Previewing your college hoops weekend

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Game of the Weekend: Sat. Noon: No. 5 North Carolina @ No. 1 Kentucky

It is still tough for me to grasp my head around the fact that this game will be happening tomorrow. I’m sure I am not alone when I say that this date and this time slot has been circled on my calendar for a long time. Some of the luster disappeared when North Carolina lost to UNLV on Saturday, but that certainly doesn’t diminish my anticipation level. Simply put — there is just so much about this game that is intriguing on so many different levels. Kentucky vs. Carolina. Half a dozen lottery picks. The two favorites to win the national title. The styles they play. The individual matchups. Its almost too much.

Instead of waxing poetic about this matchup for six or seven more paragraphs, I’m simply going to give you what I believe are the three keys to this game:

Marquis Teague: Its no secret that Kendall Marshall is, at best, a crummy defender. And with Doron Lamb joining Teague in the back court, it means that Marshall will have no choice but to guard him; Lamb is a much more dangerous scorer than Teague, capable of going for 30 if he gets rolling. Like most freshman point guards, Teague has a tendency to get out of control at times. He was the sole reason that Kansas was able to hang with Kentucky for a half as he turned the ball over six times against the Jayhawks. If he does that against the Heels, I can promise you that the score won’t be tied at the break. UNC is too good at capitalizing. Teague is going to have to be aggressive attacking the basket, but he cannot be overaggressive. It sounds simple, but the execution of that idea is more difficult that it sounds. Marshall won’t be able to keep Teague out of the paint, but picking the right times to attack — and making the right decisions when he beats his man — will be the key. He needs to limit turnovers and forced shots.

Front court matchups: One of the areas that UNC has struggled this season is against tough, physical front lines. Michigan State pounded them on the offensive glass. UNLV got their fair share as well. Kentucky? They have a duo in the front court that can attack the offensive glass as well as anyone in the country. The difference? Neither Terrence Jones nor Anthony Davis are known for being able to push people around. Anthony Davis is John Henson with perimeter skills. Terrence Jones has beefed up, but at times he plays like that added muscle was for the beach, not the court. Oddly enough, I’d say that UNC matches up better with Kentucky’s front court than they do with the front court of most other elite teams. Jones will be the difference maker here. Is he going to decide to play like the guy that can be an impossible. Since its technically the front court, I think a lot of scouts will be looking to see how Miller/Lamb matchup with Harrison Barnes.

Pace: Where both Wisconsin and UNLV had success against UNC by controlling the tempo of the game, Kentucky is not the type of team that likes to play slowly. They want to run just as badly as UNC does, and that could end up being a huge advantage for the Heels. With the ability of Marshall to pass ahead and how potent that makes the Heel’s transition game, a faster pace may not be ideal Kentucky.

Five more games you cannot miss

Fri. 7 p.m.: No. 9 Florida @ No. 3 Syracuse: The back courts in this game are going to balance each other out. Both teams have a ton of firepower on the perimeter. That is indisputable. Where the game is going to be decided is in the front court. Syracuse is deep, talented and athletic. Florida, outside of Patric Young, not so much. And the Gators will be without their starting power forward Erik Murphy. Can Will Yeguete step up and continue his early season efforts off the bench on a bigger stage against a more talented team? And is there anyone on the Florida roster that is going to be able to matchup with Kris Joseph’s size and perimeter ability?

Fri. 9 p.m.: No. 19 Vanderbilt @ No. 6 Louisville: Both Vanderbilt and Louisville have been struck hard by the injury bug this season, but the Cardinals, thanks to their depth, have handled it better. Vandy has already been knocked off twice this year, with both coming to teams with tough and physical back courts. Louisville has that as well, and will do everything they can to pressure the Commodores and make life hell for John Jenkins and Brad Tinsley. Peyton Siva will be borderline unguardable in this game, but the same can probably be said for Jeff Taylor

Sat. 3 p.m.: Purdue @ No. 11 Xavier: Purdue has been impressive this season, and its not just the return of Robbie Hummel to being an elite level player. Lewis Jackson is playing as well as he ever has. Ryne Smith is knocking down threes. Anthony Johnson, Terone Johnson and Kelsey Barlow are all producing on both ends. But Xavier, with all do respect to Alabama, is the best team that the Boilermakers have faced this season, and they’ll be taking them on at the Cintas Center, which is not an easy place to play. We all know about Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, but the keep for Purdue will be handling Xavier’s front line, which isn’t immensely talented but it big and deep.

