Big East Baller Update No. 4: What really happened while someone was in Florida

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10/18/22 Big East Media day by Erin Knapp Junior guard Andre Jackson, a UConn mens basketball team member, sits with interviewers at the Big East Media Day hosted at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, October 18, 2022. The Media Day events began at 9:30 A.M. for the mens teams and 12:30 P.M. for the womens.

I sincerely apologize for not publishing a Big East Baller Update last week. What initially started as a two-day trip to Gainesville turned into a multi-week expedition across Florida from Tallahassee to Orlando to Key West with the purpose of gaining some critical insight. In the midst of my travels, I also had to catch up on college football and the beginning of the bowl season.

Although I did not achieve the main goal, I did find some valuable knowledge from wise people throughout my arduous journey. Aside from the UConn men’s basketball team remaining in the AP top five during my two-week excursion, what did I miss in Big East basketball?

Writer’s Note: Teal fields, fighting chickens on the coast and the third annual Myrtle Beach Bowl.

Players of the Week:

Kam Jones – Marquette (12/5-12/11)

Souley Boum – Xavier (12/12-12/18)

Freshmen of the Week:

Donovan Clingan – UConn (12/5-12/11)

Frederick King – Creighton (12/12-12/18)

Xavier vs. Cincinnati (Dec. 10): The Queen City’s Gambit

Cincinnati has had things go their way since Oct. 1 as the Bengals currently lead the AFC north and FC Cincinnati made the MLS Cup playoffs. Above all of that however, the Bearcats and the Musketeers had identical 6-3 records going into the Crosstown Shootout.

Xavier jumped out to a 13-1 lead before the first media timeout and nearly ended the game early. Even though the Musketeers entered the intermission up 17, Cincinnati fought back with the hopes of ending a three-game losing streak in the series. The Bearcats could not get close to Xavier’s lead until David DeJulius heated up. After making a three-pointer with 34 ticks to go, DeJulius tied the game with a four-point play following some critical free throws on the other end.

Cincinnati tried to call a timeout after Souley Boum went 1-2 from the line to devise a winning plan down one, but they had none left. Boum made both free throws following the technical foul as the Musketeers clawed out with an 80-77 victory.

DeJulius led all players with 22 points while Viktor Lakhin had 16 and eight rebounds. Four of the five Xavier starters scored in double figures, notably led by Boum’s 21 points and Zach Freemantle’s 14 and 12 rebounds. The next time these two schools meet, Cincinnati will be in the Big 12 (the move is football related) with schools such as the Kansas Jayhawks and Baylor Bears, but the chess board will remain the same in the Queen City.

Seton Hall vs. Rutgers (Dec. 11): Stop and Go Traffic on the Jersey Turnpike

This most recent battle between a current/original Big East school (Seton Hall) and a former Big East school (Rutgers) felt like a rush hour commute on the New Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway. It was long and there were plenty of jams, some of which led to traffic coming to a halt.

The best way to explain what happened is through the numbers. The Pirates shot 15-44 from the field and 5-21 from three while the Scarlet Knights went 14-43 and 5-17 from downtown. Both teams 8-21 (38%) from the field in the first half. Rutgers committed more turnovers 19-15 and still outscored Seton Hall off them 16-9. There were 11 ties and 10 lead changes.

The Scarlet Knights were up by seven in the second half, but not even that stopped the Pirates and their lead-snatching 8-0 run. Rutgers’ Cam Spencer tied the game with a layup to make it 40-all, but only eight points were scored the rest of the way. After a back-and-forth final minute, Seton Hall survived a slow slugfest 45-43.

Dre Davis was the only player on either team to score in double figures with 10 points while shooting 3-6 from the field and from the line. After him, Ndefo (who also had eight boards) and Aundre Hyatt had nine (three threes). The lowest scoring game I have ever covered so far felt like the 2011 men’s basketball national championship game, the infamous 0-0 regulation game and whatever this was mixed into one.

Providence vs. Seton Hall (Dec. 17): Trio Ball

In their only meeting last season (the other was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns), both teams were ranked for the first time in the rivalry’s history. Although there was a lot of roster turnover, solid starts to the season and no AP rankings to show for it, the competitive edge still remained.

The Pirates ended the first half on a 14-5 run and entered the intermission up nine, but that is when the Friar’s offense, led by a three-headed attack, woke up. In the second half, Devin Carter, Ed Croswell and Bryce Hopkins combined to score 42 of the team’s 44 points (Noah Locke scored the other two).

It would take an 8-0 run by Croswell to give Providence the lead after capitalizing on turnovers. Seton Hall took it back, but a 7-0 Friar run put the game away. No matter what the Pirates did on their end, whether it was cut into the lead at the line, draw a foul or force a turnover, it was too little too late as Providence made a statement with a 71-67 win.

Kadary Richmond posted a new career-high with 28 points, but that and his nine rebounds did not prove to be enough. Hopkins finished with a double-double of 24 points and 10 boards while Croswell helped himself to 21 points. This will be a down year for both teams, but they will be a tough out for anyone who has to cross their paths, whether on the road or at home.

Honorable Mention: Creighton vs. Marquette (Dec. 16): Frequent Flier Miles

If you told me that Creighton would have a five-game losing streak before the season started, I would have called it a bold take. But here we are, three weeks removed from the Blue Jays’ win against Arkansas in the Maui Jim Invitational, with losses to the Arizona Wildcats in the Invitational title game, the Nebraska Cornhuskers at home and the then-No.2 Texas Longhorns on the road. On top of that, Marquette entered having won five out of their last six with the lone loss against the Wisconsin Badgers.

Just as significant as Ryan Kalkbrenner being out sick was the team’s inability to hit a three. While the Golden Eagles ended the first half on a 9-0 run and put in their bench players toward the end, Creighton shot 4-20 from beyond the arc and scored their second fewest points in a game behind just the Nebraska loss. Marquette capitalized on the 18 Blue Jay turnovers, taking home a statement 69-58 victory that never really felt close.

Stepping up in Kalkbrenner’s absence, Frederick King had a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards while Baylor Scheierman had 14 and 11. Marquette did not have any double-doubles, but Oso Ighodaro and Olivier-Maxence Prosper combined for 12 rebounds (six each) while scoring 16 and 14 respectively. The Blue Jays need to turn things around fast before their season becomes a major disappointment while the Golden Eagles may be a Top 25 team by the end of the calendar year if not sooner.

It is clear that I missed a lot while in the Sunshine State, with multiple teams shining bright against tough competition. With Big East play underway, the tempo will only get hotter as each program tries to bulk up their March Madness resume for the selection committee. As much as I would love to bring another update soon, holiday duties call. After eight nights of Hanukkah and a 24-hour around-the-world Christmas Eve service, a weeklong nap will be needed.

See you guys in 2023.

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