Corey Stokes made his return to the lineup for the Wildcats and was their best offensive player, making seven of thirteen from the field to score a game-high 24 points, making all five Villanova three-pointers as well. But fellow guards Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns were ice-cold from the field, shooting a combined 4-for-25 from the field and as a team Villanova shot 32.3%. Isaiah Armwood added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds but it wasn't enough to avoid dropping to 9-6 in Big East play. Syracuse's third straight win moves them to 10-6 in Big East play and puts them back into the conversation for one of those double-bye slots in the upcoming Big East Tournament.
And in a weird scheduling break for the Orange they've got just two games left in the regular season: at Georgetown on Saturday and DePaul in the home finale the following week. They'll have plenty of time to make adjustments on both ends of the floor, with the hope likely being to get guys such as Fab Melo and James Southerland to reach a level where they can be counted on for a few minutes down the road. But at the very least the light schedule gives guys like Jackson, Jardine, Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche some time off as they'll be the ones who have to lead Syracuse in March.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Tyshawn Taylor's absence has no impact as Kansas throttles Oklahoma State.
Any chance that Oklahoma State had of leaving Lawrence with a much-needed victory disappeared about halfway through the first half, with Kansas going on a 23-6 run over an eight-minute stretch to blow the game wide open. Marcus Morris scored 27 points while brother Markieff and Elijah Johnson added 15 apiece in a 92-65 win that keeps the Jayhawks within a game of first place Texas atop the Big 12. Marshall Moses scored a game-high 27 points but it was an uphill battle for the senior, especially when Keiton Page shoots 2-for-11 and Matt Pilgrim finds a way to play just 13 minutes before fouling out early in the second half. The biggest impact felt in the suspenseon of guard Tyshawn Taylor: the opportunity for Johnson to play more minutes, and as he did early in the season with Josh Selby out he took advantage of the time. The Jayhawks shot 54.4% and out-rebounded the Cowboys 38-25 on the night, and it's near impossible to beat Kansas when they're able to do that.
2. Green Bay's win over Valparaiso adds a lot of intrigue to the Horizon League race.
Bryquis Perine came up with a good way to celebrate his Senior Night and in the process made things a lot more interesting in the Horizon League. Perine's jumper with 11 seconds left in overtime gave Green Bay an 81-80 win over then-first place Valparaiso, dropping the Crusaders into third place (tied with Milwaukee) with two league games to go. Cleveland State sits atop the league with a 12-4 record and just a half-game behind them at 12-5 in Butler, a team more than a few counted out of the title race just a couple weeks ago. All four teams have a shot at earning the top seed in the upcoming conference tournament, the golden carrot that also means hosting the quarters and semis of the event (the highest remaining seed hosts the final). At this point it's safe to assume that Butler, Cleveland State and Valparaiso will be playing in a postseason tournament in March. But the fight to figure out which one became even more interesting following Monday night's result.
3. Texas Southern avenges their lone conference loss to move to 13-1 in the SWAC.
Tony Harper's Tigers have now one seven straight games, beating Mississippi Valley State 58-55 in overtime on Monday night to avenge their lone SWAC loss to move to 13-1 in conference play. Texas Southern is now three games ahead of Jackson State in the loss column with four games to go, but thanks to their season sweep of JSU Coach Harvey's team is likely one win away from sewing up an NIT berth. Travele Jones scored 17 points and Lawrence Johnson-Danner added 13 for Texas Southern, who won just three games in the non-conference portion of their schedule. Jones has reached double-figures in every game he's played (missing the first seven due to compliance issues), and averages a team-best 17.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. They've been tested in the non-conference portion of their schedule and it's paid off within the SWAC for Texas Southern, the goal for many of the HBCUs who play such a schedule in order to both build experience and balance the athletic department accounts.
Top Three Games
1. Green Bay 81, Valparaiso 80 (OT)
2. Kent State 74, Western Michigan 72 Michael Porrini was the hero in Kalamazoo, scoring the final of his 19 points off the bench on a jumper with two seconds remaining to knock off WMU. Flenard Whitfield, whose layup with 48 seconds remaining tied the game at 72, finished with 24 points and eight rebounds to lead the Broncos.
3. (20) Syracuse 69, (14) Villanova 64
Three Notable Performances
1. C Alec Brown (Green Bay) 22 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in the Phoenix' 81-80 overtime win over Valparaiso.
2. F Antwaine Wiggins (Charleston) 24 points (10-13 FG), nine rebounds and four assists in the Cougars' 75-49 win over Samford.
3. F Marcus Morris (Kansas) 27 points, five rebounds and two steals in the Jayhawks' 92-65 win over Oklahoma State.