No. 2 Syracuse beats No. 17 Duke in the Game of the Year

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“We’ve had a lot of games in here that have been great, but there’s never been a game as good as this one.”

That’s what Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim told Shannon Spake after the No. 2 Orange knocked off No. 17 Duke, which is a strong statement but one that Boeheim could very well be correct about. The hype entering this game was out of control — the two winningest college basketball coaches of all time, two storied programs playing their first game as ACC rivals, 35,446 fans in the Dome, I could go on and on and on —  but this was one of the rare occasions where the game was as good as the pregame show.

C.J. Fair led the way for the Orange, finishing with 28 points, while Jerami Grant added 24 points and 12 boards as Syracuse overwhelmed the smaller Blue Devils in the paint. But Duke countered, hitting 15 threes, pounding the offensive glass and putting five players in double figures.

And it played out to perfection.

The Orange would make a run pounding the ball into the paint. Duke would respond by hitting a couple of threes to get back into the game. Back and forth, over and over again, with the most notable stretch being the trio of second half three-pointers that Tyler Thornton hit on consecutive possessions to keep Duke within striking distance as Syracuse looked ready to pull away.

The crescendo came at the end of regulation, when Rasheed Sulaimon, who finished with 16 points and seven assists, went the length of the court to hit a three and force overtime:

The Orange would go on to win in overtime, the beneficiary of a somewhat friendly whistle down the stretch that allowed them to remain undefeated, but someone had to end up losing this game.

Focusing strictly on who ended up winning this game would belie a bigger point: what we saw at the Carrier Dome on Saturday was two teams capable of making the Final Four in Arlington playing about as well as they can play.

For the Orange, that meant feasting on the mismatches that get created when Fair and Grant are on the court together. Fair inparticular. He is the prototype combo-forward at the college basketball level. He’s a face-up scorer that’s big enough to score in the post, athletic enough to get his shot off against anyone and comfortable enough on the perimeter to cross a defender over and hit a pull-up jumper in his face. We saw his full arsenal on Saturday, and it was nothing short of impressive. The same can be said for Tyler Ennis, whose 14 points and nine assists were as unnoticeably sensational as always.

On the other side of the ball, the undersized Blue Devils scrapped for everything inch they could get. Whether it was the 14 points, seven boards (six offensive) and five assists from Amile Jefferson or the relentless of Jabari Parker attacking the rim despite getting swatted five or six times, the Blue Devils weren’t intimidated by the longer wingspans and bigger verticals of the Orange. At the end of the day, they fought hard enough that their 15 threes buoyed them, which is more or less what the goal for this Duke team has been all season long.

In the end, it all came down to one play: Rodney Hood driving the lane, down one with 15 seconds left, going up to try to dunk over Rakeem Christmas. Did he get fouled? Was it a clean block? We can debate it all day long, but the refs didn’t blow their whistle and the Orange escaped.

They head into the season’s stretch run without a blemish on their record. Duke sits three games back in the ACC standings but ahead of where they were at the start of the day — miles ahead of where they were at the start of the week — in the eyes of anyone with a semblance of basketball intellect.

The best news of all?

We get to do it all over again in three weeks, this time at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Good luck trying to get a ticket to that game.

VIDEO: St. Bonaventure beats Vermont on Matt Mobley buzzer-beater

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St. Bonaventure outlasted Vermont in Olean, NY, on Saturday afternoon, winning 81-79 thanks to this buzzer-beating three from Matt Mobley.

It was the only shot that Mobley, who is averaging 19.6 points on the season, made on the day:

Vermont guard Trae Bell-Haynes missed a layup on the previous possession, but Payton Henson was there for a put-back to give Vermont a 79-78 lead with just five seconds on the clock.

Jaylen Adams scored 17 points and had five assists to lead St. Bonaventure. Courtney Stockard added 14 points, and Amadi Ikpeze and Izaiah Brockington each chipped in with 13.

Anthony Lamb led the Catamounts with 27 points.

VIDEO: Arena evacuated during Ohio State-Appalachian State game

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There was a weird scene on Saturday evening as Ohio State hosted Appalachian State.

Early in the second half, a fire alarm went off as the game as being played, which was followed by an announcement played over the PA asking everyone to evacuate the arena.