Sat. 4:30 p.m.: No. 16 Marquette @ No. 7 Wisconsin: There are some great games on the tube this weekend, but I’m looking forward to this matchup as much as any of them. The Badgers have ascended quickly in the rankings thanks to their staunch defense, and that spot in the top ten appears to have been validated by a three point loss at UNC in a game they struggled. Marquette, however, is still a bit of an unknown quantity. They have names we all know — Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue — but it will be interesting to see just how those pieces are fitting together this season. Is Marquette really top 20 team?

Sun. 4 p.m.: No. 20 UNLV @ Wichita State: I think it will be safe to say that by Monday, UNLV will have been thoroughly tested in this young season. After knocking off then-No. 1 North Carolina in Vegas on Saturday night, the Rebels went to UC-Santa Barbara and hung on to win a double overtime barnburner. They follow that road trip up with another, this time to take on Wichita State, who is one of the best teams in the MVC and has a tremendous home court advantage. The question mark here — which Shocker will get the unenviable task of trying to slow down the hottest player in the country in Mike Moser.

Who’s getting upset? Sat. 3:15 p.m.: No. 18 Gonzaga @ Illinois

Five more teams on upset alert?

Sat. 5:15 p.m.: No. 17 Pitt @ Tennessee: Last year when this matchup took place, Pitt was also the favorite and Tennessee was the scrappy underdog that had surprised some people early in the season. The Vols won that game, and it was in Pittsburgh. This year, its the same story. Pitt has been disappointing early in the year, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, but they still have Ashton Gibbs, and there is a reason that his name showed up on all-american lists. Tennessee may not have the same amount of talent on the roster that they did last year, but they play hard and finally look like they are getting some coaching. Trae Golden and Jeronne Maymon, who will be matched up with Nasir Robinson, are good enough to carry the Vols at times. The x-factor may end up being whether or not Pitt’s big front line finally decides to start playing like a Panther front line.

Sat. 9 p.m.: West Virginia @ No. 24 Mississippi State: The front court matchup here will be quite entertaining. Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie, for all of the effort and conditioning issues that are present, are as big and as talented as anyone in the country. But West Virginia has their own pair of quality big men in Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli. The rebounding battle is going to be important, but it will be interesting to see how West Virginia’s freshman point guard Jabarie Hinds will handle Mississippi State’s Dee Bost.

Sat. 7 p.m.: Penn @ Villanova: Villanova is really making me look bad this season. I went all-in on the Wildcats in the preseason, touting how much I liked this team’s make up and how much they reminded me of the 2009 Final Four team. And while that may be true in the media guide, on the court is a different story. The Wildcats look lost offensively and have gotten inconsistent performances out of the three guys they need to be stars — Maalik Wayns, Mouphtaou Yarou and Dominic Cheek. Penn may play in the Ivy, but this group has some solid pieces, led by point guard Zac Rosen, who has been terrific this year.

Sun. 4 p.m.: No. 8 Baylor @ Nortwestern: In terms of styles, this may be the most interesting matchup of the weekend. Baylor is massive up front and obscenely athletic, with all the natural talent in the world but nary an effective point guard on their roster. Northwestern loves to play small ball and spread the floor, playing a crafty, Princeton-esque system and raining threes. That three-point line may end up being the difference, as the Wildcats have dangerous shooters at every spot on the floor while the Bears are one of the worst in the country at defending the three ball.

Sun. 5 p.m.: No. 23 Cal @ SDSU: This will be a good test for both teams. Cal got utterly embarrassed in their only test this season, while SDSU has lost twice two teams currently ranked in the top 25. The perimeter attack of both teams is strong, with Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe matching up with Chase Tapley, Xavier Thams, Jamaal Franklin and James Rahon. The key may end up being Harper Kamp, a big man for Cal that doesn’t really have someone to matchup opposite him.

Mid-major matchup of the weekend: Sat. 10 p.m.: Boise State @ Indiana State

With Creighton and San Diego State having had their battle on Wednesday night, the game between the Broncos and the Sycamores becomes the most interesting of the weekend in the challenge between the Missouri Valley and the Mountain West. Why? Because both teams have had success early in the season, but neither of them has really proven anything. Indiana State is a bit undersized up front, but they have one of the most underrated point guards in the country in Jake Odum. The key to slowing down the Broncos will be preventing sharpshooting Aussie Anthony Drmic from getting any looks on the perimeter.

