Thursday threatened to be a chaotic evening. Top-ranked Michigan State was sluggish early, No. 4 Arizona State found itself in trouble on the road, No. 14 Arizona was under seige and No. 19 Cincinnati looked uninterest.
In the end, the Spartans crushed Maryland, the Wildcats pulled away and Cincy emerged victorious, with only the Sun Devils succumbing to upset.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Thursday night that nearly was:
1. JACOB EVANS BAILS OUT CINCY FROM AN UNINSPIRING PERFORMANCE
Cincinnati really didn’t look like it was all that interested in being in snow-covered Philadelphia on Thursday night. There were like 97 people The Liacouras Center and the energy to match. The game unfolded like a typical ugly L ranked teams sometimes take on the road. The Bearcats couldn’t make shots, were sloppy with the ball and simply weren’t making winning plays at critical junctures.
They did, though, hang around long enough for Fran Dunphy to smack a bottle of water on to the floor in frustration at an inopportune time to get a technical and change the momentum of the game. Yeah, a skipping bottle of Dasani may have flipped an AAC game. Eventually, Cincinnati finally strung enough stops together and got a last-second game winner from Jacob Evans on a hero-ball possession.
In the end, it was an ugly, uninspiring win for the Bearcats, but a win nonetheless. Mick Cronin’s crew, though, are built to win a lot of games with that formula thanks to a defense that absolutely crushes opponents inside. Temple shot just 36.4 percent on 2-pointers.
2. SUN DEVILS GET STUNG
Arizona State drew huge plaudits over the weekend in a loss to rival Arizona. Sure, the Sun Devils, but, the thinking went, they showed their true mettle by sticking with the Wildcats for a full 40 at the McKale Center. It was a loss, but one that proved Arizona State is for real.
There will be no such praise after falling to Colorado.
Bobby Hurley’s team nearly got bailed out by Mickey Mitchell’s game-tying dunk with 5 seconds left in regulation, but Arizona State was outscored by the Buffs 16-7 in the extra 5 minutes to take a second-straight loss.
The Sun Devils shot just 36 percent from the field – 27.3 percent from 3 – against a Colorado team that had lost three-straight games to vaunted opponents such as Iowa and Oregon State coming into the game.
3. WICHITA STATE LOOKS LIKE THE CLASS AMERICAN
The Shockers absolutely obliterated Houston on Thursday. WIchita State made nine of their first 11 3-point attempts and finished 12 of 27 from distance in its 81-63 victory.
Houston looked like a potential challenger – more likely thorn in the side – for the Shockers, but this was no contest. Wichita State outclassed them from start to finish. And on a night where SMU lost at Tulane and Cincinnati needed to escape Temple, Gregg Marshall’s team sure did look like the class of the AAC by about a mile. The Bearcats’ night was probably a blip, but their offense has enough issues to think Wichita State is the clear frontrunner. Especially when they go bezerk from 3-point range.