Florida fell victim to a freshman sharpshooter by the name of John Jenkins in their 64-60 loss. Jenkins made six of nine three-point attempts in scoring a team-high eighteen points and two other Commodores also scored in double figures. Vernon Macklin's 21 points weren't enough to offset Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker combining to shoot 3-for-24 from the field, and the unabashed firing away may have contributed to Chandler Parsons attempting just four shots. The Gators held the advantage in points in the paint and second-chance points but their frigid shooting (26.7% in the second half) was their undoing. But unlike the Bearcats, Florida may still be in decent shape when it comes to getting into the NCAA Tournament. The regular season finale is at Kentucky and a solid performance (at least) will certainly bolster their resume.
As for Illinois it seemed as if the players forgot the pregame scouting report on Ohio State, most notably Jon Diebler. How one of the Big Ten's best three-point shooters can attempt fourteen shots from behind the arc (making seven) has to be one of Tuesday's bigger mysteries. Evan Turner added his customary versatile floor game although the overall stat line wasn't as impressive as we've come to expect, and David Lighty and William Buford each scored in double figures to help the Buckeyes clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title with the 73-57 win. Demetri McCamey led the Illini with 18 points but their difficulties in defending the three (OSU: 10-21 3PT) and getting to the foul line (4-5 FT) resulted in them dropping a game that would have made them a lock for the Big Dance. Now they likely need a win over Wisconsin this weekend to seal the deal.
Three Key Happenings
1. UTEP clinches their first-ever Conference USA title. It's now official: someone other than Memphis has won Conference USA. Tony Barbee's UTEP Miners, who could be a handful for someone in the NCAA Tournament, were able to gut out a win at Marshall by the final score of 80-76. Randy Culpepper, one of the nation's most explosive guards, led the way with 32 points while Derrick Caracter added 18. UTEP was fortunate to make the key plays late as Marshall out-rebounded the Miners 50-35 with Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Wilkerson combining for thirty boards. The key for UTEP going into the Conference USA and NCAA tournaments will be the play of their frontcourt, most notably Caracter and Arnett Moultrie (1-10 FG on Tuesday). Those two have to be consistent if Tony Barbee's team has any hope of advancing.
2. Nearly fifteen years after Tyus Edney broke Tiger hearts Zaire Taylor saves Missouri in Ames. If not for Zaire Taylor the Missouri Tigers would have to find a way to explain dropping a game to an Iowa State team many expect them to handle with relative ease. Taylor hit an 18-footer with eighteen seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 61, and after a Cyclone turnover late in overtime he went the length of the floor to toss in an off-balanced shot at the buzzer. Missouri went into the game a virtual lock for an NCAA berth but a game like this is exactly the kind of game that, if lost, can touch off a nosedive to the finish line. They can now focus all of their energy on preparing to host Kansas over the weekend and they remain in contention for one of the four first-round byes in the Big 12 Tournament.
3. Murray State and Morehead State move one step closer to "round three" in the Ohio Valley. The two best teams in the OVC took care of business by identical 33-point margins on Tuesday, moving on to Friday's semifinals in Nashville. Ivan Aska led five players in double figures with seventeen points as the regular season champs routed Tennessee State 84-51, and Kenneth Faried led Morehead State with 24 points and 19 rebounds in their 87-54 win over Jacksonville State. Standing between these two and their second meeting in just over a week are Eastern Illinois (Murray State) and Tennessee Tech (Morehead State), with Mike Sutton's Eagles being the lone surprise. Tennessee Tech won at Austin Peay on a Kevin Murphy three-pointer with six seconds remaining, making this the first year since 2006 in which the Govenors did not advance to at least the semifinals. Could there be a surprise on Friday night? It's not out of the realm of possibility despite the performances of the two favorites to this point in the season.
Top Three Games
1. Missouri 69, Iowa St 67 (OT) See above.
2. Tennessee Tech 68, Austin Peay 65 See above.
3. Radford 64, Charleston Southern 61 (OT) The defending Big South champs nearly had their dreams of a repeat crushed on Tuesday night. Art Parakhouski led the way with 24 points and 13 rebounds while the Buccaneers went scoreless for the first 3:44 of the extra session. Jeremy Sexton led the Buccaneers with 18 points.
Three Notable Performances
1. G J.P. Primm (UNC Asheville) Primm posted a line of 23 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in the Bulldogs' 84-73 Big South quarterfinal win over High Point.
2. F Kenneth Faried (Morehead State) 24 points and 19 rebounds in Morehead State's 87-54 win over Jacksonville State.
3. Forwards Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Wilkerson (Marshall) Whiteside (20 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks) and Wilkerson (22 points, 16 rebounds) were outstanding in the Thundering Herd's 80-76 loss to UTEP.