Five more mid-major matchups to watch

Sat. 2 p.m.: Valparaiso @ Butler: So will Butler end up being Butler again this season? They certainly have the talent to do so, but the Bulldogs still have a long way to go before they reach the level that they have been at the past two seasons. Valpo may be without Brandon Wood this year, but the Crusaders are 5-2 and have beaten Akron and Duquesne already this year.

Sat. 2 p.m.: Cleveland State @ Detroit: Detroit was thought to be the team that would be a favorite to win the Horizon in the preseason, but the Titans aren’t much more than Ray McCallum this season, and he isn’t good enough to carry this program. Cleveland State is a physical defense team that has some offensive pieces that were overshadowed by Norris Cole last year.

Sat. 2:30 p.m.: Colorado State @ Northern Iowa: The Panthers have been perhaps the most surprising team in the Valley this year, with their road loss to St. Mary’s getting out weighed by road wins against Old Dominion and Iowa State. The Rams are coming off of a tough, overtime win against Colorado and have a star in Wes Elkmeier.

Sat. 4 p.m.: Bucknell @ La Salle: La Salle has been a bit of a surprise early on in the season, headlined by the play of their star point guard, Tyreek Duren. The Bison are the favorite to win the Patriot League this season, but they have missed on a couple of chances to build up their non-conference resume. La Salle may not qualify as a marquee win, but any win on the road will help come March.

Sat. 10 p.m.: Missouri State @ New Mexico: New Mexico has been one of the most disappointing team in the country. They don’t know how to get the ball to Drew Gordon and Kendell Williams is not playing up to the level that was expected coming into the season. Hugh Greenwood could be the answer at the point (he has 16 assists and no turnovers the past four games), but its taking time to figure out how to play together. Missouri State has actually been better than expected, but they’ve done it with Kyle Weems struggling. What happens when he finally starts playing like the kid that was MVC player of the year last season.

The rest of the top 25:

Friday

7 p.m.: Northwestern State @ No. 13 Missouri: The Tigers have been one of the most surprising dominant teams early in the season, thanks to a talented perimeter attack and the kind of team unity that this group had been missing under Mike Anderson. This is a group that finally appears to be playing without the fear of making a mistake, and that is the only way to be successful as a basketball team.

Saturday

Noon: UT-Pan American @ No. 2 Ohio State: Ohio State is coming off of their demolition of Duke. If they play like that against UT-Pan American, things could get very, very ugly.

3:15 p.m.: Arkansas @ No. 10 UConn: The Huskies have some major question marks. When will Alex Oriakhi show up? Is Andre Drummond ever going to become consistent? Will Shabazz Napier or Jeremy Lamb ever take the reins of this team? How good is Ryan Boatright? UConn has much more talent than Arkansas, but they also had much more talent than Central Florida.

5:15 p.m.: South Florida @ No. 14 Kansas: Thomas Robinson is certainly living up to the expectations he had coming into the season. In the five games that Kansas has played this season, he’s notched a double-double in every single game. The problem? He’s still getting by off of effort and god-given ability than skill level.

Noon: Iowa State @ No. 15 Michigan: Iowa State is like a freight train without a conductor. This is a group with talented transfers up and down their roster, but without the point guard or the cohesiveness to really take advantage of that. And against a team like Michigan — one that runs a complicated zone and a tricky offensive system — that cohesiveness is important.

8:30 p.m.: Austin Peay @ No. 21 Memphis: The Tigers look like the exact same team as they were last season. Immensely talented but without a clue. Austin Peay has been dreadful this season, but this group has had a tendency to play down to the level of their opponent. If Tyshawn Edmundson gets hot and Memphis doesn’t show up ready to play? Well, wouldn’t that be embarrassing.

10 p.m.: No. 25 St. Louis @ Portland: So who are the Billikens? Are they the team that pounded Washington and rolled through the 76 Classic, or are they the team that got dropped by Loyola Marymount? Rick Majerus has taken this group on a fairly extensive west coast road trip, and Portland has some guys that can shoot. If you like threes, tune in to this game.

