D.J. Richardson, Tracy Abrams

Late Afternoon Snacks: Illini survive Auburn’s upset bid

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Game of the Day

No. 12 Illinois 81, Auburn 79: The Illini struggled to score inside over Auburn’s sizable frontcourt, and Tiger guard Frankie Sullivan poured in 5 of 12 from deep in a game that was closer than it rightly should have been. Brandon Paul was a tad turnover-prone in this one, and scored just 13 points, but he and the Illini were bailed out by Tracy Abrams’ huge 29-point day.

Notable Results

North Carolina 79, No. 20 UNLV 73: Carolina still doesn’t look like the speed merchants of old, but the Tar Heels are edging closer to finding the point guard they need this season. Freshman Marcus Paige put in 34 minutes, dropped off four assists and scored 12 points in mostly half-court sets to help Carolina get back on track. P.J. Hairston showed some defensive chops with four steals, and Brice Johnson scored 12 points in 15 minutes, subbing in for a temporarily hobbled James McAdoo (leg cramps). Mike Moser’s return for UNLV was spoiled by five quick fouls that sent him right back to the bench for most of this one.

No. 1 Duke 90, Santa Clara 77: Kevin Foster saves his biggest games for Santa Clara’s toughest opponents. He scored 30 at St. Louis earlier this season, and poured in 29 in a serious upset bid in the unfriendly environs of Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Broncos raced out to a 5-0 lead to start this game, and regained the lead several times throughout an up-and-down game. In the end, Duke’s starters regained control, paced by double-doubles from Kelly and Plumlee on the front line, and 31 points from a hot-shooting Seth Curry.

Games of the Night

Xavier at Tennessee, 6:00 pm ET

George Mason at  South Florida, 7:00 pm ET

UMKC at No. 25 Kansas State, 7:00 pm ET

Washington at Connecticut, 7:30 pm ET

No. 18 Butler at Vanderbilt, 8:00 pm ET (ESPNU)

Rick Pitino: ‘We should be penalized … but not this team’

Rick Pitino
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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One of the biggest storylines of Saturday’s college basketball schedule had everything to do with a team that no longer matters in the championship picture.

Less than 24 hours after being informed that the school would be imposing a postseason ban that will leave the Cardinals out of the ACC and NCAA tournaments, No. 19 Louisville tipped off against Boston College, and they did so without leading scorer Damion Lee, who is battling a knee issue.

How would the team respond to the decision — the despicable, shameful decision — that the university’s president made?

Well, it seems.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 19-2 lead in the first eight minutes and cruised to a 79-47 win over an overmatched Boston College team in the Yum! Center.

And head coach Rick Pitino, after the quote, said exactly what everyone is thinking.

“We should be penalized, no question about it,” he said. “But not this team. But the NCAA didn’t make that decision. We made that decision.”

He’s totally right. The school sacrificed the season — and the only shot that a pair of fifth-year seniors would get to play in the NCAA tournament — to protect the school, the brand and the bottom-line moving forward. Like I said earlier, it’s despicable.

But credit the Cardinals for responding.

Because they still have something on the line. They’re just a game out of first place in the ACC, and while an ACC regular season title isn’t a shot to play in the ACC or NCAA tournament, it’s still a banner that would probably mean more to Damion Lee and Trey Lewis than any league title has meant to a Louisville player before.

Oklahoma State without Jawun Evans, questionable moving forward

Oklahoma State guard Jawun Evans (1) goes up for a shot between Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) and forward Perry Ellis (34) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. Oklahoma State won 86-67. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Oklahoma State’s star point guard was not in the lineup on Saturday against No. 13 Iowa State.

Evans injured his shoulder in the Cowboys’ loss at Texas Tech on Wednesday and was ruled out of Saturday’s game.

According to the school, his official status moving forward is questionable. The Pokes are just 11-11 on the season and likely need to earn the Big 12’s at-large bid to get into the NCAA tournament. It makes sense to let him get healthy.

Evans was averaging 12.9 points, 4.9 assists and 4.4 boards this season, but he had been arguably the best point guard in the Big 12 during league play, averaging 15.6 points and 5.6 assists.