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Great early slate doesn’t disappoint

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No. 23 Louisville 79, No. 5 UConn 78, 2OT: Two weeks ago, Peyton Siva was being booed at home by Louisville fans. I think he’ll get a much nicer welcome when he gets back to Louisville today. Siva had 19 points, seven assists, four boards, three steals, and two blocks while helping to hold Kemba Walker to 20 points on 7-23 shooting as the Cardinals went into Gampel Pavilion and knocked off the Huskies in double overtime. As good as he was all game, Siva was at his best down the stretch. He made Shabazz Napier look silly, driving through the UConn defense for a dunk at the end of the first overtime to tie the game. Then in the second overtime, Siva had two big drives in the second overtime to help Louisville hold on to their lead.

UConn had their chances. Kemba missed a fall away over two defenders at the end of regulation, gave up the ball at the end of the first overtime to Jeremy Lamb who missed three at the buzzer of the first overtime, and had a 30 foot three go in and out at the end of the game. Louisville really focused their defense on Kemba the entire game, but particularly in the clutch. As good as Lamb (21 points, but none in the second half) and Napier (23 points) were, UConn is going to need them to become more confident in late game situations.

While this really is a great win for Louisville, who spent much of the second half down, it is far for a disastrous loss for UConn. More than anything, its just another example of how balanced the top six teams in the Big East are.

No. 21 Georgetown 69, No. 8 Villanova 66: Maybe Villanova’s win at Syracuse last Saturday was more a sign of the the Orange’s struggles than the Wildcat’s greatness. Georgetown went into the Wells-Fargo Center this afternoon and jumped out to a lead on Nova that eventually reached double digits. The Wildcats made a run down the stretch, getting to within a point, but Antonio Pena missed an NBA three that would have tied the game on the final possession.

Austin Freeman was terrific for the Hoyas. He had 30 points and hit a number of big shots down the stretch. Also of note was the performance of Henry Sims and Nate Lubick, who combined for 13 points, six boards, and three blocks, although they were bigger factor than their numbers indicate. Most important? Georgetown was able to go to Philly and win despite getting nothing — as in zero points — from Chris Wright.

For the Wildcats, the issue was shooting more than anything. It took them too long to finally start hitting their open shots.

Xavier 85, Richmond 62: Any list of the best coaching performances in America would be incomplete if it doesn’t include Chris Mack. With all of the injury and eligibility issues that the Musketeers have had this season, they went into the Robins Center and smacked the Spiders by 23 points. The win moved the Muskies to 7-0 in league play, thanks in large part to 33 points, seven boards, and five assists from Tu Holloway, who easily won the battle of the point guards. Kevin Anderson finished with just 10 points on 4-16 shooting.

As expected, Justin Harper was fantastic. He had 20 points, five boards, two steals, and two blocks. But his lack of strength inside was evident as Kenny Frease went for 19 points and Jamel McLean had seven points and 12 boards.

Clemson 62, No. 22 Florida State 44: Florida State is the most confusing team in the country. Most had chalked up their loss to Auburn as a bit of a fluke after they beat Duke. The Seminoles were making a solid case to be the second best team in the ACC … until today. The Seminoles were embarrassed by the Tigers, shooting just 32% from the field and finishing the game with 21 turnovers and just 16 field goals. No one on Florida State scored more than eight points. This team is way too inconsistent offensively.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

No. 15 Cincinnati extends home streak, beats Memphis 87-74

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 04:  Troy Caupain #10 of the Cincinnati Bearcats dribbles the ball during the game against the Connecticut Huskies at Fifth Third Arena on February 4, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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CINCINNATI (AP) After a dominant first half, No. 15 Cincinnati relaxed and wound up sweating one out.

Jacob Evans III scored 12 of his 15 points during the Bearcats’ lopsided first half on Thursday night, and they let most of a big lead slip away before holding on for their 25th straight home victory, 87-74 over Memphis.

Cincinnati (25-3, 14-1 American Athletic) led by as many as 24 points during its highest-scoring opening half in conference play this season, pulling ahead 51-32 at the break. The Tigers cut the lead to six points before fading.

“We got off to a big lead, and in the second half I feel we started to coast a little bit,” Evans said. “We can’t do that. If we want to make a deep run in March, we can’t take a half off against any team. Our energy on defense went down.”

The Bearcats’ front line dominated on offense. Gary Clark had 13 points and nine rebounds while Kyle Washington had 16 points and six rebounds. The problem was the sluggish defense in the second half, which left shooters open.

“For about 30 minutes, I thought we played about as well as we can play,” coach Mick Cronin said. “My halftime speech gets an F. I talked to our guys about defense. Our defense was nonexistent for most of the second half. We learned our lessons.”

