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Oklahoma grabs third place at the Old Spice Classic, winning the first of three meetings with West Virginia

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Conference realignment has led to the disappearance (for the time being) of some of college basketball’s best rivalries. But it pulled off a new “trick” at the Old Spice Classic.

West Virginia and Oklahoma both committed to the event before the Mountaineers left the Big East to join the Big 12, and as a result of WVU’s move there was a chance that the two programs could meet in Orlando.

The Sooners (4-1) struck the first blow in the season series, winning the third place game at the Old Spice Classic by the final score of 77-70 (this one obviously isn’t a conference game). Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye paced the winners with 19 points and six rebounds, and freshman guard Je’lon Hornbeak added 14 and five rebounds.

Juwan Staten (15 points) and Deniz Kilicli (13 points) were the lone West Virginia (1-3) starters to reach double figures (Gary Browne added 13 off the bench), but the Mountaineers shot just 36% from the field in a game that featured 48 fouls and 59 free throws.

If there’s anything to be taken out of this game with an eye toward their two Big 12 meetings it’s how physical the game was, although it can be argued that the officials were a little too active when it came to keeping things “under control”. The last time two Big 12 teams met in a regular season non-conference game was back in 1996, when Texas played Nebraska. The Longhorns won 83-81.

Both Oklahoma and West Virginia are teams more than a few pundits believe are capable of surprising people in the Big 12 this season, with the Sooners picked to finish 7th and the Mountaineers 6th. Both are incorporating key transfers into the rotation, so early season growing pains were to be expected.

West Virginia entered the tournament with three transfers in their starting lineup but head coach Bob Huggins made the decision to move Matt Humphrey (Boston College transfer) to the bench. Terry Henderson was productive off the bench (14 points, six rebounds) in the blowout win over Marist on Thursday, but struggled in his first start of the season on Sunday (1-of-6 FG, two points).

The hope in Morgantown is that with time and on-court experience Humphrey, Staten and Aaric Murray will mesh with their teammates, and the same can be said of a partnership between M’Baye and senior Romero Osby (foul trouble limited him to just 17 minutes) for Oklahoma.

The next meeting between these two teams is on January 5 in the Big 12 opener for both.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.