Night Court: Following a buzzer-beater, three unbeatens left

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Ben McElmore is becoming a bona fide national star, a bigger one by the week. (US Presswire)

What an embarrassment of good hoop on Wednesday. It was officially the greatest night of hoops so far, and it came at the perfect time. If you haven't seen the Jamaal Franklin dunk that will not be topped this year or next, do that first. Then read on ...

Game of the Night: Kansas gets a glassy prayer to avoid a huge home upset.

Who knows how far and how good Kansas will go and get this season, but if we get to late March and realize that Ben McLemore is this team's best player, by far, then it's going to be Jan. 10 we look back on as the watershed night when he passed Jeff Withey for that distinction. McLemore had 33 points on 6-of-6 from 3-point range, 7-of-7 from the line and 10-of-12 from the field against Iowa State. And he banked in the 3 to prevent KU from getting upset in Phog by ISU for the first time in eight years. Here's how it happened.

Iowa State played a hell of a game but wound up losing 97-89. A few people rightly pointed out on Twitter that McLemore's shot was akin to Mario Chalmers' in the '08 title game: a 3 to tie it, send it to overtime, and then no doubt that Kansas would win. Hell of a game. Cyclones played more than good enough to win it. But that's why they're the Jayhawks and that's why Phog Allen is such a bitch to get out of with a W.

Game of the Night No. 2: New Mexico outlasts Vegas at the Pit, 65-60.

This was the riveting Mountain West opener we hoped it would be. Now, UNLV only took five foul shots and in general did not look like a crisp team, but they held firm given the atmosphere in New Mexico. UNM center Alex Kirk was a bit of a revelation, scoring a game-high 23 points and proving to be a serious matchup problem for the Runnin' Rebels. The red-haired bear of a sophomore stands to become a cultish figure in this league if he keeps that up.

Later in the season, when we're trying to decipher which MWC teams are better than others ... yeah ... these kinds of results won't help much. I'm ready for an awesome eight weeks in this league, where everyone's beating everyone and the basketball is physical, intense, high-quality and further proof that the MWC is a top-three league this season.

What else we'll be talking about in the morning: Boise State ends Wyoming's undefeated season with a 3 at the buzzer. (Video here.)

A guy named Elorriaga -- which sounds like a Euro soccer club that Borzello would follow -- hit two 3-pointers in the final 25 seconds to lift Boise State to the victory. A few things here. One, BSU was without its leading scorer, Derrick Marks, in addition to Mikey Thompson, Darrious Hamilton and Kenny Buckner, all role players. They did not make the trip, cited for a violation of team rules and are suspended until further notice.

So when you take that into account, then realize BSU gave up a lead in the final minute, the home crowd in Laramie was giddy as can be, I mean, it's damn impressive by the Broncos. (Staple member of this year's Power Pyramid, I'll remind you.) Again, more evidence of the Mountain West's allure.

As for Wyoming, a real bummer. I was rooting for this team to go undefeated beyond the MAD trio -- Michigan, Arizona, Duke -- who are now the only ones without a scratch. And I can't help but wonder if Luke Martinez had played in this game, would Wyoming's leading scorer had prevented the loss? If only he didn't get in that bar fight.

That's a good win: Butler opens up its Atlantic 10 residence with a road W against the team chosen to win the league.

It ended Butler 72, St. Joseph's 66. In the preseason I never bought SJU as an A-10 favorite, or even a top-35 team, but they played Butler close. Riveting game that ended with Butler's Rotnei Clarke scoring 28, his most as a Bulldog. You wanna know how good Wednesday night was? On a normal evening, this would've been the Game of the Night rundown above.

But that's a bad loss: Virginia, when will you stop being so Virginia with the way you Virginia things up?

Wichita State's Cleanthony Early had himself a night. (US Presswire)

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. After all, the Cavaliers have now lost their last 10 games at Wake Forest. All-time, the school is 13-41 in Winston-Salem. Wednesday's result: 55-52, Deacs. Still: Wake is oogly. And now that UVa win over North Carolina doesn't help matters at all. We've already mentioned on podcasts and on this site just how weird and undefinable the ACC is. Wouldn't hurt to have some order, Virginia.

Players with impact

-- Briante Weber remains college basketball's most enjoyable pickpocket. The VCU will again be the nation's steals average leader after his nine swipes in VCU's 74-62 home victory -- VCU's A-10 debut -- over Dayton. Weber also had five dimes and just one turnover in 28 minutes.

