Let’s take a minute to recap two of the Week 8 conference openers.
Mountain West – UNLV vs. Fresno State: LAS VEGAS, Nevada: The Runnin’ Rebels (9-5, 0-1 MW) under the direction of Dave Rice filled the Thomas and Mack stadium Wednesday night for a Mountain West Conference opener against the visiting Fresno State Bulldogs (10-4, 1-0 MW). Fresno State held a steady lead for most of the game, coming out with a 69-66 victory over the Runnin’ Rebs. The entire night the Rebels struggled to find a consistent offense, even though they were leading at the half. The Bulldogs were struggling with their own issues; fouls. With only 5 minutes left in the game, 4 of their starters had 4 fouls and their fifth man was very close behind. Despite all of this, the Rebels continued to play very timid ball, mostly only taking jumpers and shots from behind the arc – very rarely did any Rebel’s find themselves making an aggressive play to the basket; seems silly given the high foul numbers. With 22 seconds left, the Rebels are down by one and call a timeout. The Rebs inbounded the ball from their sideline and dished the ball to senior guard Jerome Seagears for a 3 from the corner to take the lead, but the Bulldogs got the rebound and the rest was history.
In the first half: Rebels outshot the Bulldogs 38.5% to 33% – Led at the half 33-28
In the second half: Bulldogs outscored the Rebels 22-6 in the paint and outshot the Rebels 58.3% to 27.3% – 69-66 victory over the Rebels
Fresno State: T. Jones 18 Pts, 8 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk
UNLV: S. Zimmerman Jr. 10 Pts, 10 Reb, 2 Stl, 2 Blk
Big Ten – Michigan State vs. Iowa: IOWA CITY, Iowa: Tuesday night a top ranked team found themselves in quite the offensive funk – maybe because their star player Denzel Valentine was on the bench. The Iowa Hawkeyes (10-3, 1-0) handed the Michigan State Spartans (13-1. 0-1) their first loss of the season 83-70. Senior guard Mike Gesell led the Hawkeyes to victory with a career high 25 points and one of his most aggressive games. Gesell was quoted after the game saying that he “just wanted to be aggressive… to get the offense going.” The Hawkeyes found a lot of their success on the fly; most of their called plays weren’t working, and you could tell that they really incorporated their individual knowledge of the game with their team chemistry to cruise past the Spartans. Another key aspect of their success was their disciplined defense; they only gave up two fast breaks during the entire game, and stuck to their man-defense which added enough pressure to jam up Michigan State.
Michigan State had a rough start to the game, giving up a lot of really unnecessary fouls early on, as well as seeming to have a difficult time getting some type of offense together. Iowa capitalized on the Spartans’ weaknesses on all cylinders, shooting 44% from behind the arc in the first half, and increased that to 50% in the second half. Iowa led the entire game, their largest lead being 19 points.
Iowa kept the ball moving quickly, spreading the ball around the perimeter – 44 of their points though came from right under the basket – a clear parallel to the aggressive play that came from the Hawkeye offense.
This was a huge win for the Hawkeyes, theirfirst win against a #1 seeded team since 1999.
Michigan State: M. Costello 17 Pts, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Blk
Iowa: M. Gesell 25 Pts, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl
*N. Baer 11 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Blk
**Baer was a key asset to the Hawkeye win – dynamic bench player