Here's everything you need to know from college basketball's Thursday …
Game of the Night: North Carolina pulls away from Duke, wins eighth in a row.
How about this UNC team. No longer erratic; just plain good. Once 1-4 in the league, now 9-4 and streaking toward a No. 4 seed. How? Hey, the dossier of Ws is getting better by the week. The Heels became the first team in history to get wins over the preseason No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Kentucky, Michigan State, Louisville, Duke) teams by way of beating Duke 74-66 Thursday night. Wasn't one of the better games in the rivalry's history, but it will go down as one of the more memorable ones due to what happened after the horn.
As for the game, Leslie McDonald had a season-best 21 points. And with this new lineup that Roy Williams is using, UNC has yet to lose. By going with McDonald, Marcus Paige, J.P. Tokoto, Kennedy Meeks and James Michael McAdoo, the Heels have looked sprite and able. Good ball movement. Paige can be a joy to watch.
UNC snared 43 boards and was helped late by a change in luck at the foul line. Free throws down the stretch wound up being huge. UNC sank its final 10. It started the game going 1 for 8 from the stripe. As for Duke, the Blue Devils settled for too many 3s, didn't take opportunities when UNC practically tempted them to drive. It really looked like Duke didn't desperately want this game, and afterward Mike Krzyzewski said as much.
"The crowd, the team, the intensity, we couldn't match it," he said. "We just couldn't match it. ... We didn't have the life you needed to have."
This also reportedly happened.
You can hear Mike Krzyzewski yelling through the stone wall outside the #Duke locket room— Laura Keeley (@laurakeeley) February 21, 2014
Jabari Parker had a double-double, going for 17 points and 11 rebounds. Funny thing is, now Duke or Syracuse will be guaranteed a two-game losing streak, as the two will play on Saturday. Amid all of this, Virginia has placed itself in the catbird seat to win the ACC. Cavs have only lost once in league play so far, remember.
What else we'll be talking about in the morning: North Carolina fans storming the court.
It's gonna be a thing.
But we won't get into here. I politely implore you to take that conversation elsewhere. It's beyond rote at this point. College kids don't give a damn about imaginary court-rush rulebooks. Let's move on.
Gonzaga now in trouble/on the bubble after falling at BYU.
The West Coast Conference isn't in doubt yet, but this one definitely makes things interesting. The Cougars won their first game over a ranked team (Gonzaga 25th this week) since 2012. A 73-65 final. This was one BYU absolutely needed to get into the bubble convo. Now it does. BYU is now 19-10 and 11-5, while Gonzaga drops to 23-5 and 13-2. The Cougars have wins over Stanford and Texas, and swept an NIT-bound Saint Mary's team (that fell at San Fran Thursday). Probably needs to reach WCC finals to have a legitimate shot, because some of the losses are awful.
Gonzaga's no sure thing now either. The Bulldogs lack their usual non-conference heft this season. Anything over than a WCC title-game appearance will leave some doubt. The WCC shouldn't be a one-bid league, and maybe it won't be this season, but going forward you'd think the conference would try to set itself up to have at least three teams in the fray come late February. That's not been the case this year.
For all the bubble-related results from tonight, do check out Borzello's baby: Poppin' Bubbles.
That's a good win: Green Bay clinches at least share of Horizon League regular-season title.
The Phoenix won 67-53 at home over Valpo to give Brian Wardle his first Horizon League title as a head coach. This is a team that won over Virginia earlier in the season and fell to Wisconsin by just three points. Good chance it can earn a No. 12 seed, maybe even a No. 11 if it doesn't lose before Selection Sunday.
And that's a bad loss: Georgetown now out of mock brackets.
Why? Because the Hoyas are now 15-11 and have lost two straight, Thursday night's outcome an 82-67 decision at the hands of lowly Seton Hall. G'town has some good wins, like Michigan State and K-State and VCU, but the Hoyas are playing with fire. The losses will start to cancel out those wins. This is a bad, bad look. What's more, Georgetown has to still play at Marquette and at Villanova. It's home to Creighton as well. It'd be wise to win two of those three, but I don't think this team can. The offense has fallen way off.
