While there's a lot of respect for the two-time defending Ivy League champion Cornell Big Red few people expected Steve Donahue's team to pull off the upset at top-ranked Kansas. But while the Big Red didn't complete the task they did have the nation on tilt for most of the game before falling 71-66. Sherron Collins led the way with 33 points as the Jayhawks enjoyed a free throw margin of +20 in the second half (23-3) and a +14 in points scored from the charity stripe. Normally one of the best rebounding teams in the country Kansas only broke even on the boards in a game that was controlled tempo-wise by Cornell.
Ryan Wittman led the Big Red with 24 points but his three-point attempt to tie fell short, allowing the Jayhawks to seal the game with a pair of foul shots. But there should be no glossing over what Cornell did at Allen Fieldhouse, holding Kansas to 36.7% shooting from the field and making a deep team known for its ability to change the way their opponents execute play their game and it nearly paid off. After the game Kansas looked at the contest as a positive; an NCAA Tournament-caliber test before they take on Big 12 play and that's accurate.
The same goes for Cornell, although they're in no mood to accept moral victories. They've played an outstanding non-conference schedule and won the majority of their games. But now they go into Ivy League play next week, where Harvard may be the only opponent that they can beat and have the result resonate (somewhat) nationally. If Cornell can take care of business the overall strength of the Ivy League lends itself to the Big Red's profile being lowered some. That would be unfair but if it were to happen look out for them, especially if they were to draw the annual four- or five-seed from a BCS conference that's overseeded.
Three Key Happenings
1. Marquette finally closes the door on a big conference win. The Golden Eagles were in dire need of a league win, having already dropped heartbreakers to Villanova and West Virginia. But they may have drawn just the right opponent in Georgetown, who plays a style that can be conducive to capable underdogs hanging around for forty minutes. And that's exactly what happened, with Marquette knocking down twelve three pointers on their way to a 62-59 win at the Bradley Center. David Cubillan made six of those threes and the Golden Eagles were a +24 in points from behind the arc.
After getting a stop with less than eight seconds left in the game Jimmy Butler made a pair of free throws to extend the lead to three. Quite fitting for a guy who missed a crucial free throw in their loss at West Virginia. The Golden Eagles survived shooting 38.9% from the field due to their marksmanship from deep, and while they may not be able to count on that every night in the Big East it was enough to get them their first conference win.
2. BYU comes back to knock off UNLV in the Mountain West opener for both. Jimmer Fredette was under the weather with strep throat and an allergic reaction (hence the long sleeves) but the Cougars were still able to make a second-half comeback in beating UNLV 77-73 at the Marriott Center. Noah Hartsock and Jonathan Tavernari led the way with seventeen points apiece, with Hartsock scoring thirteen in the first half while Tavernari scored fourteen in the second half. Jackson Emery and Tyler Haws were also called upon offensively, and Michael Loyd Jr. added seven off the bench while making some key plays that won't show up in the box score.
UNLV was led by Tre'Von Willis, who finished with a game-high 24 points, but no other player scored more than nine. Add to that the difference at the foul line, where BYU outscored UNLV by eleven, and you've got the key reasons for the Cougar comeback. This isn't a terrible loss for the Rebels; it's more than understandable to drop a road conference game especially when it comes in one of the toughest buildings in the nation to win in. But for Dave Rose's team to win on a night that saw Fredette at less than 100% bodes well for their prospects down the line.
3. Oregon State...yeah. It's a bit ironic that one of the lead stories on Wednesday morning was the 170-35 beating that Yates (TX) HS dropped on an overmatched opponent given what happened in Corvallis. Seattle, now a provisional Division I member, beat Oregon State 99-48. At one point the score was 88-39, and this all happened with star forward Charles Garcia scoring just ten points in fifteen foul-plagued minutes. If this were the Seattle teams of Elgin Baylor's era this would be understandable. But to be in a BCS conference there is no way in which you should lose like this. And even in a league as wildly unpredictable as the Pac-10 (Stanford beat USC and UCLA beat Cal on Wednesday) we now know definitively who the worst team in that conference is. They should consider themselves lucky that Cameron Dollar called off the dogs.
Top Three Games
1. Kansas 71, Cornell 66 See above.
2. UCLA 76, California 75 The end result of a wild scramble in the final seconds of overtime was Michael Roll knocking down a jumper from sixteen feet to give UCLA the upset victory in Berkeley. Roll led the Bruins with nineteen points while Cal's Theo Robertson led all scorers with twenty-four.
3. Marquette 62, Georgetown 59 See above.
Three Notable Performances
1. F/C Epke Udoh (Baylor) Udoh was sensational in the Bears' 79-63 win over Morgan State, scoring 18 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking ten shots. It's the fifth triple-double in school history.
2. G Bradford Burgess (VCU) Burgess scored thirty points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Rams' 75-72 loss at Drexel.
3. F Maurice McNeil (Houston) McNeil put together his best performance of the season on Wednesday, scoring 23 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking six shots in the Cougars' 83-66 win at city rival Rice.