was certainly surprising, but perhaps not stunning. This one was fairly stunning. Three days after leading scorer Shamari Spears was kicked off the team, the 4-6 49ers notched their first top-10 win since February 2004 by scoring the final seven points of the game. In his six years at UT, this was Bruce Pearl's first loss to a team with a losing record.

Bucknell 89, La Salle 78: Just when it looked like the Explorers were making progress, they go out and lose by double digits at home to Bucknell. On the other hand, this is probably enough to make the Bison the favorite in the Patriot League.

San Diego State 90, UC Santa Barbara 64: This one had the potential for an upset as the Gauchos were coming off a win at UNLV and the Aztecs were coming off a sloppy six-point win over Cal Poly. Instead, it was 57-29 by halftime.

Georgia Tech 67, Richmond 54: Against a mediocre team from the ACC, this is a game the Spiders simply have to win to pad their at-large credentials, especially considering that Iman Shumpert missed most of the second half with leg cramps. Give the Yellow Jackets credit for shooting lights-out after halftime. This is a loss that could really hurt Richmond come March.

James Madison 66, South Florida 61: As is the case every year, USF won't have much to worry about on Selection Sunday. Stan Heath had high hopes in the preseason, but this looks to be another (at best) NIT season for the Bulls.

Presbyterian 62, Auburn 59: The Tigers are the worst major-conference team in America, but who cares? The Blue Hose of tiny Presbyterian College had never beaten a major-conference team before. Do you think it matters to them that Auburn is terrible? No chance.

Virginia Tech 88, Mississippi State 57: Speaking of terrible, how about Mississippi State's performance down in the Bahamas? A little too much time on the beach, fellas? The Bulldogs left Starkville for the first time and it wasn't pretty, as the Hokies dominated from start to finish in a crucial game for both teams.

SMU 70, McMurry 67: We're not sure what's more bizarre. Is it (A) the fact that Matt Doherty's Mustangs played in what's believed to be just the third game ever in which a Division I team played on the road against a Division III team? Or is it (B) the fact that the Division III team almost won?

-- Brett Edgerton

The week in quotes

• "The best thing he did was Twitter the garbage he twitted …. If Josh had not twitted, I wouldn't do it this way. It would have been a mistake and he wouldn't be as good as he is right now."
-- Kentucky coach John Calipari to the Lexington Herald-Leader on changing how he coached Josh Harrellson after the forward tweeted his frustration in October regarding Calipari's comments.

• "We played for Coach today. We really talked about that a lot. We wanted him to be proud of this team and I know he is."
-- UCLA coach Ben Howland after a win against BYU in the John R. Wooden Classic.

• "I've always placed a high importance on following the rules and pride myself on adhering to high standards of professional conduct and doing things the right way. This is an isolated and inadvertent secondary violation of a new rules interpretation. I regret that it happened."
-- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo after the announcement of his one-game suspension.

• "Did I expect us to come in here and win? I'm not going to sit here and say that, but I knew we were going to compete. I told my staff before the game, 'We look tired and I'd take a five-point loss and get out of here right now.' That means we would have played with them, but I'd rather have this."
-- Oakland coach Greg Kampe after an upset win against Tennessee.

• "I couldn't have scripted a better ending. National stage, national TV, and now he is going to be the talk of the country. I'm really happy for Josh and his mother; they have made a lot of sacrifices for this day to come."
-- Kansas coach Bill Self on Josh Selby taking the final shot in his debut.

Observations from the week that was

Andy Katz

This freshman class continues to get better and will have a say on the national title. Duke's Kyrie Irving was the star of the crew before he got hurt. If and when he returns he'll shoot in the top tier again. Ohio State's Jared Sullinger has been a man inside for the Buckeyes. Kansas' Josh Selby proved his worth with his winning shot against USC. Texas' tandem of Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson will be a reason the Longhorns are in the race for the Big 12 title. Kentucky's Terrence Jones has been highly productive and one of the many reasons to take the Wildcats seriously throughout the season.

The Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu might be one of the more anticipated events I've seen in December. The outcome will have major implications for a number of teams. Butler can change this team's current perception with a title. Baylor now comes in hungry to prove it belongs in the elite conversation. Washington State has a home win over Gonzaga but nothing else to shout about yet. Mississippi State desperately needs quality wins. Florida State hasn't been able to win elite games so far (losses to Florida and Ohio State).

For more of Katz's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.

Eamonn Brennan

National title favorite? Try favorites. For much of November and December, the Duke Blue Devils were rightfully considered the lone true national title favorites, a steamroller of talent trailed by a handful of solid-but-flawed potential contenders. That dynamic has changed. We don't have any new details on the status of Kyrie Irving's toe, but this week Coach K said Irving would be out "for a long time" and that his players were in the process of becoming a "different team." Couple that ominous-sounding diagnosis with the recent performances of Ohio State and Kansas -- two loaded teams with star freshmen of their own -- and it's clear Duke is no longer head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

Something's wrong with Kansas State's offense. The Wildcats entered the season ranked No. 3 overall and riding the kind of optimistic wave that tends to wash aside legitimate personnel concerns. When you have so much, why worry about what's missing? Alas, at this point in the season -- on the heels of a 44-point stinker in a loss to Florida on Saturday -- the Wildcats could be missing former point guard Denis Clemente more than anyone would have imagined. The Wildcats have a couple of offensive issues to deal with. One is Jacob Pullen's shooting. The other is free throw rate. Last season, Kansas State had the fourth-highest free throw rate in the country. This season, the Wildcats are ranked No. 108 in the country in the stat. It's hard to tease out how much of this is a function of Clemente's absence -- certainly Pullen got more open looks from 3 with Clemente pushing the pace and getting into the lane -- and how much is just a slow start by Frank Martin's team thus far. One way or the other, though, the Wildcats have to find a way to get to the line more often. Until they do, that preseason optimism will continue to wane.

For more of Brennan's observations, see the complete post in the Nation blog.

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