|espnW.com: News & Opinion|
Every weekday we're going to give you all the good stuff from last night's sports action. It's quick, it's easy and it's all you need to know to get you through the morning.
• The Name to Know: Kyrie Irving. Duke's superstar freshman point guard was spectacular in the Blue Devils' 84-79 win over a gutty Michigan State team. Irving lived up to the hype with scoring, impressive playmaking and defense. He's the kind of player that makes you want to watch Duke play as often as possible, even if you don't like Duke. Let's be honest: unless you went to school there, who really likes Duke? I don't. Check out this stat line: 31 points; 8-for-12 field goals; 13-for-16 free throws; six rebounds; four assists; two blocks; two steals. P.S. Duke won its 81st straight non-conference home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
• Notes For Your Bracket: It's never too early to start scouting for the NCAA tournament. Or is that just me? Duke looks like the team to beat in both the ACC and the NCAA tournament, but struggled at the free throw line (47.2 percent). The Spartans hung tough in a hostile environment, but continue to turn the ball over, committing 20. It's only December, but they'll both get better and there's no reason both these teams won't go deep into the tournament. I've learned never to doubt Coach K or Izzo in the tournament. We'd love to see a Final Four rematch in Houston in April.
• 2010 ACC/Big Ten Challenge Final Results: Despite wins by Duke and Maryland on Wednesday night, the Big Ten holds on to win this year's challenge, six wins to five, the conference's second straight challenge win. Does that back up Coach Izzo's claim that the Big Ten is the best basketball conference? It doesn't hurt. Having five teams ranked in the Top 25 also doesn't hurt.
• NCAA Women's Basketball Top 25 Showdowns: The No. 3 ranked Baylor women's basketball team held off visiting No. 16 Notre Dame 76-65, winning the first ever meeting between the two schools. The Lady Bears withstood a second half run by the Irish to improve to 8-1. Sophomore superstar Britney Griner finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Six-foot-1 sophomore forward Brooklyn Pope added 20 points and 14 rebounds. In Tallahassee, No. 25 Michigan State salvaged the night for the Spartans with a 72-64 upset win at No. 14 Florida State. After the Seminoles jumped out to an early 23-7 lead, the Spartans chipped away and made an impressive 19-0 second-half run to take the lead behind senior forward Kalisha Keane's 22 points.
• What's Wrong with the Lakers? The defending NBA champions lost their fourth game in a row, falling to Houston 109-99. It's the team's first four-game losing streak since acquiring Pau Gasol on Feb. 1, 2008 and first since April 2007 overall. Kobe Bryant scored 27 points (on horrendous 10-for-24 shooting), and Gasol struggled with a bad hamstring. "We took bad shots and made bad plays defensively," said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. Ouch. Should the Lakers panic? No, they're the Lakers. Should Laker fans (like myself) panic? No, they're the Lakers. Should they be making better decisions on the offensive end? Absolutely.
• Around the NBA: In Newark, the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled out a thriller against the Nets in triple overtime, 123-120. Yes, you read that right. Three overtimes. With superstar Kevin Durant out with a sprained knee, point guard Russell Westbrook stepped up and dominated with 38 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and three blocks. In case you haven't noticed, Westbrook has quietly emerged as one of the top five point guards in the NBA. Loved him at UCLA, love him now, and love him on my fantasy basketball team. ... What's gotten into those L.A. Clippers? At the Staples Center, rookie sensation Blake Griffin continued to take the league by storm with another dominating 31 point, 13 rebound performance to lead the Clippers (4-15) to a 90-85 win over the San Antonio Spurs (now 15-3 and still the best record in the league). The win snapped an amazing 18-game losing streak against the Spurs and also handed San Antonio its first road loss of the year. Griffin is the NBA's version of must-see TV. Let's just hand him the NBA Rookie of the Year Award now.