|Guess what? VCU is still going to be a factor -- and it showed its ability after beating Memphis. (US Presswire)|
Here's everything you need to know from college basketball's Thursday night …
Game of the Night: Louisville and its anemic offense barely escape against Northern Iowa.
Rick Pitino led Louisville to the Final Four last season despite not having much firepower offensively. This season, the Cardinals were ranked among the top two teams in the country by most outlets -- and they certainly have the ability to make another run. With that said, their offense is still not efficient enough. On Thursday night, it almost cost them against Northern Iowa. The Panthers scored just four points in the first 12 minutes of the second half, but then went on a 17-2 run to make the Cardinals sweat in the final minutes. Northern Iowa was down one with just over two minutes left, but Louisville held on down the stretch, 51-46. Louisville shot below 31 percent from the field and turned it over time and time again. The Cardinals got the win, but Pitino has to get that offense humming.
What else we'll be talking about in the morning: VCU forces 22 turnovers and beats Memphis.
When VCU is at its best, it is forcing turnovers and getting easy baskets in transition. Basically, the Rams look to constantly pressure their opponents and frustrate them for 40 minutes. Joe Jackson was the target on Thursday – and the Rams did their job. Jackson finished with seven turnovers and five fouls for Memphis, as VCU weathered every Tigers' rally to win, 78-65. VCU knocked down better than 59 percent from 3-point range and received 26 points from Treveon Graham. Memphis still has its leadership issues.
That's a good win: Saint Mary's proves Gonzaga won't roll over the WCC.
There weren't a ton of great wins on the light Thanksgiving slate, but Saint Mary's served notice with its win over Drexel. Sure, it was a depleted Dragons squad, with Chris Fouch out for the season and Damion Lee day-to-day. But the Gaels have a lot of good guards, and a go-to-guy in Matthew Dellavedova. Gonzaga came into the season as the favorite, and rightfully so. The demolition of West Virginia in the opening game of the 24-hour marathon only proved that sentiment. But don't expect Mark Few's crew to just roll in the WCC. There will be a couple more classics between Saint Mary's and Gonzaga.
But that's a bad loss: Xavier drops first game to Pacific.
Xavier had surprised most people around the country with its impressive start, including a 15-point lead over Butler and another win over Robert Morris. As a result, the Musketeers losing by three to Pacific in the DirecTV Classic provided a bit of a shock. Xavier was outrebounded, and allowed Pacific to shoot nearly 57 percent from the field.
Players with impact
- Warren Niles lit up Loyola Marymount on Thursday, as he led Oral Roberts with 33 points and four assists.
- Matthew Dellavedova outdueled Frantz Massenat, scoring 32 points as Saint Mary's beat Drexel.
- Mason Plumlee is starting to become a dominant force on the inside for Duke. He went for 20 points and 17 boards against Minnesota.
Numbers to figure:
13.8: Laurence Bowers is putting up 13.8 points per game this season in the second half. He's averaging 16.3 overall.
2: The number of two-point field goals Rice made in its 18-point loss to Georgia Tech. The Owls shot 9-for-30 from behind the arc.
150: Number of consecutive games Duke has spent inside the top 10.
Other outcomes of note:
- Duke only got two points from its bench, but the Blue Devils were still able to handle Minnesota by 18 points. Trevor Mbakwe had 11 off the bench for the Golden Gophers.
- Missouri is still a work-in-progress, as the Tigers are meshing newcomers and returnees. However, the Tigers held off Stanford in the second half to win, 78-70.
- Gonzaga didn't look as good as it did when it dominated West Virginia, but the Bulldogs came back in the second half and beat Clemson.
- California came back from down nine with under seven minutes remaining to hold off Drake, 73-70. Justin Cobbs stepped up with 21 points while Allen Crabbe was saddled with foul trouble.
-- Davidson has a chance to roll through the Southern Conference – perhaps unbeaten. The Wildcats' latest win was a 13-point victory over Vanderbilt at the old Spice Classic. De'Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen give them a BCS-level frontcourt duo.
-- Oklahoma could be an interesting team in the Big 12 this season. The Sooners are now 3-0 after beating UTEP, 68-61. Steven Pledger was the big scorer last season, but there are plenty of options this year.
-- West Virginia steamrolled Marist on Thursday afternoon, but the lineup was interesting. Aaric Murray and Matt Humphrey both came off the bench, with Aaron Brown and Kevin Noreen starting.
-- I thought Loyola Marymount could perhaps compete in the WCC, but the Lions have now lost to SMU and Oral Roberts.