Recapping Saturday’s wild upsets, memorable finishes

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The 4:00 pm games: On paper, it didn’t seem like this Saturday’s game were going to be incredibly interesting after the top five battle that took place in Waco, Texas, but those people (me included) ate their words after three games involving teams ranked in the top 11 came down to the final possession in the span of no more than two minutes.

The biggest game was obviously Florida State’s 76-73 upset of Duke. The Seminoles withstood a second half surge by the Blue Devils, one that saw Duke open up a 58-50 lead, but Florida State used a 26-15 surge to close the game that was capped by Michael Snaer’s three-point buzzer-beater that answered a game-tying runner from Austin Rivers with 4.9 seconds left:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34s-le4vbx8%5D

I don’t think that we can say that the Seminoles are the favorite to win the ACC right now. Frankly, I’m not convinced that they are a better basketball team that either Duke or UNC. That’s what happens with you lose by 20 to Clemson and drop two games to the Ivy League (Harvard and Princeton). That said, Florida State is in an ideal position to make a run at the league title. They don’t have to play the Tar Heels again, they get Duke at home and those two teams still have to play two games against each other.

It’s going to come down to offense for the ‘Noles. They are 117th in the country nationally, scoring 1.039 PPP. The past three games (wins over UNC, Maryland and Duke), however, FSU is scoring 1.196 PPP. The biggest difference? They shoot 32.0 percent from three on the season, but the past three games they are knocking them down at a 46.3 percent clip. Can it last?

At the same time, UConn was in the midst of a furious comeback at Tennessee. The Huskies dug themselves a ten point hole with three minutes left, but Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb hit a flurry of threes late which was aided by a few missed free throws from the Vols. Napier missed a half court prayer at the buzzer that would have forced overtime, but instead lost 60-57 in Knoxville. There are two problems with UConn right now. The biggest issue is that their offense is absolutely atrocious. Regardless of what Jim Calhoun tries to run (if anything), it devolves into Napier or Lamb trying to go 1-on-1. Tennessee was playing tough defense, which meant that the Huskies were forced into taking contested jumper.

The other issue is the play of their big men. After getting embarrassed by Yancy Gates on Wednesday, freshman Jarnell Stokes — who was playing his third game after finishing high school in December and enrolling at UT early — gave Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi 16 points and 12 boards while fouling out Oriakhi. Much of the blame for the performance of those two has to fall on their shoulders as they continue to play without toughness or desire, but UConn also does not look to get them touches in the post.

The final game of that trio was No. 7 Kansas surviving a furious comeback from the Longhorns to win 69-66 in Austin. The Jayhawks were up big for much of the first half and early in the second half, but Texas made a run late in the game. They finally took the lead with five minutes left, erasing what had been a 15 point deficit, before eventually pushing the lead to four points with three minutes remaining. But Kansas had an answer, taking their final lead on a layup by Jeff Withey.

If you are going to take anything out of this game, its the performance of TyShawn Taylor. His continued his hot streak, finishing with 22 points, five boards and four assists, but his most important stat was a zero in the box score. Turnovers have been Taylor’s issue all season — he’s averaged more than four per game — but he didn’t turn it over a single time against UT.

The top five battle: There are two reasons that people knock Missouri: they can’t win on the road and they are too small to handle bigger teams. We can throw that “on the road” thing out the window now. Coming off of a road win over an improved Iowa State team, the Tigers went into Waco and handled Baylor, beating them much more soundly than the 89-88 final score will make you believe.

I’m not ready to say that they can handle a bigger team, however, because everyone on Baylor’s front court plays like they’re 6-6. Frankly, I think Missouri’s performance against Kansas State’s front court is much more telling And while Ricardo Ratliffe’s line was unreal — 27 points and eight boards (six offensive) on 11-14 shooting — the majority of his shot opportunities are simply catch-and-dunk situations. He thrives because he doesn’t miss around the rim, and playing with guys like Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon means that he will forever be getting open opportunities.

I still think Baylor is a national title contender, but there are serious issues with this team that need to be addressed. Scott Drew needs to find some way to get his team tougher. Perry Jones III disappears far too often for someone with his ability, and that is a microcosm of the fact that the Bears cannot handle getting “punched in the mouth”. If I’m Scott Drew, I take a page out of Eddie Sutton’s book and start practicing with football pads on.

