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Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Memphis and Oklahoma State meet in Old Spice Classic title game

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 21 Memphis (7:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Twelve days ago, Marcus Smart went off for a career-high 39 points, reasserting his place in the player of the year conversation, in Oklahoma State’s 101-80 rout of Memphis. The Cowboys and Tigers meet in the Old Spice Classic title game on Sunday night. In the semifinals, the Cowboys held on to defeat Butler with a blocked shot from Michael Cobbins. The Tigers hung tough and erased a second half deficit to defeat LSU to help set up Sunday’s rematch.

Does Marcus Smart go off on Memphis again? Or does Josh Pastner and his Tigers win the big game and silence critics?

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 25 Marquette vs. San Diego State (9:30 p.m., ESPN2)

San Diego State looks to close out the Wooden Legacy with its second consecutive win over a top 25 team. On Friday night, the Aztecs jumped out to an early lead and prevented a comeback attempt to knock off No. 20 Creighton. Marquette previously lost to Ohio State and on the road against Arizona State. Sunday night’s game is made more important with a game against Wisconsin next weekend.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 12 Wichita State vs. Saint Louis (1 p.m., CBSSN)

It’s going to be a defensive battle between the Shockers and Billikens. Wichita State is coming off a CBE Classic win over BYU, holding the Cougars to 62 points. Wichita State will have to face a tough defense of its own against a Saint Louis team that is forcing opponents to shoot less than 40 percent from the field. Emotions will be high inside Chaifetz Arena as the Billikens will honor Rick Majerus, who died one-year ago today.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Iona vs. Florida Gulf Coast (2 p.m., ESPN3)

Both these teams qualified for the NCAA tournament last season — being slate as No. 15 seeds — and each team is projected to contend in their respective conferences again this season. Iona comes in a .500 while Florida Gulf Coast suffered its second loss of the season against North Carolina State on Tuesday.

FOUR THINGS TO KNOW: 

1) LSU lost to UMass during the Tip-Off Marathon and then again to Memphis on Friday. The Tigers are matched up with Butler in the Old Spice Classic third-place game. Sunday afternoon offers another opportunity for LSU to land a quality out-of-conference victory.

2) Two weeks ago, Belmont went into Chapel Hill and shocked the Tar Heels. The Bruins host another challenging opponent in VCU on Sunday, as Havoc tries to get back on track after two losses in Puerto Rico last week.

3) Kentucky’s December schedule features games against Baylor, Boise State, North Carolina, Belmont and Louisville. The Wildcats kick off the month against Providence at the Barclays Center.

4) North Carolina has had an up-and-down two weeks. Tar Heels lost to Belmont at home then struggled against Richmond before coming back and dominating Louisville. UNC is back in action on Sunday against a solid UAB team. Following Sunday’s game, North Carolina prepares for No. 1 Michigan State on Wednesday night in East Lansing.

THE TOP 25: 

  • Providence vs. No. 3 Kentucky (8:30 p.m.)
  • Coppin State vs. No. 11 Gonzaga (8 p.m.)
  • Cal Poly vs. No. 14 Oregon (10 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
  • No. 16 North Carolina vs. UAB (6 p.m.)
  • Hardin-Simmons vs. No. 16 Baylor (3 p.m.)
  • George Washington vs. No. 20 Creighton (6:30 p.m., ESPNU)

NOTABLES: 

  • Cornell vs. Notre Dame (1 p.m., ESPN3)
  • Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Seton Hall (2 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
  • Stephen F. Austin vs. High Point (2 p.m.)
  • Norfolk State vs. LIU Brooklyn (2 p.m.)
  • Butler vs. LSU (2 p.m., ESPNU)
  • Miami (FL) vs. Arizona State (2 p.m., ESPN3)
  • Oregon State vs. DePaul (4 .m., Fox Sports 1)
  • VCU vs. Belmont (5 p.m., ESPN3)

Wisconsin ends No. 2 Maryland’s 27-game home win streak

Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown (30) shoots during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Maryland, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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Just over a month ago Wisconsin lost at Northwestern, dropping to 9-9 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten and had the look of a team that would have to fight simply to get into the NIT. Since then, Greg Gard’s Badgers have won seven straight games with the most recent triumph being a 70-57 victory at No. 2 Maryland. Not only did Wisconsin become the first Big Ten team to beat the Terrapins at the Xfinity Center since Maryland joined the Big Ten, but they also ended Maryland’s 27-game home win streak.

And it was Wisconsin’s offensive balance that stood out, as four starters scored in double figures led by forward Vitto Brown.

Brown, who accounted for 18 points and five rebounds in Wisconsin’s win over Nebraska Wednesday night, was even better against Maryland as he scored a career-high 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. While Bronson Koenig (16 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Nigel Hayes (14 and six rebounds) are the ones expected to shoulder much of the load, players such as Brown, Ethan Happ and Zak Showalter (11 points) will also be key as Wisconsin makes its push for an NCAA tournament bid.

In Wisconsin’s first five conference games Brown averaged 4.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest. Since then he’s averaging 11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, scoring in double figures in each of Wisconsin’s last three games.

