Wednesday’s Shootaround: Kentucky rolls, Ohio State struggles, Creighton loses

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No. 3 Ohio State 87, Purdue 84: William Buford snapped out of what felt like a season long slump to score 21 of his 29 points in the second half — including seven straight to put OSU up 80-73 with two minutes left — as the Buckeyes avoided getting upset at home. Buford’s second half was all the more important considering that Purdue was shooting the lights out and both Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft were dealing with foul trouble.

Its tough to call a loss on the road against the No. 3 team in the country a costly loss, but it is certainly fair to say that Purdue missed a major opportunity for a marquee victory on Tuesday night. If it wasn’t a couple of late defensive lapses and questionable offensive decisions — including Matt Painter’s decision to leave DJ Byrd, who finished with a career-high 24 points on 7-9 shooting from three, on the bench down the stretch — Purdue would have escaped Columbus with this win. For a team that appears to be squarely on the bubble with a shell of Robbie Hummel leading them, that’s huge.

The good news for the Boilermakers is that they were able to stay this close without Hummel playing well. In addition to Byrd’s performance, Kelsey Barlow played as well as he has in his collegiate career, finishing with 14 points, three assists and a trio of highlight reel dunks. If those two can play near that level the rest of the season, Purdue won’t have to worry about getting an at-large bid.

No. 1 Kentucky 78, No. 7 Florida: When Kentucky is playing their best, they are just about unbeatable. When Marquis Teague is distributing and knocking down perimeter jumpers, when Terrence Jones is bought in to a team concept and when Doron Lamb and Darius Miller are shooting the ball well, Kentucky simply has more weapons that anyone else in the country.

This is not a secret, however. I’ve been saying for about a month that I would wager my money on the Wildcats winning the national title. Think about it like this: Kentucky appears to finally be hitting their stride as a basketball team and they are currently one Christian Watford buzzer-beater away from being undefeated. If Kentucky was actually able to give their foul in the final seconds against the Hoosiers, than John Calipari’s group would, in all likelihood, be heading into the stretch run undefeated.

And this team still isn’t playing their best basketball.

That’s scary.

But beating Florida by 20 points at home isn’t the defining win that should vault UK into lock-status for the Final Four.

Look, I know that the Gators are ranked in the top ten and I know that the consensus is that this group is the second-best team in the SEC. But the gap between the first and the second teams in that league is fairly large, and the gap between where Florida truly ranked and the No. 7 spot is just as big. The Gators are a streaky team that stinks on the road, where they have lost to Rutgers and Tennessee already this season. Handling the Gators in Rupp should have been expected.

Kentucky fans will likely misinterpret that as a shot at their team, and it isn’t. I still think the Wildcats are the best team in the country. I just don’t think this performance is the proof that many believe it is.

Evansville 65, No. 13 Creighton 57: This is what happens when you have on off-night on the road in the Valley. The Bluejays shot just 4-22 from three and turned the ball over 16 times, which, when combined with the 13-1 run the Purple Aces put on Creighton to close the game, was enough to send the Bluejays to their second consecutive loss. This could end up looming very large for Creighton. Not only does this loss drop them to a half-game behind Wichita State in the MVC standings — the Shockers play UNI Wednesday night — but it makes Saturday’s matchup between the two teams all the more important. Simply put, Creighton is not going to win the Valley regular season title if they fall two games behind WSU. And if they don’t turn this losing streak around soon, might they play their way out of a guaranteed at-large bid?

Oklahoma State 69, Iowa State 67: I’ve been saying it all season long — the issue for Oklahoma State this season is less talent and more effort. They don’t care enough or play hard enough on a consistent basis to win games. After nearly upsetting Baylor on Saturday afternoon, the Pokes knocked off Iowa State, who is probably the fourth best team in the Big East, on the strength of 19 points from Markel Brown. LeBryan Nash added 18 points on 6-10 shooting, but more importantly he hit an impressive step-back jumper to give OSU the lead with 4.6 seconds left and then blocked Chris Allen’s attempt to tie the game at the buzzer.

Villanova 74, Providence 72: Providence jumped out to a big first half lead, extending it to as much as 19 in the second half. Throw in the fact that Maalik Wayns was battling a knee injury, and the Wildcats seemed like the longest of long shots to come back and win that game. But thanks to 27 points from Jayvaughn Pinkston, who looked like an all-Big East player, the Wildcats came all the way back. It was a driving layup from Pinkston in the final minute that ended up being the decisive bucket.

Campbell 81, Coastal Carolina 75: Campbell stayed within striking distance in the Big South thanks to Eric Griffin, who had 25 points, 10 boards, three assists, two steals and two blocks as the Camels overcame an 11 point second half deficit.

Other notable scores:

– Maryland 64, Clemson 62
– Kansas State 65, Texas Tech 46