Game of the Week: Arizona 87, Washington 86
This was about as entertaining as basketball can get. Washington was down by as much as 12 points in the second half, but Isaiah Thomas and Matthew-Bryan Amaning took over in the second half. Thomas finished with 12 points and nine assists with just two turnovers, absolutely shredding the Wildcat’s half court defense with a series of gorgeous passes off of a pick and roll. Bryan-Amaning, for the most part, was the guy on the receiving end of those pick and roll passes, as he finished with 18 of his 24 points in the second half while adding nine boards, six blocks, four assists, and three steals.
The ending was just as exciting. Derrick Williams hit a contested three to give Arizona the lead, and after the two teams traded buckets, Washington had the ball on the final possession with a chance to win. Bryan-Amaning was called for a travel, but Arizona turned the ball right back over with 2.2 seconds left. It set up this finish:
Williams finished with 26 points and 11 boards and the game-saving block, but more on him later in this post.
St. John’s 60, Pitt 59: The Panthers looked as if they had taken firm control of this game, opening up a 56-51 lead late on St. John’s in the Garden. But the Red Storm was not ready to give up. After five free throws tied the game up, Paris Horne grabbed the offensive rebound when Dwight Hardy missed a free throws. He got the ball back to Hardy, who was fouled and knocked down two free throws to give the Johnnies the 58-56 lead. Travon Woodall answered with a three pointer, setting up this final possession:
Now, based on screen caps from the ESPN broadcast using the camera above the back board, it appears as if Dwight Hardy’s heels are out of bounds on that last move:
Look at the referee’s head in the video. Look at it in the picture. He is staring right at Hardy’s feet, standing three feet away. He would have seen if Hardy’s heels had touched the baseline. Hardy didn’t step out. But he did finish with 19 points and the Johnnies knocked off their fifth top 15 team at home.
Cal 76, UCLA 72 OT: Cal provided another piece of evidence to the folks that believe you should automatically foul when you are up three with under five seconds left. After blowing a 12 point lead in the second half, Cal allowed Malcolm Lee to take a tough, fadeaway three from the top of the key that hit the front of the rim, bounced two feet into the air, and fell through the hoop for the game-tying basket. In overtime it was the Jorge Gutierrez show, however, as he finished with 34 points, six assists, and three steals, including finding Brandon Smith for a three with 14 seconds left that clinched the game.
Players of the Week: Just like last week, there is more than one player deserving of getting credit in this space:
Jacob Pullen, Kansas State: For the first time all season, Jacob Pullen looked like the all-american we expected to see this season. He went for a career-high 38 points in the Wildcat’s win over Kansas, a win that thrust Frank Martin’s club right back into the NCAA Tournament. Then on Saturday, Pullen had 27 points as K-State knocked off Oklahoma.
Derrick Williams, Arizona: We already talked about the 26 points, 11 boards, and two blocks that Williams had in Zona’s win over Washington, but that wasn’t his only impressive performance this week. He also went for 26 points and eight boards in a win over Washington State. Throw in UCLA’s loss to Cal on Sunday, and Arizona now owns a commanding two game lead in the Pac-10 standings. Williams, to his credit, threw himself into the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick come June.
E’Twaun Moore, Purdue: Moore was good in Purdue’s win over Wisconsin, going for 19 points. He was great in their win over Ohio State, however, finishing with 38 points and five assists and 13-18 shooting and 7-10 from deep. More on Purdue and Moore in a bit.
The all they-were-good-too team:
- G: Tu Holloway, Xavier: Holloway had 14 points, seven assists, five boards, and three steals in a win over St. Joe’s, but that wasn’t his most impressive stat line of the week. Against Fordham, the Xavier junior had his second triple double of the season, finishing with 26 points, 11 boards, and 10 assists.
- G: Dwight Hardy, St. John’s: Hardy, who is making a late-season run at Big East player of the year, had 28 points, six boards, and five steals in a win at Marquette and followed that up with 19 points and the game-winning layup against Pitt.
- F: Kenny Faried, Morehead State: The Eagles notched two road wins this week, and Faried — as usual — was a huge reason why, averaging 20.0 ppg and 13.5 rpg. He also passed Tim Duncan as college basketball’s all-time leading rebounder in the process.
- F: Tony Mitchell, Alabama: Alabama keeps churning out wins in the SEC West and moving closer to an at-large bid. Mitchell had just 13 points and four boards against LSU, but he went for 27 points, nine boards, and about three vicious dunks in ‘Bama’s comeback win over Arkansas.
- C: Nikola Vucevic, USC: Vucevic may be the best big man that no one ever talks about. In two road wins this week, he averaged 20.0 ppg and 12.0 rpg.
