College Hoops Wednesday Recap: Even More Bubble Follies
Also called onto the carpet is Baylor, who once again failed to take care of the basketball and fell 77-59 at Missouri. The Bears turned the ball over 21 times with LaceDarius Dunn compounding his 4-for-14 night from the field with a team-worst six turnovers. Perry Jones III turned the ball over four times and Anthony Jones and A.J. Walton finished with three apiece. Laurence Bowers led the Tigers with 20 points and nine rebounds to go along with six steals and two blocks, and as a team the TIgers out-rebounded Baylor 34-32. That's quite the achievement for a team (Missouri) that's dropped games this season due to their inability to keep bigger opponents off the boards. While winning in Columbia is tough, what Wednesday's loss did for Baylor was make Saturday's loss to Texas Tech at home stand out even more. That's why teams can ill-afford to drop games they're expected to win.
Then there's Duquesne and UTEP, two teams who are either at or near the top of their respective leagues but have limited credentials. The Dukes fell to Rhode Island at home 77-76, and after an 8-0 start to Atlantic 10 play Ron Everhart's team has lost four of their last five and hold just a one-game lead in the loss column for fourth place (the top four get a bye to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament). As for the Miners, they fell 83-76 at East Carolina in a game that saw both head coach Tim Floyd and an assistant tossed for arguing with the officials. As a result of the defeat UTEP drops a game behind the trio of Memphis, Southern Miss and UAB in the Conference USA, making Saturday's game at Memphis all the more important. The good news for UTEP: the conference tournament in on their floor, and they'll more than likely need that automatic bid to feel secure about their prospects.
Other teams taking on tough losses were Florida State (at Maryland), New Mexico (UNLV at home) and VCU (at Drexel). Florida State's the most interesting case of these three due to the loss of Chris Singleton due to injury. Since losing him in the win over Virginia they've beaten Wake Forest and lost at Maryland, and while taking care of business against Miami and NC State should help (with North Carolina in between) the selection committee does look at how teams are playing after an injury. With their best player the Seminoles are a much better team, but that also means they'll need to impress to a certain extent with Singleton out in order to lock down an at-large bid. But the bubble's weakness likely provides a number of teams with extra opportunities simply by default, because once again someone has to go dancing.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Cincinnati picks up a win at Georgetown and the Hoyas also lose Chris Wright.
The game at Georgetown was one many circled in regards to Mick Cronin's team picking up a statement victory on the road. The Bearcats got it done at the Verizon Center, beating the Hoyas 58-46 in a game that will be talkes about more for the broken left hand suffered by Georgetown point guard Chris Wright. Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates scored 17 points apiece (Gates also grabbed 11 rebounds) and Rashad Bishop added 12, and Austin Freeman scored 19 to lead Georgetown (Freeman was the only Hoya to make more than one field goal). Georgetown shot 25% from the field for the game, including 4-for-23 in the second half, and they struggled offensively before Wright left for good.
Now the question is how the Hoyas go about winning without the senior, beginning with Saturday's game against Syracuse. Vee Sanford and Markel Starks stand to see an increase in minutes and the same likely goes for Hollis Thompson if John Thompson III decided to use Jason Clark at the point more. Losing Wright is a serious blow but the Hoyas have to have the mentality of "next man up". Losing their senior point guard indefinitely can kill their season if they allow it to, but there are some veterans on this team who have the ability to step up. Whether or not they do so will be up to them.
2. Kyle Singler snaps out of his shooting slump in Duke's win over Temple.
In Duke's two games before the matchup with Temple the senior forward shot a combined 6-for-19 in wins over Virginia and Georgia Tech (expanding that out to the last five games, Singler shot 20-for-61). When you have teammates like Nolan Smith and Seth Curry to pick up the slack offensively a short slump can be navigated, but at some point the Blue Devils needed Singler to return to the form many have become accustomed to seeing. That happened against Temple as Singler made 10 of 19 shots and scored 28 points in the Blue Devils' 78-61 win over the Owls. Nolan Smith added 15 and Mason Plumlee grabbed 13 rebounds, and Duke scored 18 points off of 12 Temple turnovers.
Singler's "return" is the biggest thing to take out of the contest, a good opportunity for both teams to take on a non-conference opponent that offers a challenge similar to what awaits in the NCAA Tournament. "Tonight he took them with more physicality, much more force and finished," remarked head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "The first shot he took tonight was like the shots he has been taking. He missed that layup. You got to attack the rim. We reminded of that and he did attack the rim the rest of the game." (quote courtesy of Duke Athletics)
3. Missouri State and Wichita State both win, setting up a showdown on Saturday for the Missouri Valley crown.
While Utah State (WAC) became the most recent team to lock up at the least an NIT bid, Wednesday's results set up a showdown for a postseason berth with Missouri State and Wichita State both winning to remain tied atop the MVC. Will Creekmore had one of the best performances of his career, leading Missouri State with 26 points and 11 rebounds in a 76-58 win at Southern Illinois. In moving to 14-3 in league play Cuonzo Martin's team set school records for league wins (both road and overall) in a season. The Bears shot 53% from the field while limiting the Salukis to 33%, also out-rebounding Southern Illinois 36-25 on the night. Their reward comes in the form of hosting the Shockers on Saturday afternoon with the crown on the line as Wichita State hung on to beat Creighton 67-65.
Aaron Ellis' shot with 1.5 seconds remaining was the difference at Charles Koch Arena, and J.T. Durley (16 points) and Joe Ragland (15) led the way offensively for Gregg Marshall's team. Wichita State assisted on 19 of their 22 field goals and turned the ball over just nine times while forcing 15 Blue Jay turnovers. The Bears won the first meeting back on January 9th 59-56, outscoring the Shockers by 12 from beyond the arc (24-12) with both teams turning the ball over 15 times. Wichita State was unable to take advantage of their edge in size, something they'll need to do on Saturday if they're to beat the Bears at JQH Arena.
Top Three Games
1. (9) Notre Dame 94, Providence 93 Marshon Brooks made history in Providence, scoring a Big East (and school) record 52 points on 20-for-28 shooting from the field. But it wasn't enough to ensure an upset for the Friars as Ben Hansbrough (32 points) and Tim Abromaitis (28) combined to score 60 points for the Fighting Irish.
2. (12) Wisconsin 53, Michigan 52 Ignore the final score, as this may have been the most heartbreaking defeat incurred by any team this season. After the Wolverines expertly used their fouls to give, Jordan Taylor found an open Josh Gasser, who banked home the game-winning three as time expired. Taylor finished with 20 points, five assists and four rebounds to lead the Badgers. Tim Hardaway Jr. led Michigan with 16 points.
3. Arkansas 77, (22) Kentucky 76 (OT) The Razorbacks snapped their 10-game losing streak to Kentucky while also dropping the Wildcats to 1-6 in SEC road games. Rotnei Clarke (26 points) and Marshawn Powell (22 points, 10 rebounds) led Arkansas while Brandon Knight paced the Wildcats with 26, eight rebounds and five assists.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Marshon Brooks (Providence) 52 points (20-28 FG) , five rebounds and four assists in the Friars' 94-93 loss to Notre Dame. Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough scored 32 points and handed out four assists.
2. G Chad Tomko (UNC Wilmington) 21 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in the Seahawks' 71-64 loss to Hofstra.
3. G Adrian Oliver (San Jose State) 36 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists in the Spartans' 72-70 overtime win over New Mexico State.