No. 1 goes down: Playing without Fab Melo (academic issues, he will miss Monday’s game at Cincinnati as well), Syracuse went into South Bend and got absolutely crushed by the Irish, losing 67-58 because the Orange made a run late in the game when the outcome was all but decided. We shouldn’t overreact to this loss. Based on tweets that went out last night and earlier today, the team — and Melo — had no idea that Melo wasn’t going to be traveling with them until the 11th hour.

That distraction — plus the fact that Notre Dame is always a tough place to play — can easily be blamed for this hiccup. That said, don’t underrate what Melo’s absence meant. He’s an anchor in the middle of that zone. He blocks shots, he takes charges and he just makes things difficult for opponents. Most expect Melo to rejoin the team at some point, which is obviously a good thing for Syracuse. But this loss should show you the importance of Melo staying out of foul trouble on the court.

But No. 10 survived: Murray State got 21 points from Isaiah Canaan as they knocked off SIU-Edwardsville to remain undefeated, the last team in the country without a loss. I sincerely hope that, for the remainder of the season, we can all enjoy the run that Murray State is on. Its no secret they’ve played an easier schedule than quite a few teams; they are an Ohio Valley team after all. Let’s save the talk about their seeding for Selection Sunday and just enjoy one of the best storylines of the season, mmk?

So who is the second best team in the SEC?: Add the SEC into the leagues that make absolutely no sense. With Festus Ezeli back in the fold and coming off of a dominating win at Alabama, it looked like the Commodores had staked a claim as the most likely team to challenge Kentucky.

Not so fast. Mississippi State got a layup from Dee Bost with 57 seconds left for a 78-77 win in overtime, surviving fairly open looks for the Dores at the end of regulation and overtime. Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney combined for 45 points and 19 boards, outplaying Ezeli, who finished with 12 points, 14 boards and five blocks.

Alabama made a statement of their own on Saturday. They lost to Kentucky 77-71, but the Crimson Tide, who tend to struggle on the road, gave the Wildcats all they could handle, keeping the game within three or four points for most of the second half. JaMychal Green finished with 22 points and 12 boards despite going up against the best defender in the country in Anthony Davis.

The team everyone is forgetting about? Florida. The Gators, playing with a limited Patric Young (tendinitis in his ankle) knocked off LSU 76-64, getting a team-high 15 points out of Erik Murphy. It also should be noted that the most exciting game of the day in the SEC was the 66-64 upset that Arkansas pulled off against Michigan. The Razorbacks opened up a 20 point lead in the first half, but Michigan slowly chipped away. They never got the game tied, but Trey Burke got a decent look at a step-back three at the buzzer that rimmed out.

What do we make of UNLV and New Mexico?: The Runnin’ Rebels absolutely put the smackdown on New Mexico, beating them by 17 points in Vegas. It was a win that UNLV really needed, considering that after they lost to San Diego State in the MWC opener they couldn’t afford to fall two games behind the Aztes in the standings. UNLV’s ability to force turnovers and get out in transition was impressive, but it also lent worry to the Lobos. For the second time this week, UNM looked completely outclassed in league play, having gotten dropped at home by SDSU on Wednesday. Maybe its just as simple as New Mexico is not a good as we thought they were; they are sitting two games behind SDSU and there is a fairly large gap between them and the MWC’s top two teams.

The Pac-12 stays weird, which makes it all the more awesome: There is simply no way to predict what is going to happen in the wide-open Pac-12 conference. As of today, there are four teams tied atop the conference with two losses. There are another two that sit just a game back in the loss column. None of those six teams go by the name UCLA or Oregon State.

There are some things that seem normal — like Cal being tied for first or Washington sitting a game in the win column behind them — and some things that would get you called crazy if they were brought up in November — like Oregon being tied for first or Colorado being tied with Washington.

So what happened on Saturday?:

– Washington State beat Cal 77-75 behind 24 points from Faisal Aden. Cal had a chance to tie late, but Jorge Gutierrez missed a shot at the buzzer.

– Carlon Brown scored 19 points to lead the Buffs, but Arizona’s Kevin Parrom missed a three at the buzzer as Colorado held on to win at home 64-63.

– Washington finally put it all together, getting 39 combined points out of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten as they used a 20-3 run in the second half to put away Stanford.

