Thursday’s Shootaround: SDSU takes control of the MWC

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No. 16 San Diego State 75, New Mexico 70: The Aztecs have done some impressive things this season — there is a reason that they are ranked in the top 20 right now — but going into The Pit and getting a win is unquestionably the most impressive thing they’ve done this year. And its more than just the win, its how they did it. Down 48-44 midway through the second half, SDSU used a 15-0 run to open up an 11 point lead that New Mexico was never able to overcome. Throw in the fact that the Aztecs dug themselves a 10-0 hole and were playing in one of the toughest environments in the country, and you should understand why Steve Fisher’s club was so impressive.

What makes this win all the more important is that SDSU now as a one game lead on both UNLV, who they knocked off on Saturday, and UNM. Those two teams face off this Saturday, meaning that as long as SDSU can handle Air Force, they’ll be heading into next week with a two game lead on one of the other two challengers in the conference. Xavier Thames, who had been out with a knee injury, finally looked healthy on Wednesday night, going for 22 points and four assists. Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley added 12 each.

At this point in the season, Steve Fisher has to be considered a strong favorite to win Coach of the Year. Think about this: his team lost four starters, including their entire front line that counted a lottery pick as a member, and were all but written off this season. But instead of rolling over and dying, Fisher has coached this team into a well-deserved top 20 ranking. Based on who else has lost already this week, its pretty safe to say that SDSU will slide up into the top 15 come Monday.

Fisher has built that into a hell of a program. Its a shame that they are heading to the Big West.

New Mexico didn’t play terribly on Wednesday, but they were horrible for a five minute stretch during the second half when SDSU went on their run. Drew Gordon had 15 points, eight boards and five assists and Phillip McDonald went for 20 points off the bench, which more than made up for the no-show Tony Snell posted.

Cincinnati 70, No. 11 UConn 67: This game had a thrilling finish. After UConn erased a seven point lead in the final minute, capped by Shabazz Napier burying a tough and contested three, Sean Kilpatrick came down at the other end of the floor and drilled a deep three with two hands in his face with 2.5 seconds left on the clock. On the ensuing in bounds, Neils Giffey had a 3/4 court shot bounced off the back board and the rim.

The win was a big one for the Bearcats. Its the seventh straight they have won on the road in league play, dating back to last season, and the second straight they’ve won on the road vs. a ranked team this year (they knocked off Georgetown in DC 10 days ago). Its hard not to consider Cincinnati the second best team in the Big East right now, particularly with Ryan Boatright out.

UConn has a lot of work left to do. Andre Drummond took a step back against the Bearcats, as did Alex Oriakhi. They combined for six points and 12 boards on 3-16 shooting. Jeremy Lamb was not aggressive enough and while Napier played great — especially leading UConn’s comeback — he’s not ideal as a leader and a point guard.

Nebraska 70, No. 13 Indiana 69: The Hoosiers were up by as much as 13 in the second half of this game and blew the lead, losing their third consecutive game. Indiana has their issues as a team, but I did not think that this group was going to fall off a cliff the way that they have.

Simply put, winning is a skill. Knowing how to play as the favorite, as the team with a target on your back, is a tough thing to do. Indiana has never had to do that before. These guys were 2-29 under Tom Crean on the road. They’ve been stuck at the bottom of the Big Ten standings for the entirety of their careers. This group certainly has the ability to compete with the best in the conference, they have to learn how to approach those games mentally. Myron Medcalf did a really good job breaking this down for ESPN.com.

Missouri Valley:

No. 18 Creighton 66, Missouri State 65: Doug McDermott was slowed as Missouri State send two and three defenders at him on every touch, but Gregory Echinique stepped up, finishing with 16 points and seven boards as the Bluejays managed to hold off the Bears to move to 7-1 in league play. A back and forth game, MSU’s Kyle Weems missed a tough jumper with six seconds left, and after McDermott missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Anthony Downing missed a 15 foot pull-up from the foul line. It was a good look, it just didn’t go down. Its the Bear’s third straight loss in league play.