Sunday

5:05 p.m.: No. 22 Creighton @ Nebraska: The Bluejays are coming off of a very impressive, come-from-behind win over San Diego State in the Viejas Center. With a powerful offense the driving force of this team, its tough to imagine Nebraska, a team that could only manage 53 points against Wake Forest, being able to hang with them.

Top storylines

Fri. 11 p.m.: Washington @ Nevada: There is going to be quite a bit of talent on the court when these two teams square off. The problem is that both programs, in recent years, have a tendency to play below their talent level. I can’t be the only one curious to see how this plays out.

Sat. 4:30 p.m.: Texas @ UCLA: The Longhorns are a different team than they have been in recent years, powered by a talented back court and the enigmatic J’Covan Brown. But UCLA’s entire roster is enigmatic as Ben Howland continues to try and get control of this team. Its amazing to think that a matchup between these two programs features no ranked teams.

Sat. 5 p.m.: Oregon @ BYU: The Ducks have already lost two members of their vaunted recruiting class to a transfer, including their most talented player in Jabari Brown. BYU will be their first real test since the defections. The Cougars aren’t the same team that they were last year, but with Brandon Davies back in the mix, this is still a team that is going to be able to hang with the big boys. Is Oregon one of the big boys?

Sat. 6:35 p.m.: Eastern Washington @ Washington State: Washington State has been struggling this season, highlighted by their loss to UC-Riverside. EWU has some talent, specifically Collin Chiverton and Cliff Colimon. They hung with Gonzaga and have an offense that is capable of putting up a lot of points. Wazzu better come to play.

Sat. 7 p.m.: St. Bonaventure @ Buffalo: Buffalo is 5-1 and fresh off of a 29 point beat down of Dayton on the road. The Bonnies? They’ve had a tough start to the season, losing three of their first five as Andrew Nicholson has struggled to find the rhythm he had the last two years. It should be fun to watch super sophomore Javon McCrea go up against St. Bonnie’s big front line.

Sun. 2 p.m.: Dayton @ Murray State: Dayton is one of the biggest enigmas of the young season. They won the Old Spice Classic, then lost by 29 at home to Buffalo. Murray State, on the other hand, is sitting at 8-0 after winning the Great Alaska Shootout. Are the Racers for real?

Sun. 2:30 p.m.: VCU @ George Washington: This is a matchup that I will be keeping a close eye on. VCU is a young team, but coming off of a trip to the Final Four, a lot was expected of this team. The Commodores lost to Georgia Tech and Seton Hall in fairly ugly fashion, but they threw a couple of haymakers at Alabama in a close loss. GW has some talent on their roster, but they head into this game with losses against the two good teams they have played this season.

Sun. 4 p.m.: NC State @ Stanford: NC State is finally playing like the team that we expected last year when they landed a loaded recruiting class. CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown are well on their way to becoming stars in the ACC. But Stanford has been impressive early in the season, with quality back court play and a couple of big bodies inside. Can they handle NC State’s athleticism?

Sun. 5:30 p.m.: Kansas State @ Virginia Tech: This game could end up having major bubble implications come March. Virginia Tech was thought to be a sleeper in the ACC, but they just dropped a roadie to a Minnesota team that didn’t have Trevor Mbakwe or Ralph Sampson. They need this win against a solid Kansas State team that has yet to really hit their stride.

Other notable tips

Friday

– 7 p.m.: Cincinnati @ Georgia
– 7 p.m.: Iona @ Canisius
– 8 p.m.: Mississippi Valley State @ Northwestern
– 9 p.m.: Auburn @ Seton Hall
– 10 p.m.: Columbia @ Loyola Marymount

Saturday

– 1 p.m.: NJIT @ Georgetown
– 1 p.m.: Old Dominion @ Northeastern
– 1 p.m.: Richmond @ Wake Forest
– 1 p.m.: Longwood @ Virginia
– 1 p.m.: UMass @ Miami
– 2:15 p.m.: USC @ Minnesota
– 4 p.m.: Drexel @ Delaware
– 4 p.m.: Arizona State @ Tulsa
– 4 p.m.: Central Michigan @ Temple
– 4 p.m.: James Madison @ Hofstra
– 5:15 p.m.: Mercer @ Belmont
– 6:30 p.m.: Northern Arizona @ Arizona
– 7:30 p.m.: George Mason @ Towson
– 8 p.m.: Stephen F. Austin @ Texas A&M
– 9:30 p.m.: Weber State @ San Jose State
– 10 p.m.: St. Mary’s @ Cal Poly
– 10:05 p.m.: Utah State @ Pacific

