Ethan Wragge

Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Wisconsin-Michigan, Villanova-Creighton

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 6 Villanova vs. No. 18 Creighton, 5 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

Back on Jan. 20, Creighton went into Philadelphia, and shot lights out from three. The Bluejays went 21-of-35 (60 percent) from beyond the arc including nine triples from Ethan Wragge in a 96-68 win over then-No.4 Villanova.

The second matchup is Sunday evening with Omaha, with first-place in the Big East on the line. Villanova enters, looking to avenge its worst performance of the season, and land a road victory. A win will give the Wildcats a game and a half lead over the Bluejays. If Creighton sweeps Villanova, it will have a half game lead with five games left before the Big East tournament.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 21 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 Michigan, 1 p.m. (CBS)

Michigan is atop the Big Ten standings. Wisconsin appears to be back on track after losing five out of six. On Sunday afternoon, both teams will look to boost its resume with another win over a ranked opponent.

Michigan is in the middle of a four-game stretch against ranked opponents. The Wolverines were dominated by Iowa, followed by a win in Columbus over Ohio State. Michigan wraps up this slate next Sunday against rival Michigan State. Wisconsin, winners of three straight, beginning a two-game road trip starting Sunday in Ann Arbor and ending next Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: No. 4 Wichita State vs. Evansville, 5 p.m. (ESPN3)

The Shockers are one of two remaining unbeaten teams, putting an unblemished 26-0 record on the line, on the road, against Evansville. Wichita State may not land a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but the Shockers are good enough to make another run in March.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Michigan State, like rival Michigan, will look to remain in the top spot in the conference when the Spartans host Nebraska on Sunday afternoon.

2) Georgetown has won four games after losing five consecutive. St. John’s won four in a row, and seven of its last eight games. A win today for either team would bump them above .500 in Big East play.

3) Two of the top three teams in the American are in action with SMU on the road against Temple and Louisville hosting Rutgers.

4) The basketball version of the Civil War — Oregon State vs. Oregon — is today at Sunday evening. The Beavers have previously defeated the Ducks this season.

5) Iona hold a two and a half lead in the MAAC standings. Three teams will vie for second place on Sunday:

  • Canisius vs. Siena, 2 p.m.
  • Niagara vs. Manhattan, 2 p.m.
  • St. Peter’s vs. Quinnipiac, 2 p.m.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Nebraska vs. No. 9 Michigan State, 3 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
  • Rutgers vs. No. 13 Louisville, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • No. 23 SMU vs. Temple, 2 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

NOTABLES:

  • Bryant vs. Wagner, noon (CBS Sports Network)
  • Northern Kentucky vs. Mercer, 2 p.m.
  • Oregon State vs. Oregon, 3 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
  • Notre Dame vs. Boston College, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • Minnesota vs. Northwestern, 6 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
  • Georgetown vs. St. John’s, 7 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
  • Colorado vs. USC, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

Lehigh Virginia Basketball
AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

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The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org