Denton's Notebook: Tuesday, March 19

By John Denton
March 19, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS – With the NCAA Tournament play-in games starting Tuesday night and full first-round action beginning on Thursday, it’s only natural for Orlando Magic rookie Kyle O’Quinn to think back to a year ago when he helped pull off one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history.

O’Quinn was the MEAC Player of the Year and the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 15.9 points and 10.3 rebounds for tiny Norfolk State, but the 15th-seeded Spartans were given little chance in the NCAA Tournament when pitted against second-seeded Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Behind a dazzling 26-point, 14-rebound performance from O’Quinn, Norfolk State pulled off the shocker of the 2012 NCAA tourney by whipping Missouri. O’Quinn said he went into the game feeling no pressure whatsoever, knowing full well that the odds were stacked against his team.

``You have to play like that’s your last game and you just have to go out there and try to have fun,’’ O’Quinn said. ``The odds are really against you and it took a lot for us to win that game. The crowd was against us, everybody was against us, and it just took a lot for us to win that game.

``On paper it looked like you can take any team down and you look at them on film and think you can stop them,’’ O’Quinn continued. ``But when you are going against (a No. 2 seed) you realize that they are the No. 2 team for a reason. There’s only so much confidence that you can have before the game when you are going up against a strong team like that.’’

O’Quinn’s performance got him invited to the Portsmith Invitational event for NBA prospects and he emerged as the MVP of that talent pool. That helped him get drafted in the second round by the Magic. He earned a guaranteed contract with more strong play in the summer league. He still wonders now where he would be had he not played the game of his life in the first round of the NCAAs almost a year ago.

``It did a lot for me and it made people want to see a lot more of me,’’ said O’Quinn, who has averaged 3.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in 42 games (8.1 minutes per game) this season for the Magic. ``It gave me a lot more opportunities.’’

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW: Not long after coach Jacque Vaughn emerged from the Magic locker room on Sunday he admitted that the 115-109 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks was especially painful.

Orlando led by 12 points with 6 minutes remaining, but fell when Milwaukee guard Monta Ellis scored 25 points in the fourth quarter. Ellis made five 3-pointers, hit two free throws and converted a fastbreak dunk down the stretch to score 19 of Milwaukee’s final 30 points.

As he does after every game, Vaughn undergoes a period of self-evaluation. He looks at every decision he made and second-guesses himself as to whether or not he should have done something else. Vaughn refused to double-team Ellis – a 24 percent 3-point shooter coming into Sunday – because he didn’t want to leave J.J. Redick, Brandon Jennings or Mike Dunleavy open for 3-point shots.

``You just had a guy who got hot and made some shots,’’ Vaughn said. ``We were able to look at the tape and see that we could have prevents some, some he just caught and shot and he got one in transition and there was a miscommunication on one. Going into the game, he was shooting 20-something percent, so it was tough to try and make one of the best drivers in the game a driver. It was some great lessons for us, we learned from it and we’ll get better.’’

Vaughn said he didn’t think the tough loss would have a lingering effect on his squad. The Magic practiced on Monday, and Vaughn wanted to make sure the team used Sunday’s disappointing finish as a learning experience.

``I love seeing the guys responses and what they were thinking at the time,’’ Vaughn said. ``And I can let them know what I was thinking and why I didn’t call timeout in certain situations. That’s the growth process for us and continuing to learn about one another. That part of the next day I love.’’

ETC: Magic rookie forward Maurice Harkless continues to make progress on an almost daily basis, making him say he almost doesn’t recognize the player who was starting early in the season but contributing very little. Harkless had one of the finest games of his NBA career on Sunday in Milwaukee, scoring a career-best 23 points to go with nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks. ``You are seeing more consistent performances from him,’’ Vaughn said. ``When guys start to get how to prepare themselves and understand how tough it is every night that you have to bring juice. And overall, he understands the game and knows where his shots are going to come from. A lot of the shots he takes now are in the flow of the game and at the end of the night he has a good stat line. That’s a maturity that we’re seeing with him.’’ … Magic point guard Jameer Nelson continues to say that he is going to be a coach when his playing career is over, and Nelson is hoping that he will work at the NBA level. He joked that being the captain on a Magic team with five rookies and three second-year players will help him to get ready for his coaching career. Joked Nelson: ``I’m going to be Bobby Knight, throwing chairs, screaming and yelling, but also winning. I don’t know how I’ll be; I’ll have to go off my personnel. I think I could be a NBA head coach. I think I have a lot of knowledge and enough knowledge to lead a team in the right direction.’’ … The Magic caught a huge break on Tuesday night when Indiana power forward David West did not play because of a strained back. Orlando could be in line to catch the banged-up New York Knicks at less than full strength on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas have already been ruled out and Caremlo Anthony could miss another game because of trouble with his knee.

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