Rob Dauster

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 10: Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts against the Butler Bulldogs in the first half of the game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on December 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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No. 22 Cincinnati’s loss to No. 16 Butler shines light on AAC’s struggles

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Kelan Martin scored 20 points and Andrew Chrabascz added 12 points, four boards and five assists as No. 16 Butler bounced back from a tough loss at Indiana State to beat No. 22 Cincinnati, 75-65.

The Bulldogs had been undefeated on the season prior to the loss to the Sycamores, but their ranking was built on the fact that they had beaten Arizona, who was No. 8 at the time, as well as a trio of high-major programs that look destined for the NIT.

Cincinnati probably isn’t destined for the NIT. Their top 25 ranking is justified, which is what makes this win valuable. Quality non-conference wins matter, and this is just one of a handful of good wins for what has proven to be one of the most top-heavy conferences in the country. Villanova, Creighton, Xavier and Butler all look capable of reaching the Sweet 16 this season.

The opposite is true for Cincinnati, who look like the flag-bearer in a conference that isn’t really all that good. They’re the best team in the AAC this season, but that’s a conference that has consistently disappointed this year. SMU, Temple and UConn have all struggled more than we expected them to. Tulsa and Memphis are in rebuilding mode. Houston was supposed to be good this season but they’ve yet to live up to the preseason hype.

Think about it like this: The only team in the AAC without multiple losses on the season is now UCF. That’s … not ideal, and it’s going to be interesting to see just how many bids the league is able to generate.

Think about it. Temple has beaten West Virginia and Florida State while losing to New Hampshire and UMass. SMU’s best win is either Pitt or TCU, both of whom are borderline tournament teams. UConn beat Syracuse but has some atrocious losses on their resume. Houston beat Rhode Island but lost to Arkansas and LSU. Memphis beat Iowa, but Iowa’s not all that good. UCF’s best win is … Mississippi State?

Cincinnati’s lone quality win is at Iowa State, who is about to drop out of the top 25.

POSTERIZED: Wichita State’s Daishon Smith dunks on Oklahoma big man

WICHITA, KS - NOVEMBER 13:  Guard Daishon Smith of the Wichita State Shockers drives up court past forward Roschon Prince #23 of the Long Beach State 49ers during the first half on November 13, 2016 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
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Daishon Smith is 6-foot-1.

Kristian Doolittle is 6-foot-7.

The lil guy won this battle:

Here’s another angle of the dunk, which sent Wichita State’s bench into hysterics:

POSTERIZED: Duke’s Grayson Allen with a Dunk of the Year candidate (VIDEO)

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It looks like Grayson Allen’s toe is healthy. I’d say his explosivness is back:

Whoa.

Yeah.

Nigel Hayes shines against as No. 17 Wisconsin beats Marquette

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 10:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers is fouled by Luke Fischer #40 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half of a game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 10, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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What a difference a year makes.

Last season at this time, Wisconsin dropped a home game to a Marquette team that was headed to the NIT.

This year?

The Badgers put six players in double-figures as they went into Milwaukee and knocked off Marquette, 93-84.

Bronson Koenig continued his hot shooting, finishing with 18 points and six assists while shooting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Vitto Brown chipped in with 15 points, Khalil Iverson had 16 and Ethan Happ chipped in with 11 despite battling foul trouble all afternoon.

But the really story here – hell, the story of Wisconsin’s season to date – has been the change in the way that Nigel Hayes plays.

Hayes was terrific again on Saturday. He had 17 points, nine boards, four assists and three steals. He shot 6-for-10 from the floor and attempted just a pair of threes, making one of them. He had the ball in his hands when Wisconsin was trying to kill off the game, and, more importantly, head coach Greg Gard has seem to start to take advantage of just how good Hayes can be as a facilitator.

