It wasn’t pretty, but UNC outlasts Wisconsin

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Its easier to slow a game down than it is to speed a game up.

Remember that. Controlling pace is as much of an equalizer as the three-point shot, particularly for a team playing on the road. You limit the number of possessions, you keep your opponent from getting into a rhythm and, if you’re playing on the road, you keep the crowd from getting into the game.

And that is why it wasn’t until an 18-5 run midway through the second half that North Carolina, who was the No. 1 team in the country prior to their loss to UNLV in Vegas on Saturday, was able to gain control in Wednesday’s 60-57 win over Wisconsin.

No team in the country is able to control the flow of a game like Wisconsin can. Want proof? Wisconsin went into Chapel Hill as the slowest team in the country. Literally. They were averaging just 58.9 possessions per game. North Carolina? They were the fifth-fastest team in the country at 73.9 possessions per game.

And this game? It had 59 possessions. In other words, the ball changed hands once every 20-or-so seconds.

That’s what Wisconsin does. That’s how they win. That’s why Bo Ryan can always put a team on the floor that is going to win 25 games and finish in the top three or four in the Big Ten without the aid of future first-rounders. That’s why every fall, Wisconsin is picked lower in the preseason than where they finish the year.

When the Badgers are playing their best basketball, they are taking 20-25 seconds off the shot clock before they even look at the rim. They then run one of their sets, and if nothing is open, the ball is put into the hands of their all-american point guard Jordan Taylor, and they allow him to make a play. They protect the basketball and avoid turnovers as well as any team in the country, and, more often than not, they end up getting a good look at the rim after forcing you to defend for most of the shot clock.

And on Wednesday, after weathering an early flurry from UNC — the Tar Heels took a 19-10 lead in the first nine minutes of the game and looked to be on the verge and blowing the Badgers out — that is precisely what Wisconsin did. For the next 19 minutes of game-time, the Badgers executed to perfection, taking the air out of the ball and hitting big shot after big shot. The only difference was that the guys making those shots were Ben Brust, Ryan Evans, and Jared Berggren, not Taylor.

At the 11:44 mark of the second half, Wisconsin had turned that 19-10 deficit into a 36-31 lead, using a 26-12 surge over the course of both halves to take complete control of the game.

UNC was on their heels. They were completely out of rhythm offensively and looked lost defensively. The performance was bad enough that it had people asking just how good this team actually is.

But Wisconsin gave the Heels an opening, and Roy Williams’ team struck.

The Badger’s next five shots all came way too early in the shot clock. At the same time, Harrison Barnes hit back-to-back jumpers to get UNC into a bit of a rhythm offensively, and that sparked their 18-5, game-changing run as they were able to open up the floor a little bit. Barnes had 10 of his game-high 20 points in that run, and when Dexter Strickland hit a seventeen-footer from the wing with 5:36 left to put the Heels up 49-41, this game was over for all intents and purposes.

That’s why this is an impressive win for the Heels.

UNC had an off-night against a top ten team — a team that is going to win 25 or 30 games and give Ohio State its stiffest test in the Big Ten — and had allowed that team to take complete control of the game, but their best player made a couple of big shots and the Heels were able to strike when given an opening. Good teams win games even when they don’t play their best, and UNC did just that on Wednesday night.

What we learned:

Wisconsin:

– The Badgers are going to cause a lot of people a lot of problems if they are able to hang with North Carolina on the road while getting a subpar effort out Jordan Taylor and Mike Bruesewitz. Yes, the all-american finished with 18 points, four assists and four rebounds, but he shot 6-20 from the floor and padded his stats with a couple buckets late in the game. Taylor struggled a bit when Dexter Strickland was switched onto him, but he also missed a bunch of open looks that he will knock down the majority of the time.

– Bruesewitz, on the other hand, was a no-show. He was in foul trouble which may have made it difficult for him to get into a rhythm, but off the top of my head, I cannot think of one good thing that he did for the Badgers tonight. That cannot happen, especially when Bruesewitz could have been a matchup problem for UNC’s big men at the offensive end.

– That was the best that I’ve ever seen Ryan Evans play. He was active on the glass, he made some shots and he picked up a couple of blocks.

