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TMA: Mississippi State's ugly start

11/10/2011

The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best basketball action. It apologizes for being a bit late, but it was up all night watching the JoePa mess unfold in real time. It should have just gone to bed.

Akron 68, Mississippi State 58: Before we get any further into recap mode, it should be said that it is way, way, way too early to draw any conclusions about any of the teams that played in Wednesday night's scattered (and poorly scheduled, if you ask me) games. That includes Mississippi State. In early November, everyone's a work in progress. But it appears the Bulldogs have more work to do than most.

In front of a paltry partisan crowd, Mississippi State mustered just .89 points per possession Wednesday. It's not that Akron was great offensively. The Zips averaged just over a point per possession; the Zips were good -- hey, the Zips can play -- but this was far from the sort of performance that should topple a program with designs on the NCAA tournament. Mississippi State was just that bad. Arnett Moultrie grabbed 15 rebounds but shot 2-of-13 from the field. Renardo Sidney turned in a more encouraging performance -- 12 points and five rebounds on 5-of-9 from the field -- but he was still limited to 25 minutes. Dee Bost had four of his team's 19 turnovers, which came in 64 possessions; that's a turnover rate of about 29 percent. The whole thing was just, well, ugly.

St. John's 78, Lehigh 73: If you're the kind of college hoops fan that pores over preseason predictions for each and every conference -- or, hey, complete conference rankings -- then you're familiar with Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum. McCollum was one of the best mid-major players in the country as a freshman; as a junior, he's primed for another monster year. His excellence was one of the reasons Lehigh put the Red Storm in a corner early at Carnesecca Arena, but St. John's struggles on the offensive end had a lot to do with that, too. One thing is clear about this pressing, athletic, very young team: They're not particularly confident in their perimeter game. The Red Storm were just 2-of-9 from three. A team with this sort of talent is going to learn quickly, and they're going to figure out how to get easy buckets out of their press. But if they can't stretch the defense, they may not have a fun time playing against veteran Big East defenses.

In any case, God's Gift Achiuwa was ... ah, I can't do it. I was going to make a name pun there, but I just can't do it. The point is, he was really, really good: He scored 21 points on 6-of-6 from the field and 9-of-9 from the line and grabbed eight rebounds. That's about as good as you can be in a basketball game. God's Gift is far more than naming novelty, that's for sure.

Everywhere else: Arizona wasn't great against Duquesne, but they played solid defense and got a win. For a team this young, playing a solid A-10 squad, that's a positive result. ... Despite an early injury to Khris Middleton, Texas A&M had no issues handling Liberty 81-59.