Pregame Shootaround: A lot of big matchups featuring top-25 teams on Saturday

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source: AP
(AP)

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Virginia at No. 13 Notre Dame, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s weekend preview:

There may not be a more intriguing matchup all season long than this one. As I diagrammed earlier this week, Virginia runs a defense known as the Pack-Line, and they are the best in the country at doing it. The way to beat the Pack-Line is by spreading the floor with shooters and letting playmakers penetrate and get those shooters open looks. That’s precisely what Notre Dame does. So what we get on Saturday is strength on strength, one of the nation’s best defenses squaring off against a team with as potent of an offense as you’re going to find in the college ranks.

This game won’t bring with it the kind of hype that Louisville-Kentucky or Duke-Wisconsin did. Hell, Virginia plays Duke in two week and Louisville the week after that. This will be a blip on the radar compared to those to games. But when you combine the Pack-Line vs. Notre Dame’s shooters with the fact that both teams have an all-american on their roster — Jerian Grant and Justin Anderson — and this is the kind of game that you, at the very least, throw on the iPad while you watch the NFL playoffs.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Louisville at No. 18 North Carolina, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

Once again, I’ll let Rob take it away:

Does anyone know what to make of North Carolina yet? I don’t. I thought they were a top ten team entering the season and then they went and lost to Butler and Iowa. I thought they were back on the upswing in the last three weeks, and then they went and lost to Notre Dame at home. A visit from the Cardinals will be a chance for the Tar Heels to make a statement, but Louisville will be looking to prove a point of their own. They’ve been up and down this season as well, with their success hitched to the Chris Jones wagon. Which Chris Jones shows up on Saturday? The one that played like an all-ACC point guard against Wake Forest or the one that looked like bad Russ Smith reincarnated against Kentucky?

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: No. 25 Old Dominion at Western Kentucky, 5:30 p.m.

The Monarchs have reached the top 25 and after wins over LSU and VCU we know they’re legitimate. But they still have to navigate a difficult C-USA road game at Western Kentucky on Saturday. This is the third game of a three-game road trip to open conference play for Old Dominion and it would be huge for them to get out of this unscathed. Hilltopper senior guard T.J. Price is one of the best mid-major guards you’ve never heard of and this could be a good one in the early evening.

UPSET WATCH: No. 10 Texas at Oklahoma State, Sat. 5:00 p.m.

From Rob:

We all saw what Oklahoma did to Texas on Monday night. That was in Austin. On Saturday afternoon, the Longhorns will be headed to Stillwater to take on an Oklahoma State team that has been one of the bigger surprises in the country this season. The Pokes have yet to put together a win that can be considered a statement win, but knocking off the Longhorns at home would definitely fall into that category. It will be interesting to see how Travis Ford decides to deal with the massive Texas front line.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR: 

  • Another great Big 12 matchup is on tap for Saturday night as No. 17 Iowa State travels to No. 14 West Virginia. Both of these teams are unbeaten early in conference play and this one could come down to a matchup at point guard between Monte Morris and Juwan Staten. It will also be intriguing to see if West Virginia’s defense can slow down Iowa State’s high-octane offense.
  • No. 8 Villanova has a chance to make a move in the Big East standings against conference leader DePaul. Wait, DePaul? Yes, DePaul. The Blue Demons are 3-0 and in sole possession of the Big East lead and they can see if they’re for real against the battle-tested Wildcats.
  • Purdue has a chance for a nice Big Ten home win when they host No. 11 Maryland. The Terps lost a tough road game at Illinois earlier this week and the Boilermakers are 2-0 at home in conference play. I’m interested to see how Maryland defends Purdue’s two massive centers in A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas.
  • After starting the season 13-0, TCU has dropped two straight in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs have a chance to knock off No. 21 Baylor at home and correct that losing streak. But the Bears have also started Big 12 play at 0-2 and need a road win here, so this one could decide a lot in terms of how these teams look for the rest of conference play.
  • It’ll be a lot of fun to watch the battle of freshman guards James Blackmon Jr., and D’Angelo Russell as Indiana hosts No. 22 Ohio State. These two are the front-runners for the conference’s best freshman and both Blackmon and Russell could be all-conference players this year with consistent conference seasons.

THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Kentucky at Texas A&M, 1:00 p.m.
  • Santa Clara at No. 6 Gonzaga, 8:00 p.m.
  • Texas Tech at No. 12 Kansas, 3:00 p.m.
  • Kansas State at No. 16 Oklahoma State, 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 19 Seton Hall at Creighton, 2:15 p.m.
  • Saint Joseph’s at No. 20 VCU, 2:00 p.m.
  • Vanderbilt at No. 23 Arkansas, 4:30 p.m.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

  • Cincinnati at Connecticut, 11:00 a.m.
  • Georgia Tech at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
  • Clemson at Pitt, 12:00 p.m.
  • Georgetown at Providence, 12:00 p.m.
  • Minnesota at Michigan, 1:00 p.m.
  • Alabama at Tennessee, 2:00 p.m.
  • Tulsa at Temple, 3:00 p.m.
  • Washington State at Washington, 3:00 p.m.
  • Boston College at Miami (FL), 4:00 p.m.
  • Xavier at Butler, 4:30 p.m.
  • Arizona State at Oregon, 5:00 p.m.
  • South Carolina at Ole Miss, 5:00 p.m.
  • Missouri at Auburn, 7:00 p.m.
  • Mississippi State at Florida, 7:00 p.m.
  • Georgia at LSU, 9:00 p.m.

Gardner, Beekman lift No. 8 Virginia past No. 22 N.C. State

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia coach Tony Bennett had a simple message for his team after a poor defensive performance in a loss at Virginia Tech.

“Talk is cheap. Do it. Show us, to our players, to us as a staff, show up, work in practice, step to between the lines and don’t lose yourself in anything but what your job is,” Bennett said he told his players and assistants in the two days of practice since the 74-68 loss.

The team clearly got the message.

Jayden Gardner scored 18 points, Reece Beekman added 15 and No. 8 Virginia cooled off red-hot No. 22 North Carolina State 63-50 on Tuesday night.

“We had a great two days before State, you know, preparation and just diving in,” Gardner said. “It’s just this is the time of the season we need to lock in and you know, we’re playing for something. … We’re trying to win a championship.”

The Cavaliers (18-4, 10-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) handed the Wolfpack (19-6, 9-5) their second loss in 10 games and moved into a share of first place in the conference with Clemson and Pittsburgh.

The Wolfpack arrived leading the ACC with an average of 79.6 points and were 19-2 when scoring at least 70, but became the 38th consecutive league opponent held below 70 points at John Paul Jones Arena.

“Obviously, as I watched the Virginia Tech game and knew that those guys dropped the game and, you know, any time you’re going to play a very good defensive team on their home floor, you know you’re going to get that energy,” North Carolina State coach Kevin Keatts said.

Terquavion Smith led N.C. State with 19 points and Casey Morsell, who spent his first two seasons at Virginia and was jeered nearly every time he touched the ball in his first game back, had 18 points before fouling out in the final minute.

Jarkel Joiner, the Wolfpack’s No. 2 scorer at 16.2 points per game, missed 12 of his 14 shots and scored five points. D.J. Burns Jr. (eight points) was the only other Wolfpack player to score.

Reserve forward Kadin Shedrick, who did not play in Virginia’s loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday, had 10 points and six rebounds for the Cavaliers.

Virginia scored the first six points of the second half to open its largest lead at 40-20, but the Wolfpack began whittling away, fueled by a 12-6 burst in which Smith and Morsell each hit a pair of 3-pointers.

“In the past, we’ve been able to control the tempo and to get those guys to play a little bit faster and even turn them over,” said Keatts, whose team had won three of the last four meetings. “But we couldn’t.”

N.C. State twice closed within nine points but got no closer. Morsell’s 3 made it 55-46 with 3:46 to play, but Beekman made a free throw and then took a no-look pass from Kihei Clark for an easy backdoor layup.