– EJ Singler had 26 points and Garrett Sim added 16 as Oregon improved to 2-0 on the weekend as they overcame a 13 point halftime deficit in a 75-68 win over UCLA.

Tempers flare in East Lansing: Michigan State won 83-58 and Robbie Hummel went 0-11 from the field, the first 0-fer of his collegiate career, but that’s not what anyone was talking about after the game. Matt Painter got into it with a fan in the Izzone, MSU’s student section, for yelling at Robbie Hummel “I hope you tear your acl again”. That wasn’t it for Painter, either. He had an exchange with Brandon Dawsen, a player he recruited out of Indiana, after Dawsen said something after hitting a three in front of the Purdue bench.

Cincinnati’s road streak comes to a close: The Bearcats had their streak of seven straight road wins in the Big East — the last two of which came against Georgetown and UConn — in a 77-74 loss in overtime at West Virginia. Kevin Jones led the way with 26 points and freshman Gary Browne hit a three that forced the overtime period.

Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown win: Louisville took a step in the right direction with a 73-62 win over Pitt at Pitt. Kyle Kuric, who was questionable to even play in this game, had 22 points. Georgetown survived Rutgers 52-50 despite hitting just 12 shots from the field as Otto Porter hit two free throws with 8.5 seconds left. And Marquette overcame a feisty Providence team 79-72 on the road.

I guess we don’t know who the best team in the A-10 is: Xavier is the most talented team in the Atlantic 10, but after going into Dayton and losing, the flyers now own sole possession of first place in the conference. It wasn’t just the fact that they lost, because that rivalry is one of the more heated in the A-10, its the fact that Dayton scored 87 points and dominated the game after the first 10 minutes. Matt Kavanaugh, starting because Josh Benson is done for the year, finished with 20 points and nine boards.

Ditto for Conference USA: Marshall went into Hattiesburg, MS, and lost to Southern Miss 67-63. Neil Watson had 18 points and five assists and hit a big three with 18.5 seconds left on the clock. With Memphis and Central Florida also winning, there is now a four-way tie between the four teams at the top of the league. All four have one loss.

Notes:

– LIU knocked off Wagner 73-66 to improve to 7-0 in the NEC and take a one game lead on Wagner.

– South Dakota State got 28 points in a 91-88 OT win over North Dakota State as they stayed within a game of Oral Roberts in league play. ORU is 10-0 in the league after Warren Niles scored 27 points in a 92-83 win over Oakland.

– With a 72-60 win over Towson, George Mason took sole possession of first place in the CAA at 7-1 thanks to VCU’s 61-48 win over ODU. VCU and ODU are both 6-2 in league play

– St. Joe’s lost to Penn 84-80, their third straight loss and fifth in seven games.

– Tony Mitchell had 30 points and 17 boards, including a buzzer-beating tip-in, to beat Denver 75-74 in overtime. They moved into a three-way tie with UALR at 5-2 in the Sun Belt’s Western Division.

– USC-Upstate overcame a 16 point halftime deficit to knock off Belmont 79-78 on a tip-in at the buzzer.

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

Purdue stays No. 1 in AP Top 25; NC State in at No. 22

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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Purdue’s unquestioned grip on No. 1 in The Associated Press poll is gone after a weekend loss. That didn’t stop the Boilermakers from remaining at the top anyway.

The Boilermakers earned 38 of 62 first-place votes in the poll to remain at No. 1 for a third straight week and seventh time this season. Purdue was the unanimous choice last week, the first for any team this season, before falling at Indiana over the weekend for only its second loss.

The Boilermakers (22-2, 11-2) have a leading candidate for national player of the year in Zach Edey and KenPom’s No. 1-ranked offense (121.1 points scored per 100 possessions) to go with a top-25 defense. But they got down big, committed 16 turnovers and allowed the Hoosiers — up to No. 18 this week — to shoot nearly 53% in a 79-74 loss Saturday.

“When we go to Zach and we make some perimeter shots, the defense gets better sometimes when the offense flows,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said at his postgame news conference. “And you can’t do that. You can always rebound, you can always take care of the ball, you can always make your free throws, those things there.”

The loss meant Houston collected 22 first-place votes as it rose one spot to No. 2, followed by No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Arizona in each claiming one.

