Tommy Amaker

Colorado’s second half run results in a missed opportunity for Harvard

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At halftime of their game at Colorado on Sunday afternoon, the Harvard Crimson had the look of a team poised to grab a needed resume-building victory. Leading 42-30, the Crimson executed well on both ends of the floor, finding quality shots offensively while limiting Colorado’s quality looks on the other end.

But as the Crimson began to wear down the Buffaloes were able to wrestle away control of the game with an 18-2 second half run, going on to win 70-62 with Spencer Dinwiddie leading four scorers in double figures with 17 points. But in the win there are concerns for Colorado moving forward, and with non-conference games against Kansas (December 7) and Oklahoma State (December 21 in Las Vegas) still yet to be played the Buffaloes’ execution on both ends needs to become more consistent.

Another concern going forward has to be the shooting of junior guard Askia Booker. Booker scored 12 points on Sunday but did so by shooting 5-for-15 from the field. And on the season he’s shooting 39.3%, and while that’s an improvement on his field goal percentage from a season ago (36.4%) Colorado won’t reach their full potential if Booker isn’t knocking down shots (and just as importantly, taking good shots) at a decent clip.

While Colorado picks up a solid win for their resume the same can’t be said for Harvard, and a look at their remaining non-conference schedule reveals just how important Sunday’s result was. Harvard still has games against Boston College and UConn, and their Great Alaska Shootout opener against Denver will be tougher than some realize. But there aren’t a high number of opportunities to land wins over teams from major conference remaining on the schedule. And if Harvard were to somehow not win the Ivy League that could be an issue for a team that has the look of a group capable of racking up a lot of wins this season.

The return of veterans Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry gives Harvard two talented players who earned All-Ivy honors before missing the entire 2012-13 season. Add them to a group of returnees from last season’s NCAA tournament squad, which includes guards Siyani Chambers and Laurent Rivard and forward Wesley Saunders, and the Crimson have the pieces needed to not only return to the NCAA tournament but also win a game once there.

But their non-conference schedule doesn’t give Harvard much room for error once Ivy League play begins in January. Harvard should win the Ivy League once again, but if they don’t that could mean trouble come Selection Sunday.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.