Jordan Bachynski, Jason Washburn

Late Night Snacks: Bachynski triples; Paul answers the call

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Game of the Night

No. 13 Illinois 85, No. 10 Gonzaga 74 – If you had any questions about Illinois, consider them answered. Gonzaga had the clear advantage inside, and the Bulldogs were playing in front of a rabid crowd of faithful fans at the Kennel. Even when Tyler Griffey and Nnanna Egwu fouled out, the Illini had the game in hand, because Brandon Paul was unstoppable. His line of 35 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots in a hostile environment put Illinois in line for a top-ten ranking come Monday.

Important Outcomes

West Virginia 68, Virginia Tech 67 – It was nip/tuck all the way as the Hokies took their perfect record into Morgantown and came away with a very narrow first loss. Kevin Noreen came off the bench to post career highs in points and rebounds in an early must-win game for the slumping Mountaineers.

No. 8 Arizona 66, Clemson 54 – The Tigers threw a block party, rejecting 12 shots in a hotly contested game at Littlejohn. Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson combined to score 33 of the Wildcats’ 66 points to salt away a tough road game, good practice for a Dec. 15 date with No. 6 Florida.

Middle Tennessee 65, Mississippi 62 – Bad news comes in bunches for Ole Miss. First Andy Kennedy had to dismiss a young big man before he’d set foot on the court, then comes a non-conference road loss to a lightly regarded foe that dropped his previously unbeaten team to 6-1. Contrary to standard operating procedure in such games, MTSU played everyone they could, getting 26 points from bench players, compared to a paltry 6 reserve points from the Rebs.

Tulsa 50, TCU 49 – Pat Swilling, Jr. scored the winning point for Danny Manning’s Golden Hurricane, hitting a free throw with three seconds left, but it was senior guard Scottie Haralson who sealed the deal by securing the rebound when Swilling missed the second. The close win over a Big 12 opponent will give Tulsa a dash of confidence as a Dec. 15th date with No. 16 Creighton looms.

Starred

Jordan Bachynski – Move over, Jeff Withey. The Northridge Matadors waved a red cape in Bachynski’s face, and he took it personally. His 13 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks will go down as the first-ever triple-double in Arizona State’s basketball history. The 87-76 win moved the Sun Devils to 8-1 on the season. Pitchfork Posts, in a post written before Bachynski’s history-making effort was consummated, tells us which other Sun Devils came close to performing the feat.

Syracuse backcourt – You know you whupped somebody when the guy with eight assists is nowhere near your leading passer. In a 108-56 hiding of Monmouth, Brandon Triche had a pretty good game, dishing the aforementioned eight-pack to go along with 18 points. Which would be awesome if Michael Carter-Williams hadn’t gone for 15 points, 5 steals, 4 blocks and an amazing sixteen assists.

Matt Hunter – No. 1 Indiana curb-stomped poor Central Connecticut State (Motto: We’re the Other Blue Devils) 100-69 on Saturday. And yet I found something to laud about the performance turned in by 6’5″ junior Matt Hunter, who scored 40 quixotic points, which is pretty freakin’ indomitable if you ask me. That’s 58% of his team’s points on the night. He’s no Jack Taylor of Grinell, but not bad for a DI player.

Struggled

The Texas end game – In the Battle of Who Could Care Less, it was the success of the Free Shabazz Muhammad movement that gave UCLA the win. Muhammad scored 16, and while Myck Kabongo sits, the Texas offense continues to stall at crucial moments. When UCLA’s Jordan Adams missed a free throw with five seconds left, 6’7″ forward Jonathan Holmes snagged the rebound and brought the ball up the court himself, heaving a poorly-aimed desperation three when a two would have sent the game to OT.

Delvon Roe – The former Michigan State forward fought off sleep just long enough to poke fun at an old rival via Twitter:

Not one Badger hit double figures in a 60-50 loss to in-state rival Marquette.

The CAA – Drexel beat Princeton and William & Mary defeated Radford, but the rest of the night was a shambles for the once-proud mid-major league. Lame duck Georgia State’s win over something called Southern Polytechnic State did little to salve the pain of OT losses by George Mason, James Madison and Delaware. Garden variety two-set losses by Towson, Wilmington, Hofstra and Northeastern were the kettle drums in the league’s ongoing symphony of pain.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

No. 22 Butler ruins No. 2 Villanova’s seniors’ perfect Pavilion record

Butler center Nate Fowler and Villanova forward Eric Paschall, right, vie for a rebound in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson
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All Villanova players have known since they joined the program is winning at The Pavilion. Late into Wednesday’s game against No. 22 Butler, it looked like that would continue to be their only frame of reference for a group of seniors that were 45-0 in the building.

Then another ‘0’ turned that zero into a ‘1.’

The Bulldogs ripped off an 18-0 run in a 5-minute span to ultimately claim a 74-66 victory over second-ranked and defending national champion Villanova.

VIllanova looked like it was going to cruise to another home win when Josh Hart’s 3-pointer with 10 minutes, 37 seconds remaining put the Wildcats up 49-42.

They wouldn’t score again until nearly the 4-minute mark.

During that span, Butler made 7 of 11 shots, with three being 3-pointers, while the Wildcats went 0 of 6 from the field and turned the ball over twice.

