Lon Kruger

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: Texas A&M-CC with an off-the-backboard dunk

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This is pretty nice from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who has made a habit out of getting themselves on the highlight reel.

Here’s another angle of the dunk:

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me: