It wasn't pretty but USF found a way to get the job done, beating Cincinnati 46-45 to move to 11-5 in the Big East and 18-11 overall. Freshman point guard Anthony Collins made a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds remaining to give the Bulls the win, and while it isn't a resume-building win the Bulls did the simplest thing a bubble team can do this time of the year: they won. Collins, who is going to be an outstanding point guard in the Big East as he gains experience, led USF with 14 points and five assists and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick added eight and ten rebounds.
With their three most important big men all in foul trouble in the first half, #4 Duke could have been in some trouble at #16 Florida State on Thursday night. But Florida State was unable to take advantage of this offensively, and the Seminoles were unable to corral Andre Dawkins or Austin Rivers either. Dawkins was on fire in the first half as he knocked down five of seven three-pointers (18 points) on his way to a 22-point night and Rivers added 20 in Duke's 74-66 victory.
There's the perception that the trip to Tallahassee has been a nightmare for #4 Duke (23-4, 10-2) in recent years, but while it is a tough trip the Blue Devils hadn't lost there since 2006 before their 66-61 loss last January. On the line tonight is a share of first place (with North Carolina), a position few expected #16 Florida State (19-7, 10-2) to be in as they were struggling in November and December.
With games at #13 San Diego State and against #11 UNLV this week, Steve Alford's New Mexico Lobos had a great opportunity to not only take control of the Mountain West but also make a statement nationally.
NO. 21 FLORIDA STATE (18-7, 9-2 ACC) AT NORTH CAROLINA STATE (18-8, 7-4 ACC)
Time: 1 p.m.
With hopes of not only remaining a factor in the ACC race but also notching their first win at #5 Duke since 1995, NC State was more than motivated for Thursday night's battle. And they played that way out of the gates, scoring the first eight points of the game and leading by as many as 19 points in the first half. But while the Wolfpack would continue to control play in the early portion of the second half, the foul trouble that developed for Mark Gottfried's team in the first half began to take its toll.
Saturday is the day that many college basketball fans have been waiting for, with a number of important matchups on the slate. One of those games is #4 Missouri (22-2, 9-2) hosting #6 Baylor (21-3, 8-3) with the Bears looking to keep alive their fleeting hopes of winning the league title. Scott Drew's team is 0-3 in games against the two teams now ahead of them in the standings, most recently being whipped by Kansas in Waco.
There have been some thrilling comebacks in the history of the Duke/North Carolina rivalry, but surprisingly there haven't been many games that have been decided at the buzzer. Wednesday night's game in Chapel Hill wasn't a case of "down eight with 17 seconds to go" as it was in meetings in 1974 (UNC with the comeback and win) and 1995 (Duke with the comeback but UNC ended up winning), but with the Tar Heels up ten (80-70) with 3:35 remaining one would expect them to win.