Overall Wisconsin’s looked far more fluid offensively during this win streak, and over the last three games the Badgers have shot very well from the perimeter as they made nearly 51 percent of their attempts (12-for-26 against Maryland). Add in Wisconsin’s ability to take advantage of Maryland’s defensive rebounding issues, converting 13 offensive boards into 20 second-chance points, and it was easy to see why Wisconsin was able to grab control of the game in the first half during a 20-0 run that gave them the separation they needed.

Maryland’s issues throughout conference play remain the same, as they struggled to end defensive possessions while also turning the ball over far too often (seven times) during the aforementioned Wisconsin run. With Melo Trimble not playing at the level he’s capable of reaching (he may not be completely healthy), Maryland has some things to address during this stretch run.

But more than anything, Saturday was the product of a Wisconsin team that’s starting to click at the right time. And as crazy as it may seem, given how Wisconsin began Big Ten play, the Badgers only two games out of first place.

No. 5 Xavier finds shooting touch in 74-57 blowout at Butler

Xavier head coach Chris Mack talks with James Farr (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Indianapolis. Xavier won 74-57. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) No. 5 Xavier learned its lesson.

To keep winning, it must continue do the dirty work.

Four days after stumbling at Creighton, the Musketeers got back to basics and used a balanced offense and a smothering defense to run away from Butler 74-57 on Saturday.

“We played much better today and after about the first four or five minutes, we defended,” coach Chris Mack said. “Our shots were, in my opinion, really good ones because we got in the lane, we made the extra pass and I thought that was the difference.”

Whatever the explanation, the Musketeers (22-3, 10-3 Big East) certainly looked worthy of the highest ranking in school history.

After making a season-low 30 percent from the field and just 1 of 21 3-point attempts in Tuesday’s loss, Xavier rebounded by shooting 56.9 percent and going 9 of 18 beyond the arc. J.P. Macura led the way with 13 points while Edmond Sumner and Remy Abell each had 12.

But the biggest improvements showed up in other areas – defense, rebounding and effort. They allowed 36 points over the final 31 1/2 minutes.

“Everybody was boxing out and rebounding, and on the offensive end we have so much talent we could get whatever we wanted,” said Abell, who started his college career playing for the Indiana Hoosiers.

The difference was obvious.

Butler (17-8, 6-7) was held almost 25 points below its season average.

Kelan Martin, with 15 points, and Andrew Chrabascz, with 12, were the only players to score more than 10. And the top three scorers – Martin, Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones – were a combined 11 of 39 from the field as the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak came to an end.

Xavier crushed the Bulldogs so thoroughly that chants of “Let’s Go X” resounded throughout sold out Hinkle Fieldhouse over the final minutes.

“We didn’t have near the effort, the juice, the purpose defensively and we didn’t move the ball offensively and that was actually the case from the opening minute,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We mentioned that in the four-minute media and said that had to improve and when it doesn’t these things happen.”

Butler used a 9-0 first-half run to take a 21-13 lead midway through the first half.

Xavier answered with a 27-6 run that included four 3s and a three-point play in a 27-6 run to make it 40-27. The Bulldogs got as close as 47-39 early in the second half, which later became a seven-point deficit after a replay review gave Dunham a 3.

But the Bulldogs couldn’t get closer.

“You can go 1 for 21 one game, and then the next game it’s – I’m sure it was better,” Macura said. “That’s basketball.”

POINTERS

Xavier’s dominance showed up in two key stats on the box score. The Musketeers outscored Butler 36-14 in points off the bench and 36-18 in the paint despite having only two offensive rebounds. Xavier has won six of its last seven.

ON THE ROAD

Even the road has been kind to the Musketeers this season. They have won seven times in true road games, their highest season total since 2010-11. They have also won five Big East games on the road – more than they won in either of their first two seasons in the league and they have won 10 of the last 13 at Hinkle.

MOVING UP

Dunham continues his ascent on the Bulldogs’ career scoring list. After moving from 14th to sixth on the list in the first 23 games this season, Dunham moved passed Lynn Mitchem (1,798) for fifth and within one point of A.J. Graves (1,807) for fourth. Matt Howard is third (1,939) and the only 2,000-point scorers in school history are Chad Tucker (2,321) and Darrin Fitzgerald (2,019).

TIP-INS

Xavier: Former Indiana prep star Trevon Bluiett had 11 points and four rebounds and James Farr had 12 rebounds. … Each of Xavier’s 22 wins has come by at least seven points. … The Musketeers were the highest-ranked team to play at Hinkle Fieldhouse since No. 3 DePaul visited Feb. 23, 1981.

Butler: Shot 33.3 percent overall and was 8 of 22 on 3s. …. The Bulldogs only have three wins at home against Top 10 teams – No. 8 Gonzaga in January 2013, No. 3 Michigan in 1965-66 and No. 5 Tennessee in 1958-59. … Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence attended the game.

UP NEXT

Xavier hosts No. 20 Providence on Wednesday.

Butler hosts Creighton on Tuesday.