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Wednesday, January 13, 2010
The Morning After: OSU bucks the trend

By Eamonn Brennan

The Morning After is our semi-daily recap post. Try not to make it awkward.

Turner
Evan Turner scored 23 of his career-high 32 points in the second half Tuesday night.
Ohio State 70, No. 6 Purdue 66: Evan Turner does bad things. You know this already. He did such things before the ugly back injury (which he suffered doing something awesome; players like Turner don't get injured in normal or unexciting ways, apparently), and he's done such things since returning from that injury. He's, um, really good. But the Buckeyes' accomplishment Tuesday night -- winning a road game over an efficient, brutal defensive team like Purdue -- is truly remarkable: Road wins like this simply don't happen all that often in basketball.

How did Ohio State do it? It was almost flawless where it counts most: The Buckeyes shot well, they rebounded their misses, and they didn't allow Purdue to get to the line, surrendering free throws on a mere 12 percent of the Boilermakers' possessions. Purdue will be disappointed with that number; the Boilermakers must find a way to balance their perimeter strengths with more touches for JaJuan Johnson, who shot only five times Tuesday night. Make no mistake, though: This win belongs to the Buckeyes, who got a legendary performance from their star and did more than enough around the margins to complement him. If the Buckeyes go on to stir things up at the top of college hoops this season, they will have learned their formula on Jan. 12.

No. 2 Kentucky 89, Florida 77: It's almost unfair. After all, John Calipari already has the best point guard and arguably best player (I'm adding in the "possibly" because did you see Turner last night?) in the nation in John Wall. It's easy to forget that Eric Bledsoe was almost as highly touted as Wall as a high schooler; Bledsoe was considered the third-best point guard in that class and among the top 20 or 30 players entering the 2009 class. But for all the John Wall love, Bledsoe is showing Kentucky fans they have no reason to worry about 2010 and beyond -- while not as versatile and athletic, Bledsoe is nearly as quick as Wall and has a much better shooting touch, which he displayed last night in his 25-point, 10-of-13 performance at Florida.

In the meantime, the tandem of Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins (and even Daniel Orton) is proving impossible for teams to stop. The Wildcats scored 1.25 points per possession last night -- an insane rate for any team -- without shooting particularly well from beyond the arc. Kentucky was just that good (65.2 percent for the game) on their twos. If the Wildcats can score at this rate even when they don't shoot well from the perimeter (and when Wall bricks 3 after 3, which he's prone to do), then we were all wrong: The Cats aren't vulnerable. They're just scary.

Colorado 78-No. 24 Baylor 71; No. 12 Kansas State 88, Texas A&M 65: Who else is trying -- and failing -- to figure out the middle portions of the Big 12? Eamonn confused: Baylor beats Oklahoma by 31 and goes to Colorado and loses to a frisky-but-let's-be-real-here-still-pretty-bad Buffs team. Meanwhile, Texas A&M looks like a tough matchup for a K-State team that lost its first Big 12 game to Missouri. Instead, the Aggies build themselves a tower of bricks (how tall? 38.2 percent FG% tall, is how tall) while K-State scores almost 1.2 points per possession. Road difficulties? Weird night? Who knows? The Pac-10 is this year's most wide-open conference -- which is a nice way of saying there are no good teams -- but the Big 12 might be the most fun to figure out in the next two months.

NC State 88, No. 25 Florida State 81: Florida State will have some 'splaining to do. How do you lose to the hapless Wolfpack at home? Well, here's how: Freshman Scott Wood made 7-of-11 3-pointers and scored a career high (duh) 31 points on the way to a Wolfpack win. Add that to NC State's generally hot shooting and efficiency on offense -- it went to the line on 66 percent of its possessions and scored 1.2 points per trip -- and you have a recipe for a freaky loss at home to an inferior team. Not that this is the upset of the century, but still.

Everywhere else: Maryland-Wake Forest played a classic that few around the country saw, trading baskets in overtime on the way to a two-point Wake win; Al-Farouq Aminu had 24 and 13 and a key defensive play in the victory. ... Northern Iowa tied a school record with its 14th straight win, but a two-point win over Bradley at home was probably not the win the UNI folks had in mind. ... TCU edged Wyoming out West. ... Illinois needed some last-second drama to top Penn State at home, but escaped with 54-53 the win all the same. ... Iowa got its sixth win, a five-point home win over Tennessee State.