A seven-point lead for Villanova became an 11-point advantage for Butler. Villanova would try to rally, but couldn’t pull it off as it saw its home winning run stopped, its seniors’ perfect Pavilion record blemished and its seven-game winning streak come to a halt.

Beyond it probably being immensely annoying to the senior class, the loss probably doesn’t hurt Villanova too much as it looks to hold on to a No. 1 seed, preferably in the East region. The Wildcats’ resume is still as strong as nearly anyone in the country and they are, after all, the defending champs. They’ll be fine.

For Butler, it’s a signature win for a team that’s had a number of really good victories, but a few confounding losses, like St. John’s on the road and to Creighton (without Maurice Watson) and Georgetown at home. Beating Villanova – at the Pavilion, no less – could be worth a seed line.

Keelan Martin was fantastic for Butler, going for 23 points and eight boards, while Kamar Baldwin went for 15 points off the bench.

Jalen Brunson led the way for Villanova with 24 points while Josh Hart had 18 points and six rebounds. Kris Jenkins struggled, going 1 of 8 from the floor while scoring eight points.

The Wildcats get a chance to start a new streak at the Pavilion on Saturday with Creighton coming to town.

 

No. 8 North Carolina stakes their claim to the title of ‘nation’s best’ with beatdown of No. 7 Louisville

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 22:  Theo Pinson #1 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a play against the Louisville Cardinals during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 22, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
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North Carolina may not have anyone on their roster that sends chills down the spine of opposing coaches, and they may not have anyone on their roster that is going to be targeted by NBA franchises as lottery pick, and they may not be dominating the headlines like undefeated Gonzaga, reigning champ Villanova, winner of 13 straight Big 12 titles Kansas or even Tobacco Road rival Duke.

They’re not a sexy pick, they’re not the favorite in Vegas and they may finally crack the No. 1 seed line in all bracket projections after beating No. 7 Louisville 74-63 on Wednesday night, but at this point, I’m not sure that the Tar Heels aren’t the best team in college basketball.

‘The Best Team In College Basketball’ is not an easy title to earn this season, not because there are too many candidates but more because everyone of those candidates have some kind of glaring flaw that makes you wonder have they’ve made it to late-February with a winning record. Think: UCLA’s defense. Or maybe: Kansas’ total lack of front court depth. How about: Kentucky can’t shoot. And then there’s: Duke doesn’t have a point guard, or: Gonzaga doesn’t play anyone.

We can play that game with every team in the country.

In fact, I did, just last week on a podcast.

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

North Carolina didn’t escape our wrath. There are question marks about Joel Berry II’s consistency, as he had a nasty habit of laying an egg every once in a while. Is that defense going to hold up for six games in a single-elimination tournament? Do they have enough consistent three-point shooting? Can Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson stay healthy?

Here’s the thing: I think the answer to all those questions is ‘yes’.

Justin Jackson has developed into a bonafide all-american and quite possibly the ACC Player of the Year. He’s a versatile scorer that is shooting the grip off the ball and has proven the ability to be the guy to take and make big shots for the Tar Heels this season. That’s taken some of the pressure off of Berry, who can spend more time as a secondary offensive weapon, facilitator and a leader than having to worry about carrying the team offensively. Theo Pinson’s return has opened some things up offensively, while UNC’s four-headed front court monster — Kennedy Meeks, Hicks, Tony Bradley and Luke Maye — have shown that they can score in the post or off of a missed shot, where they lead the nation on offensive rebounding percentage.

And as far as the defense is concerned, they’re ranked 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom.com. Yes, a lot of that has to do with the pistol-whipping that was Gameday on Saturday night against Virginia, but Louisville, who was the third-best offensive team in ACC play, managed just 63 points in 73 possessions on Wednesday.

My point?

That defense doesn’t have to be great, it just has to be good enough, and it probably is.

But here’s the most important number to know: Two.

That’s how big North Carolina’s lead in the ACC is as of today. Louisville, Duke, Florida State and Notre Dame have all lost five times this year. As long as the Tar Heels can go into Pittsburgh and get a win over the Panthers, they are going to clinch a share of the ACC regular season, and they can lock up the outright league title before the showdown with the Dukies on the season’s final night.

The margins are thin, yes, but after Wednesday, North Carolina has as much claim to the title of ‘Nation’s Best’ as anyone in college basketball.

VIDEO: UNC fan ejected after heated exchange with Rick Pitino

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A UNC fan sitting court side in the Dean Dome on Wednesday was ejected from No. 8 North Carolina’s win over No. 7 Louisville after getting in a heated verbal exchange with Rick Pitino.

Cell phone video posted by a reporter attending the game showed Pitino having to be held back by members of his staff. According to ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor, who said she heard what the fan said, the line that set Pitino off was, “Pitino you suck.”

VIDEO: Brooks hits 3-pointer with 0.2 left to lift Oregon past Cal

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Dillon Brooks did it earlier against UCLA. Wednesday, he added Cal to his list.

The Oregon junior hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.2 left on the clock to give the sixth-ranked Ducks a 68-65 victory over the Bears after trailing by as many as 16 in the second half.

#POSTERIZED: Deng Adel dunks on the entire state of North Carolina

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Deng Adel of No. 7 Louisville quieted a rowdy Dean Dome crowd by going coast-to-coast and doing this to the Tar Heels: