Previewing your college hoops weekend

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UPSET ALERT

Sat. 12:30 pm: No. 17 Wisconsin @ Northwestern: There may not be a team in the country that needs a win on Saturday as badly as the Wildcats need this win. This was supposed to be the year for Northwestern. Most of the experts expected the Wildcats to compete for a tournament bid, and while it is far too early in the season to count them out, its been a tough go of things thus far. They have lost just about every meaningful game that they have played — including their first four against the Big Ten’s heavyweights — but at least now they have a healthy John Shurna.

Wisconsin is a good matchup for Northwestern. The Wildcats are not a very good defensive team by any stretch of the imagination, and Wisconsin will surely exploit that. They are the country’s sixth best team in terms of offensive efficiency in very large part due to their offensive execution. It also helps to have talents like Jon Leuer, Jordan Taylor, and Keaton Nankivil executing that offense. Bo Ryan is a great coach, and I have no doubt that he will be able to scheme a way for the Badgers to score.

But Northwestern is pretty good offensively as well, and while the Badgers low scoring games might lead you to believe that they are great defensively, those numbers are more a result of their snail’s pace — they are the third slowest team in all of college basketball — than a stifling defense.

Wisconsin also struggles to defend the three, which just so happens to be Northwestern’s strongest strong suit. The Wildcats run a Princeton-style offense, and with shooters seemingly everywhere on the floor, they are quite successful at spreading the floor and getting good looks. If the threes are falling, the Badgers could be in trouble.

UPSET SPECIAL

Sat. 2:00 pm: Tennessee @ No. 8 UConn: You can call Tennessee’s win at Georgia the by product of a couple lucky calls, and I probably won’t disagree with you. You can say their 17 point comeback against Vanderbilt was fluky, and you’d have a very good point. But what you cannot argue is that the Vols look like they are regaining some of the confidence and swagger that they had in beating Pitt and Villanova. Tennessee also is a good defensive team when they want to be. Melvin Goins is strong, quick, and athletic, and if you saw what he and Scotty Hopson did to Villanova’s back court defensively, then you wouldn’t be surprised if he was able to slow down Kemba Walker. Brian Williams and John Fields are also both big and strong enough to give Alex Oriakhi fits. Throw in the fact that Bruce Pearl is back for this one, and you should expect Tennessee to come out firing on all cylinders.

Sat. 6:00 pm: No. 12 Kentucky @ South Carolina: Quick, take a guess at who is currently leading the SEC East as the only 3-1 team? Give up? Its South Carolina. The Gamecocks are a scrappy team, led by Sam Muldrow and Bruce Ellington, that has already beaten Florida and Vanderbilt. If you remember back to last season, Devan Downey led the Gamecocks to a memorable win over then-undefeated Kentucky in Columbia. The Wildcats have also struggled in true road games, losing three of four to Georgia, Alabama, and UNC. Ellington may not be Downey, but anyone that saw his performance against Vanderbilt would not be surprised if he rose to the occasion on Saturday.

Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 9 BYU @ Colorado State: It feels almost criminal to say anything bad about the Jimmer Show right now, but this Colorado State team is a lot better than they are getting credit for. They are coming off of a 15 point win in Vegas against UNLV and also beat Southern Miss and Ole Miss down in Cancun during the Christmas holiday. BYU doesn’t have a great front court, meaning it could be tough for them to matchup with Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin, who of the best forwards you have never seen play. Oh, and CSU held Ole Miss’s Chris Warren to 11 points on 3-17 shooting in Cancun. If they can slow down Jimmer — who had his worst game of the season against TCU his last time out — they have enough that they could spring this upset.

