Pac 12 Basketball Tournament - UCLA v Oregon

Late Night Snacks: And then there were four…

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Just four auto-bids remain to be decided after a busy night in college hoops. Then we find out which bubbles popped and which held firm. Here’s the upshot on what happened on the Night Before Christmas Selection Sunday.

Game of the Night

No. 4 Louisville 78, No. 19 Syracuse 61: Amazing because it was the last dance for the Big East as we know it, and because both teams looked unbeatable for roughly 15-20 minutes at a time. It was Syracuse’s bad luck that they used up all of their genius in the first half, leaving the Cards to come back in a mighty rush in the second. Louisville forced 19 turnovers against a good team with a good point guard. That should be terrifying to the tourney field at large come Selection Sunday.

Hey!!! That’s tomorrow!!!!

Meaningful Results

No. 22 Wisconsin 68, No. 3 Indiana 56: Any discussion of who ‘deserves’ a number one seed this season will likely end in blows. Indiana has a stellar resume, but keeps losing tough games here at the end of the season, when all eyes are upon them. Bo Ryan’s Badgers, on the other hand, are serving notice that they will, once again, be one of the toughest outs in the Big Dance.

No. 15 New Mexico 63, UNLV 56: The Lobos have plenty of weapons this season, and we think that makes them worthy of a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

No. 7 Kansas 70, No. 11 Kansas State 54: The Jayhawks shared the regular-season title with the Wildcats, so this clear victory may have settled state bragging rights in their favor. Kansas got a strong game from Jeff Withey, and saw backups Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe step up with 12 points apiece.

No. 16 St. Louis 67, Butler 56: The Billikens still have to get past Havoc to win the A-1o auto-bid, but they looked like a Final Four contender as they cruised past the Bulldogs in the Barclays Center.

Starred

Durand Scott, Miami: 32 points, three rebounds and four assists as the Hurricanes strolled past ACC preseason favorites NC State. He’ll be ready for a rematch with North Carolina tomorrow.

Aaron Craft, Ohio State: Craft was the motor for the Buckeyes, pouring in 20 points to go with a more standard nine assists and four steals to set up a rematch with his most effective nemesis, Wisconsin.

Dwayne Evans, St. Louis: 24 points, 11 boards, three steals vs. Butler.

Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: Harrell pulled Louisville’s fat out of the fire with his 20 point, 7 rebound explosion. Not bad for a freshman.

Struggled

Brandon Triche, Syracuse: Triche had seven turnovers against the Louisville pressure.

The Great West: Two teams with identical 3-5 league records met to contest the Great West title, which confers no automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Chicago State Cougars won the dubious honor, while shooting just 41 percent from the floor and an even worse 14.3 percent from deep. Imagine Houston Baptist’s mortification.

D.J. Cooper, Ohio: Cooper is one of the best players in the country. He really is. He just didn’t look like it when the MAC auto-bid was on the line. Cooper shot 0-6 from deep as part of an 0-8 night from the floor. His three made foul shots were his only scoring output for the day. Cooper managed to dish out six assists, but those were tempered by the five turnovers he gave to the Akron Zips.

Eric Angevine is editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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

Lehigh Virginia Basketball
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