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Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Bubble battles, good games out west

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 11 Creighton at Marquette, 8:00 p.m.

Marquette paid a visit to Omaha in Creighton’s first game as a member of the Big East, and they got smacked about by the Bluejays. The Golden Eagles have gone on to have a fairly-disappointing 2013-2014 campaign, but a recent hot streak has gotten them back into the NCAA tournament conversation. A win over Creighton would go a long way to ensuring that Buzz Williams’ guys aren’t doomed to the NIT.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 23 UCLA at Cal, 10:30 p.m.

UCLA now looks like they’ve inherited the title of the second best team in the Pac-12, but every time a team takes over that title, they end up struggling. Kyle Anderson is quietly having one of the best seasons of anyone in the country, averaging 15.4 points 8.7 boards and 6.8 assists. How come no one is talking about this guy?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 4 Arizona at Utah, 10:00 p.m.

Arizona is, quite simply, not the same team without Brandon Ashley. That much is obvious. Utah is a tough out this season, and playing at the altitude is never an easy thing to do. Also worth noting: Delon Wright might be the best player in the country that no one is talking about. He could end up being a first round NBA Draft pick before his career is over.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) No. 10 Saint Louis will visit George Mason tonight. The Patriots almost beat the Billikens in Saint Louis earlier this season. The game will be on the NBC Sports Network at 7:00 p.m.

2) Arizona State will be at Colorado tonight in a game that features two of the Pac-12’s hopeful tournament teams.

3) New Mexico and UNLV will square off tonight in a battle to determine who the second-best team in the Mountain West is. After a sluggish start, the Rebels have a glimmer of NCAA tournament hope. They can’t afford another loss, however.

4) No. 3 Wichita State will put their undefeated record on the line tonight at Loyola (IL).

5) No. 1 Syracuse will do the same as they host BC

NOTABLES:

  • Auburn at No. 2 Florida, 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 7 Cincinnat at UCF, 7:00 p.m.
  • Northwestern at No. 24 Ohio State, 7:00 p.m.
  • American at Boston U., 7:00 p.m.
  • Houston at SMU, 8:00 p.m.
  • Mississippi State at LSU, 8:00 p.m.
  • Vanderbilt at Missouri, 8:00 p.m.

VIDEO: John Calipari’s sensational rant on coaching business over Gottfried, Fox

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After No. 13 Kentucky landed an 82-77 win at Georgia that they probably didn’t deserve, head coach John Calipari went on a terrific rant about the state of the coaching profession based on Georgia head coach Mark Fox and the now-fired-but-still-coaching Mark Gottfried.

And he says a lot in here – video below – including good points about Gottfried’s success at N.C. State and the fact that Fox has been incredibly unlucky this year. From overtime losses at Florida and at Kentucky to a loss at Texas A&M because of a clock malfunction to a loss at home to Kentucky when star forward Yante Maten goes down with a knee injury 90 seconds into the game, no one has been more snake-bit than Georgia this season.

The worst part?

It’s coming in a year where Fox’s job is on the line.

But here is the best point that Cal makes: “He keeps his team together. That’s coaching. Not when things are going good. It’s when things go south and you lose a bunch in a row, how do you get them to go?”

“They do this to us without Maten. That’s what kind of coach Fox is.”

Cal also went in on N.C. State for their treatment of Gottfried.

“We’re firing coaches in midseason. Are you s******* me?,” Cal said. “We’re firing coaches in midseason. You know what I’m putting my contract? You can fire me at midseason but you’re going to have to pay me $3 million. Oh, you’ll let me stay now, won’t you. You can fire me midseason, but you’re paying me.”

“Every coach in the country, PUT IT IN YOUR CONTRACT. What if Mark Gottfried goes on a run at the end and gets to the NCAA Tournament, which he was in four out of five years? Two Sweet 16s, which is not done at NC State. What happens if he now if he goes and wins and gets another team [into the tournament]. He had good players but they’re young, they’re like my team. It’s hard to do this with young guys.”

Down two starters, No. 5 Arizona survives Washington

TUCSON, AZ - JANUARY 12:  Lauri Markkanen #10 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after scoring against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second half of the college basketball game at McKale Center on January 12, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 91-75. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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SEATTLE — Lauri Markkanen had 26 points and 13 rebounds, Allonzo Trier scored a season-high 21 points and No. 5 Arizona held off a challenge from Washington for a 76-68 victory on Saturday night.

Arizona (25-3, 14-1 Pac-12) remained on top of the conference standings and won its fourth straight. The Wildcats did it short-handed, with starters Dusan Ristic and Kadeem Allen out because of injuries.

It wasn’t easy, as Washington put forth one of its best efforts of the season but still couldn’t snap a losing streak that’s now reached nine games, tied for the longest in school history. Chance Comanche’s rebound and dunk with 52 seconds left finally gave Arizona enough of a cushion to hold on in the final moments.

Markelle Fultz scored 26 points, but the Huskies (9-18, 2-13) had no field goals over the final 4:41 of the game.