THE TOP TIER

Texas jumped five spots to No. 5, shooting past Tennessee, which fell four spots to No. 6 after losing last week at Florida.

UCLA, Virginia, Kansas and Marquette rounded out the top 10, with Shaka Smart’s Golden Eagles cracking the top 10 for the first time since 2019.

RISING

The Longhorns’ jump marked the biggest of the week, followed by Marquette and Miami each rising four spots. No. 13 Xavier, No. 15 Saint Mary’s and No. 21 UConn joined Indiana in each moving up three positions.

In all, 12 teams rose from last week’s rankings.

SLIDING

Kansas State took the week’s biggest tumble, falling five spots to No. 12 after losing at Kansas and at home to Texas last week. No. 16 Gonzaga joined Tennessee in falling four spots after its overtime loss at Saint Mary’s.

In all, nine teams fell from last week’s rankings.

STATUS QUO

Purdue was the only team to remain in the same position this week.

WELCOME

North Carolina State earned its first AP Top 25 ranking in four years, checking in at No. 22.

The Wolfpack (19-5, 9-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) spent six weeks in the poll during the 2018-19 season. N.C. State already has surpassed the win total for each of the last two seasons and is in contention for the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2018.

Creighton and Rutgers joined N.C. State as this week’s new additions to the poll, though both were ranked earlier this season. The Bluejays were No. 9 in the preseason poll and peaked at No. 7 before falling out by mid-December, while the Scarlet Knights spent a week at No. 23 in mid-January.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

Florida Atlantic (No. 19), Clemson (No. 20) and Auburn (No. 25) fell out of this week’s poll.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Big 12 leads all leagues with six ranked teams, including No. 11 Iowa State, No. 14 Baylor and No. 17 TCU. The Big East is next with five ranked teams, followed by the Big Ten and ACC with three each.

The Pac-12, Southeastern and West Coast conferences each have two ranked teams, while the American Athletic and Mountain West each have one.

Indiana reaches No. 2 in women’s AP Top 25; South Carolina still No. 1

Noe Padilla/Journal & Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK
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South Carolina beat a top opponent to remain No. 1 in the women’s poll and now has a showdown with another one looming this weekend.

The Gamecocks (23-0) topped then- No. 5 UConn 81-77 to remain unbeaten and stay the unanimous choice atop the poll from the 28-member national media panel. After facing Auburn, South Carolina will play No. 3 LSU in a matchup of the last two unbeatens in Division I women’s college basketball.

Dawn Staley’s team has won 29 consecutive games and has been No. 1 in the poll for 33 consecutive weeks. That’s one week short of tying the Huskies for the third-longest streak atop the poll. Only UConn (51 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

While South Carolina has had a stranglehold on No. 1 for more than a year, Indiana is making its first appearance ever at No. 2 after Stanford lost to Washington.

“I’m going to relish this for a minute, knowing where the program was to where it is,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “We’ve made a lot of history since we’ve been here in our nine seasons and it’s one of the more historical things we’ve been able to accomplish. Give our players credit, I don’t want to discount what a big achievement this is. We’re more than humbled to be No. 2.”

Indiana has won 10 straight since suffering its lone loss of the season to Michigan State. The Hoosiers have a tough stretch coming up, starting with a home game against No. 5 Iowa. Indiana, which hadn’t been ranked higher than fourth, then plays No. 13 Ohio State and 12th-ranked Michigan.

“That’s why we take it one game at a time, but you understand the magnitude of what’s ahead of us. I tell the kids all the time we’re in control of our own destiny,” Moren said.

LSU remained at No. 3 after close wins over Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M. The Tigers have a week to prepare for the Gamecocks.

UConn moved up one spot to fourth after its close loss to the Gamecocks and Iowa was fifth.

The Cardinal fell to sixth with Utah, Maryland, Duke and Notre Dame rounding out the top 10. The Blue Devils beat the Irish to take over sole possession of first in the ACC and vault up six spots in the poll. It’s Duke’s best ranking since the team finished the 2017 season ranked ninth.

FALLING CYCLONES

It was a rough week for Iowa State, which lost to Kansas by one point and Baylor by six. The Cyclones fell nine spots in the poll from 12th to 21st.

