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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 was also a disaster, getting absolutely destroyed by Tennessee 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.
Other daytime action worth your attention
- Indiana will remain No. 1 another week after the Hoosiers cruised past Purdue. Victor Oladipo limped to the locker room in the first half but did return to the bench.
- No. 7 Florida is back to obliterating all SEC opponents, knocking down 15 3-pointers in a 31-point win over Auburn.
- In an important bubble game in the ACC, North Carolina pushed the issue offensively and handled Virginia. 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 struggled mightily from the perimeter, hitting just one 3-pointer, as Providence won its fourth in a row. The Friars are going to be a team to keep an eye on next season.
- La Salle has now won four in a row after beating Saint Joseph’s. The Explorers continue to state their case for an at-large bid. They’re going to be a fun team to watch.
- Iowa State didn’t help its at-large resume with a dominant win over TCU, but the Cyclones would have a done tremendous damage with a loss. A road game at Baylor on Wednesday will be important.
- NC State didn’t look outstanding, needing overtime to beat Virginia Tech 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
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