Sunday

– 2: p.m.: Seattle @ Harvard
– 2: p.m.: Iona @ Niagara
– 2 p.m.: Akron @ Middle Tennessee State
– 2 p.m.: New Mexico State @ Southern Miss
– 3:30 p.m.: South Carolina @ Clemson
– 4:30 p.m.: Stetson @ Indiana
– 4:45 p.m.: Notre Dame @ Maryland
– 6 p.m.: Ole Miss @ Penn State
– 8 p.m.: St. Joseph’s @ American
– 8 p.m.: Montana @ Oregon State

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

Alabama coach Nate Oats gets new 6-year, $30 million deal

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Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nate Oats has agreed to a new six-year, $30 million contract amid the program’s best regular season in decades.

Oats will average $5 million plus incentives over the deal running through the 2028-29 season under a deal approved Friday by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees Compensation Committee.

It makes him the fourth-highest paid basketball coach in the Southeastern Conference and among the Top 10 nationally, athletic director Greg Byrne said.

Oats, who is in his fourth season, will make $4.5 million for the first year with $200,000 annual raises. The fourth-ranked Crimson Tide (19-3, 9-0 SEC) has the team’s highest ranking this deep into a season since 1976-77.

“I am honored and humbled to receive a contract extension from the University of Alabama,” Oats said in a statement. “As I have said many times, my family and I love this community, the city of Tuscaloosa and the university.

“I am incredibly proud of what we have been able to build during our time at UA which is a direct reflection of the student-athletes, coaches and staff who have all played a big part in our success. I am excited for what’s happening in the future of our program and the direction we are heading.”

Alabama has gone 80-39 under Oats, winning the 2021 SEC regular season and tournament championships.

“Coach Oats has done an outstanding job leading our men’s basketball program, and we want him to continue doing so for many years to come,” Byrne said in a statement. “He and his staff have lifted the program back to national prominence and built a product that is exciting to be a part of for our team and for our fans.

“We were confident Nate was going to be an outstanding coach for us when we hired him, and he is not only that, but also a great leader of our young men.”

The new contract comes nearly three weeks after Alabama basketball player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder following a fatal shooting near campus. Miles, a reserve forward, was removed from the team and suspended from the university following his arrest.

Duke women’s coach Kara Lawson says men’s ball used vs. FSU

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Duke coach Kara Lawson said her team played with a men’s basketball for the first half of a loss to Florida Stated.

The 16th-ranked Blue Devils lost to the Seminoles 70-57 in Tallahassee, Florida – the team’s second Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the season.

After her team beat Pittsburgh 53-44 , Lawson ended her news conference by speaking animatedly.

“This would never happen in a men’s game. This would never happen. It’s embarrassing for our sport,” she said.

The circumference of a women’s ball is about an inch smaller than a men’s ball and it is typically 2 ounces lighter. While it may not seem like a lot, that’s a big difference.

Lawson said throughout the first half, Duke players were “complaining about the ball.” The Blue Devils were 7 for 34 from the field in the opening 20 minutes of that game. They were 12 for 38 in the second half. Florida State made 10 of its 30 shots in the first two quarters and 14 of 31 in the second half.

“To have a game that, at the end of the season, could be the difference between a seed, between a title, my players don’t deserve that and neither do their players,” Lawson said. “It’s a complete failure. And you can figure out who the people I’m talking about that failed the sport and our players and both teams.”

Lawson said assistant coach Winston Gandy went to the scorer’s table at the half to check on the ball when he realized what the problem was. She said the game officials changed the ball to start the second half.

“We have concluded through our investigation that it was a men’s ball,” Lawson said. “The conference and Florida State is saying that it wasn’t.”

The ACC said it did a comprehensive review talking with game officials, administrators, the table crew and both schools.

“Following the thorough and objective review process, there was no evidence found to support the claim,” the conference said in a statement. “Per NCAA playing rules, there is no appeal or protest process.”

The ACC has instituted a procedural change that the game ball will be brought to the pregame meeting with the captains for approval.

