By Jon Cooper
The Inaugural O'Reilly ESPNU Puerto Rico Tip-Off put together a talented field, with schools representing the ACC (Miami), Atlantic 10 (Temple), Big East (Providence), Colonial Athletic Association (Virginia Commonwealth), Conference-USA (Houston), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (Marist), Southern Conference (College of Charleston) and SEC (Arkansas). After a wild weekend that saw big leads, blown leads and dramatic last-second lead changes, the Miami Hurricanes came out on top, beating former Big East rival Providence in a hard-fought final. Here's a rundown on each of the eight teams and their three days in Puerto Rico.
No. 18 Arkansas jumped out to an early 16-2 lead and was never threatened, routing College of Charleston, 75-49. The Razorbacks limited the Cougars to 28.6 percent shooting—16.7 percent from three—and nearly doubled up Charleston on the boards (53 to 27). Patrick Beverley had 16 and Vincent Hunter pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds. The Razorbacks got away with being sloppy against Charleston (26 turnovers), but would pay for that carelessness in their next game against Providence. They committed 32 turnovers, contributing to the 67-51 loss. Beverley had a team-high 14, but shot only 3-for-11 for Arkansas, which made only 26.7 percent of three-point attempts, and never led in the game. In their final game, the Hogs slashed their turnovers in half (18) and cut down VCU, 70-60. They held the Rams to 33.3 shooting and held a 41-28 rebounding edge. An 11-1 run midway through the first half helped open a 34-24 halftime lead, and VCU never got closer than five in the second half. Sonny Weems scored a team-high 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, as Arkansas shot 50 percent for the game, yet only 16.7 percent from three. Beverley, who averaged 14.3 points, 6.0 boards and 3.0 assists, was named to the All-Tournament team.
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON
Charleston started slowly in its opener against No. 18 Arkansas, falling behind 16-2, and never recovered, losing 75-49. A 23-12 run cut Arkansas’ lead to three late in the first half, but the Cougars never got closer than five in the second half. Dustin Scott led Charleston with 12, and freshman Antwaine Wiggins grabbed a team-leading seven rebounds. In their next game, the Cougars overcame a 25-point halftime deficit, stunning Temple at the buzzer, 79-76. Down 50-25 at intermission, Charleston outscored Temple 54-26 in the second half to forge the greatest comeback in school history. They forced 15 Owl turnovers in the final 20 minutes and shot 68 percent, 68.5 from three. The biggest three-pointer came from Scott, who, in his only three-point attempt, nailed an off-balance shot from the top of the key as time expired. Wiggins scored a team-high 17, and Tony White scored 11 of his 15 points in a 24-9 run early in the second half. Charleston dropped its finale, 84-69, to Houston. White had career-highs, with 19 points and 5 three-pointers, while freshman Andrew Goudelock added 12 for Charleston, which never led after the 5:16 mark of the first half.
The Cougars’ first trip to Puerto Rico started with a heart-breaking 73-72 loss to VCU, in a game that saw 15 ties and 11 lead changes. The Cougars led 70-68 with 1:27 to play on a pair of Zamal Nixon free throws, but a 5-0 burst by the Rams made the difference. Brockeith Pane scored a game-high 21 and Robert McKiver added 17 for Houston, which shot only 38.7 percent for the game, but stuck around, making 7 of 21 threes. The next night, against Marist, Houston won a 64-58 nail-biter. The game saw 12 lead changes, eight in the second half. McKiver (with a game-high 17) and Pane (15) took over, scoring the Cougars' final 12 points. Pane’s three with 3:18 left broke a 52-52 tie; then he and McKiver sealed the game at the foul line. In the finale, against College of Charleston, McKiver nailed a school-record nine 3-pointers on the way to a career-high 37 points as Houston rolled, 84-69. UH led 41-31 at the half, with McKiver scoring 25 points. A 21-11 second-half run put the game away. Dion Dowell added 16. McKiver was named to the All-Tournament Team, scoring a tournament-high 71 points and adding six steals.
The Red Foxes ran into a buzz saw in their tournament-opening 85-61 loss to Miami. They needed nearly seven minutes to get their first field goal, shot 29.6 percent in the first half, and trailed by 17 at intermission. The deficit would reach 34. Freshman guard Jay Gavin led Marist with a game-high 19. Marist fell to Houston, 64-58, in their next game, which saw 12 lead changes and eight ties. Gavin had a team-high 16 points and made four 3-pointers. He would give Marist its final lead with 6:07 left, but the Foxes made only two field goals the rest of the way, and Houston went on a decisive 13-6 run. Red-shirt senior Ryan Stilphen scored his 900th career point in the loss. In their finale, Marist dropped a tough 73-69 overtime decision to Temple. The Red Foxes overcame a 22-point deficit, holding the Owls without a field goal for 12:19 while shooting 60 percent from three, and actually built a five-point lead. Stilphen’s basket with 12 seconds remaining forced OT, but Marist was outscored 13-9 in that stretch. Senior guard Louie McCroskey's 18 points led Marist, which was outscored 21-10 at the foul line.
