Maui Invitational Day 1 Recap
EA Sports Maui Invitational Day 1
This year's Maui Invitational features one of the strongest fields ever. We got a chance to see North Carolina win this event two years ago before cutting down the nets as national champions. Michigan State will look to do the same this year. However, winning this event won't be a cakewalk with a Tuesday match up set with UConn and a potential Wednesday match up with either Washington or Kentucky. Here is a recap of day 1.
UConn pulled out the victory behind a clutch second half performance from junior PG Kemba Walker.
Wichita State looked primed for an upset as UConn just did not appear to be in rhythm nor playing up to their abilities. Kemba Walker had just 2 points at the break having missed much of the first half after getting into foul trouble. Scouts began grumbling that he might be a second rounder after his poor first half.
Walker took over in the second half scoring 29 of his 31 points with a barrage of baskets drawing comparisons to Allen Iverson from one scout. He hit numerous runners and outside jumpers finishing 8-16 from the field. Walker is a fearless lead guard who is extremely tough to contain off the dribble. He's likely in the 5'10 to 5'11 range and the fact that he is a little wild running the team and making decisions is troublesome to scouts. He needs to continue to show that he can be a smart decision maker on top of having the ability to take over games with his offensive heroics.
Alex Oriakhi was the other player scouts focused on in this one and he failed to impress. He doesn't seem to have improved at all from last year. He appears to have too much bulk, and no flexibility or the ability to react to plays. He's heavy on his feet and shows a lack of touch and feel for the game. He's a bruiser but with limited skill potential and likely a four year second rounder at best, based on how he looked today.
Despite the win, UConn's lack of shooting as a team is concerning. It's no wonder Wichita St. was many people's preseason pick to win the Missouri Valley Conference, they're a well coached team with balance and discipline. Surprisingly, the Shockers actually appeared to have more fan support here than the Huskies. UConn was fortunate to come out with the 4 point win.
The contingent of the Big Blue Nation was mind boggling. They took over the Lahaina Civic Center leaving one small patch of 15 or so Oklahoma fans in one area, and every other seat was blue.
Kentucky allowed a vastly inferior Oklahoma team to hang around and with just two minutes left the lead was trimmed to 6. They were able to cruise to the win from there but for a team with as much talent as they have to struggle against a depleted team such as Oklahoma is a bad sign.
Terrence Jones (29 pts, 13 rebs, 4 blk, 3 ast) was sensational for the Wildcats. His vast repertoire of skills was on display as he scored in a variety of ways and utilized his guard like ball handling and passing ability. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and each time he scored, he would snarl at his defender and glare at him the entire way down the court. He plays with a lot of emotion and although at times he can lose his composure, the passion he plays with is a real positive. One scout noted that his drive, stop, pump fake and two hand dunk was particularly impressive due to the degree of difficulty. Jones was the brightest star on day 1, by a slight margin over Walker.
Brandon Knight had a rough shooting performance (4-15 fg, 2-8 from 3), but he was impressive nonetheless. Scouts love his potential as a big lead guard with defensive abilities and size. He drew comparisons to Jrue Holiday and OJ Mayo from scouts.
For a team so reliant on the transition game, Kentucky's transition defense was absolutely putrid. They gave up tons of lay ups after made baskets by simply not getting back on defense. Kentucky's lack of front court depth could be a major problem against Washington on Tuesday.
Our preseason #1 team Michigan State ran into a gutsy Chaminade team dreaming of an upset of epic proportions (it's been 28 years since they upset Ralph Sampson and Virginia). They came out with amazing energy led by a jitterbug 5-foot-6 PG Steven Bennett out of Los Angeles and 7-foot USC transfer Mamadou Diarra causing trouble in the middle with his length. Bennett hit numerous big shots and competed with the Michigan State guards admirably.
For the Spartans, Kalin Lucas put up a career high 28 points showing no ill-effects from his achilles tear from a year ago. He was very explosive off the dribble, a great sign for Sparty. The blessing in disguise from him missing last year's NCAA tourney is that Korie Luscious gained valuable experience, giving this team two lead guards with extensive experience directing a team deep into the tournament.
Draymond Green made some key plays late, including a rebound and put back which helped keep the Silver Swords at bay. He's a winner who gives this team whatever it needs with his tremendous versatility and savvy.
Despite beating a low division team by just 8, Michigan State actually didn't play terribly. It was an incredible showing from Chaminade and they should be extremely proud of "their NCAA title game" performance.
Bigman Derrick Nix did not travel with the team for personal reasons. If there's a weakness with this team it's a lack of frontcourt talent and depth, so getting Nix back in the fold will be important.
Washington made short work of the Virginia Cavaliers in the slate's only blowout (106-63). Washington appears to be a surefire top 10 team in the country and undoubtedly the team to beat in the Pac-Ten. They were extremely impressive showing great perimeter and interior play.
Sophomore Abdul Gaddy appears to have matured and gained better composure and Isaiah Thomas looks to be a legit Pac-Ten POY candidate.
Freshmen wings CJ Wilcox and Terrence Ross got to audition for the future in front of the remaining scouts in the building during the second half of the blowout win in the nightcap.
Lorenzo Romar has this team playing at an extremely high level early in the year and they will be tough for UK to beat if they play anywhere close to as well tomorrow. With Calipari having stolen some verbally committed recruits, most notably Terrence Jones and Enes Kanter, there will be added intrigue in the Tuesday UK-UW match up.
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