And it was all captured live on the Big Ten Network:

The game was eventually continued, and it appears that the incident was nothing more than the fire alarm working the way that it is supposed to. From a statement released by Ohio State: “Tonight’s event was interrupted by a failure on an exhaust fan. The fan shut off and allowed the smoke from a concession stand to enter the fresh air return on one of our air handlers and activated one of our smoke detectors. The building systems worked as they were designed and we were able to reset the alarm, repair the exhaust and return to normal operations.”

Clemson rallies past No. 22 Florida 71-69

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SUNRISE, Fla. — Marcquise Reed threw a 75-foot pass to Elijah Thomas for a dunk that put Clemson ahead to stay with 37 seconds left, and the Tigers rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half Saturday to beat No. 22 Florida 71-69 in the Orange Bowl Classic.

With Clemson trailing 68-67, Reed rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by KeVaughn Allen and threw a football-style pass from one free-throw lane to the other, hitting Thomas on the run for an easy score.

Clemson (9-1) beat a ranked team for only the eighth time in school history and continued its best start since 2008. Florida (6-4) lost for the fourth time in the past five games.

The Tigers won despite having a point taken off the scoreboard with 4 seconds left. Thomas’ free throw put Clemson ahead 70-68, but the point was wiped out when the officials realized it was Reed who had been fouled.

Reed then made two free throws to help seal the win. He finished with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Gabe DeVoe added 19 points and six rebounds for the Tigers, who shot 51 percent. Clemson coach Brad Brownell earned his 300th victory.

Jalen Hudson scored the Gators’ first 12 points and finished with 23.

Egor Koulechov sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Gators a 40-33 halftime lead, and they were up 47-35 early in the second half. Clemson took its first lead since 4 minutes into the game when DeVoe sank a 3-pointer to make it 67-66.

The meeting was the first between the teams since 1957.

No. 19 Florida State lost to Oklahoma State 71-70 in the first game of the doubleheader.

BIG PICTURE

Florida coach Mike White has been unhappy with his team’s transition defense. The Gators allowed only seven fast-break points, but that included Thomas’ decisive dunk.

UP NEXT

The Gators play host to James Madison on Wednesday.

Clemson plays host to South Carolina on Tuesday.

Oklahoma State hands No. 19 Florida State 1st loss, 71-70

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — A grinning Mitchell Solomon collapsed on his back under the Florida State basket, looking up toward his celebrating Oklahoma State teammates and the scoreboard above them.

Cowboys 71, Seminoles 70.

Solomon scored on a tip-in with 6 seconds left and then happily fell to the floor at the other end of the court when he took a game-clinching charge, and Oklahoma State knocked No. 19 Florida State from the unbeaten ranks Saturday in the Orange Bowl Classic.

Florida State went ahead on Terance Mann’s follow with 10 seconds remaining, but Oklahoma State needed only four seconds to go the length of the court to score for the 14th and final lead change.

Following a timeout, the Seminoles’ CJ Walker drove into the lane but collided with Solomon and was called for the foul, sealing the Cowboys’ win.

“I just try to pride myself on playing that way all the time,” Solomon said.

Florida State (9-1) missed a chance to match the best start to a season in school history. Oklahoma State (8-2) ended a streak of seven consecutive losses against ranked teams since February.

“To come out and compete for 40 full minutes — we hadn’t done that yet this year,” Cowboys coach Mike Boynton said. “We beat a really good team today. Florida State is going to win a lot of games in the ACC.”

The Seminoles’ loss left only four unbeaten teams in Division I: Villanova, Arizona State, Miami and TCU.

“We’re in a conference where you can’t get caught up in streaks, because nobody in the ACC is going to go undefeated,” coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It doesn’t happen. Tonight we played against a team that played a little better than us.”

Florida State squandered a seven-point lead in the final 8 minutes but still had a chance to go ahead in the final seconds. Oklahoma State forward Jeffrey Carroll said the final sequence starring Solomon at both ends of the court had a cinematic tinge.

“It almost felt like slow motion,” Carroll said, “like a movie almost.”

Boynton said he expected the Seminoles to drive to the lane on their final possession.

“We were just fortunate that Mitch knew the right play,” Boynton said. “He came over and gave up his body, sacrificed for his teammates and got our team a win.”

Solomon had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Carroll, a senior, made his first start of the season and scored 23 points to surpass 1,000 for his career, and was voted the game’s outstanding player

Senior Phil Cofer scored a career-high 22 points for Florida State. Mann, a junior, had 20 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.

The Seminoles committed a season-high 22 turnovers against a variety of Oklahoma State defenses.

