Kenny Boynton

Pregame Shootaround 12.5.12: Battle in Sunshine State highlights Wednesday’s action

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will be posted at 2 p.m. ET and lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: No. 6 Florida vs. Florida State

With the way Kentucky’s season is shaping up, those who chose Florida to win the SEC are looking pretty smart right now. The Gators are undefeated and have won their six games by an average of 25 points per contest. They feature a good backcourt/frontcourt balance between Kenny Boynton/Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young/Erik Murphy/Will Yeguete, which makes them difficult to defeat. Mike Rosario, the Rutgers transfer, has also been a key contributor.

Florida State entered the season as a fringe Top 25 team, but lost its opener to South Alabama and comes into Wednesday night’s game on a two-game losing streak after losses to No. 21 Minnesota and unranked Mercer. Guard Michael Snaer is key to the Seminoles’ success. In their wins, Snaer is averaging 17.5 points and shooting 46 percent from the floor. In their losses, he is averaging just 9.7 points and shooting just 27 percent from the floor.

Who’s getting upset?: Memphis against Ohio

Take one team that has fallen out of the Top 25 after a disappointing start the season and welcome a reigning Sweet 16 team and what do you get? The possibility for an upset at FedEx Forum tonight.

Guard D.J. Cooper is one of the most underrated playmakers in the country, averaging 14.7 points and 7.3 assists per game this season.The Bobcats’ biggest weakness this season has been on the boards, but they shoot a high percentage and are in the Top 60 in the country in scoring.

Memphis guard Joe Jackson was criticized after his seven-turnover performance against VCU in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but, to his credit, has bounced back since. He is averaging 14.0 points and 5.5 assists in his past two games, both Memphis victories.

Mid-Major Match-Up of the Day: Penn State vs. La Salle (NBC Sports Network)

This is technically a mid-major vs. high-major match-up, but a few big wins for the Explorers make this one worth tuning in to. La Salle began its season with a win over a tough Delaware team, then followed that up with an overtime win over Villanova two weeks later. This game loses a bit of its intrigue because of the season-ending injury to Penn State guard Tim Frazier, but D.J. Newbill will still have his hands full with Explorer guards Tyreek Duren and Ramon Galloway.

Five Things to Watch For:

1) The Battle for the Sunshine State is on Wednesday, as No. 6 Florida takes on Florida State. See above for a full preview. I’m most interested to see Michael Snaer against this strong Florida lineup.

2) Why is no one talking about New Mexico? The 18th-ranked team in the country is perhaps overshadowed by San Diego State and UNLV in the Mountain West, but is undefeated so far. They take on USC Wednesday

3) Gonzaga has likely been the most impressive mid-major so far this season. Ranked at No. 10 in the country, Elias Harris & Co. get a shot at Washington State Wednesday night.

4) Fran Dunphy has his Temple Owls off to a 5-0, but they have their first match-up against a BCS opponent Wednesday night against Villanova. Nothing like a Big 5 game in early December.

5) Boise State narrowly lost to Michigan State, then beat No. 11 Creighton. They carried some of that Bluejay momentum to beat Seattle, and now they take on Utah. Will the Broncos end up being a surprise team this season?

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 6 Florida vs. Florida State (see above)

No. 10 Gonzaga vs. Washington State

No. 18 New Mexico vs. USC

No. 19 Michigan State vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

No. 23 Oklahoma State vs. South Florida

Other Notable Games:

Tennessee vs. Virginia

West Virginia vs. Marshall

Temple vs. Villanova

Colorado State vs. Colorado

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

Follow Hank on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org