There are a couple of points that need to be made here:

  1. When Hayes plays like this, he deserves to be in the all-american discussion. He’s averaging 18.0 points, 7.3 boards and 6.7 assists in the three games Wisconsin has played against high-major competition since the change, and the Badgers have won five straight games while playing easily their best basketball of the season.
  2. And it’s not just because of the numbers he puts up. When Hayes operates as Wisconsin’s de-facto point guard, it makes everyone else on the roster better. For starters, it allows Koenig to play off the ball, where he seems to be more effective. He’s at his best when he’s hunting shots and trying to create off the bounce, but his aggressiveness can be detrimental when he’s the only one touching the ball. It also means offense runs through Happ more often since Koenig isn’t dominating possession, and it lets guys like Brown space the floor because they’re actually able to get rhythm threes.

As of today, Wisconsin is the favorite to win the Big Ten, even if Indiana is far more likely to end up being a No. 1 seed in March.

Gillon, Thompson lead Syracuse over Boston University

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  John Gillon #4 of the Syracuse Orange dribbles up court against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first half during the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim wants his bench to perform better.

He got his wish Saturday.

John Gillon and Taurean Thompson came off the bench to score a Syracuse career-high 23 points and career-high 22 points, respectively, and the Orange broke open a tight game early in the second half to defeat Boston University 99-77.

Gillon hadn’t scored in Syracuse’s two previous games.

“We want guys to come off the bench to score and that’s what happened today,” Boeheim said. “Thompson is getting better on offense. … John saved the game in the first half.”

Andrew White added 19 and Tyler Lydon 10 for the Orange (6-3). Frank Howard had 11 assists and just two turnovers.

Syracuse had lost three of four entering the game.

Cedric Hankerson led the Terriers (4-6) with 34 points, including 10 of 20 from beyond the arc. Eric Fanning chipped in with 12 points and nine rebounds.

Syracuse led 45-39 at the half but outscored the Terriers 19-5 in the first five minutes of the second half, led by seven from Thompson, to take a 64-44 lead. The Orange breezed the rest of the way, extending their lead to 88-55. Syracuse shot 55 percent in the second half, outscoring the Terriers 54-38 after intermission.

“They just got on a run and we couldn’t really bounce back from that,” said Hankerson. “They were hitting some daggers and we started turning the ball over too much.”

“They had some guys who shot better than they had been, and we helped them,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “We were really bad on offense and made some really bad decisions and you can’t do that.”

Gillon and Thompson scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, in the first half to spark what had been a lethargic Orange effort. Gillon’s first-half points included 4 of 4 from beyond the arc.

“I had a lot going on and wasn’t in the right mindset, not ready to play,” said Gillon. “That’s what happens, you get bad results. I’m getting myself together.”

Both teams exchanged baskets early on, but then the Terriers went on an 8-0 run, led by two 3-pointers by Hankerson, to take a 20-12 lead. Two 3s by Gillon and a jumper by Thompson tied the score at 23 with 8:31 to go in the half. The Orange then outscored BU 22-16 to take its halftime lead.

Hankerson, who averaged 9.3 points a game entering the game, scored 19 in the first half.

The undersized Terriers outrebounded Syracuse for the game.

Despite the win, Boeheim said there’s much work to do.

“It’s foolish for me or anybody to think this was going to happen right away. It’s a long way off,” Boeheim said. “We have glaring weaknesses and have to get better.”

BIG PICTURE

BOSTON UNIVERSITY: The Terriers hung tough for a half but the Orange’s talent took over in the second 20 minutes. BU was tough on the boards and had 18 second-chance points.

SYRACUSE: It was another decisive victory for the Orange over a decidedly inferior opponent, so you can’t really judge much from the win.

TIP-INS

Hankerson’s game was his best yet since returning from last year’s season-pending ACL. . This was the first game all year that the Terriers had been outscored in the paint.

White has scored in double figures in all nine Syracuse games. . Lydon is 3 of 17 from 3 in his last three games. .. Dajuan Coleman had just two points after two solid efforts.

UP NEXT

Boston University: Hosts New Hampshire a week from Sunday.

Syracuse: Continues its five-game homestand next Saturday against longtime rival Georgetown on what’s been designated “Pearl Washington Day” in honor of the Syracuse legend who died earlier this year.

