Wake Forest court storm

Late Night Snacks: Court-storming students own the night

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Game of the Day: Wake Forest 86, No. 18 NC State 84

There haven’t been many things to get truly excited about at Wake Forest in the two-plus seasons coach Jeff Bzdelik has been at the school, but Tuesday’s win over a ranked team gave Demon Deacon fans a reason to storm the floor.

Devin Thomas was the catalyst of it all, posting a career night of 25 points and 14 rebounds. Three other players were in double figures and helped Wake Forest erase a 12-point halftime deficit.

For NC State, it has been an eventful 10-day stretch. On Jan. 12, the Wolfpack stormed the floor to celebrate its win over No. 1 Duke. After losing to Maryland on Jan. 16, Terrapin fans stormed the floor. Now on Tuesday, Wake Forest fans rushed the court. Ten days, one court storm in celebration, two by opposing fan bases.

Important Outcomes 

1. Villanova 73, No. 5 Louisville 64

Louisville was sloppy in its loss to Villanova Tuesday. It turned the ball over 17 times and shot 12-of-24 (50 percent) from the free throw line. The Wildcats are, mind you, a team that lost to Columbia by 18 points back in November. JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Arcidiacono led the way for Villanova, two of five players in double figures.

Louisville has now lost two in a row and face a road matchup with Georgetown on Saturday.

2. No. 22 Missouri 71, South Carolina 65 

South Carolina did a good job of using a zone defense to force Missouri into half-court sets in the first half. This all but eliminated the Phil Pressey-driven transition offense and had the Gamecocks in control going into the second half. At one point, though, it clicked. Missouri ripped off an 18-2 run to take the lead and fought off a tough South Carolina comeback to hold on for the win. Credit also goes to Earnest Ross, who had 21 points in his effort to compensate for the absence of Laurence Bowers and Keion Bell.

3. No. 3 Kansas 59, No. 11 Kansas State 55

Travis Releford had 12 points on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting performance to lead Kansas to a tough road win over the Wildcats. The Jayhawks have now won 16 straight games.

Starred

1. Devin Thomas, Wake Forest (25 points, 10-of-13 FG, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists, 3 steals)

A lot of things had to be working in Wake Forest’s favor to get an upset win over NC State on Tuesday night. One of those variables had to be a dominant performer, and Devin Thomas delivered. He made an impact in nearly every part of the box score, going for an impressive double-double and adding four blocks.

2. Earnest Ross, Missouri (21 points, 10 rebounds)

Without Laurence Bowers and Keion Bell, Missouri needed someone to step up to avoid an upset loss to South Carolina at home. Earnest Ross was that man for Missouri on Tuesday. Something that doesn’t show up in the box score: Ross made a great pass to Jabari Brown with seconds remaining that set him up for the three-pointer that put Missouri ahead for good.

3. D.J. Richardson, Illinois (30 points, 9-of-14 FG, 6-of-9 3pt FG)

Illinois needed a bounce-back win after losing three straight. Richardson was the offensive engine behind the Illini attack Tuesday. His 30 points accounted for 42 percent of Illinois’ scoring in a win over Nebraska.

Struggled 

1. Russ Smith, Louisville (8 points, 2-of-13 FG, 4 TO)

Smith and backcourt mate Peyton Siva both underperformed in Louisville’s upset loss to Villanova, but Smith’s likely hurt more. The Cardinals depend on Smith for just over 19 points per game but did not get that kind of production Tuesday.

2. Will Spradling, Kansas State (0 points, 0-of-5 FG)

Spradling is an offensive piece that Kansas State could have enjoyed against Kansas on Tuesday. He struggled to find his shooting touch, though, going 0-of-5 from the floor.

3. Damien Leonard (2 points, 1-of-11 FG, 3 TOs)

Le0nard struggled to find his stroke against Missouri on Tuesday, including going 0-of-5 from three-point range.

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

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
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Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.