RE-ENTRY

Colorado came back into the poll at No. 25 after beating Oregon and Oregon State over the weekend. The Buffaloes were ranked for four weeks before falling out last week. Middle Tennessee dropped out of the poll after losing both its games last week.

No. 1 South Carolina tops fifth-ranked UConn 81-77

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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HARTFORD, Conn. – In a rematch of last season’s national championship game, South Carolina came out on top again over UConn thanks to a strong fourth quarter by Aliyah Boston.

Geno Auriemma stepping onto the court to spike a water botte, that helped them, too.

Boston scored 23 of her 26 points in the second half, including 14 in the final period, to help the No. 1 Gamecocks beat the fifth-ranked Huskies 81-77 on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd.

“Aliyah is just relentless, she plays relentlessly although she had a subpar (first half) as far as statistics, she impacted the game,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “She doesn’t get flustered. she knew she didn’t play up to her standards. What does she do? Raise her standard. Bad first half or not she’s going to continue to play.”

While there wasn’t as much on the line as the title game last April, there was a high intensity to it, including Auriemma getting the technical late in the fourth quarter after getting frustrated by the officiating enough to throw the bottle.

“I thought there were a lot of things being overlooked. It was difficult for some of our guys to move out on the floor,” said Auriemma, UConn’s coach. “I didn’t think it was one key play, I just couldn’t keep quiet any longer. It was bad. … Dumb mistake by me. Bad decision.”

The Gamecocks (23-0) have won 29 consecutive games since losing to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament title game last year. They’ve won four of the past five meetings with the Huskies, including a victory in the NCAA championship game last season. That ended UConn’s perfect 11-0 record in title games.

“This was a national championship-like game. I wanted us to feel what it takes to do this,” Staley said.

Now South Carolina finally has a win in Connecticut after winning there before.

South Carolina used its size again to top the Huskies. The 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso and Boston, the reigning AP Player of the Year helped the Gamecocks have a 42-30 advantage on the boards, including grabbing 25 offensive rebounds.

Boston finished with 11 rebounds for the 76th double-double of her career. Cardoso added 17 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

With her team leading by four in the fourth quarter, Boston took over. She scored the next 12 points for South Carolina, two of those came when Auriemma tossed the water onto the court and was charged with the technical foul.

Boston hit the two free throws. She then hit a jumper, a 3-pointer and another basket to give the Gamecocks a double-digit advantage.

“I’m kind of in attack mode. In the second half I made more shots then I did in the first half,” Boston said.

Despite seeing their starting backcourt foul out, the short-handed Huskies (21-3) wouldn’t go away. They whittled the lead down to 80-77 with 10.8 seconds left on Aubrey Griffin’s three-point play.

Raven Johnson hit the first of two free throws a second later and UConn couldn’t convert to close out the game

“They have a lot to feel good about once they get past what it feels like to lose,” Auriemma said. “I feel better at 3 o’clock today then I did at 12 o’clock. I didn’t know how we’d respond. I knew we’d play hard and compete like hell. I didn’t know who was going to make a big play, who was going to get a big rebound, make a big shot. I know now more than I did at noon and I feel better about my team.”

Aaliyah Edwards led UConn with 25 points.

UConn got off to a solid start, outscoring South Carolina 25-14 in the opening period. Lou Lopez Senechal capped the strong start, hitting a running 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

South Carolina asserted its size in the second quarter with Cardoso scoring 11 points in the period. Her putback with just under 10 seconds left tied the game at 34 heading into the half.

TIP-INS:

UConn is 8-10 against No. 1 teams all time. … The Huskies are still missing guards Azzi Fudd (knee), Caroline Ducharme (concussion) as well as Paige Bueckers (knee) and Ice Brady (knee), who are both out for the season. … Many former UConn players were in the crowd including Sue Bird, Jen Rizzotti, and Napheesa Collier sitting a few rows behind the Huskies bench. … South Carolina has gone 41-6 against ranked teams since the start of the 2019-20 season.

DEPTH:

The Gamecocks reserves outscored UConn’s 37-0. The Huskies only had eight healthy players.

UP NEXT:

South Carolina: visits Auburn on Thursday before a showdown with No. 3 LSU on Feb. 12

UConn: visits Marquette on Wednesday.