Wichita State 71, Northern Iowa 68: Toure Murry had 24 points, including a layup with 1:21 left in the game to give the Shockers the lead and a jumper with 12 seconds left to push that lead to three. Marc Sonnen missed a three at the buzzer that would have forced overtime. WSU is now tied with Creighton at 7-1 in the league. Drake is the only other team with less than four losses. Unless something drastic changes over the next month and a half, the MVC looks like its going to be a two-bid league.

Atlantic 10:

Xavier 68, St. Joe’s 55: Playing without Carl Jones, St. Joe’s simply had no answer for Xavier’s back court. Mark Lyons went for 17 points and Tu Holloway added 12 assists as the Musketeers improved to 4-1 in league play. They haven’t lost an Atlantic 10 game in the Cintas Center since 2006.

Temple 76, La Salle 70: Rahlir Hollis-Jefferon led the Owls with 19 points and Ramone Moore had 17 points to pace Temple, as they knocked off their Philly rivals and improved to 2-2 in the league. The owls led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but La Salle was able to get that lead down to one point on four different occassions. The Explorers, who have gotten off to a terrific start to the season, dropped to 2-2 in the league as well.

Duquesne 80, UMass 69: BJ Monteiro had 23 points, Sean Johnson went for 20 and 10 boards and TJ McConnell added 15 points and six assists as the Dukes knocked off UMass on the strength of forcing 29 turnovers. Both teams are now 3-2 in the league and sitting a game behind Xavier in the standings.

Ole Miss 75, No. 15 Mississippi State 68: Reginald Buckner went for 19 points, 15 boards and three blocks, out playing Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie to lead the Rebels to their first win over their in-state rivals in six tries. Ole Miss had control for all of the second half, as they never trailed and only allowed the Bulldogs to get within three once, a 63-60 with about two minutes left.

South Florida 64, St. John’s 49: Its time that we start taking USF seriously. After this win, the Bulls are now 4-2 in Big East play, the four wins being the most that they have ever won in the Big East. Victor Rudd led the way with 24 points, including one of the nastiest dunks you are going to see this season.

Villanova 84, Seton Hall 76: So much for the Pirates being a contender. They’ve now lost back-to-back games after getting put into the top 25 last week. I know the name on the jersey might allow you to justify the loss, but the Wildcats are not the same team that we expect them to be. Maalik Wayns has been outstanding the last two games, finishing with 39 points, 13 boards and six assists in a loss at Cincinnati and 25 points and seven assists last night.

West Virginia 78, Marshall 62: Kevin Jones scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half as the Mountaineers pulled away from a scrappy Marshall team in the second half. The Thundering Herd were giving WVU everything they could handle in the first half, but the ‘Eers looked outstanding in the final 20 minutes. Truck Bryant added 22 points.

Central Florida 68, Memphis 67: Joe Jackson his a three with 42 seconds left to give Memphis a 67-65 lead, but they couldn’t hold on to it as Keith Clanton scored on an and-one, hitting the free throw, with four seconds left for the win. Clanton had 23 points and Marcus Jordan added 20.

Kansas State 84, Texas 80: If Anthony Marshall isn’t the hottest player in the country, than Rodney McGruder is. The junior guard with for 33 points to carry K-State to a four point win on Wednesday night and is now averaging 22.7 ppg in the last seven games. Both teams are sitting at 2-3 in league play.

Iowa State 71, Oklahoma State 68: This happened:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0339sw7R0XI%5D

The rest of the top 25:

No. 10 Murray State 66, Morehead State 60: The Racers knocked off their heated rivals despite trailing for much of the game, moving to 19-0 on the season. Isaiah Canaan finished with 20 points, including the go-ahead three with 3:57 left.

No. 20 UNLV 101, TCU 78: The Rebels have really shown the ability to get out and score some points this season. Mike Moser had 16 points and 15 boards for UNLV, but it was Anthony Marshall’s 27 points, nine assists, five boards, three blocks and two steals that really set the tone. The 27 points are a career-high, besting the 26 he scored on Saturday against SDSU. There are not many guards in the country playing as well as he is right now.

Other notable scores:

– Wisconsin 77, Northwestern 57
– Northeastern 60, Georgia State 57
– Ohio 87, Kent State 65
– Buffalo 82, Akron 70
– Miami 76, Clemson 73
– Bucknell 4-0, Lehigh 2-2
– Georgia 57, Tennessee 53 OT
– Wyoming 64, Air Force 53

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