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Night Court: Syracuse gets another miracle escape to stay unbeaten

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Here's everything you need to know from college basketball's Saturday so far …

Game of the Night: Syracuse steal in closing seconds leads to winning layup.

This one: nobody had it. Due to weather conditions, North Carolina State wasn't even able to fly out of its state until Saturday morning. It really did look like Syracuse was going to finally lose for the first time this season, even if it didn't feel like it. A charge on Tyler Ennis against Cat Barber with 14.9 seconds to go, Cuse down one, seemed to give the Wolfpack the edge.

But then a foul to give. N.C. State had a play out of their end. Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried thought it should have been a foul on a shot, not the floor.

Rakeem Christmas stole the ball on a lazy pass, got to to Ennis, who passed it on to C.J. Fair. Fair's layup was interfered with, called a goaltend, and there we go.

Syracuse wins 56-55, remains unbeaten.

Somehow.

This team, seemingly, has a deal with the devil. That's two games in a row it should have lost that it didn't. Now at 25-0.

The loss is coming. You can only flirt with destruction so long before it wins. And that's fine. Syracuse is going to be a No. 1 seed. A loss isn't going to hurt the team. I just can't believe it still, somehow, keeps winning. It's a really fun story. It's like the performances are going parallel with the pressure that's mounting under this campaign. I'm all for it.

Next up: home to Boston College on Wednesday.

By the way, this 25-0 start is the third-best in ACC history -- and this is SU's first season in the league. They would need to get to 27-0 to match N.C. State in 1972-73 for second. The 1956-57 UNC team made it to 32-0.

Game of the Day: UConn becomes first league foe to sweep Memphis in 13 seasons.

Can you believe it's been that long since one team beat Memphis twice in the regular season? Well, maybe you can, given the Tigers' residence in C-USA, but still, a few of those seasons saw the league in pretty good shape. And a few other years Memphis wasn't that great. To go more than a decade without losing a season series is crazy. Southern Miss in 2001 was the last team to do it until UConn won out 86-81 in OT against the Tigers Saturday afternoon.

Shabazz Napier balled out, had his ninth game this season with 20 or more points. Joe Jackson had himself a nice day, finishing with 24 points and seven assists. Geron Johnson was also pretty vital for Memphis, though he fouled out near the end of the game.

The game had nine ties and eight lead changes. An amazing block by DeAndre Daniels on Shaq Goodwin on the penultimate play of regulation prevented Memphis from taking the lead. That led to a quick scuffle; Napier and Jackson exchanged a few quick words, among a few other shoves from surrounding players.

Then Napier had the closest miss of the season, the no-go sending the game to a free five-minute session.

In the end Connecticut was able to pull away, thanks in some part to the foul shot disparity. The Huskies went 29 for 36 from the stripe, opposed to Memphis' 6-of-9 line. Tigers fans might very well cite that solely for the loss.

Memphis IS now 19-6 overall and 8-4 in the AAC. UConn also 8-4 in league play, now 20-5 overall.

(GIF via The Big Lead.)

Florida gets to 12-0 in the SEC for the first time ever.

Borzello is in Lexington to write off the game, but UF's 69-59 win over the Wildcats ensured the Gators would win the SEC. Florida's looking like the complete package, totally. Only Syracuse and Michigan State -- maybe -- would be considered better teams/more able to win the title. And that's by some. Others certainly will consider Billy Donovan's team the best in the country right now.

Kentucky? Definitely not a No. 3 or No. 4 seed right now. But overall the effort was there Saturday night. A technical foul on John Calipari with eight minutes remaining caused a divergence in the game, perhaps. After the T, Florida outscored UK 22-11.

That's a good win: UMass becomes first team to win at George Washington this season.

Only college hoops diehards realize that George Washington is A) good again B) actually an NCAA tournament team as of right now. Spread the word. That said, with Chaz Williams struggling, and having lost three of their past five, it was big victory for Derek Kellogg's team. Williams ended with eight points, four fouls and three turnovers. Sampson Carter had a team-high 20 to get UMass its best win since beating Providence, at home, in overtime, on Dec. 28. It's been that long.

For GW, it's tough times ahead. Road games at Richmond and then at Saint Louis are next up. Gotta get one of those two to stay on the good side of the bubble, most likely. UMass has six days off before a home game against VCU Friday night.