No. 16 Duke tops No. 9 Notre Dame 57-52 for 1st place in ACC

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Celeste Taylor scored 14 points and No. 16 Duke came from behind for a 57-52 victory at No. 9 Notre Dame on Sunday to move into first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Trailing for most of the game’s first 28 minutes, the Blue Devils (20-3, 10-2 ACC) took the lead for good in the final minutes of the third quarter to knock off the Fighting Irish (18-4, 9-3) before a sellout crowd of 9,149 at Purcell Pavilion.

A jumper by Jordyn Oliver put Duke ahead 45-44 with 1:20 left in the third quarter and the visitors never trailed after that.

“I’m proud of my players for finishing the game,” Duke coach Kara Lawson said.

Duke led 48-46 going into the fourth quarter after trailing Notre Dame by as many as five points in the third quarter. A steal by Elizabeth Balogun in the final 15 seconds helped seal the win.

A 13-4 run helped Notre Dame take its biggest lead of the first half for either team at 31-23. The Irish led 31-25 at halftime.

“We fell short, but you know it’s a part of our growth,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “It’s part of our journey.”

Taylor scored 10 points for Duke in the second half. Balogun and Shayeann Day-Wilson finished with 9 points apiece and Taya Corosdale and Oliver had 8 each.

Maddy Westbeld, playing all 40 minutes, led Notre Dame with 15 points, Sonia Citron scored 14 and Olivia Miles added 11.

“She’s one of the best players in the country,” Lawson said of Miles, who logged just over 31 minutes. “We didn’t have to go against her for a quarter of the game.”

COLD SHOOTING

Neither team shot well in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame made just 2 of 13 shots from the floor and Duke was 3 of 13.

“We just talked about staying disciplined defensively and making it hard,” Lawson said. “I though we challenged shots.”

Ivey also addressed that stretch of the game.

“Some of those opportunities were in transition and we didn’t get a chance to capitalize,” she said. “We did a good job of finding the open person, we just didn’t nail the shots.”

SUPERB SUBS

Led by Corosdale and Oliver, Duke enjoyed a 21-4 edge in reserve scoring.

“I’m really proud of my players off the bench,” Lawson said. “Jordyn Oliver was really good.

“We needed to have that depth in scoring. Not only did they score but they were efficient from the field.”

The Blue Devils’ bench shot 9 of 15.

SHORT-HANDED IRISH

Notre Dame graduate student Dara Mabrey was lost for the season in the Jan. 22 game against Virginia.

Lauren Ebo, a 6-foot-4 graduate student, has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury.

“Ebo does a great job of being a precence on the block with her size and ability to rebound and play post defense,” Ivey said. “She’s been working really hard (at rehabilitation).

“It’s kind of day to day.”

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Irish fell out of a first-place tie with Duke in the ACC standings.

Duke: The Blue Devils are now alone atop the conference standings.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Irish meet Pitt in two of the next four contests – on Thursday in South Bend and on Sunday, Feb. 19 at Pittsburgh.

Duke: The only regular-season meeting between the Blue Devils and Boston College is Thursday at Boston.

Colorado State sorry for ‘Russia’ chant at Ukrainian player

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Colorado State apologized for a group of fans who chanted “Russia” at a player on an opposing team who is from Ukraine.

Utah State’s Max Shulga is from Kyiv and was shooting free throws when TV cameras picked up the chant from the student section during the game in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago.

“On behalf of Colorado State, we apologize to the student-athlete and Utah State. This is a violation of our steadfast belief in the Mountain West Sportsmanship Policy and University Principles of Community,” Colorado State said in a statement.

“Every participant, student, and fan should feel welcomed in our venues, and for something like this to have occurred is unacceptable at Colorado State.”

Utah State beat CSU 88-79.

On Sunday afternoon, Shulga issued a statement through Utah State that thanked the Colorado State administration and Rams coach Niko Medved for their “immediate support and understanding following the disappointing events during last night’s game.”

Shulga added: “This has been an extremely difficult and challenging year with my family and loved ones so far away and living in constant danger. I pray daily for the conflict to come to a close and for peace to be restored for my people in Ukraine.”

To close his statement, Shulga said that while the chants were “extremely upsetting in the moment, I also know how emotions can run high during competition and people can do and say things they do not really mean. Colorado State and its fans have apologized and I accept and appreciate the apology.”