– Jared Berggren will be able to fill the role of the pick-and-pop center for Bo Ryan. He finished with 14 points and eight boards, which included a couple of triples and two gorgeous drives to the rim from the three point line.

– Ben Brust needs to rein in his shot-selection at times — its a rule of basketball that you can’t take heat-checks on back-to-back possessions if you miss the first — but he’s a talented kid that can shoot the ball and is fun to watch. Badger fans should be confident that they’ll have another talented playmaker to follow in the footsteps of Taylor and Trevon Hughes.

North Carolina

– Dexter Strickland is probably a better defender than I realized. He’s got length, he’s quick laterally, he’s athletic and he looks like he genuinely enjoys defending. His development will be important, because Kendall Marshall — hell, the rest of the Tar Heel perimeter rotation — has trouble defending a stop sign. Strickland’s foul trouble is where you saw Leslie McDonald’s value; the only time Taylor really got it going was at the end of the first half when Kendall Marshall was guarding him.

– I really hope that Harrison Barnes becomes a killer. And not in the Charles Manson sense of the word, in the Tu Holloway sense of the word. His height makes his pull-up jumper unguardable for perimeter defenders at this level. He came up big on Wednesday, hitting the two jumpers that sparked UNC’s run.

– I don’t think struggling is the correct word for North Carolina’s half court execution. Clueless is a better word, as in they look like they’ve never even diagrammed a half court set on the whiteboard, let alone gone over it in practice. They stand around and swing the ball on the perimeter until someone over penetrates or settles for a jumper.

(because…)

– Roy Williams is famous for his secondary break, which is essentially a system to run once the ball has been pushed in transition but no shots have opened up. The beauty of the secondary break is that it can be run off of makes as well as misses. When UNC gets bogged down offensively its the result of a breakdown in their secondary break.

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

Tulane secures 101-94 OT win over Cincinnati

Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW ORLEANS – Kevin Cross and Jalen Cook scored 27 points each as Tulane took down Cincinnati 101-94 in overtime on Tuesday night.

Cross added 15 rebounds and six assists for the Green Wave (16-7, 9-3 American Athletic Conference). Cook added 14 assists. Jaylen Forbes scored 24 points and shot 6 for 15 (3 for 6 from 3-point range) and 9 of 9 from the free throw line.

Landers Nolley II finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Bearcats (16-9, 7-5). Ody Oguama added 16 points and 13 rebounds for Cincinnati. In addition, David Dejulius finished with 12 points, eight assists and three steals.

Tulane entered halftime down 37-28. Cross paced the team in scoring in the first half with 10 points. Forbes scored 18 second-half points and hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.

Tulane scored seven unanswered points to break a tie and lead with 42 seconds left in overtime.

No. 16 Oklahoma women take 1st lead in OT, rally past Baylor

Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman
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WACO, Texas – Ana Llanusa and Skylar Vann each scored 20 points and No. 16 Oklahoma took its first lead of the game in overtime before rallying past Baylor 98-92 on Tuesday night.

The Sooners trailed for 39 minutes in regulation and were down 75-63 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Baylor turned it over twice on inbounds plays in the closing seconds of regulation and Taylor Robertson tied at 83-all on a wide-open 3-pointer with 14 seconds left.

Llanusa started overtime with a 3-pointer, and she finished with eight points during the extra session. Baylor never led in overtime, shooting 2 of 6.

Robertson, who tied Danielle Robinson’s program record of 140 starts, finished with 14 points and three 3s for Oklahoma (19-4, 9-3 Big 12), which trails Texas (18-6, 9-2) in the hunt for its first conference title since 2009. Nevaeh Tot added 13 points, Liz Scott added 11 points and eight rebounds and Madi Williams had nine points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

The Sooners, the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense at 86.5 points per game, have scored at least 88 points 14 times this season, seven in conference.

Caitlin Bickle scored a career-high 30 points with four 3s and Sarah Andrews added 20 points for Baylor (16-7, 7-4). Freshman Darianna Littlepage-Buggs had 14 points and 17 rebounds and Ja’Mee Asberry scored 11. Jaden Owens had 14 of Baylor’s 25 assists on 32 field goals.

Bickle was 8 of 11 from the field, including 4 of 7 from distance, and Littlepage-Buggs recorded her sixth double-double in the last seven games.

