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The Morning Mix

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How can we really begin to describe this past weekend? A bat got loose at the Bradley Center. Northern Illinois scored 4 points in a single half. Marshall Henderson almost got bum-rushed by the Auburn student section. North Carolina got trounced. UCLA got trounced. Syracuse lost, Louisville lost. Heck, Lehigh lost at home to Lafayette by 21 points.

Were the games great? Ehh, not really.

But was it another entertaining weekend of hoops?

Unequivocally yes.

Let’s hit the links.

Monday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Pittsburgh @ No. 5 Louisville
7:00 p.m. – Delaware @ Drexel
9:00 p.m. – No.3 Kansas @ West Virginia
9:00 p.m. – South Florida @ Marquette

Top Stories:
Ryan Arcidiacono’s heroics help Villanova beat No. 3 Syracuse in overtime thriller: No team had a better week than the Villanova Wildcats. They defeated No. 5 Louisville on Tuesday and followed it up with a thrilling 75-71 overtime victory over No. 3 Syracuse on Saturday. Jim Boeheim decided to against fouling up three, and Villanova freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono hit a big 3-pointer to send the game in overtime.

Georgetown’s improvement showing in upset win over No. 5 Louisville: Georgetown finished up a strong week of work with a 53-51 win over No. 5 Louisville. The Hoyas are one of the most puzzling teams in the country, having lost to Pittsburgh by 28 points just 18 days ago. But the Hoyas continue to improve, and it showed.

Louisville benches Russ Smith, but offensive issues persist in third straight loss: It’s been a tough week for the Cardinals. Rick Pitino tried to provide a spark by having Russ Smith come off the bench on Saturday against Georgetown. But nothing seemed to work offensively for the Cardinals. The teams offense has been off of late and will need to be addressed if they hope to recapture their top-5 ranking.

Loose bat at Bradley Center delays Marquette-Providence: A bat got loose in the Bradley Center on Saturday and disrupted the Providence vs. Marquette game. Seriously. A Bat caused havoc during a basketball game. Check it out.

What was Jordan Adams thinking with steal at end of UCLA’s loss to Arizona St.? UCLA’s Jordan Adams wouldn’t let Arizona State dribble out the clock despite the Sun Devils 18-point lead. Unfortunately for the freshman, his fast-break layup was cut short thanks to a ferocious block from Carrick Felix. This is how you close out a game.

No. 12 Minnesota loses fourth straight game, falls at Wisconsin 45-44: The Gophers have not won since smacking Illinois on the road 17 days ago, and many believed Minnesota was ready to contend with Michigan and Indiana for the Big-10 Championship. But in just 17 days the Gophers have slid back to the middle of the pack thanks to turnovers, shooting woes and a lack of depth.

VIDEO: No. 15 New Mexico loses their first Mountain West game to SDSU: No. 15 New Mexico entered Saturday’s at San Diego State as the only undefeated team remaining in the Mountain West. 34 points later, the Lobos left with a 55-34 loss to the Aztecs in a game that should give you a sense of just how tough that conference is going to be this year.

Rotnei Clarke scores 24 to help beat Temple in first game back from neck injury: After missing the Bulldogs last three games due to injury, Rotnei Clarke returned to action and outdueled Temples Khalif Wyatt as Butler got a bounce-back win over the Owls.

Observations & Insight:
– What you are about to read is not an error a mistake. Northern Illinois scored 4 points in the first half of their game on Saturday against Eastern Michigan. Final score was 42-25. Yuck. (The Dagger)

– The legendary “Blue II” Butler bulldog will be retiring at the end of the season and will turn his collar over to his protege “Trip”. (The IndyChannel.com)

– Teams from the Big-5 had been struggling this year. Temple is inconsistent, Saint Joseph’s hasn’t lived up to expectations and Drexel has been plagued with injuries. but thanks to the huge weeks from La Salle and Villanova, Philly is back on the hoops map. (USA Today)

