By Jon Cooper
The inaugural annual Old Spice Classic brought a unique cross-section of teams from power conferences and mid-majors to Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Included were Arkansas (SEC), Marist (of the host MAAC), Minnesota (Big Ten), Montana (Big Sky), Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley), Virginia Tech (ACC), West Virginia (Big East) and Western Michigan (Mid-American). After three days of drama and scintillating basketball, the Arkansas Razorbacks took home the championship trophy, knocking off an up-and-coming West Virginia squad. Here is a team-by-team rundown of the 2006 Old Spice Classic.
ARKANSAS (3-0 | champions)
Location: Fayetteville, Ark.
Arkansas overcame a 52-47 deficit in the final 1:54 then outscored Southern Illinois 8-0 in overtime to earn a 61-53 victory in their first-round game. Charles Thomas scored 16 and Sonny Weems made four free throws in overtime. UA was 6-for-6 in the extra session, which saw the teams shoot a combined 1-for-8. Against Marist, the Hogs survived shooting 28 percent in the first half to beat the Red Foxes, 73-64. Despite their cold shooting, the Hogs led 22-19 at the half. Both teams shot over 50 percent in the second half, but Arkansas went on a late 12-6 run to pull away. Patrick Beverley scored 15, and Weems added 12 and a game-high 13 boards. In the championship game, Weems had 19 and Thomas added 13, as the Razorbacks beat West Virginia, 71-64. Arkansas hung on despite seeing a 16-point lead cut to 4 with 5:34 to go. The Razorbacks shot 61.1 percent in the second half and out-rebounded WVU, 38-18, to overcome 19 turnovers. Steven Hill blocked two shots to finish the tournament with nine swats. Weems (12.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Beverley (11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.7 apg, 3.0 spg) were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Nickname: Red Foxes
Location: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Marist got double-doubles from seniors Jared Jordan and James Smith, and led wire-to-wire, beating Minnesota, 63-56, in their opener. Jordan had 11 points, a game-high 10 assists and seven rebounds, while Smith had 16 and a game-high 13 boards. The Red Foxes nearly squandered a 15-point lead, but Smith’s three-point play early in the second half sparked an 8-0 spurt that put away the pesky Golden Gophers. The Red Foxes lost to Arkansas in their next game, 73-64, despite Jordan’s 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, all team-highs. Smith added 18 points, seven boards and three blocks. Marist out-shot the Razorbacks (42.3 to 41.4) but trailed 22-19 in a cold-shooting first half and never took the lead despite tying the game with 13:21 to play. In the third-place game, Jordan went off for 30 (10-for-10 from the foul line) and nine assists, and Will Whittington tallied 16 as Marist knocked off Western Michigan, 89-78. Up 35-28 at halftime, the Red Foxes, who shot 57.7 percent for the game (52.6 from three), went on an 18-4 run and were never challenged thereafter. Jordan was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, averaging 20.7 points, 9.0 assists and 6.3 rebounds.
Nickname: Golden Gophers
Conference: Big Ten
Playing without starting center Spencer Tollackson, Minnesota dropped a 63-56 decision to Marist in its tournament opener. Lawrence McKenzie led the Golden Gophers with 17, and Dan Coleman had 15 with seven rebounds. Minnesota, which made only one trip to the foul line all day (1-for-2), shot 30 percent (9-for-30) in the first half and trailed 31-20 at halftime. Coleman sparked a 13-0 run and UM twice got to within two, but allowed an 8-0 run and the 48-38 deficit was too much to make up. In their next game, Minnesota struggled with Southern Illinois' pressure defense, shooting 37 percent and committing 22 turnovers, in a 69-53 loss. Brandon Smith's 14 points led Minnesota, which trailed 28-21 at the half, fell behind by as much as 20 and never got closer than 16. In their finale, UM lost to Montana 72-65. Coleman's 13 points led four double-digit scorers for the Golden Gophers, who rallied to cut a 12-point second-half deficit to two, 67-65, with 43.3 seconds, but got no closer. Jamal Abu-Shamala added 12 points for Minnesota, which would see coach Dan Monson resign four days later.
Conference: Big Sky
Location: Missoula, Mt.
Montana never found the range in a 73-56 tournament-opening loss to West Virginia. Andrew Strait had 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting (he also grabbed eight rebounds), but the Grizzlies had fits with the Mountaineers’ 1-3-1 zone, committing 18 turnovers and shooting only 22.2 percent from three, missing 14 of their first 15 three-point attempts. Montana trailed by as much as 25 in the second half. Cold shooting haunted the Grizzlies again in their 77-56 loss to Virginia Tech. Jordan Hasquet had 12 points and 12 rebounds, but Montana shot just 41.4 percent, 26.3 percent from three and 37.5 from the foul line. They also committed 17 turnovers. The Grizzlies stumbled coming out of the gate, trailing 10-0. They went down 12 by halftime, then by 26 in the second half. Strait scored a game-high 17 on 8-for-11 shooting as Montana took the finale, 72-65, over Minnesota. The Grizzlies shot their tournament-high 52.2 percent (55.6 from three) and had four double-digit scorers, including Hasquet, who hit four of six 3-point attempts. Montana expanded a four-point halftime lead to 12 then survived a late Minnesota 11-1 run, which cut the lead to 59-58, with 5:14 left. Minneapolis native Cameron Rundles’ two late three-pointers doomed any further comeback by Minnesota.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (2-1)
Conference: Missouri Valley
Location: Carbondale, Ill.