Players with impact
- Kendrick Perry, really one of the unheralded mid-major stars in the nation, led the country in scoring Thursday night. Perry put up 35 for the Penguins in Youngstown State's 88-83 OT win over Milwaukee. He also had four steals.
- Shabazz Napier rallies from a first half with just two points to finish with 17 and get 12 rebounds and seven assists in UConn's win. More below.
- For the eighth time this season, Alan Williams at UCSB snagged 15 rebounds or more in a game. He finished with 19 points and 15 boards in the Gauchos' 55-54 win over UC Riverside.
- You sway away eight or more in a game, you get a mention. Alec Brown of Green Bay will be subject to a feature soon here at the blog, and he came up big in the Phoenix's win Thursday over Valpo.
Numbers to figure
17: A new school record for 3-pointers for Michigan State Thursday night. The Spartans were in control from tip to final horn in beating Purdue 94-79. A needed no-doubt-about-it road victory for Tom Izzo's team.
Only Indiana has hit more than 16 3-pointers in a Big Ten game since 1996. Hoosiers made 17 twice: Jan 02 (Illinois), March 07 (Penn St.)— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) February 21, 2014
8-0: Toledo's record this season playing in games decided by four points or less. The Rockets won 60-58 at Bowling Green Thursday night. (H/T, @CHJournal)
6,626: Via ESPN, the past 86 games between Duke and North Carolina has led both teams to score exactly 6,626 points. UNC has won 44 of those games, Duke 42.
49: Number of years since ...
The last time a top-five Duke team lost to an unranked UNC team in Chapel Hill was Feb 27, 1965.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) February 21, 2014
Other outcomes of note:
- There was a big game in the MAAC tonight. Have said it before in Night Courts earlier this season, but if you aren't aware, the MAAC could provide the best postseason tournament of any small league this year. Quinnipiac went on the road and won at Canisius, getting to 13-4 in the league and taking a one-game advantage on Canisius.
- Connecticut improved to 21-5 by doing what SMU couldn't do last weekend: win at Temple. A 68-55 final. UConn went 2-of-13 from 3 and still made it academic. Good sign. Temple, just a lost season.
- Memphis, like UConn, won on the road in the AAC against a bad opponent tonight. The Tigers' game was closer, a 64-59 ending. Memphis got to 20 wins with this one, making it a school-record 14 straight seasons of reaching that mark.
- Nebraska beat Penn State 80-67 to move to 7-6 in the Big Ten and 15-10 overall. This is Nebraska's third season as a Big Ten member and the first time the basketball program's ever been above .500 in the league.
- C-USA team to keep note of, as it could win the league's auto bid: UTEP. Now 10-2 in Conference USA after beating Tulane 72-54.
- Southern Miss is one game behind UTEP in C-USA but did romp UTSA at home in order to stay within striking distance.
- Stanford got the win over USC, moving to 17-8 and is still, in my estimation, in the field heading into the weekend.
- Who couldn't keep up in C-USA? Louisiana Tech, which oddly got spanked at East Carolina, falling 75-68 to a team that earned just its third conference win of the season.
- Alabama's now 10-16 after falling 63-48 at Texas A&M. Nobody had the Tide this bad this season.
-- Per her Twitter bio, the Editor-in-Chief of North Carolina's student newspaper. Love it.
I TRIPPED RUSHNG THE COURT AND WAS STEPPED ON BUT I DONT CARE I GOT UP AND I WAS THERE GO TO HELL DOOK— Nicole Comparato (@Nic_Comp) February 21, 2014
-- That D-II game that "ended" in a tie won't end in a tie after all. The teams are schedule to finish up the job on Friday.
-- Marcus Paige was named as a second team academic All-American this week.
-- According to Forbes, the Syracuse-Duke ticket for Saturday is the most expensive one college basketball's had so far this season.
-- And, via NBC, a three-quarter-court winner at the high school level.