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Five things: Indiana-Washington

November, 22, 2013

NEW YORK -- Here are five quick thoughts from Indiana’s 102-84 win over Washington on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden:

Diaper dandies: Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh has gotten more headlines thus far, but fellow frosh Troy Williams was even better Thursday night.

The 6-foot-7 swingman scored a team-high 22 points, shooting 8-for-12 from the field and 6-for-7 from the foul line (plus eight rebounds). He scored from all over the floor, displaying highlight-reel athleticism. In fact, his most exciting play was a missed dunk over a Washington player that might still make the "SportsCenter" Top 10.

Vonleh wasn’t bad, either, by the way -- 18 points, nine rebounds, despite being limited to 24 minutes because of foul trouble in the first half. He fell one rebound short of his fifth consecutive double-double to start his collegiate career.

One-sided: The Hoosiers took a 50-37 halftime lead by dominating the Huskies on the offensive glass and at the foul line. Indiana had 15 offensive rebounds and shot 16-for-18 from the foul line in the first half.

“We knew that Indiana was a really good offensive rebounding team, but what they did just decided the game on the boards,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Right away they established themselves, 15 offensive rebounds -- that’s tough to overcome."

Indiana kept on coming in the second half, never allowing Washington to get closer than nine points. The Hoosiers finished with a 50-29 rebounding advantage overall and made 31 of 36 free throws. (The Huskies were just 19-for-28 from the foul line.)

Hold your horses: Indiana, picked to finish in the middle of the Big Ten, is now 5-0 -- but let’s not get carried away. This is their first victory against a major conference opponent, and not a particularly impressive major conference opponent.

Coach Tom Crean is relying on a lot of freshmen and sophomores, too.

Will Indiana be exciting to watch? Absolutely -- it has already topped the century mark three times and is averaging 94 points per game. But let’s see the Hoosiers pull this off against stronger competition.

Consolation prize: Five players scored in double figures for Washington. Senior guard C.J. Wilcox scored a game-high 24 points, is averaging more than 20 points per game on the season and should be among the leaders in scoring in the Pac-12.

The Huskies will put up plenty of points this year. That won’t be their problem.

The bad news: Washington was picked to finish eighth in the Pac-12 in the conference’s preseason poll, but if they don’t step it up on defense, they’ll be hard-pressed to finish even that high.

The Huskies were like a sieve Thursday night, allowing the Hoosiers to pick them apart with ease. Penetration was a piece of cake. They got beat on backcut after backcut. It wasn’t pretty. Washington must play hard at both ends.

Five things: Connecticut-Boston College

November, 21, 2013

Here are five quick thoughts from No. 18 Connecticut’s 72-70 win over Boston College on Thursday evening at Madison Square Garden:

X factor: When people talk about UConn, they usually start with the talented backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. But DeAndre Daniels is the player who can turn this team from good into great.

The 6-foot-9, 195-pound junior scored just 19 points in the Huskies’ first three games, including a goose egg against Yale. But in the team’s past two games, he’s exploded for 24 against Boston University and 23 versus Boston College.

Daniels is a matchup nightmare -- he can shoot the 3 or take it to the rim and has some crafty moves in the paint. If he turns into a reliable offensive threat, watch out.

The other end: Napier and Boatright didn’t have great games offensively. Napier did score 20 but shot just 6-for-17 from the field with only two assists; Boatright scored nine. But they did an excellent job on defense, blanketing Boston College star guard Olivier Hanlan.

Hanlan, last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year, came in averaging 24.5 points per game and went off for 38 in BC’s last game, a win over Florida Atlantic. But Napier and Boatright shadowed Hanlan everywhere he went Thursday night.

Hanlan still managed to score 19 points, but he had to work awfully hard to get them.

Contenders: We’re only five games into the season, but we’ve seen enough to say this Connecticut team is capable of making a run to the Final Four.

Four different players are capable of scoring 20-plus on any given night -- sophomore guard Omar Calhoun has that potential, too. They have capable, if somewhat raw, bigs. And they have experience, despite being ineligible for the postseason last year.

Speaking of Hanlan: Yes, he finished under his scoring average. But he was impressive nonetheless.

The best part about Hanlan’s night was he didn’t force the issue. Most big-time scorers would feel the need to hoist up shots regardless of the defense. Hanlan played under control (5-for-14 from the field, 7-for-8 from the foul line), scoring when he could and trying to create for teammates when he couldn’t.

Many teams BC will face this season won’t have guards as quick as Napier and Boatright. Hanlan will have plenty of big games.

Eagles forecast: Boston College did a very nice job hanging around against a more talented opponent. The Eagles could have wilted twice -- when they fell behind by 11 in the first half and when they again fell behind by 11 in the second half. But they bounced back both times to remain within striking distance.

They even had a 3-point shot attempt from near midcourt at the final buzzer that would have won the game, but Boatright blocked Lonnie Jackson’s attempt.

On a hot shooting night, Boston College could beat just about any team in the country. But the Eagles shot just 8-for-25 from beyond the arc Thursday night. That wasn’t quite good enough to take out UConn.