Memphis (18-10, 8-7 ) has dropped a season-high three straight. Jeremiah Martin led the Tigers with 23 points and 11 assists. Dedric Lawson had 21 points with 10 rebounds.

“They were a little bit intimidated to start the first half because (Cincinnati) was making shots,” Memphis coach Tubby Smith said. “And when you get in a hole like that, it’s tough.”

The Tigers cut the lead to 75-69 on Martin’s three-point play with 5:18 left. Evans’ 3-pointer – his only basket of the second half – ended the comeback. It was his only 3-pointer of the game.

BIG PICTURE

Memphis: Lawson got his 35th double-double, the sixth-most by an active player. His 18 double-doubles this season are a career high for the sophomore. He has 282 rebounds this season. The AAC record is 321 by UConn’s Daniel Hamilton.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ 25 straight home wins match the second-longest streak at Fifth Third Arena, which opened in 1989. The arena record is 41 straight wins from 1997-2000.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Bearcats have won four straight since a 60-51 loss at SMU on Feb. 12, minimizing the damage of their only conference loss.

BAD START

The Tigers were playing from behind the entire time because of their horrible start. They missed 10 of their first 15 shots – Lawson was 0 for 3 – while the Bearcats rolled out to a 26-11 lead.

LOOKING UP

Lawson got a loose ball while sitting under the basket in the second half and took a shot that bounced off the rim. After the slow start, he ended up 9 of 16 from the field.

CUMBERLAND BACK

Freshman Jarron Cumberland sat out Cincinnati’s last game because of a curfew violation. He was back on Thursday and had nine points in 22 minutes.

UP NEXT

Memphis: The Tigers host Houston on Saturday. They won at Houston 79-67 in overtime on Jan. 19.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats play at Central Florida on Saturday. They beat Central Florida 60-50 on Feb. 8.

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Five Maine players suspended following a fight over locker room music

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Bob Walsh of the Maine Black Bears prepares for their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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There wasn’t much love being spread in the Maine basketball locker room on Valentine’s Day.

A locker room fight led to the suspensions of five players, including the team’s leading scorer. According to Larry Mahoney of the Bangor Daily News, who obtained the police report, the incident was the result of teammates Wes Myers and Marko Pirovic arguing over locker room music on Feb. 14.

Myers wanted the music off, Pirovic, who stands five inches taller and outweighs Myers by 25 pounds, refused. This led to both throwing punches, one of which connected on Pirovic’s face, breaking his jaw.

Jaquan McKennon, Ilija Stojiljkovic and Dusan Majstorovic were all suspended, but reinstated on Wednesday, for telling head trainer Ryan Taylor that Pirovic’s injuries resulted from him falling in the shower.

Myers, a junior guard averaging a team-best 16.9 points per game, remains suspended indefinitely.

Pirovic declined to press charges. All involved could still face punishment from the university, according to the Bangor Daily News.

It’s been a long season for the Black Bears. Maine owns the America East’s worst record at 6-24 (3-12). Outside of a modest three-game winning streak in late January, the Black Bears have not won a game in 2017. They close out the regular season on Saturday at home against Binghamton.

How did Gary Clark catch that alley-oop?

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 24:  Gary Clark #11 of the Cincinnati Bearcats shoots the ball against the Tulane Green Wave at Fifth Third Arena on January 24, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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No. 15 Cincinnati pounced on Memphis from the start, taking a 51-32 lead into halftime.

Then, Gary Clark decided to add insult to injury to start the second half. Seriously, how did he catch that?

Mick Cronin’s team is much better offensively than in previous seasons. I’m sure fans in the Fifth Third Arena can get used to seeing more plays like this.

Cassius Winston ends half with half-court 3-pointer

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans talks with Cassius Winston #5 in the second half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Michigan State freshman guard Cassius Winston had just one field goal in the first half. And it was a half-court buzzer-beater as the Spartans capped a sizable run to take a 49-31 lead over Nebraska going into the break.

The Spartans ended the half on a 21-5 run.

Winston provided a serious boost off the bench during that stanza. Moments earlier, he helped the Breslin Center erupt when he lobbed a pass off the backboard to teammate Miles Bridges.

Michigan State opened the day projected as one of the final at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. The margin for error is thing and it appears the Spartans are playing with a sense of urgency.

 

CBT Podcast: Mark Titus recaps Wednesday’s games

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 22: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks lays the ball up against JD Miller #15 and Jaylen Fisher #0 of the TCU Horned Frogs in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on February 22, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Wednesday’s slate of games had several wild results.

Former Ohio State walk-on turned blogger turned author Mark Titus, who is currently writing for The Ringer, joined Rob Dauster on the latest episode of the CBT Podcast to go over last night’s games. The two also discussed who is the best team in the nation at the moment, as well Frank Mason III’s rap single from several years ago #BIFM

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom