Night Court: Some take on bad Ls, others nab nice wins
Not everyone left Saturday with a terrible loss, but a few teams really stunk up the joint. We've got the good and bad from a huge day of hoops.
Here’s everything you need to know from college basketball’s absolutely stuffed Saturday so far …
Game of the Night: Syracuse holds off a furious fight from Pittsburgh to remain undefeated.
Pittsburgh fought fire with fire on Saturday, using a stifling zone defense to control the tempo and erase a double-digit second half deficit as the Panthers nearly knocked off the undefeated Orange. Pitt won the rebounding battle 35-24; an advantage that helped the team overcome a poor shooting day, but Syracuse won the game 59-54 with good free throw shooting and an answer for every punch Pitt could throw.
"This was a Big East game. Forget about ACC, this was a war," Orange coach Jim Boeheim told ESPN after the game. From the scoring to the physical play underneath the basket, the game did feel like an old Saturday afternoon Big East clash.
Tyler Ennis was tremendous when Syracuse needed a bucket, scoring six of his team-high 16 points in the final two minutes as the Orange reclaimed the lead for good. (You can read more on Ennis' game, including quotes from Boeheim HERE) Pittsburgh stood eye to eye with the undefeated Orange, and even led for three minutes down the stretch, but with Ennis leading the offense Syracuse was able to out-execute the blue-collar Panthers and remain atop the ACC standings.
Game of the Night, No. 2: Michigan stuns No. 3 Wisconsin, improves to 5-0 in Big Ten play
Wisconsin's second-straight loss throws opens up the Big Ten race and gave the Wolverines a great road win, riding the hot hands of Nik Stauskas and sophomore guard Caris LeVert to a 77-70 win. The win ended Michigan's 11-game losing streak in Madison, and our own Mike Singer was on the scene for John Beilein's big win. Michigan's hot start to conference play will be put to the test again this week against Iowa at home on Wednesday and at Michigan State next Saturday.
What else we'll be talking about: Kansas holding on to win against Oklahoma State after blowing a 17-point halftime lead.
Many tuned in to this Big 12 matchup for the meeting of Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart, but Saturday's matchup in the Phog was a stage for the other members of the band. For Oklahoma State, it was Phil Forte hitting seven three pointers as the Cowboys slowly but surely climbed back into the game after trailing Kansas 47-30 at halftime. Kansas was led by Naadir Tharpe and anchored by freshman center Joel Embiid. While Wiggins disappeared in the second half and finished just 1-of-5 from the field, Embiid finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks.
Smart finished with 16 points, but it came on 3-of-14 shooting and the Cowboys' star missed all six of his three-point attempts. There were no backflips this year, but there was plenty of hard fouls and retaliation that in total led to six flagrant/technical fouls.
And Embiid, there was plenty of Embiid.
That’s a good win: Oklahoma goes into Waco and gets a big Big 12 win.
The Bears' 13-game home winning streak was snapped and it was a frustrating loss for Baylor fans, but really, what Lon Kruger's done to build an Oklahoma program into something really nice again -- it's terrific to see. The Sooners won 66-64, and the victory came after a brutal 20-minute delay in the closing minute regarding an out-of-bounds decision.
Buddy Hield, an emerging Big 12 star, had 19, all of those points in the second half. OU trailed by eight in the second half, but eventually got ht egame to a 65-58 advantage in the closing minute. Baylor cut the lead thanks to a couple of 3s, but no matter. The Bears remain talented but inconsistent. Not going to win the Big 12, that's for sure. Next up? At Kansas on Monday.
But that’s a bad loss: Somehow, George Mason gives it away ... again.
Rhode Island isn't that good, but it got out with a home win over a George Mason team that has given away way too many games over the past season and a half. On Saturday, URI won 71-69 after a weird pair of plays. URI tried to foul while up three and with less than three seconds to go. But Byron Allen of GMU was in the act of shooting a 3. He sank all three. THEN Mason fouled T.J. Buchanan with 0.7 left, and he hit both free throws.
George Mason has lost three in a row by seven points total. It didn't trail for the first 30 minutes of the game.
And that's a bad loss: Georgetown might struggle to make the NIT.
The Hoyas dropped their first home game to Seton Hall in 11 years on Saturday. Fuquan Edwin had 24 points for the Pirates in helping them win 67-57 over JT3's team. At the half Georgetown led by nine. You'd have thought up until today that Georgetown had the better team. You can't really say that right now, and it's not like Seton Hall's all that good.
