It's been an interesting couple of days in college basketball when it comes to travel issues, with Purdue having to bus to Michigan State in the early hours of Saturday for a noon tip. While the Boilermakers hung tough in the first half they lost their legs in the second as the Spartans rolled. So what was going to happen to San Diego State, whose trek to Laramie for an important Mountain West game against Wyoming took 20 hours, not to mention the fact that they'd be playing more than 7,000 feet above sea level? The Aztecs seemed to find their second wind in the second half, opening the stanza on a 16-4 run on their way to the 52-42 win.
SDSU shot 57.1% from the field in the second half while limiting the Cowboys to 7-for-27, and their defense helped make up for 19 turnovers that Wyoming was able to convert into 18 points. Chase Tapley and Jamaal Franklin scored 12 points apiece for San Diego State, who remains a game ahead of UNLV with a 4-0 league mark, and Franklin also grabbed eleven rebounds (unfortunately he was three turnovers away from a triple-double).
Leonard Washington (12 points, eight rebounds) and Luke Martinez (11 points) led the way for the Pokes, who have dropped two conference home games (New Mexico before this) and are still in search of a marquee win to add to their resume. Foul trouble short-circuited Wyoming in the first half but they were able to hang close, trailing 25-22 at the break. But their offensive struggles coming out of the gates in the second half proved to be the difference.
"They played very good position defense, but they didn't pressure us other than for a few possessions when JayDee [Luster] was out," remarked Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt. "They are a tough, competitive group of kids, and they have an arrogance where they expect to win. All good teams have that."
Given the fact that there were just 58 possessions in the game neither team was all that great at taking care of the basketball, combining for 34 turnovers on the night. San Diego State made the most of the possessions they were able to get through without turning the ball over, shooting 51.2% from the field and 45.5% from three. Both teams made five three-pointers on the night, but SDSU only attempted 11 to Wyoming's 22. The Cowboys attempted eight more field goals and six more free throws but it was they who looked to be the team that spent 20 hours on the road, and that's a credit to Steve Fisher, his staff and most importantly the players.
"It had no impact on the game at all, in my opinion," said Fisher of the travel issues. "We've had problems in Laramie my thirteen trips in here. It's a hard place to play and win. To come in here and get a win, I'm very appreciative, and do believe we earned it."
Other Notable Happenings
1. Michigan hangs on to beat Purdue in West Lafayette.
It's safe to say that Michigan didn't get off to a good start at Arkansas on Saturday afternoon, but to their credit the Wolverines fought back before falling short 66-64. No such beginning on Tuesday night for Michigan, but they needed a missed Robbie Hummel three in the final seconds to beat Purdue 66-64 in West Lafayette. Tim Hardaway Jr. led four Michigan players in double figures with 19 points and forwards Jordan Morgan and Evan Smotrycz combined for 22 points in the win.
Michigan wasn't as reliant on the three-point shot as they normally are in their system, attempting 14 (making six). But that's fine when they're able to find enough good shots from two to shoot 58.3% inside of the arc. Purdue on the other hand shot 9-for-26 from deep, and Hummel and Lewis Jackson combined to score 33 of their 64 points. With the win Michigan remains atop the Big Ten standings with a 6-2 mark, and if they can get play like this from Morgan and Smotrycz on a consistent basis they'll remain a contender for the Big Ten title.
2. Baylor bounces back from an 0-2 week by winning at Oklahoma.
It was a tough week for Scott Drew's Bears but that was understandable given the fact that they were playing a Top 10 team on the road (Kansas) and a Top 5 team at home (Missouri). The issue came in how they lost especially when considering rebounding, and while Oklahoma still managed to grab 12 offensive rebounds they weren't able to fully take advantage. Perry Jones III scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Baylor to the 77-65 win, with Oklahoma's poor three-point shooting (3-for-12) also playing a role in the outcome.
Baylor on the other hand made nine of their eighteen shots from beyond the arc, and when combined with a 14-for-17 night from the charity stripe it isn't too difficult to figure out why the 12 offensive boards allowed wasn't a killer. Pierre Jackson scored 16 points and dished out seven assists but also had six of Baylor's 12 turnovers, but the Sooners only scored 12 points off of those turnovers. Romero Osby scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Steven Pledger scored 17 to lead Oklahoma, who dropped to 2-5 in league play with the defeat.
3. Texas picks up a key win over Iowa State to split the season series.
Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones have made their way into the NCAA Tournament discussion with their play throughout the season but they let a good opportunity slip through their fingers with a 72-65 loss at Texas. A win would have given the Cyclones a sweep of the season series, and if both teams were to end up on the bubble that would be a nice line to have on their resume. What makes the defeat even more painful is that Texas won despite J'Covan Brown shooting 3-for-16 from the field.
Myck Kabongo led the Longhorns with 13 points and Julien Lewis chipped in with 12 and seven rebounds, giving Texas a much-needed home win as their next two games are at Baylor and home against Missouri. Iowa State shot just 33.3% from the field and 5-for-21 from three, and starters Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen combined to make just two of their fourteen shots from the field. Iowa State will have plenty of good opportunities for resume-building wins between now and March, but this defeat may put a little more pressure on them to split their next two games (home against Kansas and Kansas State).
1. Despite 25 points and nine rebounds from Ball State's Jarrod Jones, Akron won 70-58 in Muncie to remain in sole possession of first place in the MAC East. Quincy Diggs and Brian Walsh scored 16 points apiece to lead the Zips and Alex Abreu added 12 on four three-pointers.
2. Kentucky forward Anthony Davis moved to third on the list of most blocked shots in a single season in SEC history, blocking five shots to move his total to 98 in the Wildcats' 57-44 win at Georgia. Darius Miller scored 19 points off the bench and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 14 and 11 rebounds as Kentucky moved to 6-0 in conference play.
3. In Nashville, Vanderbilt blitzed Tennessee early on their way to a 65-47 win as Jeffery Taylor led the way with 23 points, nine rebounds and four steals. John Jenkins added 16 as the Commodores were able to win in comfortable fashion in spite of Festus Ezeli's ejection for a flagrant 2 foul in the first half.
4. With two of their next three games being road contests against ranked teams, there was some thought that we'd find out how good USF is. The first game didn't go well for the Bulls as they fell 67-47 at #18 Marquette. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick led the Bulls with 19 points and ten rebounds but as a team USF shot 35.6% from the field and turned the ball over 20 times, leading to 20 Marquette points.
5. If Jim Larranaga's Miami team is to make a run at a spot on the NCAA Tournament bubble they need to avoid stubbing their toe against teams they're expected to beat in the ACC. That was the case on Tuesday as the Hurricanes beat Georgia Tech 64-49 thanks in large part to 21 points and eight rebounds from Kenny Kadji. Miami needs to take care of business against Boston College and Maryland ahead of their trip to Duke on February 5th.
6. While Buffalo does have one of the country's most underrated players in Javon McCrea, they've also got another solid forward by the name of Mitchell Watt. Watt scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds to compliment McCrea's 17 points as the Bulls beat Eastern Michigan 67-47 to remain a game behind Akron in the MAC East.
Three Notable Performances
1. F/C Will Davis II (UC Irvine)
21 points (9-10 FG), ten rebounds and five blocks in the Anteaters' 78-67 win over Seattle.
2. F Perry Jones III (Baylor)
21 points and 12 rebounds in the Bears' 77-65 win at Oklahoma.
3. F Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt)
23 points, nine rebounds and four steals in the Commodores' 65-47 win over Tennessee.