Sat. 10:30 pm: No. 25 Arizona @ Washington State
: Arizona has not been a great team on the road this season. They already lost this season at Oregon State and are coming off of a pretty thorough beating at the hands of U-Dub on Thursday night. Wazzu may be in the middle of the Pac-10 right now, but they will have Reggie Moore back for this one. They also have one of the best perimeter scoring duos in the country in Klay Thompson and Faisal Aden, although Aden has struggled a bit of late, reaching double figures only three times in his last seven games. If DeAngelo Casto can avoid getting into foul trouble and slow down Derrick Williams, Arizona could very well head back to Tucson having been swept.

BEST MATCHUPS

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 1 Ohio State @ No. 22 Illinois: This will be a real test for the Illini. It is the Big Ten’s worst kept secret that Illinois’ front line is far from overpowering, to say the least. Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale, while both talented front court players, are not known for their physical play. Should I mention that the Buckeyes have a kid by the name of Jared Sullinger on their roster who just so happens to be the best low post positional scorer in the country? Ohio State plays tremendous defense, but Illinois is a good offensive team when they play like they did against Michigan State for the first 29 minutes, i.e. when their shots are falling. The key for the Buckeyes will be to keep Demetri McCamey from being able to put the ball on the floor, get into the lane, and kick the ball out to shooters. Tisdale may be the key offensively. His ability to score on the perimeter could cause trouble, as OSU doesn’t exactly have the most mobile front court. Expect a lot of pick-and-pops.

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 7 Villanova @ No. 3 Syracuse: The past few seasons, it hasn’t gotten much better than a Big East showdown, and this game is no different. Hopefully, Jay Wright has tape of Pitt’s win against Syracuse from this week, because they gave a clinic on how to beat the zone — getting the ball to this high post. Now, Nova does not have the kind of versatile big men that Pitt had (namely, Nasir Robinson), but they do have better penetrators at the guard spot. Pitt’s success came when they screened the top of the zone, so expect some of that from the Wildcats. If Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns can get to the foul line area and find the open man, they have a shot at this. Two other notes — Kris Joseph reportedly practiced on Thursday, meaning he should be ready to play on Saturday, as he fights back from a concussion he suffered against Cincinnati. And when Corey Stokes hits four or more threes, Villanova has lost one game his entire career.

Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 24 Kansas State @ No. 10 Texas A&M: This is a huge game for Kansas State, who desperately needs to string together a couple of wins if they want to turn their season around. Texas proved that the Aggies are very beatable, especially when you have a couple of big men inside. Kansas State does, in Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels, and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts. The problem? K-State cannot score, and A&M is good at controlling tempo and making things difficult for teams with mediocre offenses. The key for the Aggies will be whether or not their back court of BJ Holmes and Dash Harris can find any kind of offense. They were a combined 3-10 against Texas and didn’t take a single foul shot.

Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 21 St. Mary’s @ Vanderbilt: Apparently this game is not on TV, which is a shame for basketball fans everywhere. St. Mary’s is looking more and more like the best team in the WCC. Mickey McConnell has been sensational this season, playing as efficiently and intelligently as you can as a point guard. He’s great off of the pick-and-roll, and is arguably the best shooter in the country when he gets time. Matthew Dellavedova is underrated on the wing, and Rob Jones showed everyone why the Gaels were excited about his addition with an 18 point, 13 rebound performance against his old team San Diego. It should be fun to see him match up with Jeff Taylor. Where the Gaels could be in trouble in inside. Fetsus Ezeli is as improved inside as anyone in the country, and Steve Tchiengang and Lance Goulbourne are both big, athletic players. This has the makings of a potential 7-10 matchup in the tournament.