“They were extremely prepared,” Hamilton said. “They mixed the defenses up.”

BIG PICTURE

Eight players had two or more turnovers for Florida State. Oklahoma State has forced at least 19 turnovers in each of the past four games.

The Seminoles shot 41 percent and were held well below their scoring average of 87.1 points per game. They were outscored 37-32 in the second half — the first time they’ve been outscored in a half this season.

Florida State also missed three of six free throws in the final 3:20.

BIG HOLE

The Seminoles fell behind 9-4 for their biggest deficit of the season.

NEWCOMER

St. John’s transfer Yankuba Sima made his Cowboys debut and had five points in 16 minutes.

INJURY REPORT

Seminoles center Christ Koumadje (foot) dressed but missed his seventh game in a row.

STAYING LOOSE

Solomon stood at the end of the bench when he was not in the game.

“I just stand up so my knees don’t get tight and stiffen up,” the senior said.

Said Carroll to Solomon: “You’re getting old.”

UP NEXT

Oklahoma State hosts Tulsa on Tuesday.

Florida State hosts Charleston Southern on Monday.

No. 2 Michigan State holds off upset-minded Oakland 86-73

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DETROIT (AP) — Tom Izzo and Michigan State probably needed a game like this.

Little Caesars Arena definitely needed it.

Detroit’s new downtown sports venue — where empty seats at Red Wings and Pistons games have limited the buzz so far — was a pulsating home for a college basketball doubleheader Saturday, and No. 2 Michigan State capped the all-local event with an 86-73 victory over upset-minded Oakland.

Michigan beat Detroit Mercy 90-58 in the opener , but the atmosphere really picked up after Oakland took the lead in the second half against Izzo’s Spartans. Michigan State finally went on a 12-2 run late in the game to pull away.

“We took some punches,” Izzo said. “They hit some shots in a row, guys, and the place started getting into it. That’s where I thank our fans, because we had more of them, and they rose up and we hit a couple of those 3s. It changed.”

Kendrick Nunn scored 32 points for the Golden Grizzlies, who stayed right with the talented Spartans (10-1) until the final minutes. Michigan State improved to 16-0 against Oakland, but only after the type of test the Spartans can expect again from underdogs down the road.

Nick Ward had 15 points and 15 rebounds for Michigan State, which finished with a 45-30 edge on the boards and made enough outside shots to keep Oakland (6-5) at bay. It was tied at 66 before the decisive run by the Spartans, which included two 3-pointers by Winston.

Kenny Goins had eight rebounds and seven assists for Michigan State.

“Nick and Kenny were huge,” Winston said. “They cleaned it up.”

Michigan State led 38-33 at halftime, but it was clear early in the second half that this would be no easy win for the Spartans. Oakland’s Martez Walker had two four-point plays in the first few minutes of the half. The second one put Oakland up 52-49 with just under 15 minutes remaining.

Michigan State kept scoring, however. Winston finished with 19 points, Joshua Langford scored 17 and Miles Bridges had 11. Jaren Jackson Jr. added 10.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe didn’t want to hear about any moral victory for his team.

“I am not happy,” he said. “We should have won the game. Oakland should have won this game.”

BIG PICTURE

Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies did what they needed to do to make a game of it, shooting 7 of 15 from 3-point range in the second half. They struggled around the basket, though. Michigan State had a clear rebounding advantage, and Oakland had a hard time scoring inside.

Michigan State: The Spartans turned the ball over 17 times but were able to close off the perimeter at the very end, finally containing Nunn. It was a win that bodes well for Michigan State’s ability to stave off potential upsets in the future.

RETURN

Nunn’s status was in question leading up to the game because of an ankle issue. Kampe said there was concern that Nunn could be out for the season, but a second opinion indicated it was just tendinitis that can be managed.

“I was pretty relieved just to know that I couldn’t damage it anymore,” Nunn said.

PREVIEW?

Little Caesars Arena is hosting the first two rounds of this season’s NCAA Tournament, and if all goes well for the Spartans, they’ll be playing close to home in the venue.

“This is so cool for Detroit,” Izzo said. “It’s just starting to feel like a city that’s coming back to life, and if we can be a little part of it today and we can be a big part of it in March, no one will be more excited about it than me.”

UP NEXT

Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies host Towson on Wednesday night.

Michigan State: Winners of nine straight, the Spartans probably won’t be challenged too much Monday night when they host Houston Baptist.