That's a needed win: Baylor beats K-State at home in two overtimes.

The Bears finally got a good play at the end of regulation. After three misses, Brady Heslip hit a shot at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Baylor wound up getting a big game from Kenny Chery, but his performance his highlighted below. Cory Jefferson led the team with 21 points. It was the first win in five games for BU. Kansas State is now 17-8 (7-5), while Baylor is 16-9 (4-8).

And that's a bad loss: Oklahoma State continues to burn away its standing in the standings.

Home game against Oklahoma, and OSU couldn't pull it out. A 77-74 final. The Pokes had a chance in the closing seconds, too. Markel Brown (26 points) was not fouled, dribbled through the defense, but maybe because he was almost too open, Brown sent the shot way left. The Cowboys have a road game at Baylor next. With a loss there, for the time being, some will probably put OSU outside of the NCAA tournament picture.

These losses do count, but they'll be handicapped based on how the team plays once Marcus Smart returns. This was the second of his three-game suspension.

Travis Ford's team: Once 15-2. Now 16-9.

Oklahoma walks away with its third road win in Big 12 play. Sooners are going to comfortably play in the Field of 68 this season. Buddy Hield led the team with 22.

Very damaging loss: Ole Miss, now 16-9, drops a game to Georgia.

Credit to Georgia for continuing to be a spoiler supreme in the SEC, but the Dawgs aren't exactly a top-50 team. Ole Miss took a hit with its tourney hopes by falling 61-60 in Athens. Again, I remain incredibly impressed as to how the SEC seems bent on getting its league to just three NCAA tourney bids. The top teams -- outside of Florida -- are falling in all the wrong places.

Marshall Henderson had 24 off the bench to lead all scorers.

Saint Louis is going to win the Atlantic 10: Billikens beat VCU at home.

There were two high-profile A10 games today, the first being the UMass-GW tilt. This one was the headliner, though. Saint Louis held off a charging VCU team, winning 64-62 and increasing the school's winning streak to 17. It's the longest in program history.

This was a critical win for SLU, which has no bad losses (Wisconsin and Wichita State). But now, on top of beating Dayton and St. Joe's on the road, the Billikens can claim VCU. This 10-0 start is the best in the Atlantic 10 since 2005-06, when George Washington ran the table to get an eight seed. If SLU does that (which I don't think it will), it will probably be a No. 2.

Players with impact

  1. Have to lead with Shabazz Napier, who nearly had the quadruple-nickel, which is arguably as nice as the triple-double. Napier had a career-best 34 points in addition to five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
  2. Kenny Chery: 20 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds. For a 6-foot junior guard who, still, not enough people know about outside of Baylor.
  3. Here's to you, Kendrick Perry. The Youngstown State guard cracked 238 steals on Saturday, becoming the all-time leading scorer in swipes in conference history.
  4. Rakeem Christmas had 14 points, 12 rebounds and the critical steal that allowed Syracuse to remain flawless. He gets a mention.
  5. Khem Birch is putting together one of the better seasons in recent memory for a guy who will most likely not play in the NCAA tournament. Birch is one of the best rebound + shot-blocker combo players in the country He had 12 boards, nine send-backs and 11 points in UNLV's 73-62 win at Utah State.
  6. Going to give SLU's Dwayne Evans some love here. Under-regarded player who went for 21 and 10 against VCU.
  7. Ryan Spangler had 12 points and 13 rebounds in Oklahoma's win. He has 10 double-doubles, more than any Big 12 player this season.

Numbers to figure

55: No teams in the Big Ten have played more games against each other in conference history than Indiana and Purdue. The point swing between the teams' games last season and what happened Saturday at Mackey Arena: 55.

23: Years since ...

Six since six: It was 2008, the last time Oklahoma State dropped six games in a row.

.944: The win percentage of the American Athletic Conference's top five team in the standings against the teams in the bottom five in the league. That's a 34-2 mark.

19: The home win streak for Cincinnati, which beat Houston 73-62 behind 28 points from Sean Kilpatrick. Bearcats are now 23-3 and still in control of the AAC with a 12-1 mark. Game was tied at 57 -- then Cinci just plowed Houston out of the building.

13: The number of players who've scored 40 or more points in a game this season. On Saturday, Illinois failed to put up that many, falling 48-39 to Ohio State. It was a home game for Illinois. The carnage.

