Luke Hancock

Late Afternoon Snacks: Louisville and Marquette win to keep Big East race tight; will Georgetown answer?

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Game of the Day

No. 10 Louisville 58, N0. 12 Syracuse 53: It may seem a little late, but Louisville is rounding into the type of team they were supposed to be from day one of the season. Great leadership at the point from Peyton Siva, who had no turnovers today, with Russ Smith picking up all of the scoring Siva didn’t do (18 points). Gorgui Dieng had a double-double to go with two blocks. The frontcourt duo of Behanan and Blackshear was rather silent, but they didn’t make any egregious mistakes, either. The guy who came up big was Luke Hancock. The pure shooter didn’t even attempt a shot from inside the arc, and went 4-5. That’s his job, and he’s getting better at it. That’s what makes the Cards a little more dangerous going into postseason play. Syracuse, on the other hand, is in a steep decline at the worst possible time, having lost three in a row.

Meaningful Results

VCU 84, N0. 20 Butler 52: The Rams started defending as soon as Butler put the ball inbounds on every play, trapping various members of the Bulldog backcourt and forcing turnover that ended up being jammed, laid up or jumpered right back into the basket so the entire process could begin again. Two truths we already knew were pounded home in this game: Butler could really use a top-notch point guard, and when Havoc is in full effect, VCU can beat anyone in the nation.

N0. 22 Marquette 72, N0. 21 Notre Dame 64: Chris Otule turned in his best game of the season, scoring 16 points on 8-8 shooting from the floor. The big man’s perfect day came at a good time, as frequent Marquette hero Vander Blue was held to six points by the Irish defense. Jamil Wilson led the Golden Eagles with 19 points. Notre Dame fell to 2.5 games off the league pace, while Marquette and Louisville are keeping things snug, sitting just 1/2 game back with two games left to play.

Creighton 91, Wichita State 79: This was one of those games March is famous for. Two teams tied atop the conference, playing to decide who gets the regular season crown in a final regular-season game. This time it was Creighton in front of the home crowd, led by Doug McDermott’s insane 41 point day, that prevailed. The Blue Jays will take the No. 1 seed in Arch Madness, with the Shockers on the other side of the bracket. As much as we love upsets, here’s hoping the two face off again for the tourney crown, and that the loser nabs an at-large bid so we can continue to enjoy top-notch Valley basketball for as long as humanly possible.

N0. 8 Florida 64, Alabama 52: ‘Bama needed this one, for their league standings and for their tournament resume. They didn’t get it.

Georgia 78, Tennessee 68: Jordan McRae scored a bundle, putting up 35 points, but it wasn’t enough to get the Vols past Georgia. This was one of those games that Tennessee needed to handle to prove they’re tourney-caliber. As a team, they just didn’t get it done.

Oklahoma 86, Iowa State 69: The Cyclones got tagged with a loss they didn’t deserve when Kansas came to town – we’ll grant that. That’s what makes it all the more important to win games like this one. The Sooners hit 100 percent of their free throws 34-34, to grab their tenth league win and add to their bubble case in a year where it still seems like anything can happen in the major conferences.

Games of the Night

4:00 Kentucky at Arkansas
4:00 LSU at Missouri
4:00 UNLV at Nevada (NBCSports)
5:00 Portland at Gonzaga (ROOT)
5:00 Wyoming at New Mexico (ROOT)
5:00 Colorado at Cal (ESPNU)
6:00 Miami at Duke (ESPN)
6:00 Harvard at Penn (NBCSports)
6:00 Alabama State at Grambling
7:00 Kansas State at Baylor (ESPN2)
7:30 Iowa at Indiana (BigTen)
8:00 Colorado State at Boise State
9:00 Rutgers at Georgetown (ESPNU)
9:00 Arizona at UCLA (ESPN)

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.