Southern Illinois suffered a disheartening 61-53 overtime loss in its tournament opener against Arkansas, blowing a five-point lead with less than two minutes to play. Jamaal Tatum had a team-high 17, but made only one of two free throws with seven seconds left that could have sealed the game. With starting forwards Matt Shaw and Randal Falker (14 points in only 18 minutes) fouled out, SIU failed to score in the extra session. The Salukis bounced back the next night, routing Minnesota, 69-53. SIU's relentless defense forced the Golden Gophers into 22 turnovers and 37 percent shooting, and limited UM to two field goals over the first 10 minutes of the second half. Shaw had 26 to lead Southern Illinois, which led 28-21 at intermission. He had 16 in the second half and was 11-for-12 from the foul line. In its final game, SIU squandered a 12-point lead but recovered to knock off Virginia Tech, 69-64. The Salukis and Hokies went toe-to-toe over the final 7:14, as the game had two lead changes and five ties, before a Tatum three with 24 seconds left clinched it. Shaw had 17 to lead the Salukis, who had four double-digit scorers and shot 53.3 percent from three.
VIRGINIA TECH (1-2)
Conference: Atlantic Coast
Location: Blacksburg, Va.
The Hokies endured a heartbreaking 71-68 loss to Western Michigan in their tournament opener. Jamon Gordon scored 19 for Tech, which blew an 11-point first-half lead, then battled back from an eight-point deficit to take the lead with 1:22 left, only to allow a decisive game-closing 4-0 run. Deron Washington had 17 and Zabian Dowdell added 16 for Tech, which was outscored 20-11 from the foul line. The Hokies regrouped, trouncing Montana 77-56 in a wire-to-wire victory. Dowdell had a game-high 18 and Coleman Collins added 13, with six rebounds. Tech, which opened the game on a 10-0 run (eight of the points by Gordon) and led 36-24 at intermission, shot 59.3 percent in the second half to open a 70-44 bulge with 4:45 left. The Hokies converted 17 Montana turnovers into 27 points. In their finale, the Hokies’ second-half rally fell short, in a 69-64 loss, to Southern Illinois. Playing without starting center Robert Krabbendam (sprained ankle), the Hokies used a 31-17 run to turn a 12-point deficit into a two-point lead with 7:14 left. The teams went back and forth the rest of the way, until SIU took the lead for good with 26 seconds to play. Washington had a game-high 18 and Dowdell added 16.
WEST VIRGINIA (2-1)
Conference: Big East
Location: Morgantown, W.V.
The Mountaineers were never threatened in their opener, a 73-56 win over Montana. Frank Young, playing in his hometown in front of family and friends, scored a career-high 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting (5-for-10 from three). Joe Alexander added 18. The Mountaineers jumped out to a 14-2 lead and led by as much as 25 in the second half. West Virginia started hot again in its next game, scoring the game's first 16 points on the way to a 79-54 rout of Western Michigan. Darris Nichols scored a career-high 18. WVU's 1-3-1 zone flustered WMU, holding the Broncos to 11 first-half points, the fewest West Virginia had allowed in a half in 55 years. The Mountaineers had 23 assists on 25 baskets and led by as much as 43, 60-17, midway through the second half. In the championship game, West Virginia's dramatic comeback fell short in a 71-64 loss to Arkansas. Down 16 with five minutes remaining, WVU went on a 15-2 run to pull within 4, but they’d get no closer. Nichols scored 15 and Alexander added 14 for WVU, which was out-rebounded 38-18. Nichols (14.7, ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.0 spg) and Young (14.7 ppg, 43.4 percent 3-pt. shooting) were selected to the All-Tournament Team.
WESTERN MICHIGAN (1-2)
Location: Kalamazoo, Mich.
Western Michigan continued its dominance over Virginia Tech (5-0) and the ACC (2-0), earning a dramatic 71-68 win in its opener. Sophomore guards Joe Reitz and Michael Redell each had 17, and nine free throws (Tech made 10 free throws total). The Broncos overcame an 11-point, first-half deficit, blew a late eight-point lead, then scored the game's final four points to win. Reitz's two foul shots with 52 seconds left provided the deciding points. The Broncos never got going in their next game, a 79-54 loss to West Virginia. They fell behind 16-0 and trailed 44-11 at the half, after shooting 23.1 percent and committing 20 turnovers. Andre Ricks led Western with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting, 2-for-5 from three. In the third-place game, WMU stayed close for a half and made a late charge, but fell to Marist, 89-78. Reitz scored 18 and Redell added 14 for the Broncos, who had four double-digit scorers. The first half saw six ties and four lead changes, but the Broncos allowed the Red Foxes to go on a 22-4 run over a six-minute stretch, beginning in the final 1:24 of the half to open a 53-32 bulge. Western got no closer than eight following a 27-17 run.
University of Maryland alum Jon Cooper is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.