Sat. 3:00 pm: Temple @ Xavier: Forgive me, Duquesne fans, but until one of these teams proves otherwise, I’m assuming that these are the two best teams in the A-10. Temple, who has been playing with a beatup Juan Fernandez, did just get dominated by the Dukes on the road, but I still like what they offer. They defend, they have size, and they have a star in the making in Ramone Moore. Xavier has been ravaged by injury this year, crippling their rotation, but they still have Tu Holloway, who we may as well dub Kemba Walker 2.0. If the Owls can slow down Holloway, they have a chance to win in the Cintas Center.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 11 Texas @ No. 2 Kansas: Its hard to believe that this, the one and only matchup between the two best teams in the Big XII, is not a lock for the best game of the day. The Jayhawks have arguably the best front court duo in the country in the Morrii. Their both talented and versatile scorers that could eventually both go in the first round of the draft. Throw in Thomas Robinson, a potential NBA Draft pick, off the bench, and Tristan Thompson and Gary Johnson will have their hands full up front. That said, I’m not sure Kansas has an answer for Jordan Hamilton, the Longhorn’s star sophomore that has blossomed into one of the best scorer’s in the country. Texas wins because of their defense, but Kansas may actually be a better team on that end of the floor. I could write a thousand words previewing this game, but only two are really needed — just watch.

Sat. 4:00 pm: VCU @ Old Dominion: For my money, these are the two best teams in the CAA, and they couldn’t be anymore different. ODU is a grind-it-out defensive team whose best offense at times is to crash the offensive glass that loves to slow the pace. VCU presses, shoot a lot of threes, and likes to play zone in the half court. The most important player on the floor? VCU’s center Jamie Skeen. They are going to need a big-time rebounding performance out of him Saturday.

Sat. 4:00 pm: UNLV @ New Mexico: There is an argument to be made that this is the most important game of the day. UNLV is currently sitting at 2-3 in the MWC. New Mexico is just 1-3. Safe to say, both are really struggling right now, and both desperately need a win to remain relevant in the conference — and at-large — race. For the loser, it may end up meaning that a miracle run to close out the season, or a win in the conference tournament, is the only way they will be dancing.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Marquette @ No. 16 Notre Dame
: Marquette just beat the Irish by 22 points in the Bradley Center, but as we’ve said so many times in this space, Notre Dame is a different team at home and on the road. Marquette is reknowned for their ability to turn every game into a barnburner, and this one should be no different. What makes this game all the more intriguing is how well their personnel matchup. Both are guard heavy teams and both have a bevy of skilled and versatile front court players. The Irish have finally gotten Carleton Scott back from injury, which should be a boost for them.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Boston College @ Florida State: Want to hear something crazy? Boston College and Florida State are currently tied with Duke for first in the ACC. Even crazier? Neither can remotely be considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament. We have been talking for a long time about whether someone will emerge as the second best team in the conference. That team may just be the winner of this game. Reggie Jackson is the key. He’s a terrific talent, but FSU also happens to be one of the best defensive teams in the country.

Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 18 Purdue @ No. 13 Michigan State: Capping off a day loaded with great games is ESPN’s Gameday battle between the Boilermakers and the Spartans. Purdue started out the season strong, but has slumped a bit of late, losing two of three and needing a late JaJuan Johnson jumper to beat Penn State on Wednesday. Michigan State, on the other hand, seems to finally be settling into a rhythm. They pulled out wins against Wisconsin and Northwestern at home in overtime, and while they lost to Illinois on the road, the Spartans started to finally look like the Spartans. A couple of made jumpers down the stretch, and that outcome would have been different. E’Twaun Moore has been struggling the past five games, and Purdue is going to beed him to wake up. For Michigan State, the key is going to be avoiding settling for jumpers against Purdue’s stingy defense. I expect a big game out of Draymond Green, who is a matchup problem for Purdue, but unless Johnson is struggling from the floor, I don’t see the Spartans being able to slow him down, even with Delvon Roe’s improved play on the defensive end.

BEST STORYLINES

Friday

  • 7:00 pm: Belmont @ USC-Upstate: Belmont is beating Atlantic Sun opponents by 28 points a game. USCU is 2-15 on the season. This could get ugly.
  • 7:00 pm: Green Bay @ Butler: I mean, its Butler.

