Tennessee v Xavier

Late Night Snacks: Champions Classic does not disappoint

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GAMES OF THE DAY: The Champions Classic 

The doubleheader in Chicago more than lived up to the advanced billing, with the Spartans and Jayhawks leaving the United Center with victories. In the first game Michigan State’s experience played a role in their 78-74 win over Kenutcky, with Keith Appling leading the charge with 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. As for the nightcap, Kansas defeated Duke 94-83 despite a sensational first half from the Blue Devils’ Jabari Parker. Parker finished with 27 points while Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins scored 22 points to go along with eight rebounds, and the performance of players such as Perry Ellis and Frank Mason bodes well for the Jayhawks.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) Xavier 67, Tennessee 63: This is one of those early season non-conference results that will be just as important in March as it is in November. Semaj Christon led three Xavier players in double figures with 18 points, allowing Xavier to hang on despite some impressive shot-making down the stretch from Tennessee’s Jordan McRae. Also of note for Xavier was the play of forward Matt Stainbrook, who finished the game with 12 points and nine rebounds.

2) No. 20 Wisconsin 59, No. 11 Florida 53: The Badgers bounced back from a slow start to defeat the Gators in Madison, with Sam Dekker leading three players in double figures with 16 points. At this point in time Florida simply lacks the depth needed to win a game of this caliber, and that was evident during the stretch that saw Billy Donovan’s team go from 12 up to 11 down.

3) UMass 92, LSU 90: LSU very nearly won in Amherst despite losing Jarell Martin to an ankle injury in the first minute of the game and fighting off foul trouble for much of the game. Johnny Jones’ team can still take some positives away from the trip, while UMass now has wins over teams from the ACC (Boston College) and SEC to its credit.

STARRED: 

1) Jordan Clarkson of Missouri went off for 31 points (12-for-18 FG), five assists and two steals in the Tigers’ 72-59 win over Southern Illinois.

2) It was early down in Dunk City, but that didn’t slow down Chase Fieler, who went off for 30 points as Florida-Gulf Coast picked up another win while playing in the national spotlight.

3) Treveon Graham had 22 points, including the game-winning three-pointer, as No. 14 VCU knocked off No. 25 Virginia 59-56.

STRUGGLED:

1) UNLV lost to UC Santa Barbara by 21 points? What?

2) Denver was supposed to be one of the best mid-major programs in the country this season, but it didn’t look like in on Tuesday night, as the Pioneers got dropped by Cal, 77-50.

3) Free throw shooters. Baylor nearly lost because they went 22-43 from the line. Kentucky lost because they were 20-36. If Duke doesn’t miss three front-ends against Kansas, they may not have lost to the Jayhawks. Gotta hit those freebies.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.