It was the first time in 20 years the Sooners were ranked in game against an unranked Bears squad. Oklahoma continues its road trip at Kansas State on Sunday. Baylor plays at Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Newton has triple-double, No. 21 UConn tops No. 10 Marquette

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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HARTFORD, Conn. – UConn appears to have its mojo back.

Jordan Hawkins scored 20 points and Tristen Newton recorded his second triple-double of the season as No. 21 Connecticut ran away from No. 10 Marquette 87-72 on Tuesday night.

Newton had 12 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for the Huskies (19-6, 8-6 Big East), who won their third straight game after losing six of eight. They started the season 14-0, rising to No. 2 in the AP Top 25.

“Teams go through tough stretches during the course of the season,” coach Dan Hurley said. “The bottom line is we’re 19-6. You know, we beat some of the best teams in the country.”

Adama Sanogo added 18 points, while Alex Karaban and Nahiem Alleyne each chipped in with 13 for Connecticut, which never trailed.

Tyler Kolek had 17 points to lead Marquette (19-6, 11-3), which had its five-game winning streak snapped. Ben Gold and Stevie Mitchell each scored 12.

The Huskies outrebounded Marquette 48-24 and used 21 offensive boards to help them get 27 second-chance points. The Huskies also had 20 assists on 31 baskets, while holding Marquette to just seven assists.

UConn opened the game on a 22-6 run, highlighted by a fast-break lob from Newton to Andre Jackson for a dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. The Huskies made their first four 3-point shots, three by Hawkins, who had 14 points in the first half.

A hook shot by Sanogo gave UConn its first 20-point lead at 32-12 .

A late first-half run by Marquette cut the margin to 43-29, but Alleyne hit a 3-pointer from almost half court to send UConn into the break with a 17-point cushion.

Another 3-pointer from Alleyne gave the Huskies a 59-38 lead in the second half.

UConn led by 25 before Marquette went on an 8-0 run to pull within 17. But the Golden Eagles never threatened to get back in the game.

“We won two or three games in January,” Hawkins said. “It was definitely a tough stretch, definitely going to shake your confidence. But you just have to stay the course, trust the process and that’s what we did and that’s what we’re going to continue to do during this last stretch.”

BIG PICTURE

Marquette: The Golden Eagles had won nine of 10. They are trying to win a regular-season conference title after being picked ninth in the preseason poll by the league’s coaches.

UConn: Entered 1-5 against the top five teams in the Big East and 1-3 versus ranked opponents. UConn lost 82-76 at Marquette on Jan. 11 after leading by 11 points in the first half.

“The rankings mean nothing,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “It’s amazing the disparity – no disrespect to anyone here – between what the ranking means to media and fans in the middle of a season and what it means to players and coaches. It just doesn’t mean anything.”

BACK FROM INJURY

Marquette’s Sean Jones, who missed the previous three games with a wrist injury, had 11 points in just over 19 minutes. He came down hard on the wrist in the second half, but appeared to shake it off and continued playing.

REPEAT PERFORMANCE

Newton’s first triple-double came in November against Buffalo, when he had 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He joined Shabazz Napier as the only Huskies players to get more than one.

“My amigos right here, they were going crazy hitting shots,” Newton said. “They were boxing out and I was getting the rebound, so I just had the easy job, just get them the ball.”

UP NEXT

Marquette: At last-place Georgetown on Saturday.

UConn: Will visit No. 23 Creighton on Saturday.

Jackson-Davis leads No. 18 Indiana past No. 24 Rutgers 66-60

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The milestone moments keep piling up for Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Only one really mattered Tuesday night.

While he scored 20 points to become the sixth player in Hoosiers’ history with 2,000 and the first among that group with 1,000 career rebounds, the most satisfying celebration came after No. 18 Indiana beat No. 24 Rutgers 66-60 – Jackson-Davis’ first win in the series.

“I think that’s the last team in the Big Ten I hadn’t beaten,” Jackson-Davis said after finishing with 18 rebounds and six assists.

From the moment Jackson-Davis announced he would attend Indiana, the expectations were great even as critics contended the results were underwhelming.

Nobody’s complaining now. Jackson-Davis now has 2,004 points, 1,035 rebounds, a school-record 242 blocks and ranks fourth all-time with 44 double-doubles after breaking a tie with Steve Downing.