– Mike DeCourcy’s “Full Court Press” covers a lot of topics, including whether or not a coach should foul when his team up three. (The Sporting News)

– No one does a “Weekend Stock Report” as good as Jeff Eisenberg. No team saw their stock skyrocket as much as La Salle. OK, maybe Villanova. (The Dagger)

– Eammon Brennan’s observations from the weekend are spot on: Keep an eye on Arizona State, Kentucky isn’t a tournament team, Minnesota’s losses are starting to accumulate and much more. (ESPN)

– John Gasaway has some solid thoughts as well: North Carolina is firmly on the bubble and there’s a reason why VCU has to play HAVOC on defense. (ESPN Insider)

– Seth Davis breaks down the best of the week in his “Fast Break”. Nice to see Stony Brook’s Tommy Brenton get a shoutout. the do-everything wing logged the first triple-doulbe in program history over the weekend. (Sports Illustrated)

– North Carolina had a shot at making a comeback against NC-State on Saturday, but Roy Williams got too “cute” with his bench and the Tar Heels could never close the gap. (Busting Brackets)

– Deshaun Thomas has been putting up some big numbers this season. Here’s a statistical breakdown of where he ranks up against other recent Buckeyes. (Eleven Warriors)

– Victor Oladipo propelled the Indiana Hoosiers to a hard-fought victory over Michagan State on Sunday. Following game, Tom Izzo referred to Oladipo as “The Ray Lewis of college basketball”. (Inside the Hall)

– Louisville commit Terry Rozier scored 68 points in a high school game this weekend. Get them out of your system now. The highest single-game total this season is 47, set this week by Oakland’s Ryan Bader. (Card Chronicle)

Video of the Day:
Marshall Henderson is turning in to the most hated player in the country. He’s extremely fun to watch unless you are a fan of his opposition. He’s got some J.J. Reddick in him. (College Basketball Talk)

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Video of the Day:
Aaron Bowen’s circus shot put-back sealed a huge home victory for the Hoyas this weekend over Louisville. (H/T @CasualHoya)

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Dunk of the Day:
James Madison’s A.J. Davis posterized Nick Wright so hard that the Old Dominion forward got knocked out of the game. The Dukes won 56-46. (JMU Sports Blog)

Dunk of the Day:
Are you kidding me Mason Plumlee? We may not see another dunk this season with a degree of difficulty as high as this one. Impressive.

Dunk of the Day:
Ivy League kids know how to dunk too. Wow. That’s a legitimate banger right there.

Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or want something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson scored 19 points to lead a dominating offensive performance that helped No. 9 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday.

Marcus Paige added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 59 percent to stay atop the league ahead of the next renewal of their fierce rivalry with Duke.

UNC had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition in arguably their best performance in weeks, using a 13-0 second-half burst to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points after managing a combined five in the past two games.

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points to lead Pitt (17-7, 6-6). But the Panthers shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers, and a strong effort on the glass did little to offset their troubles.

The Tar Heels were playing their first home game in two weeks after a difficult three-game road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame. Then came Tuesday’s game at Boston College, where the Tar Heels struggled against a winless league team then had a scare when Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and had to leave the sideline for the rest of the game.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday’s off day, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine and even cracked jokes about a two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home certainly helped everyone feel better. After wrestling with shooting struggles for much of the past month, UNC’s offense kicked back into an efficient and balanced gear, while Paige – the player the Tar Heels are practically begging to jolt free from a prolonged shooting slump – looked more like his old self against the Panthers.

That included one second-half play in which he caught a crosscourt pass from Theo Pinson in transition and made sure to step back behind the arc before burying a 3-pointer.

The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start coming in, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. And Pitt again had trouble getting their offense going, failing to crack 70 points for the third straight game.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. … Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage. … Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. … UNC made 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range and 13 of 15 free throws. … Jackson and Pinson had six assists each. … UNC managed just one offensive rebound.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
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Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.