St. Louis has been on an astonishing run since the sudden death of former Billikens coach Rick Majerus. That’s nine wins in a row. Billikens coach Jim Crews claimed, in a recent conversation with CBS’ Matt Norlander, that they hadn’t even given it a thought.
Whether they knew it or not, the streak is over. The Temple Owls protected their nest and pulled off a 64-54 win in front of a home crowd. Khalif Wyatt exploded for 24 points on 7-11 shooting, ably backed by a 20/10 double-double from forward Anthony Lee. The Owls’ fortunes seem to hinge heavily on which Wyatt shows up on any given night. Against Kansas, the enigmatic guard scored 26, and his team nearly knocked off No. 6 in Allen Fieldhouse. Then, in the team’s A-10 opener at Xavier, Wyatt shot 2-11 and scored just six in a ten-point loss.
Inconsistency is the hobgoblin of this Temple team, which should make the rest of the season quite the roller-coaster ride for players, coaches and fans alike.
St. Louis got a big night from guard Rob Loe, who went 3-4 from deep on his way to a 17-point, 11-rebound evening. Loe’s efforts went largely unsupported, however. Guard Jordair Jett had three of the Billikens’ 13 turnovers, and the St. Louis big men simply could not penetrate the interior, where Temple’s trees combined for six blocked shots.
The A-10 season is always a raucous affair, and expansion can only make it more so. If Temple hopes to make the most of their last season in the conference (assuming nothing else expands, contracts or self-immolates in the next few months) they’ll need more nights like this one.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
No. 25 Texas A&M made a statement on Turkey Day, as they knocked off No. 10 Gonzaga 62-61 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Danuel House led the way with 19 points for the Aggies while Tony Trocha-Morales finished with 14 points as Texas A&M picked up the win despite the fact that they did not score for the final eight minutes of the game.
Billy Kennedy’s club looked the part of an SEC contender, playing tough defense and keeping Gonzaga’s massive and talented front line in check. Perhaps most impressive was that they were able to hang on despite blowing a lead late in the second half, and that they did it with their defense. Gonzaga can score. They have big bodies inside and shooters to surround them, but Domantas Sabonis struggled with foul struggle throughout the game while Kyle Wiltjer did not score in the final 12 minutes.
Kentucky, at this point, is the clear-cut favorite in the SEC, and while Vanderbilt looked really good in Maui this week, A&M looks like they’re going to end up giving the Commodores a run for their money for second-best in the league.
On the other hand, this loss wasn’t a total disaster for the Zags. They had the final possession with a chance to be a good team on a day when Domantas Sabonis was rendered completely ineffective. And, more importantly, point guard Josh Perkins was terrific. He did have a late turnover, but he scored all 15 of his points in the second half as he helped keep the Zags within striking distance.
Texas A&M will play the winner of Syracuse and No. 18 UConn for the title.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.