“It’s very frustrating that (the game) … was not treated with the utmost respect that players on both teams deserve,” she said.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened in women’s basketball. In 2017, the College of Charleston played home games and practiced with men’s balls for most of its season until the error was was discovered.

“Let me be clear: Florida State beat us. They beat us playing with a men’s ball in the first half and a women’s ball in the second half. But I can’t say if we’d have played with a women’s ball in the first half and the second half that we would have won. But they can’t say that either,” Lawson said.

No. 1 South Carolina wins 28th straight 87-69 over ‘Cats

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Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Dawn Staley’s pleased South Carolina had made its once-lopsided series with UConn more competitive the past few years.

She hopes her top-ranked team can accomplish another milestone when the teams meet for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

“It still stands true that we haven’t won up there,” Staley said.

Aliyah Boston had 14 points and 14 rebounds as South Carolina prepared for the top-five showdown with an 87-69 victory over Kentucky on Thursday night.

The Gamecocks (10-0 Southeastern Conference) improved to 22-0 and won their 28th straight, a run that included a 64-49 victory over the Huskies in Minneapolis last April to win the national championship.

Staley had lost her first seven games as South Carolina coach against UConn. The Gamecocks have won three of the past four matchups since.

“This particular class committed to each other,” Staley said. “When you have that type of commitment and you just want to win, you find yourself winning some games that you haven’t won before.”

Against Kentucky, reigning AP player of the year Boston extended her school mark with her 75th career double-double and moved within 11 of the SEC record of 86 games with a double-double held by LSU great Sylvia Fowles.

Things weren’t perfect for South Carolina, which fell behind early, then had its 15-point halftime lead cut to 54-48 midway through the third quarter.

Still, its dominant inside game – South Carolina outscored the Wildcats 62-14 in the paint – was more than enough to shut down Kentucky (10-12, 2-8), the last team to defeat the defending national champions at the SEC Tournament last March.

The Wildcats went on top 16-15 after a pair of baskets by Adebola Adeyeye.

That’s when South Carolina, fueled by its bench, took control with a 17-2 run. Ashlyn Watkins had three inside shots and Kamilla Cardoso scored four points during the surge.

The Wildcats used a 13-4 burst to start the third quarter to give South Carolina a few uncomfortable moments. But the Gamecocks got going once more with an 11-0 run to extend their margin.

Cardoso, the 6-foot-7 reserve, had 14 points and five of South Carolina’s 14 blocks. Defensive ace Brea Beal had 10 including both of the Gamecocks’ 3-pointers.

Beal thought the team held together well to blunt Kentucky’s runs and regain control. “I think it’s our mental aspect of the game and us believing in each other,” she said.

Robyn Benton had 24 points to lead Kentucky, which has lost three of its past four games.

Wildcats coach Kyra Elzy said South Carolina is difficult to match up with because of its deep bench. “They have depth after depth after depth,” she said. “They keep coming.”

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats are the not the same team that featured two-time SEC player of the year Rhyne Howard the past few seasons. They have 10 newcomers – and six freshmen – who are still learning how to play against the SEC’s top teams like South Carolina.

South Carolina: Forgive the Gamecocks if their focus wasn’t fully on this one at first with a big week ahead. In an eight-game span, South Carolina will face No. 5 UConn and No. 3 LSU, a pair of high-profile games could expose any flaw – or show how powerful the Gamecocks are in chasing a second straight NCAA crown.

UCONN KARMA

South Carolina has opened 22-0 twice under coach Dawn Staley, in 2014-15 and the following year. Both runs ended against UConn. Next up for Gamecocks are the Huskies, although South Carolina has won three of the past four games over UConn including last April’s 64-49 victory to win the NCAA Tournament title.

UP NEXT

Kentucky returns home to face Alabama on Feb. 9.

South Carolina heads to No. 5 UConn on Sunday.

Miles, Citron lead No. 9 Irish past Boston College 72-59

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BOSTON — Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron had already scored 10 straight points to put away Boston College when they turned their attention to other things.

“I told Sonia I needed two more assists for the double-double. And she was like, `All right, I’ve got you,”‘ Miles said after helping No. 9 Notre Dame beat BC 72-59 on Thursday night.