And that's a horrible loss: Indiana only scores 47 and drops a home game to Northwestern.
Erasing all the good will from winning at home earlier in the week over Wisconsin, the Hoosiers are now grasping at straws to salvage their season. Northwestern won 54-47 and got Chris Collins his first league road win as Northwestern coach. Drew Crawford had 17 to lead NU. Alex Olah wound up being a force, swatting away six shots for the Wildcats.
Indiana just doesn't have the reliability on either end of the floor at this point. And Noah Vonleh -- who was the only IU player to score in double digits -- is talented and a tease because he shows real flashes offensively. Hoosiers are a completely different team on offense from a year ago, as drastic a downfall as there is on that side of the ball this year in college hoops. To wit:
Today was Indiana's worst performance on offense (0.74 points per trip) in B1G play in almost 3 years (3/5/11, @ Illinois, 0.74).— John Gasaway (@JohnGasaway) January 18, 2014
Creighton caught looking ahead?
The Bluejays were handled in a road game at Providence, falling 81-68. This comes two days before the big game at Villanova for what was setting up to be a big one in the Big East. It still is, but a little luster has been lost. Doug McDermott said it was no excuse, but he was battle a little stomach bug. He finished with 21 and seven rebounds. Bryce Cotton put up 23 for the Friars, who definitely have the ability to protect their home court and keep it interesting in the Big East.
Kentucky wins behind surging Andrew Harrison.
It was the 217th meeting ever between UK and Tennessee, and for the 150th time, Kentucky won. We wrote on the game earlier and noted Andrew Harrisons' play.
Andrew Harrison is the 11th freshman to score 26 points under John Calipari. Prior to his hire, 11 players in UK history had done it.— Thomas Beisner (@Beisner_cn2) January 18, 2014
Players with impact
1. Andrew Harrison, of course, who went for a career-best 26 in Kentucky's win. He's best as a 50/50 point guard, meaning he splits the passing and shooting.
2. Jarnell Stokes had 20 points and 15 rebounds in a loss, but no doubt impressed any scouts who caught the game and watched him prove his worth against future top-five pick Julius Randle.
3. With 24 points and five steals and giving his team such a nice win, Fuquan Edwin of Seton Hall merits mention.
Numbers to figure
6: The number of overtime games Butler has played this season, including Saturday's 69-57 win over Marquette. Marquette is now 10-8 and almost definitely not making the NCAA tournament for the first time ever under Buzz Williams.
1: The number of times Kentucky and Tennessee are scheduled to play this season, the first time since 1954 these teams won't play twice.
70: Iowa State has scored 70 or more points in every game this season. Tough to lose in the long run when you can score like that, regardless of pace.
N.C. State has two losses by 30+ points in ACC play, the first time that's happened for any team since 2004-05.— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) January 18, 2014
Other outcomes of note:
- Yeah, that above tweet referencing a 95-60 Duke win over N.C. State. Jabari Parker went for 23. We've got more that game right here.
- Most surprising small-conference outcome of the day? Perhaps Fairfield beating Manhattan, 71-67. The Jaspers are the favorite in the MAAC, but it must be noted they are without George Beamon for the time being due to injury. If he's in this game, Fairfield probably doesn't win.
- Panic time for Iowa State? The Cyclones have lost three straight and face arguably the toughest part of the Big 12 schedule in the next week. Matt Norlander has much more on what's going wrong for Iowa State, and why fans shouldn't panic about a loss to Texas.
- UCLA trailed Utah by as many as 17, climbing back into the game thanks to 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists from Kyle Anderson. Utah had four players in double-figures, led by Jordan Loveridge, as the Utes held on to win 74-69 and claim their first victory over UCLA since 1983.
- Indiana State was thought to be Witchita State's toughest challenger in the Missouri Valley Conference, but after a 68-48 win the 19-0 Shockers showed they are absolutely a cut above the rest of the league -- especially when they hold the opponent to 31.8 percent shooting.
- Michigan State won its 10th straight game, locking in the program's best start at 17-1 with a 78-62 win at Illinois. The Spartans dominated on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 38-25 (24-10 in the first half) even without 6-foot-10 center Adreian Payne in the lineup for the third consecutive game. Gary Harris led the way with 23 points while Denzel Valentine added 15 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for Michigan State, now 6-0 in Big Ten play.
