Joel Embiid, Markel Brown

No. 15 Kansas beats No. 9 Oklahoma despite a lack of Andrew Wiggins

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In a game that has been billed for months — literally — as a battle between Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart, the two favorites for National Player of the Year back in November were fairly forgettable.

Smart was 3-for-14 from the floor, but as he tends to do, he put together an impressive all-around performance, finishing with 10 boards, eight assists and four steals while sparking an Oklahoma State comeback from a 47-30 halftime deficit.

Wiggins?

Well, he finished 1-for-5 from the floor. He had three points, two boards and an assist. He took one shot after the 9:26 mark … of the first half! The most physically gifted wing in the country, one of the nation’s top prospects and a future top three pick in the NBA Draft, was a complete non-factor for the No. 15 Jayhawks.

And it didn’t matter.

They jumped out to a huge first half lead and hung on down the stretch, knocking off the No. 9 Cowboys, 80-78.

Think about that for a second. Wiggins was thought to be the savior for the Jayhawks because he gave them a go-to guy, an offensive weapon that would be able to get them 20 points on a nightly basis and give them an option at the end of a clock. He was going to be the guy that Bill Self would build an offense around, the load-bearing shoulders that would carry a young and unproven Kansas team to yet another Big 12 title.

The Jayhawks are now 4-0 in the Big 12, having beaten their four biggest challengers in Big 12 play already — at Oklahoma, Kansas State, at Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Kansas State is the only team that currently sits within one game of the Jayhawks in the Big 12 standings. This is arguably the most talented team in the country, and they are peaking at the right time.

And they are doing it despite the fact that their Sports Illustrated cover boy has yet to be anything more than a piece to the puzzle.

That’s scary for two reasons.

First of all, the rest of the Jayhawks have found their groove. Embiid, who finished with 13 points, 11 boards and eight blocks, has turned into arguably the most dominant post presence in college basketball. Wayne Selden caught fire last week, sparking Kansas against Oklahoma and Kansas State. Naadir Tharpe is (finally) fully embracing the point guard role Kansas has been waiting for him to fill for two years. He had 21 points and six assists on 7-for-8 shooting on Saturday, which included three huge jump shots in the second half, the last of which gave Kansas a 79-73 lead with 35 seconds left.

But what happens if Wiggins is the next guy to come full circle? What happens if it finally comes together for him? Kansas already has full control of the toughest conference in the country. They already look like a national title contender. And they can still get so much better.

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.