Afternoon Delight: Oklahoma State and 'Nova the big winners
There weren't too many marquee matchups on Saturday afternoon, but there were plenty of close games and contests that will matter on Selection Sunday.
|Marcus Smart improved his terrific freshman resume by making plays to lead Oklahoma State to a Bedlam win. (AP)|
On busier Saturdays and Sundays this season, we’re not going to make you wait until the end of the slate of games to catch up with all that’s happened. Afternoon Delight (3-pointers in flight!) recaps the first five-or-so hours’ worth of action, the perfect appetizer right before dinnertime.
The best we’ve seen so far: Oklahoma State Cowboys coming back to beat Oklahoma Sooners in overtime.
Bedlam is always a fun matchup, and this one didn't disappoint. Oklahoma jumped out to a halftime lead, but the first few minutes of the second half made it clear that we were going to see some high-level hoops down the stretch. Le'Bryan Nash was outstanding in the second half, scoring 26 points, while Marcus Smart constantly made plays when it mattered. He finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists. On the other side, three Oklahoma players scored 18 points: Steven Pledger , Romero Osby and Sam Grooms .
Nash and Pledger traded shots early in the second half, while Osby and Smart went back and forth in the final minutes. A botched final Oklahoma possession and missed buzzer shot by Smart sent the game to overtime -- where it wasn't decided until Smart knocked down two free throws with 18 seconds left. Both teams are likely to make the NCAA tournament, but Oklahoma State has an ever-improving resume and could have the inside track toward a Big 12 title.
The second-best we’ve seen so far: Marquette Golden Eagles carving up Pittsburgh Panthers ’s defense in easier-than-expected win.
Teams don't roll over the Pittsburgh defense like Marquette did on Saturday. The Golden Eagles shared the ball and knocked down shots en route to a 10-point win over the Panthers. They constantly got open looks against Pittsburgh, moving the ball quickly and keeping the defense on its heels. Having multiple guys who can shoot the ball only helped. Vander Blue led the way with 19 points and six rebounds for Marquette, which is positioning itself nicely for a top-four seed come March. Moreover, the win moved the Golden Eagles back into a tie for first place in the Big East, sitting next to Georgetown atop the standings. Pittsburgh has a quick turnaround, having to return home and face Notre Dame on Monday.
Deserving of a free dinner at the restaurant of their choice: Villanova Wildcats gets another key win with road victory at Connecticut Huskies .
Heading into the weekend, it seemed like Villanova's monster wins earlier this season over Louisville and Syracuse were less of a telling sign of how good the Wildcats were -- and more of a really good week in an otherwise mediocre season. That changed on Saturday, when Villanova went into Connecticut and added another win to the ledger. Ryan Arcidiacono was outstanding, scoring 25 points, while Mouphtaou Yarou chipped in with 11 points and 16 rebounds. Connecticut's prolific backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright combined for six points on 3-for-15 shooting. Villanova is still on the bubble, but Saturday's win is a nice boost for the resume.
No soup for you: Indiana State Sycamores falls further down the pecking order after another MVC loss.
Heading into the week, the Sycamores' four top-50 wins were enough to slot them into most projected brackets -- despite having four sub-100 losses. Now, it's looking more and more difficult for Indiana State to get an at-large bid. It lost at Missouri State during the week and compounded that with a defeat at Bradley Braves on Saturday. The Sycamores allowed the Braves to score 45 points and shoot 60 percent from the field in the second half. Home games this week against Wichita State and Iona are important but still might not be enough.
And Kentucky Wildcats was also a disaster, getting absolutely destroyed by Tennessee Volunteers in its first game without Nerlens Noel . The Wildcats' resume now reads -- With Noel: zero wins over NCAA tournament teams. Without Noel: a 30-point loss to Tennessee. Goodman has much, much more on this game.
Huge props to Creighton Bluejays ’s Doug McDermott , who reached 2,000 career points in the Bluejays’ key road win over Evansville Aces . And he’s only a junior.
Will Sheehey went 9-for-9 from the field en route to 22 points for Indiana Hoosiers .
The top two point-scorers of the afternoon were Longwood Lancers 's Tristan Carey and Buffalo Bulls 's Tony Watson , who each scored 31 points.
Other daytime action worth your attention
- Indiana will remain No. 1 another week after the Hoosiers cruised past Purdue Boilermakers . Victor Oladipo limped to the locker room in the first half but did return to the bench.
- No. 7 Florida Gators is back to obliterating all SEC opponents, knocking down 15 3-pointers in a 31-point win over Auburn Tigers .
- In an important bubble game in the ACC, North Carolina Tar Heels pushed the issue offensively and handled Virginia Cavaliers . The Tar Heels and Cavaliers are likely to be near the cut line come Selection Sunday, and this game could be a factor.
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish struggled mightily from the perimeter, hitting just one 3-pointer, as Providence Friars won its fourth in a row. The Friars are going to be a team to keep an eye on next season.
- La Salle Explorers has now won four in a row after beating Saint Joseph's Hawks . The Explorers continue to state their case for an at-large bid. They’re going to be a fun team to watch.
- Iowa State Cyclones didn’t help its at-large resume with a dominant win over TCU Horned Frogs , but the Cyclones would have a done tremendous damage with a loss. A road game at Baylor on Wednesday will be important.
- NC State Wolfpack didn’t look outstanding, needing overtime to beat Virginia Tech Hokies despite having six players reach double figures. Erick Green had 29 points for the Hokies and also had this travel not called: (I was amused.)
Delightful (and not-so-delightful) thoughts
-- Rutgers Scarlet Knights lost at DePaul Blue Demons , but the status of Eli Carter is more concerning. This fall didn’t look good:
-- -- --
-- Xavier Musketeers was pushing toward the bubble, but losing by 11 to Dayton Flyers won’t help the Musketeers’ case.
-- Bucknell Bison and Lehigh Mountain Hawks go head-to-head for the second time this season on Monday, but both fell on Saturday. Bucknell lost by one at Lafayette Leopards and Lehigh was defeated by four at Colgate Raiders .
-- Thanks to a couple of terrible last-second possessions by Kent State Golden Flashes , Ohio Bobcats stayed one game back of Akron in the MAC. Stevie Taylor ’s 3-pointer in overtime won it.
-- Charleston Southern Buccaneers reclaimed first place in the Big South with a 73-65 win at U NC-Asheville Bulldogs . A 15-2 run down the stretch was the difference.
-- Texas Southern Tigers made its big move in the SWAC, beating Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions at home and staying within striking distance of Southern.
-- An important win in the Northeast: Robert Morris Colonials going into Sacred Heart Pioneers and coming out with a win. Combined with Bryant's loss, Morris is now atop the NEC standings.
For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonCBB on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed and subscribe to our College Basketball Newsletter. You can follow Jeff Borzello on Twitter here: @jeffborzello
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