- Bench: Ramone Moore, Temple (24 points in 73-53 win over Richmond); Norris Cole, Cleveland State (16 points, 10 assists, six boards vs. Wright State, 35 points at Old Dominion); Corey Fisher, Villanova (34 points in OT win vs. DePaul); Jorge Gutierrez, Cal (34 points, six assists in OT win vs. UCLA); Scotty Hopson (averaged 27.5 ppg in a 1-1 week); John Jenkins, Vanderbilt (21 points in final 13 minutes in win over Georgia);
Team of the Week: Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue avenged losses to both Wisconsin and Ohio State when they visited Mackey Arena this week. Against the Badgers, Purdue got 20 points and 10 boards out of JaJuan Johnson, but the star was Lewis Jackson, who outplayed Jordan Taylor with 18 points, five assists, and no turnovers in the win. Against Ohio State, it was the E’Twaun Moore show, as he went for a career-high 38 points.
Purdue did two things this week. They threw themselves right back into the mix for a Big Ten regular season title. They are now just a game behind the Buckeyes. Ohio State has a much easier road down the stretch — they get three games at home while Purdue has to go on the road three times — but being one game back with four games left is a much easier task than sitting three games back with four games left.
Purdue also legitimized this argument I made back in the preseason. This is still a team that can make the Final four. They have two all-americans on their roster, Lewis Jackson and Kevan Barlow are both developing into quality role players, and guys like Ryne Smith, DJ Byrd, and Travis Carroll are playing more and more valuable minutes. The Boilermakers aren’t going to be able to power through opponents to make a Final Four like the top four or five teams in the country, but with some favorable matchups, this is absolutely a team with the horses to make the Final Four. (Do I even need to make the mention of how nasty this team would be with Robbie Hummel? I dont? Good.)
Teams deserving of a shoutout:
- Kansas State: The Wildcats are now right back into the thick of the NCAA Tournament race, as they blew out both Kansas and Oklahoma at home this week. Not only is Jacob Pullen finally playing like the Jacob Pullen we all expected to see this season, the rest of the Wildcats are doing the same. They are playing with energy, they are defending, they are diving on the floor, and they are finally getting some production from their front court. The question will be whether or not this holds up the rest of the season. If you are a college basketball fan, then you hope that it does.
- Utah State: The Aggies picked up an enormous win against St. Mary’s on Saturday in Bracket Busters. The Gaels, believe it or not, are the first top 90 win that Utah State has earned this season. They are certainly not a lock for the NCAA Tournament yet, but if they win out in the regular season and avoid being upset early in the WAC Tournament, Utah State should be able to feel pretty comfortable about getting an at-large bid.
- CAA: Obviously, the headline of this group is George Mason, who extended their nation’s-best win streak to 13 games with a 20 point win at VCU and then going into Northern Iowa and knocking off the Panthers. They have all but locked up an at-large bid as well. A big part of that is that during Bracket Busters, the Colonial separated themselves from the rest of the mid-major leagues. Old Dominion put themselves into a good position to get an at-large bid by knocking off Cleveland State despite a 35 point outburst from Norris Cole, while VCU got a bit lucky in their win over Wichita State on the road. Its possible that the CAA can get three bids into the NCAA Tournament.
- Nebraska: The Cornhuskers may have gotten lucky twice this week, but in the end a win is a win, and Nebraska notched two of them. Against Oklahoma, a game-tying three by Cade Davis turned out to only be a two when his toe was on the line. In a win over Texas, the Huskers were able to hold on despite doing their damnedest to give away a late 11 point lead with turnovers, missed free throws, and fouled three-point shooters. Regardless, the Huskers are now officially in the bubble picture, which is more than anyone expected this season.
- Temple: After knocking off Richmond by 20 points and getting a bit of help from Dayton when the Flyers beat Duquesne, a 2-0 week from the Owls put them all alone in second place in the Atlantic-10.
Matchups of the Week:
- 2/21 – 7:00 pm: Syracuse @ Villanova
- 2/22 – 7:00 pm: Illinois @ Ohio State
- 2/22 – 9:00 pm: Tennessee @ Vanderbilt
- 2/22 – 9:00 pm: Michigan State @ Minnesota
- 2/23 – 7:00 pm: Temple @ Duke
- 2/23 – 8:00 pm: Colorado State @ BYU
- 2/24 – 9:00 pm: West Virginia @ Pitt
- 2/24 – 7:00 pm: Marquette @ UConn
- 2/24 – 7:00 pm: Georgia @ Florida
- 2/26 – 12:00 pm: Syracuse @ Georgetown
- 2/26 – 12:00 pm: Missouri @ Kansas State
- 2/26 – 1:00 pm: Wichita State @ Missouri State
- 2/26 – 2:00 pm: BYU @ SDSU
- 2/26 – 2:30 pm: St. John’s @ Villanova
- 2/26 – 4:00 pm: Florida @ Kentucky
- 2/27 – 2:00 pm: Pitt @ Louisville
- 2/27 – 7:45 pm: Maryland @ UNC