-- Cleanthony Early led all scorers Wednesday night with 39 points in Wichita State's come-from-behind win over Southern Illinois. Shockers are now 15-1. Start loving them if you haven't already gotten the butterflies.

-- A guy by the name of Marshall Henderson leads a major conference in scoring. Do you know the conference, or his team? He plays for Ole Miss, and the Rebels proved themselves as the SEC's fourth-best behind Henderson's career-high 32 points in the 92-74 road win against Tennessee. SEC, you so weird.

-- Joe Coleman. Normal name, abnormal game Wednesday night. Yeah, he's just the latest weapon for Minnesota. Kid threw in 29 in the Gophers' 84-67 road win against Illinois. Game was good, then Minnesota really just pulled away in the final five. Gophers have Indiana next, on Saturday. That'll be nice. By the way, this happened early on; alas, it was ruled a charge. Way to fly though, Brandon Paul. (Via @bubbaprog)

Numbers to figure:

  1. 14-3: That's Florida State's record in its last 17 league games. Not only that, but FSU is 2-0 for only the second time in program history as a member of the ACC. Gobsmacking.
  2. 21: Illinois' misses from 3-point range Wednesday night. It took 24 in all.
  3. 22: How many years in a row Kansas has won its Big 12 opener.
  4. 23: The years between Ole Miss' last win in Knoxville and this one.
  5. 32: The years it had been since Northern Illinois won at Miami (OH). Until Wednesday brought a 72-61 NIU W.
  6. 32 again: San Diego State had a tough one against Fresno State late into the night, but exited witha 65-62 victory, the only appropriate ending after -- did I mention? -- Franklin's genre-bending dunk. The 32 comes in that SDSU has won 32 straight against teams from Cali.

Other outcomes of note:

  • A 9-5 Washington team went into a 9-5 Cal's house and got out of there with a 62-47 win. The Pac-12: showing flashes of its old self. I can't figure this stuff out. I never took calculus.
  • Syracuse had a somewhat-tough 72-66 road over Provy. (Does anyone call Providence "Provy"? No? Hey, it's late. Let's just go with it.) Anyway, forget the game and the fact SU made 17 out of 18 freebies. It was Jim Boeheim's crack on South Carolinian cuisine that cracked up most of the media members in my timeline.
  • FSU used a 24-8 run to get past Maryland at Maryland. And also, Michael Snaer remains a boss. The FSU All-American blocked potential game-winning shot of Seth Allen's in Florida State's 65-62 road win. And this after I called FSU one of the 10 biggest disappointments of this hoops season so far. Naturally. I mean, of course the Noles had to go out and do me like that. Hey, if it means more good teams in the ACC, I'll be wrong every time.
  • Hey, Eastern Kentucky got off to a nice start this season, was one of the final 10 unbeaten teams remaining, then dropped off after losing a couple. But EKU went into Murray State and took control, leaving with a 77-65 win. Racers may not get back to the NCAAs this season. The Ohio Valley has its prideful teams.
  • Louisville dropped Seton Hall to 12-4 with a 73-58 road win that was harder than the score would suggest. It's on nights like these, when there's action keeping everyone's attention is six other places, it's good to see the teams that should win get those toughies on the road in league play.

Notebook:

-- More ACC randomness comes in the form of 86-75, Boston College wins over Va. Tech. BC had a 29-0 points-off-turnovers advantage. That usually ends in wins, yes.

-- A serious slap on the back to the Towson Tigers, winners of just one game a year ago, Pat Skerry's team is now 3-0 in the CAA after getting a 99-86 double-OT win against Bill & Mary. And now Towson's 7-8. Good rebuild job happening there.

-- Florida's Erik Murphy was supposed to sit for a day or two, or a week. Yeah, well, who cares about a broken rib. He played and put up 11 points in Florida's 77-44 beatdown of Georgia.

-- I watched way more than I should have of West Virginia's 57-53 overtime win at Texas. It came about because Texas' Jonathan Holmes hit a 3 to tie the game at 50 with about three seconds to go. WVU didn't really even have a chance to foul, as it all happened so fast, and this was a return punch after WVU came back from falling behind by 13 in the second half. But the first road game in the Big 12 ends in a win for Bob Huggins, while Texas is 0-2 in the Big 12.

-- Michigan handled Nebraska, 62-47, and equaled a program best in starting 16-0.

-- Umm, Evansville's now 3-1 in the Valley, so that's a big deal there. Aces won at Northern Iowa Wednesday night.


For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to the thrice-a-week podcast on iTunes. You can follow Matt Norlander on Twitter here: @MattNorlander.

 
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