Saturday

  • 11:00 am: George Mason @ James Madison: There are five teams at the top of the CAA. These are two of them.
  • 12:00 pm: Richmond @ UMass: Would you be surprised if I told you UMass was tied for second in the A-10 with Richmond?
  • 1:30 pm: Colorado @ Oklahoma: If Colorado is remotely for real, they have to win this game.
  • 2:00 pm: Stanford @ UCLA: It wasn’t too long ago that this was annually a huge game.
  • 2:00 pm: Wright State @ Cleveland State: Huge game in the Horizon.
  • 2:00 pm: Charlotte @ Duquesne: Duquesne looks like they could really be the best team in the A-10.
  • 2:00 pm: Hofstra @ William & Mary: Charles Jenkins has put this Pride team on his back. It would be a great story if he could carry them to the CAA title.
  • 2:30 pm: Clemson @ Maryland: Maryland passes the eye test, but they haven’t been able to get a big win this season.
  • 4:00 pm: No. 4 Pitt @ DePaul: I don’t think that Pitt will lose their first Big East game this weekend.
  • 4:00 pm: No. 5 Duke @ Wake Forest: Wake Forest lost to Georgia Tech 74-39. What’s the spread on this game going to be?
  • 4:00 pm: Arizona State @ No. 20 Washington: The Huskies proved themselves to be the best team in the Pac-10 when they beat Arizona. Will there be a letdown? Can Arizona State turn their season around?
  • 4:00 pm: Mississippi State @ Georgia: Renardo Sidney, Dee Bost, and Ravern Johnson vs. Trey Thompkins, Gerald Robinson, and Travis Leslie? That will be fun.
  • 4:00 pm: Appalachian State @ Charleston: Donald Lee vs. Andrew Goudelock? Yes please.
  • 4:00 pm: St. John’s @ Cincinnati: Games like this will help weed out the pretenders and the contenders for an at-large bid from the middle of the Big East.
  • 4:30 pm: Chattanooga @ Furman: Can the Mocs rebound from an embarrassing loss to Wofford?
  • 4:30 pm: Hampton @ Bethune-Cookman: Big game at the top of the MEAC.
  • 4:30 pm: Morgan State @ Delaware State: Ditto.
  • 5:00 pm: No. 15 Louisville @ Providence: Two pressing teams that jack up threes? If they are both hot, this could reach the 90’s.
  • 5:00 pm: Creighton @ Missouri State: This is almost a must-win for Creighton if they want to remain in the hunt for the MVC title.
  • 7:00 pm: No. 19 Minnesota @ Michigan: Darius Morris, Michigan’s point guard, is one of the best players you have never seen.
  • 7:00 pm: Memphis @ UAB: Memphis will likely be without Wesley Witherspoon again. Can they continue their two game winning streak against another C-USA contender?
  • 8:00 pm: Arkansas @ Florida: I think we all want to erase the image of Florida’s 45-40 win over Auburn from our memory banks.
  • 8:00 pm: Gonzaga @ San Francisco: Gonzaga’s success has made the WCC better, but it has also made the conference tougher. The Dons are tied with the Zags at 3-1 in the league.
  • 8:05 pm: Indiana State @ Wichita State: Another huge game at the top of the MVC. Its also ISU’s first real road test in league play.
  • 9:00 pm: Iowa State @ No. 14 Missouri: The Cyclones are better than we expected, but they’ve come up short a couple of times in Big XII play. Their threes will need to fall if they want to win.
  • 9:05 pm: Montana State @ Montana: Second place in the Big Sky is on the line.
  • 11:00 pm: New Mexico State @ Utah State: I think we all expected these to be the two best teams in the WAC. If you haven’t seen Troy Gillenwater play, he’s worth the two hours.