Comanche finished with 12 points filling in for Ristic. Ristic was out after spraining his left ankle in Thursday’s win over Washington State. Allen was considered a game-time decision after dislocating a finger on his shooting hand, but never left the Wildcats’ bench.

Washington took its only lead at 52-51 as Fultz spun through the lane and converted a difficult layup with 14:50 remaining. Arizona coach Sean Miller called timeout and Arizona immediately went to a zone defense that stymied the Huskies. Meanwhile, Trier hit his fourth 3-pointer to put Arizona in front and dunks by Markkanen and Comanche pushed the lead to 60-53 with 10:40 remaining.

David Crisp’s 3-pointer snapped a nearly five-minute drought without a field goal by Washington, but Markkanen scored four straight points to push the lead to 67-58 with 7:20 left.

The Huskies didn’t go away. Fultz rattled in a 3-pointer with 4:37 left and Arizona’s lead was down to 69-65. It was the final field goal for the Huskies as the Wildcats pulled away in the closing moments.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: Trier had a combined 11 points in his previous two games and made 3 of 17 shots in those games against California and Washington State. He was 6 of 10 against the Huskies, including five 3-pointers, a new career high.

Washington: Center Malik Dime played for the first time since breaking a finger in his shooting hand last month and since serving a suspension for slapping a fan at Colorado. Dime played just 20 minutes due to foul trouble but at least gives the Huskies another size option on the interior the final few weeks of conference play.

UP NEXT

Arizona: The Wildcats return home to host USC on Thursday night.

Washington: The Huskies travel to rival Washington State next Sunday.

VIDEO: Louisiana-Lafayette wins game on half court buzzer beater

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Jonathan Stove for the win!

Georgia’s Yante Maten leaves loss to No. 13 Kentucky with knee injury

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 13:  Yante Maten #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs shoots the ball against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the quarterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 13, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Playing what may be their most important game of the season, Georgia suffered a brutal blow less than two minutes into the game.

Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe stumbled after scoring on a drive to the rim and fell into the right knee of Georgia’s star center Yante Maten.

Maten, a 6-foot-8 junior averaging 19.4 points this season, did not return to the game.

This is a brutal loss for the Bulldogs, who needed to beat the No. 13 Wildcats to have a realistic chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but for the sixth time this season, Georgia lost a hard-fought game to a top 25 team.

The final score on Saturday was 82-77 despite Georgia’s star point guard J.J. Frazier going for 36 points. De’Aaron Fox scored 12 of his 16 points down the stretch to help the Wildcats land a come-from-behind win in a game that, frankly, they did not play well enough to win.

That’s the sign of a good team, but that probably won’t be much comfort for Kentucky fans that are tired of seeing their team struggle. Fox finished with 16 points, five boards and five assists while Malik Monk chipped in with 16 points.

The win does keep the Wildcats atop the SEC standings.

No. 1 Gonzaga remains undefeated with 20th straight double-figure win

SPOKANE, WA - DECEMBER 10:  Przemek Karnowski #24 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs moves toward the basket against defender Isiah Johnson #23 of the Akron Zips in the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center on December 10, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  Gonzaga defeated Akron 61-43.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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SPOKANE, Wash. — Nigel Williams-Goss had 18 points and seven assists as No. 1 Gonzaga beat Pacific 82-61 on Saturday to remain the only undefeated team in Division I.

Johnathan Williams had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and five players scored in double figures for Gonzaga (28-0, 16-0 West Coast), whose 28-game winning streak is the longest in the nation. The Zags have two games left in their quest to become the first team since Kentucky in 2014-15 to finish the regular season undefeated.

Jack Williams scored 16 points for Pacific (10-19, 4-12), which played Gonzaga tough at home on New Year’s Eve. Pacific played without second-leading scorer T.J. Wallace, out with a foot injury.

Pacific was undone by 33.8 percent shooting, compared to 46 percent for Gonzaga, and a poor rebounding performance.

Neither team shot well in the early going, and Gonzaga held a 21-18 lead midway through the first half.

The Zags closed out the half with a 22-12 run, the last eight points by Williams-Goss, to take a 43-30 lead.

Gonzaga opened the second half with a 10-3 run to extend its lead to 20 points. The lead later grew to 70-43 and the Tigers did not threaten again.

BIG PICTURE

Pacific: The Tigers led Gonzaga 46-45 at home on Dec. 31 before the Bulldogs pulled away for a 20-point victory. It was the only WCC game this season in which Gonzaga has trailed in the second half. Pacific is 1-11 in the series against Gonzaga, winning in 1976.

Gonzaga: Gonzaga is off to the best start in program history, and has won 20 straight games by double digits. They have seven wins against teams that are in the top 50 in RPI. The Bulldogs have trailed less than 7 percent of the time in their games this season, and only twice in the second half.

UP NEXT

Pacific plays Santa Clara next Thursday.

Gonzaga plays at San Diego next Thursday, and closes the regular season by hosting BYU next Saturday.