Going into Sunday's game at Wichita State, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels were on the tail end of an eight-day stretch that began with a win over then-#1 North Carolina followed by a double-overtime win at UCSB. To say the least this wasn't the easiest way to end that stretch, and Joe Ragland and the Shockers made sure that was the case. Ragland made eight of nine from beyond the arc in scoring a game-high 31 points, and as a team Wichita State shot 12-for-23 from distance in the 89-70 win. Ragland had issues early on the defensive end of the floor, but that changed and as a result the visitors found themselves having a hard time slowing the senior guard down.
"I didn't expect that type of game from Joe Ragland but honestly, I've expected some game similar to that," said Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall. "He's just a dynamite performer...he took it upon himself to bounce back from those missed defensive assignments that cost us a couple baskets early, and when he got back in there he was on a mission."
UNLV didn't play terribly in the first half but they still trailed 47-32 at the break due to a 24-3 Wichita State advantage in points scored from beyond the arc. Ragland made all five of his shots while David Kyles added two and Garrett Stutz, while UNLV made just one of nine shots from deep. The Shockers also did a good job of sharing the basketball as they assisted on ten of seventeen field goals. That was another difference between the two teams as UNLV assisted on just four of ten first-half field goals.
UNLV played better in the second half offensively, making 50% of their shots and assisting on more than half of their baskets (season assist percentage: 67.6%), but they simply could not stop Ragland or the rest of the Shockers. For the game Wichita State finished with an efficiency of 150.8. To put that number in perspective UNLV's opponents average an efficiency of 90.1 with a high of 106.0 (UCSB) according to the website statsheet.com.
Wichita State didn't have the best trip to Puerto Rico as they lost two of three games to finish fourth in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but the Shockers have improved in the three games since. There should be no doubt that they're going to be right there fighting for the Missouri Valley crown.
Other Notable Happenings
1. San Diego State hangs on to beat California at home by a point.
California was without the services of forward Richard Solomon on Sunday afternoon as he'd been suspended by head coach Mike Montgomery, meaning that they went small with a three-guard lineup. The insertion of Justin Cobbs was a good one as the Minnesota transfer scored 17 points, but with Jorge Gutierrez struggling (3-12 FG, six points) the Golden Bears had their issues on the offensive end against San Diego State. Chase Tapley was SDSU's lone double-figure scorer (25 points) but a key 14-3 run to end the first half gave Steve Fisher's team the breathing room they needed in what would end up being a 64-63 victory. Cal would pull even in the second half but could only gain the lead once (51-50 with 6:33 remaining) despite the play of Cobbs and Allen Crabbe (23 points, nine rebounds). With their loss to Creighton on Wednesday night, San Diego State needed this win to avoid an 0-2 week and thanks in large part to Tapley they got it.
2. Keep an eye on American, who has now won seven straight, in the Patriot League.
Bucknell is the defending league champion and Lehigh has one of the nation's most prolific guards in C.J. McCollum, but don't expect the Patriot League to simply be a two-team race. Jeff Jones' American Eagles won their seventh straight game on Sunday as Charles Hinkle scored a game-high 32 points in a 66-60 win over Saint Joseph's. The Eagles led 38-28 at the half thanks to both Hinkle (17 points) and the defensive effort against SJU guards Langston Galloway and Carl Jones, who combined to score just two points. Jones scored 11 points in the second half but it wasn't enough to overcome a 3-for-17 night from beyond the arc at Bender Arena. If there's a concern for American in the aftermath of Sunday's win it would have to be their play in the paint, with C.J. Aiken and Halil Kanacevic leading the way in a 34-16 SJU scoring edge. if the Eagles can improve in that area leading into league play next month, they'll be better equipped to take on the likes of Bucknell's Mike Muscala in league play.
3. Baylor's zone defense proves to be too much for Northwestern.
For all the press sent Kentucky's way the Wildcats may not have the most distracting front line in the country. Baylor could make a very good case for that distinction however, and their qualifications were on full display in a 69-41 win at Northwestern. Anthony Jones, Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller are four big reasons why, as their wingspan and activity within Scott Drew's matchup zone can eliminate both good looks and lanes to the basket. Northwestern could get little going offensively, shooting 24.1% from the field and shooting 4-for-26 from beyond the arc.
Even worse for the Wildcats was that once they got inside of the zone they made just 31% of their two-point shots, a difference of 19 percent from their season average. Also of note for Baylor was the play of point guard Pierre Jackson, who finished with 16 points and three assists. As he goes so will the Bears come March because even with the mid-season addition of Cal transfer Gary Franklin, Jackson could still be their best option at the point. At the very least, few teams will be looking forward to playing Baylor because of the defensive prowess of their big men.
1. While debating the merits of 9-0 Tulane it needs to be pointed out that Murray State is also undefeated, and they handled Dayton 75-58 on Sunday afternoon. Isaiah Canaan scored 21 points and dished out five assists to lead the way, and the Racers forced 17 Dayton turnovers while also limiting them to 3-for-14 from three.
2. Alasdair Frasier scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead three starters in double figures as Maine beat Rhode Island 76-74 in overtime in Kingston. The effort was better for the Rams but that doesn't change the fact that Jim Baron's team has lost seven of their first eight.
3. The process of rebuilding Manhattan is nowhere near complete for first-year head coach Steve Masiello, but the Jaspers are 2-0 in MAAC play following their 68-42 win over Saint Peter's. George Beamon led the way with 22 points (7-9 FG), four rebounds and four steals, but the defense stood out as Saint Peter's shot just 32.6% and turned the ball over 17 times.
4. Alex Abreu returned from a two-game suspension but it wasn't enough to prevent Akron from getting whipped 77-53 at Middle Tennessee. The Zips, who have lost four of their last five after a 2-0 start, shot 28.6% from both the field and from three on Sunday.
5. Stanford made the plays needed late to move to 8-1, beating NC State 76-72 in Palo Alto. Josh Owens led the way with 19 points and seven rebounds and Anthony Brown added 12 off the bench. Johnny Dawkins' team could be one to watch in the Pac-12.
6. Kansas State passed their first test of the season as they won at Virginia Tech 69-61. Jamar Samuels impressed with 17 points and 14 rebounds and Shane Southwell added 11 off the bench.
7. Oregon State posted an impressive win to close the day, beating expected Big Sky contender Montana 71-46. Ahmad Starks led four Beavers in double figures with 17 points, and Craig Robinson's team looked very good in a game that prior Oregon State teams would either struggle with or lose.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Joe Ragland (Wichita State)
31 points (8-9 3PT), five rebounds and three assists in the Shockers' 89-70 win over UNLV.
2. G Terrell Stoglin (Maryland)
31 points (11-20 FG), five rebounds and two assists in the Terrapins' 78-71 win over Notre Dame.
3. F Jamar Samuels (Kansas State)
17 points (7-8 FG) and 14 rebounds in the Wildcats' 69-61 win at Virginia Tech.