Oklahoma State captures 2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off
By Jon Cooper
The sixth annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off saw four days of tremendous skill, dramatic comebacks, breathtaking runs and heart-stopping finishes. In the end, Oklahoma State of the Big 12 proved that defense still wins championships, as the Cowboys took home the title, putting the squeeze on No. 6 NC State of the ACC. Here’s a team-by-team recap of the 2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Akron nearly pulled off a shocker in its opener, falling 69-65 in overtime to Oklahoma State. The Zips got double-doubles from Brian Walsh (14 points, 10 rebounds), his first career double-double, and Zeke Marshall (12 and 10), and overcame a 10-point second-half deficit, tying the game on a Marshall lay-up with 1:02 to play to force the extra session. Marshall also scored the first four points of OT, but he fouled out with 2:44 left, and Akron went scoreless the final three minutes. OSU took advantage, closing on a decisive 8-0 run. The Zips shot only 30 percent for the game and only 65.2 percent from the line. Akron bounced back in its next game, using a strong second half to rout UNC Asheville, 82-63. Chauncey Gilliam had a team-high 22 off the bench (7-for-9, 5-for-6 from three) as the Zips outscored Asheville, 45-29, in the second 20 minutes to break open what had been a 37-34 game at the half. AU held a 44-11 edge in points off the bench, led by Gilliam, and converted 14 turnovers into 17 points. Marshall had a game-high-tying eight rebounds and five blocks, and point guard Alex Abreu had 12 points, nine assists (against one turnover). In the finale, Akron again used a strong second half to blow past Penn State, 85-60. The Zips shot 68 percent (17-for-25, 5-for-8 from three) in outscoring the Nittany Lions and turning a 36-32 half-time deficit into a laugher. A 19-3 run midway through the second half opened a 64-44 lead, and the Zips cruised home. Marshall led four double-digit scorers with 17 and swatted away six more shots, giving him a Puerto Rico Tip-Off record of 13. He would earn All-Tournament honors, averaging 11.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, while shooting 58.3 percent (7-for-12), 75 percent (21-for-28) from the line, with the 13 blocks.
Massachusetts won its opener in dramatic style, edging Providence 77-75 on a Terrell Vinson tip-in at the buzzer. Jesse Morgan had 18 to lead the Minutemen. UMass closed on a 7-2 run over the game’s final two minutes after letting an eight-point lead slip away. Chaz Williams added 17 on 7-for-13 shooting, with his lucky 13th field goal attempt being a floater in the lane that was tipped in by Vinson for the game-winner. The Minutemen, who led by 12 in the first half and by six at intermission, shot 59.3 percent in the second half and 50.8 percent for the game, and held a 46-32 edge in points in the paint and had a 28-4 bulge off the bench. There was no miracle finish in the next game, as Massachusetts lost to No. 6 NC State 94-76. Morgan had 15 to lead five double-figure scorers, and the Minutemen connected on nine three-point field goals and shot 72 percent from the line (13-for-18), both season-highs. But the Wolfpack shot 57 percent and had a 50-37 edge in points in the paint. UMass allowed a 12-4 run at the end of the half, and trailed 48-32 at intermission. The Minutemen never got to within single digits in the second half and trailed by as much as 27. In the third-place game, UMass was again dominated inside, losing to Tennessee 83-69. Morgan led UMass in scoring for the third straight game in the tournament and fourth straight overall, with 18 and a game-high four three-point field goals, and Williams flirted with a triple-double (16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists). UMass trailed 38-34 at the break, but shot only 27 percent in the second and was buried by a 14-0 run midway through the second 20. They were out-rebounded 51-34 for the game.
No. 6 North Carolina State had little difficulty beating Penn State 72-55 in its opener. Freshman T.J. Warren had a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds off the bench, hitting nine of 12 shots, three of four from three, and C.J. Leslie added 14 as the Wolfpack shot 50 percent for the game and 50 percent from three. State led 35-26 at the half then broke open the game with a 10-0 run, sparked by Leslie, who had five points and an assist. The Pack led by as much as 25 and cruised home. State limited Penn State to 31.7 percent shooting, 15.8 percent from three (3-for-19). In its next game, NC State again used the three to handle UMass 94-76. Warren had a team-high 21 to lead five double-digit scorers. Richard Howell added 19 and nine, and Lorenzo Brown had an 11-point, 10-assist double-double as the Wolfpack hit eight three-pointers for the second straight game (8-for-18). Scott Wood hit four of his five threes in the first half to get State off and running early, and the Pack used a 12-4 run to close the first half and take a 48-32 lead into the locker room. In the second half, State shot 58.6 percent and led by as much as 27. They finished with a 50-37 edge on points in the paint. The threes weren’t falling in the championship game, and NC State fell, 76-56, to Oklahoma State. Rodney Purvis had 16 and Warren added 15 for the Wolfpack, which shot 35.5 percent and 28.6 percent from three (4-for-14). The Wolfpack trailed by 10 at the break, by double-digits the entire second half and by as much as 22. Warren made the All-Tournament team, averaging 19.3 points on 68.6 percent shooting (24-for-35) with 4.7 rebounds per game.