The Hurricanes blew into San Juan and blew away Marist, 85-61. The 'Canes shot nearly 55 percent and opened a 39-21 halftime lead, while holding Marist without a field goal over the game’s first seven minutes. Anthony King led Miami with 13 points, five rebounds and seven blocks. Miami led wire-to-wire in the next game, topping VCU, 69-63. The Canes limited the Rams to 25 percent shooting and led 36-21 at halftime. VCU closed to within five, but The U was 10-for-10 in free throws in the final minute. Jack McClinton scored 23 points, while King, who was 8-of-9 from the line, had a game-high 15 rebounds. In the championship game, Miami trailed Providence by as much as eight, but James Dews scored nine of his 17 points in the second half and Miami rallied for a 64-58 win. Brian Asbury had 16 points and King added 12, with eight boards, four assists and two blocks. Miami struggled in the first half, shooting 28 percent, but shot 58.3 percent, 50 percent from three in the final 20, to overtake the Friars. McClinton was named to the All-Tournament Team, averaging 14.0 points, on 54.2 percent shooting, 56.2 from three (9-for-16) and 87.5 from the line (7-for-8).
The Friars used a late 14-0 run to take a 66-64 victory over Temple in their tournament opener. Providence, which trailed by as much as 11 in the first half, was led by Williams’ team-high 17 points. In its next game, Providence used 18 points by Brian McKenzie and a ball-hawking defense to upend No. 18 Arkansas, 67-51. The Friars led wire-to-wire and by double digits for most of the second half. They forced 32 Razorback turnovers, which they converted into 34 points. Geoff McDermott added 15 points and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds. Providence fell to Miami in the championship game, 64-58. The Friars led by eight early and by four at the half despite shooting 28.6 percent, but their poor shooting—35.5 percent for the game and only 30.0 from three—caught up with them in the second half. Weyinmi Efejuku had a game-high 21 points. McDermott grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds but managed only eight points on 3-for-7 shooting (0-for-3 from behind the arc). The junior guard was named to the All-Tournament team and was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, averaging 12 points and 8.7 rebounds.
The Owls suffered a crushing 66-64 loss to Providence in their opener. Despite shooting 52 percent, out-rebounding the Friars and getting a game-high 19 points from Dionte Christmas, the Owls were doomed by a late 14-0 run. Junior guard Semaj Inge added 15 on 7-for-9 shooting and had a game-high five assists. The night after blowing a 14-point lead, Temple squandered a 25-point bulge, losing at the buzzer, 79-76, to College of Charleston. Christmas again was the game's high scorer, with 32 points (21 in the first half) as Temple closed on a 16-4 run and built a 50-25 lead. But 15 second-half turnovers contributed to the meltdown. In their finale, the Owls did the rallying, coming back from 54-46 down to outlast Marist, 73-69, in overtime. Guard Mark Tyndale scored a game-high 23, including 13 of 14 from the line. The Owls survived, going more than 12 minutes without a basket. In overtime, Temple scored on its final six possessions to take control. Christmas went scoreless in the second half but had five of his 15 points in overtime, including a pair of free throws to seal the deal. He was named to the All-Tournament Team after scoring 66 points in the three games, while making 85 percent of his free throws (17 of 20).
The Rams captured a dramatic 73-72 win over Houston, in a game that was tied 15 times and saw 11 lead changes. Freshman guard Joey Rodriguez nailed two free throws with 10 seconds left for the winning points. Senior guard Jamal Shuler scored 20 and provided a key three-point play in the final minute to gain the lead. Senior forward Michael Anderson added a career-high 18, pulled down eight rebounds, and had two blocks and two steals. VCU gave Miami a scare in their next game before falling, 69-63. Trailing by 15 at the half and by 13 with four minutes left, the Rams went on a 12-4 run. Led by Eric Maynor, who had a game-high 27, they closed to within five with 26 seconds left. They forced Miami into 22 turnovers, but shot only 25 percent in the first half and only 37 percent for the game. In their finale, VCU was stifled by No. 18 Arkansas, shooting only 33.3 percent, while being out-rebounded 41-28 in the 70-60 loss. The Rams, who trailed by 10 at the half, cut the lead to five once and to six on three other occasions, but each time Arkansas answered. Anderson had a team-high 16, while Shuler and Maynor each added 12.
University of Maryland alum Jon Cooper is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.