Alkins leads No. 20 Arizona past Missouri, 79-60

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 25:  Rawle Alkins #1 of the Arizona Wildcats drives against Sean McDermott #22 of the Butler Bulldogs during the championship game of the 2016 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on November 25, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) It’s an old cliché winning on the road in college basketball is no easy task.

As a visiting opponent, having only seven players on scholarship doesn’t make it any easier.

It didn’t seem to faze No. 20 Arizona, which looked polished and poised as it defeated Missouri for the third consecutive season, cruising to a 79-60 victory Saturday in its first true road game of the season.

Rawle Alkins led the way for the Wildcats with 19 points and nine rebounds. Kobi Simmons had 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting, and Kadeem Allen added 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

“We’re going through a lot right now,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “How we practice and every game, it’s just really crucial for us. I think that in short time, I’m hopeful we can get some guys back, but in the meantime, this was a meaningful game. … I’m proud of our guys’ effort and approach tonight.”

The Wildcats (8-2) jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first 3:12, eventually taking a 25-8 lead with 10:29 remaining in the first half. From that point, Missouri outscored Arizona 28-16 in the half, including a 7-0 run to end the opening 20 minutes.

The Tigers (5-4) continued to chip away at Arizona’s lead, eventually cutting the deficit to 45-41 early in the second half. However, the Wildcats responded with a 26-4 run that included a Missouri scoring drought of 6:59, halting any momentum the Tigers had mustered.

“I thought we did great job of coming back,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “I was really proud of our guys and the way they competed. In the second half early, we had some chances, and then they went on a great run and for all practical purposes, put the game out of reach.”

Kevin Puryear had a team-best 11 points and seven rebounds. Leading scorer Frankie Hughes was held in check by the Wildcats’ backcourt, scoring 10 points on 2-of-13 shooting. Russell Woods had eight points and six rebounds, and Cullen VanLeer added eight points, all in the first half.

A reported crowd of over 10,000 was on hand for the only currently ranked opponent on Missouri’s home schedule.

VanLeer attributed the Tigers’ comeback efforts to the home crowd energy.

“The magnitude of the crowd was really nice to have. We appreciated everyone that came out. We were upset we couldn’t get the win today, but hopefully we can continue to get bigger crowds and it’ll help us get rhythm and flow in the game,” VanLeer said.

Arizona dominated the glass, outrebounding Missouri 46-28, its worst rebounding margin of the season.

The Wildcats led wire-to-wire despite nearly doubling Missouri’s turnovers, 15-8, and committing 22 fouls to the Tigers’ 11. Missouri shot 66.7 percent from the free throw line, including 9 of 17 in the second half.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: The Wildcats entered the game shooting 36.6 percent from 3-point range, but caught fire early against the Tigers, shooting 54.2 percent. Missouri made just 1 of 8 3-point attempts in the second half while the Wildcats made 6 of 10. Missouri was coming off a season-high 3-point output against Miami (Ohio).

Missouri: A tenacious on-ball defender, Missouri point guard Terrence Phillips has struggled with foul trouble in recent games. In Monday’s 81-55 win over Miami (Ohio) Phillips played only 10 minutes in the second half, finishing with four fouls. He picked up his third foul 3:56 into the second half, limiting him to just 16 minutes against the Wildcats.

PIVOTAL MOMENT

Woods received a bounce pass in the lane on a fast break and gathered for a two-handed slam in front of the Missouri student section that would have cut the deficit to 45-43, but missed the dunk. On the ensuing Arizona possession, Woods was whistled for a foul, leading to two free throws by Arizona forward Dusan Ristic, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds.

LET DOWN

Freshman 7-footer Lauri Markkanen entered the game as Arizona’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 17.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. Against Missouri, the native of Finland had a season-low eight points to go with six rebounds, and fouled out with 2:53 remaining.

Puryear discussed his approach to defending Markkanen.

“Just being physical with him,” Puryear said. “Not letting him get comfortable with where he was on the floor with the ball. He likes to operate in the mid-post area, so I tried to eliminate that.”

UP NEXT

Arizona: hosts Grand Canyon on Wednesday.

Missouri: hosts Eastern Illinois next Saturday.