Sunday

  • 2:00 pm: South Florida @ West Virginia: One day soon we are going to find out who the real West Virginia is. If we do on Sunday, its bad news for the Mountaineers.
  • 4:00 pm: Belmont @ East Tennessee State: The biggest game of the Atlantic Sun schedule to date.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Houston reaches No. 1 in AP poll for first time since 1983

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
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Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men’s college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in the AP Top 25. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

“It’s not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We’ve been working for this,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They get along. They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

“Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

IN AND OUT

Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the only newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which dropped out after a one-week stay following its loss to TCU in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

CONFERENCE WATCH

There are six difference conferences represented in the first seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25 while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of them are in the top 10.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.

No. 18 Alabama beats No. 1 North Carolina 103-101 in 4 OTs

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Mark Sears had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, and No. 18 Alabama sent top-ranked North Carolina to a second straight loss with a 103-101 victory in a quadruple-overtime thriller on Sunday in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational tournament.

Jahvon Quinerly added 21 points off the bench for the Crimson Tide (6-1), who knocked off the top-ranked team for the first time since upsetting Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

“I was losing track of how many overtimes we were in there at the end,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “A lot of credit to our guys. I thought they showed a lot of character when we could have folded.”

Charles Bediako had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, while Brandon Miller also scored 14 points.

Caleb Love led the Tar Heels (5-2) with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Armando Bacot contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, and R.J. Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds in the second four-overtime game in North Carolina history. The other was a victory over Tulane in 1976.

“At the end of the day, Alabama made one more play than we did,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “I walked in the locker room and a number of the guys had their head down and I told them to pick their head up. I’m just as disappointed (as the players) in terms of the final outcome, but I couldn’t be any more proud about the way they competed.”

Bediako gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good on a layup with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime.

The Tar Heels, who lost to Iowa State in the semifinals, led by as much as eight in the second half before Alabama came back to tie it. The Crimson Tide retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Gurley with 2 minutes remaining, and later tied with another free throw from Sears with 51 seconds remaining in regulation.

Alabama starting forward Noah Clowney took a hard fall on a dunk attempt four minutes into the first half and had to be helped off the court. He did not return.

The Crimson Tide were 16 for 38 (42.1%) from 3-point range, with Sears making seven.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels figure to take a deep drop in the Top 25 poll.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide bounced back nicely following their loss to No. 20 UConn in the semifinals, beating a top-ranked team in the regular season for the first time since a 66-64 victory over eventual national champion Arkansas on Jan. 8, 1994.

UP NEXT:

North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Bloomington to face No. 11 Indiana on Wednesday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide return home to face South Dakota State on Saturday.

Clingan lifts UConn past Iowa State for Phil Knight title

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Donovan Clingan had 15 points and 10 rebounds to power No. 20 UConn to a 71-53 win over Iowa State in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday night.

Tristen Newton scored 13 points for the Huskies (8-0), who went 20 for 25 at the free-throw line. Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson, Jr. each had 10 points.

Osun Osunniyi led Iowa State (5-1) with 14 points. Tamin Lipsey had 12 points and Jaren Holmes finished with 11.

“They were the more aggressive team,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We wanted a physical game. We didn’t want a physical game with them getting the rebounds and then also us putting them on the foul line. Lesson that we’ve got to learn is we need to embrace being the aggressor at both ends of the floor at all times.”

The Huskies had more offensive rebounds (20) than the Cyclones had total rebounds (19), and capitalized on that disparity with 20 second-chance points.

“Those guys are tough,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “T.J.`s an excellent coach. They grind people up. To outrebound them, it just speaks to how tough we were.”

Clingan, who was named tournament MVP, scored eight points to help UConn to a 38-28 lead at the break.

Iowa State closed to 53-48 on Holmes’ 3-pointer midway through the second half. But Karaban made a 3 and a dunk, and Newton’s jumper made it 60-48 with 7:13 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies couldn’t have asked for a better showing in Portland, winning all three of their games.

Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up nice wins over Villanova and top-ranked North Carolina in the earlier rounds but ended with their first loss of the season.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies return home to face Oklahoma State on Thursday.

Iowa State: The Cyclones return home to face North Dakota on Tuesday.