There was a lot of great basketball played this afternoon, but here are the six scores that you should pay the closest attention too:
No. 4 Syracuse 67, Cincinnati 52: The Bearcats had scrapped their way back from an early 15-point deficit by hitting nine first-half threes to get to within two points just before halftime, but the Orange used an 16-0 run to open the second half that put them up 51-31. Cincy has now played two of the Big East’s powers, and while both were on the road, the Bearcats have two uninspiring losses in those games.
No. 7 Villanova 74, Maryland 66: With just under 10 minutes left in the game, Maryland had a 59-47 lead. But over the next 7:31, the Terps missed eight straight field goals, two straight free-throws, committed two turnovers, and allowed the Wildcats to go on a 19-0 run that all but sealed the outcome. Jordan Williams had 25 points and 14 boards, but there wasn’t much else from the Terps. Once again, they lost a game against a premiere opponent that they had a shot to win. This isn’t a bad Maryland team. The Terps are just two spots behind the Wildcats in Kenpom’s rankings largely becase they are the best defensive team in the country. But without a marquee win — they lost to Pitt, Illinois, Temple, Duke, BC, and now Nova — their date with Duke on Feb. 2nd may make or break their NCAA Tournament hopes.
No. 24 Michigan State 71, Northwestern 67 OT: This game was important on both ends. The Spartans picked up another close win in conference play, their second-straight overtime win. The loss is more telling for the Wildcats, however. Once again, they lost a we-almost-had-it game to the Spartans. If you remember from a few weeks ago, the Spartans beat Northwestern when the Wildcats couldn’t finish a come back with poor execution in the final seconds. Today, it was a travel by Juice Thompson with three seconds left in regulation that cost Northwestern a shot at winning the game. At 2-4 in the Big Ten, Northwestern is in trouble. They aren’t dead — there are plenty of chances for them to land resume building wins the rest of the season — but unless they learn how to close, more disappointment seems to be in store.
Tennessee 67, Vanderbilt 64: Tennessee got the kind of second-half performance that could spark a turnaround for their season. After playing an embarrassingly bad first half, the Vols came all the way back from a double-digit deficit, executed late in the game, and got some clutch shots out of Tobias Harris, Scotty Hopson, and Cameron Tatum late. This is a team that has looked like they are apathetic to the outcome of this season, but the second half this afternoon was different. The best example? Enigmatic center Brian Williams had a gutty performance, controlling the glass on both ends, despite clearly being in pain with an injured elbow. It will be interesting to see where the Vols go from here with road trips to Georgia and UConn next week.
Memphis 77, Marshall 61: A day after Wesley Witherspoon was suspended by Josh Pastner for mocking an assistant coach on after losing at SMU, the Tigers smoked Marshall at home. Playing without their “veteran leader,, this group of Memphis new comers seemed to be playing for each other. Could Witherspoon have really been that big of a negative influence on this team?
Colorado 75, Oklahoma State 71: Don’t look not, but the Buffaloes are now 3-0 in the Big 12. Maybe all those predictions we made about Colorado being a sleeper in the league were correct after all.
No. 19 Georgetown 74, Rutgers 65: Georgetown got a win they desperately needed. They got a good shooting performance out of Austin Freeman (25 points, 9 boards, 4 assists) as well as Jason Clark and Chris Wright. There are some worrisome notes about this game, however. Georgetown had just nine assists on 23 field goals.
No. 20 Kansas State 94, Texas Tech 60: Is this a result of Kansas State being mad, Kansas State getting Curtis Kelly back, or Texas Tech truly being horrific? Regardless, the Wildcats got a win they really, really needed.
South Carolina 72, Florida 69: If anyone figures out the SEC, please let me know. South Carolina now has wins over Florida and Vanderbilt? And can anyone be as consistently inconsistent as this Florida program?