SHU athletic comm.
The second day of the college basketball season paled in comparison to what occurred on opening night. But thanks to Shane Gibson and Sacred Heart, we had at least one memorable moment.
Saturday's action didn't quite bring us the stunning upsets of opening night. The best chance for that came with Evansville taking on Notre Dame, and the Irish didn't give Colt Ryan's team much of a chance.
The Aces hung around, but hanging around and pushing ahead to close it out are two different things.
If you want to call something an upset, you could look down to Florida where Keith Clanton and Central Florida took out South Florida as we expected. Isaiah Sykes scored 26 points, and could have eclipsed 30 if he had just shot better from the free throw line (6-for-14). Clanton was a fixture under the hoop and had 16 rebounds.
In general it was as if the Bulls gave up on every shot they took. They missed 35 shots, and Central Florida got the board on 26 of those. That is an atrocious 25.7 percent offensive rebounding percentage. Ken Pomeroy's numbers have them even lower at 23.7 percent (using PBP data), and that is a sub-200 team in the country in that stat.
The overall performance -- an 18-point loss at home to the Knights -- seems like a far cry from the absurd No. 51 ranking that the Bilas Index gives the team.
No matter how overrated South Florida may be, this was a nice win for Central Florida given everything that occurred last year and in the off-season. Clanton's decision to stay, at least for this game, looks like a good one.
And then there was the game of the afternoon. I had heard enough about Shane Gibson since I didn't include him in my top 50 players for this season. There was going to have to be something I was missing here, beyond just solid numbers.
The Connecticut 6 trio of games happened to be on my cable system so I waited through the Hartford-Quinnipiac show to see Sacred Heart take on Yale. For 20 minutes, I was sure I wasn't missing anything from Gibson. At the end of the half, he had five points and had done nothing spectacular.
He might have been the best player out on the floor, that much was clear from his speed and agility with the ball. No one came close to touching that. But his pedestrian five points on just 2 of 4 shooting didn't give me much to rethink my non-ranking. I was actually more impressed with Yale's Austin Morgan shooting ability from long range. The kid is 5-11, and he could probably make a three-quarter court shot with his arm strength. Also impressive was Javier Duren's Kid 'n Play hairdo, only rivaled that night by Mostafa Abdel Latif's quite poofy locks (Murray State's Ed Daniel might have some competition for best hair).
But that was 20 minutes. It was 44-28 at that point in favor of the Bulldogs.
It would only get worse in the second half, with the Pioneers falling 24 points down. I walked away from the television set, convinced I had seen enough. The game was still on, but I couldn't believe that anything was going to change.
And then Shane Gibson happened. He couldn't miss over the latter part of the half. Between his strong shooting and Justin Swidowski's play inside, the Pioneers clawed their way back into the game and forced overtime. That was an epic collapse by Yale, but the Bulldogs weren't playing that poorly. They still shot 47 percent in the second half, but the ball was just bouncing the right way for Sacred Heart.
They even had a five-point lead with 2:30 to go in overtime.
But then it was Louis Montes' turn to shine. The junior pulled in three really important offensive rebounds to help Sacred Heart score the final points it needed to take the lead and finish the win. What was a Gibson showcase in the second half was actually a major team effort to not just come back, but earn the win.
As for Gibson, here is his line in the second half: 8-for-14 FG, 2-for-5 3 PT, 4-for-4 FT, 4 rebounds, 1 turnover: 22 points.
If you want to talk about controlling a half of basketball, there you have it. Both he and Swidowski turned in HOOPWAR Game Scores of 34 in just the second half. There are players who don't get that in entire games.
Pomeroy's win probability graphs aren't up and running yet, but even he thinks that the Pioneers had less than a 3 percent chance of pulling this one out.
And then, as we said, Shane Gibson happened.