Other outcomes of note:

  • North Carolina over Pittsburgh was covered longer here.
  • Duke beating Maryland is touched upon here.
  • Missouri and Tennessee had the final 60 seconds of play take about 20 minutes to figure out due to monitor reviews and clock issues, but when it ended Mizzou got the 75-70 win. Very critical. These teams will play again before the end of the season. If the Tigers are able to sweep the Vols, it could be a trump card come Selection Sunday. If the Vols return serve at home, things could get interesting. Mizzou's best wins are now vs. UCLA, vs. West Virginia, vs. Tennessee and at N.C State. Jordan McRae had 31 points in the loss. Jabari Brown 24 in the win.
  • Texas continues to make its push toward a solid seed. The Longhorns won 88-71 against visiting West Virginia, which was brought back down to earth after a hot couple of weeks.
  • Team that took on a tough road loss Saturday: Xavier. The Musketeers are dancing on the fence, and they lost at Marquette. It was 81-72 Golden Eagles. X is now 17-8 and has a neutral win over Cinci and a home win over Georgetown as its boasting points. Beating G'town on the road, and beating Creighton at home, could prove essential in the coming weeks.
  • Virginia is not only somewhat-quietly killing it in the ACC, but is also now setting itself up, perhaps, for a No. 3 seed. The 21-5 Hoos are now 6-1 on road in league play after winning 63-58 at Clemson Saturday afternoon. It's the ninth straight win for UVa, the school's 12-1 ACC start tis best since '81-82. By beating Clemson the team also won for the first time in five tries at Clemson. snaps four-game losing strek at Clemson. Twenty-four points from K.J. McDaniels goes to waste in a losing effort. The Tigers have great D but not enough on offense to put any kind of win streak together.
  • St. Joe's has won four out of five and is now in the discussion for an at-large bid. Kind of crazy, but Phil Martelli's team has rallied and is now 17-7 and 7-3 in the Atlantic 10 after winning at La Salle 75-64. Remember, La Salle made the Sweet 16 last season. Big comedown there. All starters scored in double figures for SJU.
  • Ho-hum 30-point home win for Kansas against TCU. Joel Embiid did not play, as he recovers from a tender back. Perry Ellis went for 32.
  • Jordan Adams went for 24 in UCLA's 80-66 win over Utah. Bruins can quietly play their way to a No. 4 or No. 5 seed if they don't slip up in Pac-12 play.
  • C-USA had a critical game today. Southern Miss was thought by some to be the league's best. Now? Not so much. Fell at UAB earlier this week and dropped an 81-64 outcome at Middle Tennessee State on Saturday. Now USM is 8-3 in the league, while MTSU is 9-2. UTEP and Louisiana Tech won at home Saturday night and also have just two losses in league play. At least the top of the conference is interesting/in doubt again now that Memphis has left.
  • Playing at Penn State can be a pitfall for pretenders. Iowa able to win 82-70 against the Nittany Lions.
  • LSU falls 81-70 at Arkansas. Not a surprise, but man, LSU, would it kill you to live up to your talent? Again, the SEC is just a random numbers generator at this point.
  • Another quiet but necessary win: Cal took out Washington at Washington. A 72-59 ending.
  • Too close for comfort? Iowa State wins by six at home over Texas Tech, 70-64. Cyclones now 19-5.
  • Surprising outcome in the MAC: Toledo got punked at Eastern Michigan, 65-44.
  • New Mexico won 90-72 over Nevada to get to 19-5.

Notebook:

-- From Friday night's Arizona State win over Arizona, a terrific shot of Herb Sendek getting soaked.

-- Bubble team to look out for? Maybe -- maybe -- BYU can play its way back in. Won 60-57 at Saint Mary's Saturday night. Not good? BYU frosh center Eric Mika evidently flashing a choke sign. I'm guessing this will lead to a suspension.

-- They retired Bill Clinton's "#42" at Arkansas on Saturday as part of a celebration for the school's six trips to the Final Four in program history.

-- The Indianapolis Star first reported Butler freshman Rene Castro will transfer.

-- Postponed games due to weather: Northern Kentucky-Mercer and Lipscomb-Kennesaw State.

-- We'll wrap up with this. On Friday the list of the 100 sexiest men in college basketball was released. Our own Jeff Borzello was somehow included. On Saturday, Bob Huggins tweeted some smack:

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