“That’s just kind of our communication on the court,” said Miles, who found Citron for baskets on the next two Irish possessions to complete a 14-0 run – with all 14 points from Miles and Citron. “We just really play off each other really well.

Miles scored 22 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Citron scored 23 for the Irish (18-2, 9-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Maria Gakdeng scored 16 points, T’Yana Todd had 13 and Andrea Daly scored 10 with eight rebounds for BC (14-11, 4-8). The Irish beat BC at home 85-48 on New Year’s Day but hadn’t won in Chestnut Hill since 2019.

“This is such a tough place to play,” said Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey, whose team faces No. 16 Duke next. “We’ll celebrate it until about 12:30, and then we’ve got film. Tomorrow we start focusing on Duke.”

BC came within five points, 55-50, before the Irish ran off 14 points in a row – nine by Citron, and five by Miles. That put an end to what had been a back-and-forth game in which the Irish opened big leads and then frittered them away.

“I always feel like we’re close,” BC coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. “They’re young; I think consistency comes with experience.

“I think it’s a big improvement from the first time we played Notre Dame,” she said. “I still want to see more, and I want to see us grow up as fast as humanly possible because I think we do have a dangerous team when we going well.”

Notre Dame led by 11 in the first quarter and held a 38-30 lead with two minutes gone in the third. BC scored 13 of the next 18 points, capitalizing on back-to-back Irish turnovers to tie it 43-all with three minutes left in the quarter.

But Natalija Marshall put back the rebound of her own miss, Miles drove to the basket, Maddy Westbeld added a pair of baskets and then Miles stole the ball and found Citron on the fast break to make it 53-43.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame bounced back from their first league loss of the season, a 69-65 defeat at North Carolina State on Sunday. Now they face No. 16 Duke.

The Eagles, who beat Pittsburgh on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak, were looking for their second victory over a Top 25 team this season, having also beaten then-No. 10 N.C. State on Jan. 5.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: Hosts No. 16 Duke on Sunday.

Boston College: Visits Syracuse on Sunday.

No. 16 Xavier beats No. 17 Providence 85-83 in OT thriller

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Kareem Elgazzar/USA TODAY NETWORK
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CINCINNATI — Jack Nunge had 23 points and 14 rebounds as No. 16 Xavier held off No. 17 Providence 85-83 in an overtime thriller Wednesday night.

Colby Jones and Souley Boum each scored 20 for the Musketeers, who won a first-place showdown in the Big East without injured forward Zach Freemantle.

Noah Locke had 22 points and Ed Croswell added 21 for Providence (17-6, 9-3), which had beaten Xavier three straight times.

A layup by Boum put the Musketeers (18-5, 10-2) ahead 82-79 with 51 seconds remaining in overtime. A turnover by the Musketeers led to a layup by Devin Carter that cut Xavier’s lead to one with 24 seconds left.

Boum hit one of two free throws, and Jared Bynum’s 3-point attempt from the left corner rimmed out at the buzzer as the Musketeers held on.

Xavier played its first game without Freemantle, the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. He is expected to miss four weeks with a left foot injury, the same foot that required surgery in 2021.

Jerome Hunter, who has excelled off the bench for the Musketeers, made his first start of the season and scored nine points with eight rebounds. Xavier had used the same starting lineup in each of its previous 11 Big East games.

Things started well for the Musketeers. who went on a 12-1 run to build a 25-11 lead.

With Boum on the bench with two fouls, the Musketeers didn’t have a field goal in the final 4:18 of the first half and the Friars pulled to 39-35 at halftime.

Providence outscored Xavier 8-2 to start the second half and took its first lead, 43-41, with 17:41 left.

There was a frantic finish to the second half, with Adam Kunkel’s 3-pointer putting Xavier ahead 76-73 with 55 seconds left. But then Bynum banked in a tying 3 and Boum missed two long shots to send the game to overtime.

BIG PICTURE

Providence: The Friars, who won their first Big East regular-season title last year, entered the night tied atop the conference standings with Xavier and No. 14 Marquette, which hosted Villanova later. Providence was picked fifth in the preseason.

Xavier: Hunter, who averages 14 minutes, left with three minutes remaining in OT with an apparent cramp in his right leg. With Freemantle out, Hunter played 36 minutes.

UP NEXT

Providence: Hosts last-place Georgetown on Wednesday.

Xavier: Will host St. John’s on Saturday.