Mike McCall

Mike McCall’s buzzer-beater lifts Saint Louis over Valparaiso (VIDEO)

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With 3.8 second left, Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans tossed his inbounds pass to Rob Loe, who drove to the bucket, but his lefty layup was blocked. The Valparaiso defense had its heads turned, allowing Mike McCall Jr. to slip past on the box out, and tipped in the game-winner as the Billikens escaped with a 67-65 road win over Valpo on Saturday.

Saint Louis never trailed on Saturday, but in the second half the Crusaders erased a 12-point deficit. Valpo dug itself in a first half hole, committing 13 turnovers through the first 20 minutes.

Exciting finish aside, was Saturday a concern for Saint Louis?

A week ago, the Billikens held a seven-point edge against No. 12 Wichita State while Shockers guard Ron Baker sat on the bench with foul trouble. When Baker went back in, the Shockers took the lead with 9-0 run, as Cleanthony Early woke up after a 1-for-8 start. Saint Louis had several opportunities to tie or take the lead, but missed all three 3-point tries and missed half its free throws in the final 90 seconds.

(Watch Askia Booker’s buzzer-beater in Colorado’s win over Kansas on Saturday)

Credit to Valparaiso for clawing back into the game. The Crusaders trailed by nine with under six to play, but a 53-31 edge on the glass, which included 20 offensive boards, helped Valpo tie the game at 65 with five seconds to go off a LaVonte Dority layup. Saint Louis had multiple chances to put the game out of reach, but could not convert.

“We had a couple offensive lapses, but our defense was good,” Evans said after the game according to Tom Timmerman of the St. Louis Dispatch. “Rebounding got the best of us. But down the stretch, we made the plays we needed to make, so I’ll take it.”

Despite giving up more offensive rebounds in the second half than they pulled down in the entire game, the Billikens were able to take advantage of the biggest second-chance bucket of the night with McCall’s heroics.

After another quality test, Saint Louis — the defending champion in the Atlantic 10 — improves to 8-2. The Billikens host Wofford next Saturday before welcoming an experienced Indiana State team to Chaifetz Arena on Dec. 18 for yet another non-conference challenge.

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.