Georges Niang, Jamari Traylor

Iowa State loses to Kansas, but don’t disregard their three-point shooting

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You won’t find many nights where the regulation, three-point shooting performance of Iowa State will be outdone.

On Monday night in a 108-96 overtime loss at home to no. 6 Kansas, the Cyclones hit a ton of shots from beyond the arc. Six different players who hit a three. Five hit at least two. Georges Niang, who on the season is 37-percent from three, hit three himself, his only field goals of the game. Tyrus McGee, the Cyclones resident gunner, hit 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.

Point-and-case: Korie Lucious tried to throw a lob to Melvin Ejim, and instead, that lob went in for a three. It was that kind of night, for the first 40 minutes. They were 17-of-41 (41.5 percent) overall from deep. And that was after they went 0-for-6 from three in overtime. So, with the possibility of a questionable call in the Niang/Jeff Withey scramble late, this team finishes with some moreimpressive numbers from three-point range than they appear, considering the volume at which they threw them up.

They did everything a great shooting team should do to win, offensively. That can happen when you’re playing an elite team. One that’s a national title contender like Kansas.

However, they failed to stop Elijah Johnson, a player that averages 9.1 points per game, from scoring 39 — 37 if you discount the end-of-game dunk that got a ton of people riled up. They also got a 3-for-17 night from the normally-reliable Niang, a freshman who has surpassed expectations and on the season has hit 53.1-percent of his shots. They allowed the same weapon they use to beat a ton of teams, to beat them, with the Jayhawks hitting 13-of-25 three pointers.

The Cyclones were also out-rebounded by 10, including Withey’s double-double with 13 points and 10 boards.

With that said, there aren’t a lot teams in a field of 68 that can hang with them when they shoot like they they did Monday night from three. Especially when they only commit seven turnovers and hit 29-of-34 free throws.

On the season, three players, McGee, Lucious and Chris Babb, have hit at least 50 threes. Will Clyburn has hit 31. They’ve got the shooters and they’ve got the consistency. Five players make at least 35-percent from three. It’s not overly-impressive, individually, but as a collective, it’s solid.

They won’t face a better team than Kansas this season until they get to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, at best. Unless they take on Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament.

The Jayhawks took the best the Cyclones had and still won in overtime. That happens when you’re playing one of the elite teams in college basketball.

But a night like that against most teams, especially in the postseason? That’s a win. Easy. And as long as the Cyclones are primed for at least an at-large bid (they might need another good win to seal it), their fans should still be confident this team can do a lot of damage in March.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

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AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

Follow Hank on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org