I’m not sure that No. 16 Iowa State could have played much better than they did on Wednesday night in Lawrence.
Georges Niang shook off a horrendous performance in the first game against No. 6 Kansas, finishing with 24 points on 10-for-17 shooting. DeAndre Kane added 22 points and Melvin Ejim finished with 18. The Cyclones handled a furious start from Kansas, where the Jayhawks seemed poised to turn this game into a rout, erasing what was at one point a 16 point first half lead and getting within 46-43 by the break.
It was much of the same in the second half, as Iowa State had an answer for just about every Jayhawk blow.
And it still wasn’t enough. Kansas pulled away down the stretch thanks to a career-high 29 points from Andrew Wiggins, who led five players in double figures. Embiid and Perry Ellis combined for 34 points and 17 boards while Naadir Tharpe had arguably the best game of his Kansas career, finishing with 12 points, 12 assists and just a single turnover.
In other words, Kansas looked like the best team in the country on Wednesday night.
And the Cyclones were right there with them. In Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
It’s hard to come away from that performance anything but impressed. Sure, you’d like to see that defense improve, but Iowa State could not possibly matchup more poorly with Kansas. And, quite frankly, the Jayhawks are not an easy team to stop when Wiggins, Ellis and Tharpe play like they did tonight.
This was the fourth loss in the last five games for the Cyclones, but three of those four came on the road and the home loss was against the Jayhawks. We know what this team is. As long as they win their home games and beat the teams they’re supposed to be on the road, they’ll be fine.
A valiant effort at the Phog only reinforced that notion.
Marquette earned an important Big East season sweep for its postseason aspirations as they held on in double overtime to upset No. 20 Providence 96-91 on Wednesday night.
The Golden Eagles (16-9, 5-7) overcame rallies from the Friars in both regulation and the first overtime to finally put away the home victory. Freshmen led the way for Marquette as Henry Ellenson had 26 points and 16 rebounds while Haanif Cheatham added 21 points.
Providence was led by Ben Bentil, as he poured in 41 points by hitting numerous tough looks to keep the Friars in the game. Player of the Year candidate Kris Dunn finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Providence but he committed a key turnover on an errant pass when the game was tied on the final possession in regulation. Dunn fouled out in the first overtime and Bentil did his best to knock in tough 3-pointers (6-for-13) to keep Providence in the game.
Marquette did just about everything they could to give this game away but still came away with a critical win. The Golden Eagles blew a nine-point lead in the second half and showed their youthful inexperience by fouling Bentil on a key 3-point attempt in extra time. With a chance to make it a two-possession game at the end of the first overtime, Cheatham corralled an offensive rebound — on a bad shot attempt in the first place — and put up a wild putback attempt when the Golden Eagles could have run clock and forced Providence to foul.
Despite those mistakes, the Golden Eagles have to be pleased to pick up a season sweep over the Friars as they beat a good team twice in very tight games. Playing without center Luke Fischer in overtime, Marquette still managed to pick up the victory. Coming off of consecutive losses, Marquette needed this win badly as they now get Creighton twice with a road game at DePaul sandwiched in between.
As for Providence (18-7, 6-6), Bentil showed that he’s recovering just fine from that ankle injury but this team still needs more help outside of the dynamic duo of Dunn and Bentil. It was encouraging that Providence rallied in the first overtime without Dunn in the game to force more time, but Bentil ran out of gas in the second overtime and didn’t have much help to keep the Friars in the game. The Friars have now dropped four of their last five games, including a three-game losing streak that includes road losses at DePaul and Marquette. Providence is back to .500 in the Big East and needs a solid showing its next three games against solid competition.
Alabama played inspired ball on both ends of the floor and held on to upset No. 15 Texas A&M 63-62 in an SEC thriller on Wednesday night. Trailing by one point with less than three seconds left, Texas A&M had a chance to tie or take the lead with senior Anthony Collins at the line for two free throws. But Collins, one of the nation’s best free-throw shooters at 92 percent on the season, missed both free throws in a heartbreaking loss for the Aggies.
The Crimson Tide controlled the glass most of the game by outrebounding the Aggies 36-29 and also forced 13 Texas A&M turnovers. The loss for Texas A&M means they’ve lost four of their last five games and four straight games in the SEC.
Retin Obasahon led Alabama (14-9, 5-6) with 16 points as he made a lot of big plays in the second half to put the team on his back. The win means the Crimson Tide have won three consecutive games and defeated four ranked opponents during the season. Riley Norris added 11 points for the Crimson Tide while Shannon Hale was also in double-figures with 10 points.
Although Texas A&M (18-6, 7-4) did better with their recent shaky 3-point defense, holding Alabama to 8-for-25 (32 percent) from distance, they were outhustled on the glass for much of the game and couldn’t overcome a slow start. Senior Jalen Jones finished with 21 points and seven rebounds while Danuel House had 12 points and Collins finished with 11.
This loss is absolutely killer for Texas A&M, as they continue to slide down the SEC standings. The recent road woes for the Aggies also continued as they’ve lost three straight away from home. The schedule doesn’t get much easier for the Aggies the next few games, either, as they travel to LSU and then host Ole Miss and Kentucky. Texas A&M is in a potential freefall right now and they went from a major contender in the SEC to a team that just needs to get back on track.
As for Alabama, this is another solid win for head coach Avery Johnson in his first season. It’s hard to say if Johnson got some scouting advice from his son Avery Johnson Jr., a redshirt guard for the Crimson Tide who played for the Aggies last season, but they’ll certainly take this tight win. Alabama is now 5-1 in one-possession games this season and there’s something to be said for that mark.