Maui Jim Maui Invitational: Day 1 Drama and Breakouts

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Dayton Smothers Georgia – Obi Toppin is the only name you really need to know in this game. The 6’9” (and growing) Sophomore Center was electric for Dayton in an 80-61 win over Tom Crean’s Georgia Bulldogs. Toppin, a potential lottery selection, set the tone for the Flyers with 12 quick points in the first 4 minutes on his way to a game-high 25 points.  He hit from 3, dominated the block and was the fastest player on the break.

Georgia struggled to keep pace behind Toppin’s incredible efficiency and couldn’t break past a 10-point deficit for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs shot themselves in the foot with turnovers of every kind and failed to string together multiple positive possessions in a row. Stud freshman and potential top-5 lottery pick Anthony Edwards was absent for most of the game, outside of a gorgeous first shot attempt from the top of the key, and finished 2-10 from the field.

The Bulldogs other reliable scoring talent, Rayshaun Hammonds, failed to significantly impact the box score as well. Resembling a similar skillset to Toppin, Hammonds was limited to just 5 points and fouled out with 6 minutes left to play in the game. Georgia did receive some consistency from freshman point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who creatively moved through the paint to score over much taller defenders, but it was far from enough.

Dayton guards Rodney Chatman (9 points) and Jalen Crutcher (20 points) accounted for 3 of the team’s 6 steals on the night. Pestering and baiting Georgia into uncomfortable positions on their way to 23 turnovers, the Flyers did an exceptional job of turning defense to offense and being unrelenting in their pressure against a shaken Bulldogs squad. This game was supposed to be a dogfight, but was a coming out party for a Dayton team that is destined to create havoc in some of the biggest games this season.

Hokies Shoot Their Way Past #3 Michigan State – Big expectations were not supposed to come with Mike Young’s hiring to Virginia Tech in year 1 from national media. However, a quiet 5-0 start for the Hokies turned into no fluke when they toppled the mighty Spartans of Michigan State. Playing loose and with tons of freshman, Virginia Tech unloaded a barrage of 3’s on Tom Izzo’s squad in 71-66 win. Shooting close to 50%, Virginia Tech’s emerging talent Landers Nolley put the final nail in the coffin with a clutch corner 3 to extend their lead (68-64) with under a minute to play.

Nolley led all scorers with 22 points and continually made plays all over the court. Finishing with 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks, the 6’7” freshman provided continuous production for a Hokie team that entered the game as 13-point underdogs. He made the most of Virginia Tech’s possessions and gifted his team more chances to pull off the upset. Mike Young’s packline defense was another great contributor to staying within reach of a win.

The Spartans controlled the glass and were +16 in that department, but the Hokies made conscious efforts to slow all cutters and ball-screens throughout the game. Both play types were guard by two Hokie players simultaneously and entries into the post were met with 3 defenders clogging the lane. Young’s plan resulted in 16 Spartan turnovers and only one player exceeding the 10-point mark. The problem for Michigan State though was that player was not Cassius Winston.

Forced to sit nearly three-quarters of the first half, due to foul trouble, Winston never gained solid footing in this game. Limited to 7 points on 2-8 shooting from the field, as well as 1 rebound and 2 assists, the Senior guard didn’t impact the box score until the final 4:30 minutes. Down 10 points, Winston willed his team within 2 of the Hokie lead before missing a driving floater in the lane with under a minute to play.

Virginia Tech’s Wabissa Bede secured the rebound and continued to shoot free throws for the remainder of the last minute. The loss further raises questions for Tom Izzo’s team moving forward, but for Spartan fans this shouldn’t be a moment to lose all hope in Michigan State. The Hokies executed a strong game plan and appear to be much more prepared this season than originally thought. Finding out how far this team can go is going to be fun.

BYU Pulls Away From the Bruins – The Cougars have been a much less dominant squad this season with star Yoeli Childs on the bench. Suspended for the first 9 games of the season, BYU has been forced to rely on transfer Alex Barcello from Arizona and its three-headed backcourt completed by TJ Haws and Jake Toolson. The leadership of Toolson and Haws, as well as their consistency, ruled for the day for a game that was never outside of a 1-2 point differential until the final 10 minutes. The 78-63 victory was a very positive step towards achieving this team’s preseason potential.

A combined 13-25 from the field, with 35 points, the duo repeatedly nailed beautiful jump shots over the Bruin’s matchup zone defense. They exhibited patience in the halfcourt finding open shooters throughout the game. However, it was their own defense in the second half that allowed BYU to finally pull away to a 78-63 victory.

The Bruins were competitive in this game until roughly the 10-minute mark of the second half, where 6 possessions in a row resulted in a turnover shots without second-chance opportunities. The result turned their 52-51 lead into a 9 point deficit by the 7-minute mark. UCLA could not convert on shooting opportunities, despite creating some turnovers themselves. Missed layups and 1-and-1 free throw opportunities in the final 6-minutes halted any chance for the Bruins to jump back in this game.

The Cougars now get an opportunity against Kansas to become the second unranked team to know off a top-10 opponent in the tournament.

** Kansas Handles Host Chaminade (As They Should)- No scares here, after the Jayhawks rout the Silver Swords 93-63.

For all of my Maui Invitational predictions, please check out the Feast Week Podcast episode on the homepage! Link has also been provided here:

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