Oklahoma State rallied to top Akron 69-65 in overtime, in its opener. Phil Forte converted three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt with 52 seconds left in the extra session to give the Cowboys the lead for good. OSU got 20 from Le’Bryan Nash, 15 from Markel Brown and 14 from Marcus Smart, who also added nine rebounds, four steals and three assists. OSU shot only 37.5 percent and let a 10-point lead slip away in the final nine minutes, but scored the final eight points of overtime to pull out the game, which had six ties and eight lead changes. The Cowboys didn’t need dramatics in their next game, walloping Tennessee 62-45. Smart and Nash each scored 17 for OSU, which led 30-19 at the half and by double digits the entire second half. Defensively, the Cowboys limited the Volunteers to 26 percent shooting, 23.1 percent in the second half (1-for-10 from three). State dominated the paint, holding a 24-10 edge in points in the paint and converting 11 turnovers into 12 points. In the championship game, Oklahoma State shut down NC State 76-56. Nash had 23, going 13-for-13 from the line. Smart added 20, with seven rebounds, seven assists, four blocked shots and four steals, and Forte scored 17 off the bench, including a game-high four three-point field goals. OSU took a 38-28 lead into halftime, then opened the second half scoring eight of the first 11 points, and led by as much as 22. Smart earned Tournament MVP honors, averaging 17 points on 42.1 percent shooting after starting the tourney 3-for-11, and 83.3 percent from the line, with 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.3 steals. Nash also was named All-Tournament, averaging 20 points on 48.3 percent shooting, 84.2 from the line (32-of-38), with 6.7 rebounds.
Cold shooting doomed Penn State in its 72-55 opener loss to No. 6 NC State. The Nittany Lions shot 31 percent and only 15.8 percent (3-for-19) from three. After leading by three early, State trailed 35-26 at the half. A 10-0 run raised the deficit to 17, and PSU wouldn’t get closer than 14. Tim Frazier scored a game-high 23 (10-of-11 from the line), and Jon Graham pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds. PSU had four assists all game against 13 turnovers. Penn State pulled out a dramatic victory in its next game, topping Providence 55-52 in OT. Frazier had a team-high 19 points, with nine rebounds and seven assists, and Jermaine Marshall added 13 with five rebounds for Penn State, which overcame a 10-point, second-half deficit. Marshall shot only 3-for-12 from three, but hit a big three at the end of regulation, then another at 3:25 of overtime to give the Lions a 50-45 lead. State shot 34 percent in regulation while Providence shot below 30 percent, but the teams combined to shoot 57.1 percent in the extra session. The Nittany Lions converted 21 turnovers into 21 points and had a 24-14 edge in points in the paint. In its finale, Penn State played valiantly without Frazier, who left with an injury, but lost to Akron, 85-60. D.J. Newbill stepped up, scoring a career-high 20 with six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Ross Travis added 11 with a career-best 10 boards, and Brandon Taylor had a career-high 10 points off the bench. PSU shot 48 percent (55.5 percent from three) in taking a 36-32 halftime lead but struggled in the second half, getting outscored 53-24. State shot 25 percent, 2-for-12 from three, while Akron shot 68 percent and used a 26-4 run to pull away.