- SMU is now 13-4 and probably on the precipice of some feature posts or pieces. The Mustangs are creeping into bubble talk after beating UCF on the road 58-49 win. Team can definitely play a little D.
- Casey Prather was productive in his return from a bruised knee, scoring 21 points (16 in the first half) on 8-of-10 shooting as Florida held off Auburn to win 68-61. Tigers' guard Chris Denson scored 21 points, just above his SEC-leading average of 19.4 points per game, as the Tigers put a scare in the Gators but remain winless in SEC play.
- Richmond, your A10 sleeper, won 73-64 over a Dayton team that also has legitimate NCAA tourney aspirations.
- UNC won at home over a team it should have beaten, which in this season is definitely notable. The Heels beat Boston College 82-71, led by Marcus Paige's 21 points, and now comes the most critical part of their season. Two of the next three are on road, and it's at Virginia Monday.
- Speaking of Virginia, it had a home game and beat Florida State 78-66. A big run in the first half helped the Hoos get out in front. Florida State isn't built to come back, especially against UVa, which has that pack-line D. Seminoles are now 12-5, 3-2 in the ACC and not looking like the team they were a month ago.
- San Diego State got off to a slow start and struggled from the field, but Xavier Thames (18 points, seven rebounds) and Josh Davis (14 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks) led the way as the Aztecs improved to 16-1. In an ugly game for both teams, San Diego State found an advantage at the charity stripe, connecting on 21 of 27 free throws while the Rebels went 8 for 11 from the foul line.
- Cincinnati was pushed by USF on the road, but the Bearcats improved to 6-0 in American Athletic Conference play with a 61-54 win. Bulls guard Javontae Hawkins led the upset bid with 15 points off the bench on 6-for-9 shooting, but Sean Kilpatrick and Co. had an answer every time Cincinnati's lead was in jeopardy in the second half.
- How many Pac-12 games will USC win this year? The team is now 0-5 after getting clubbed at Colorado, falling 83-62. And remember, CU doesn't have its best player for the rest of the season, Spencer Dinwiddie.
- Kansas State is still looking in good shape, overall. Now a 14-4 team after whooping West Virginia 78-56. Bob Huggins needs a reboot.
- It was an odd day in the Big Ten with Indiana falling to Northwestern and Michigan upsetting Wisconsin, but Purdue was able to avoid the trend thanks to a wild final sequence in West Lafayette. The Nittany Lions held the lead for most of the final five minutes, in part due to a handful of missed shots (including free throws) from Purdue. Terone Johnson hit a three-pointer with seven seconds left to tie the game at 64, then Ronnie Johnson broke up Penn State's inbounds pass and A.J. Hammons got fouled with just one second remaining. Hammons hit one of two, keeping the Nittany Lions winless in Big Ten play.
- Elon was fired up to host No. 16 UMass, the program's first ranked opponent in Alumni Gym. Tanner Samson and Luke Troutman got the Phoenix within seven points with 5:21 remaining, but the Minutemen had a size advantage and got a strong second half from Chaz Williams in a 84-74 win.
- Mississippi State beat Texas A&M 81-72. Both teams are now 12-5. I have one idea how good or not good they are, and neither do you. I do know this kid is RIPPIN' HAPPY.
- Alabama's not that good, so you wouldn't expect it to win at Mizzou. It didn't. The Tigers winning by 21 -- 68-47 -- is a nice sign. Still think Missouri has the best chance at third place in the SEC because it only gets Kentucky and Florida once, and only one of those games are on the road.
- Arkansas played its third straight overtime game. It lost. It was against Georgia. A 66-61 final, and now Mark Fox's Bulldogs are a 3-1 SEC team. This continues to be a bittersweet yet inspiring story. How bad was it for Arkansas?
Since the 15:59 mark of the second half, Arkansas has made three field goals. THREE! UGA up 62-55 with 45 seconds left in OT.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) January 18, 2014
-- This guy won the afternoon, I think.
-- Curious case developing at South Florida, per report.
-- Saint Louis: continuing to be a really good team that almost no one pays attention to. Billikens are now 17-2 following 22-point win over Fordham.
Matt Norlander and Chip Patterson contributed to this post.
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