Virginia closed the first half on an 8-2 run to lead 34-20 at the break. The Wolfpack missed 10 straight shots before Burns scored just before the half.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: The Wolfpack got scoring from just three players – Smith with nine points, Morsell with seven and Burns with four – in the opening half. They shot 25.8% with Smith going 4 for 13 and Joiner 0 for 6. … Burns picked up his third personal foul less than a minute into the second half after getting the ball stolen by Beekman. He stayed in the game and drew his fourth foul on a drive by Clark with 16:03 left.

Virginia: Beekman started the game ranking first in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (3.0) and third in assists (5.1). He had four assists and one turnover. Clark started first in assists (6.0) and second in assist/turnover ratio (2.8). He had six assists and three turnovers.

UP NEXT

N.C. State: At Boston College on Saturday.

Virginia: Hosts Duke on Saturday.

Michigan St. rallies to win after giving up lead to Maryland

Maryland v Michigan State
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Joey Hauser scored 20 points and Tyson Walker had 17 and Michigan State rallied after scoring the game’s first 15 points to beat Maryland 63-58 on Tuesday.

A.J. Hoggard had 10 rebounds and eight assists for Michigan State.

Jahmir Young scored 17 points for Maryland, Hakim Hart 12, Julian Reese 11 and Donta Scott 10 for the Terrapins.

The Spartans (15-9, 7-6 Big Ten) used an 8-0 run in which Walker made a layup and 3-pointer wrapped around a 3 from Jaden Akins for a 52-48 lead with 7:44 remaining and Michigan State led for the remainder.

The Terrapins erupted for a 12-0 run in less than three minutes in the second half turning a 38-26 deficit into a 38-all tie. Young and Hart posted back-to-back three-point plays, and Hart’s 3-pointer with 13:01 knotted it at 38. Prior to that 3, Hart was 3-for-last-27 shooting from beyond the arc. Maryland finished shooting 3 of 22 from distance.

Michigan State started the game with a 15-0 run and led 31-22 at halftime. Coming off an 81-46 win over Maryland (16-8, 7-6 Big Ten) on Saturday, the Terrapins have yet to win back-to-back contests in almost three years.

The Terrapins host Penn State on Saturday. Michigan State travels to play Ohio State on Sunday.

Arkansas pulls away from Kentucky in 2nd half, wins 88-73

Arkansas v Kentucky
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Ricky Council IV scored 20 points, Anthony Black had 19 and Arkansas used a blazing second half to pull away and beat Kentucky 88-73 on Tuesday night, giving coach Eric Musselman his 200th collegiate victory.

Black added five assists and five steals. Makhel Mitchell and Davonte Davis scored 15 points each and Jordan Walsh 13 for the Razorbacks (17-7, 6-5 SEC) who have won five straight conference games, including three in a row. It was Arkansas’ third straight win over the Wildcats (16-8, 7-4). The teams meet again in Fayetteville in a regular-season finale on March 4.

Cason Wallace scored 24 points to lead Kentucky, which had won six straight conference games. Chris Livingston added 13 points and Jacob Toppin and Antonio Reeves 11 each.

After a first half with 11 lead changes, there were none in the second when Arkansas shot 72% and Council and Black combined for 25 points.

Three steals, including two by Black who turned them into consecutive dunks, fueled an 11-3 run to begin the second half for a 52-43 lead. A basket by Black made it a double-digit lead with eight minutes left as the Razorbacks sank 7 of 9 over that span to finish the game. They made 8 of 10 free throws over the final two minutes.

Kentucky coach John Calipari was given a technical foul with 33 seconds left in the first half. Black sank the resulting free throws for a three-point lead before Daimion Collins’ midrange jumper made it 41-40 at halftime.

Both teams shot over 50% in the first half with Wallace leading all scorers with 11 points. Kentucky dipped under 50% for the game while Arkansas finished at 63% and outscored the Wildcats 46-28 in the paint.

Arkansas is home against Mississippi State and Kentucky is at Georgia, both games on Saturday.

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.