A spirited effort ended in heartbreak for Providence, which dropped its opener 77-75 to UMass on a tip-in at the buzzer. Despite playing with only six scholarship players, the Friars overcame a 12-point first-half deficit and led by three inside of 90 seconds. But UMass tied the game then got the game-winner. Bryce Cotton had a game-high 23 points and five assists, Kadeem Batts added 19, and LaDontae Henton had a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double. PC turned 17 UMass turnovers into 21 points but was outscored 46-32 in the paint, shot only 26.3 percent (5-for-19) from three, and was outscored 28-4 off the bench. Heartbreak followed the Friars as they lost, 55-52 in overtime, to Penn State. Playing without Cotton, who sprained an ankle, the team’s top scorers included Batts, with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Josh Fortune, with 15. Providence’s defense helped them to a 16-14 halftime lead, which they extended to 10 before the Nittany Lions rallied to take the lead with 2:23 left. Batts hit two free throws to send the game to overtime, where Henton scored the first basket but State then scored seven unanswered points. Turnovers on consecutive possessions doomed the Friars. Providence was outscored 24-14 in the paint and committed 21 turnovers, resulting to 21 Penn State points. In the finale, Providence held off UNC Asheville 72-67. Cotton had a game-high 30 on 11-of-19 shooting, and Batts and Henton both had 15 for PC, which shot 55.1 percent. Providence led by 13 in the second half but trailed 64-63 with 3:14 to play. Lee Goldsbrough’s jumper sparked an 8-1 run, and the Friars sealed the game at the foul line. Providence survived despite 20 turnovers, 11 in the second half, and a 23-12 points off turnovers deficit.
Tennessee used its powerful front court to knock off UNC Asheville, 75-68, in its opener. Jarnell Stokes had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Kenny Hall added 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. The Volunteers had five double-digit scorers and raised its all-time record to 9-0 against the Bulldogs. The Vols closed the first half on a 19-8 run to take a 38-28 lead into intermission and extended the lead to 13. UT made 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch to seal the game. The Vols had a 37-25 rebounding edge, 11-3 on the offensive end. After shooting 50 percent in its opener, Tennessee cooled off, losing 62-45 to Oklahoma State. It was their first loss of the season. Trae Golden scored 11 and was the only Vol to score in double figures, as UT shot 26 percent and was 5-of-23 from three. UT shot 29.2 percent in the first half and went 8:21 without a point, trailing 30-19 at intermission. In the second half, UT shot 23.1 percent, 1-for-10 from three and trailed by as many as 20. OSU held a 24-10 edge in points in the paint, and UT’s 11 turnovers were turned into 12 points. Tennessee ended the tournament on a high, dominating UMass 83-69 in the third-place game. Stokes had his second double-double of the tournament, with a career-high 24 points and 12 rebounds. The Vols used a 17-2 second-half run to break a 52-52 tie, then made eight of 10 from the line to ice the game. Stokes made nine of his last 12 free throws after starting 1-for-5. Tennessee grabbed a season-high 51 rebounds, 17 off the offensive glass, and held a 51-34 edge, while holding UMass to 27 percent shooting in the second half. Stokes earned a berth on the All-Tournament team, averaging 15.0 points on 47.0 percent shooting (16-for-34), with 9.0 rebounds.
UNC Asheville battled in its opener but lost to Tennessee 75-68. Jeremy Atkinson scored a game-high 18, on 5-for-6 shooting, 8-for-9 from the line, and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds. The Bulldogs, who shot 50 percent for the game and were tied with 8:42 to play in the first half, trailed by 10 at intermission, fell behind by as much as 17, and never got closer than seven despite shooting 53.8 percent in the second half. Asheville was out-rebounded 35-24, 11-3 on the offensive glass. In its next game, UNCA fell apart in the second half, losing 82-63 to Akron. Keith Hornsby had a career-high 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting (2-for-3 from three) and Atkinson added 10. The Bulldogs trailed 37-34 at the break, after an 8-1 run over the half’s final 5:00, but in the second half, Asheville was outscored 45-29, as the Zips connected on seven of 14 threes. The Bulldogs also committed 10 turnovers in the final 20 minutes. They had four in the first 20. In its finale, Asheville’s dramatic comeback fell short, as the Bulldogs lost to Providence 72-67. Trent Meyer had a career-high 20; Atkinson had a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double; and Hornsby added 10. The Bulldogs trailed 35-25 after a half, shooting 30 percent while allowing Providence to shoot 56.0 percent. But they stayed in the game by grabbing 10 offensive boards and outscoring the Friars 14-0 in second-chance points. Asheville overcame a 13-point, second-half deficit behind Meyer’s four threes in a five-minute span, and led 53-52 with 7:07 to play. They still led with 2:36 left, but scored only three points over the final 2:00. The Bulldogs won the turnover battle, (20-12) and outscored Providence off turnovers, 23-12 (15-6 in the second half). They also held a 34-31 edge in the paint and an 18-5 advantage in second-chance points.
University of Maryland alum Jon Cooper is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.