After helping the Hoosiers snap a five-year NCAA Tournament drought last season and falling out of the rankings after three straight January losses, Jackson-Davis has almost single-handedly led the Hoosiers (17-7, 8-5 Big Ten) into a second-place tie by winning seven of eight.

And his dominance is starting to open things up for his teammate. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

“I think we’ve gotten a lot better playing around Trayce, giving him space,” Miller Kopp said after scoring 18 points. “It comes down to getting better at what the coaches are asking us to do and we’re all feeling more comfortable with where our looks are coming from.”

It certainly showed against the Scarlet Knights (16-8, 8-5), who had won six straight over Indiana including a 15-point blowout in December.

This time, though, they spent most of the game playing catchup. Clifford Omoruyi had 15 points, Cam Spencer had 14 and nobody else made more than three baskets.

“It’s a one-possession game with three minutes left, but I look at the (free throw) disparity and you can’t defend the foul line,” coach Steve Pikiell said. “Give Indiana credit, they got there. Tracye Jackson-Davis was a problem.”

The Hoosiers started fast and then scored 12 straight points to take a 30-14 lead midway through the first half but even without injured starting forward Mawot Mag, Rutgers charged back. It closed the first half on an 11-2 run, then tied it at 38 when Spencer opened the second half with a 3-pointer.

Kopp broke the tie with his third 3 of the game to start an 11-0 run and Jackson-Davis’ monumental basket, a putback dunk off his own miss, made it 54-44 with 11:13 to go.

The Scarlet Knights could have tied it on Caleb McConnell’s 3 with 3:02 left, but it bounced off the back of the rim and the Hoosiers closed Jackson-Davis’ big win with a 7-2 spurt.

“He’s a man who’s done a lot since he’s been here,” said coach Mike Woodson, who is 57 points ahead of Jackson-Davis on the Hoosiers’ scoring list. “He’s a phenomenal player who does a lot of beautiful things on the court. To get 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds says a lot.”

BIG PICTURE

Rutgers: Mag missed his first game with a torn ACL in his right knee and Rutgers struggled against Indiana’s size and speed. There could be similar challenges over the final eight regular-season games.

Indiana: Woodson’s team is playing, at times, like the conference’s preseason pick to win the league title. When the Hoosiers make perimeter shots and defend well, they’re a difficult matchup for anyone. They just need fewer lulls.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The victory should help solidify Indiana’s top-20 status – at least until it hits the road for their next two games. Losing Mag and Tuesday’s game may make Rutgers’ return to the rankings short-lived regardless of what happens later this week.

UP NEXT

Rutgers: Visits Illinois on Saturday

Indiana: Heads to Michigan on Saturday.

Pitt moves into 1st-place ACC tie destroying Louisville

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH – Nike Sibande scored 15 points off the bench, nine Pittsburgh players entered the scoring column and the Panthers demolished Louisville 91-57 on Tuesday night and moved into a first-place tie with Clemson in the ACC.

Entering play Tuesday, the top five teams in the ACC were separated by just a game in the standings. A win by No. 8 Virginia against No. 22 North Carolina State Tuesday would create a three-way tie for first between Clemson, Pitt and the Cavaliers.

Against Louisville, the Panthers (17-7, 10-3) distributed 23 assists on 28-made baskets. Defensively, Pitt held Louisville (3-21, 1-12) to 27.6% (16 for 58) shooting and outrebounded the Cardinals 37-30. Mike James scored 11 points for Louisville.

El Ellis made a pair of foul shots to bring Louisville into a 14-all tie with 13:36 before halftime. Pitt then went on a 16-2 run over nearly the next five minutes. Six-different Panthers scored during the run. Nate Santos’ 3-pointer with 9:38 before the break made it 27-16 and Pitt led by double digits the rest of the way. A 47-27 halftime lead turned into a 58-28 margin just 1:59 into the second half.

With the win, the Panthers reached double digits in conference wins for just the second time in 10 ACC seasons. Pitt went 11-7 in its first year in the ACC following its 12-6 campaign in its final year in the Big East in 2012-13.

Louisville will continue its road trip when it takes on No. 19 Miami on Saturday. Pitt travels to face Florida State on Saturday.