Weekend Preview: Saturday will be the season’s best day of games

1 Comment
source: AP
The Utes fell in Tucson, but they’ll get their shot at revenge (AP Photo)

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 7 Arizona at No. 13 Utah, Sat. 9:00 p.m.

When these two teams met in Tucson earlier this season, the Wildcats embarrassed the Utes and their all-american, Delon Wright. Don’t think, for a second, that Utah has forgotten about that. With their Pac 12 title hopes on the line and the league’s power coming into their building, Utah will be ready for this one. It helps that they’ve been playing some of their best basketball of the season of late, as their defense as been embarrassingly good. As in, they embarrass people. Ask Arizona State, who was down 41-9 at halftime on Thursday night.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 10 Northern Iowa at No. 11 Wichita State, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

Big games in the Missouri Valley are always going to be entertaining to watch, and this matchup will be no different. Both the Shockers and the Panthers are exceedingly well-coached defensive powerhouses that execute well offensively and count the three best players in the conference — Seth Tuttle, Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet — on their rosters. Oh, and should I mention that this is the Missouri Valley championship game? Both teams are currently tied at 16-1 in the league.

With all due respect to Utah, Kentucky and Kansas, you will not find a better environment for a basketball game on Saturday than in Koch Arena.

FIVE OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

  • No. 18 Arkansas at No. 1 Kentucky, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: This will be the first time that Kentucky has faced a ranked team this year. Literally. The last time was in December, when they won at Louisville. This is not a great matchup for the Razorbacks, but their pressure might rattle Kentucky’s back court.
  • Texas at No. 8 Kansas, Sat. 5:00 p.m.: The Longhorns are on the verge of playing themselves out of the NCAA tournament, while the Jayhawks were on the verge of playing themselves out of the Big 12 title race before Iowa State lost.
  • Michigan State at No. 5 Wisconsin, Sun. 4:00 p.m.: The Spartans entered Thursday as one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten. They will now enter the weekend having lost to Minnesota at home.
  • No. 20 West Virginia at No. 19 Baylor, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: Can we just call this the battle for Big 12 Coach of the Year?
  • Boise State as No. 24 San Diego State, Sat. 8:00 p.m.: The two best teams in the Mountain West Conference this season? Boise State needs this win to get onto the right side of the bubble, and with Derrick Marks playing like an all-american in league play, they might have a shot to do that.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 6 Villanova at Xavier, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

The Wildcats are far and away the best team in the Big East this season, which says more about Villanova than it does the rest of the conference. Xavier is one of those teams in the next team, in the conversation with Georgetown, Providence and Butler as the second-best team in the league. The Wildcats can clinch the outright Big East title with a win, but the Musketeers are playing for the chance to avoid sweating out Selection Sunday.

UPSET WATCH

  • No. 17 Louisville at Florida State, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: Will Louisville struggle after a week full of Chris Jones drama, or will ridding themselves of that burden help them?
  • No. 12 Iowa State at Kansas State, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: Kansas State can beat anyone in the Big 12 — ask Oklahoma and Kansas — but the Cyclones are coming off of a home loss to Baylor. Will they be looking to make a statement?
  • No. 15 North Carolina at Miami, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Miami desperately needs this win if they are going to get an at-large bid, and the Tar Heels have had some issues this season. Which Angel Rodriguez will show up on Saturday?
  • Dayton at No. 22 VCU, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: This isn’t an ideal matchup for the Flyers, as they don’t have much depth at all, which is a difficult thing to deal with against Havoc. But the Flyers are tied for first in the conference despite playing with just six scholarship players.
  • BYU at No. 3 Gonzaga, Sat. 10:00 p.m.: Gonzaga isn’t playing for much — NCAA tournament seeding, that’s it — while BYU is essentially playing for their at-large life.

FIVE MORE STORY LINES

1. There is one games on NBCSN and Live Extra this weekend: Rhode Island at La Salle, Sat. 12:30 p.m.

2. Games with Bubble Implications

  • Cincinnati at Tulane, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • Missouri at Georgia, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
  • Georgetown at St. John’s, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
  • N.C. State at Boston College, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
  • Ole Miss at LSU, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • Iowa at Penn State, Sat. 6:00 p.m.
  • George Washington at Davidson, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
  • Northwestern at Illinois, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
  • Tulsa at Memphis, Sat. 8:00 p.m.
  • Auburn at Texas A&M, Sat. 8:30 p.m.
  • Pitt at Wake Forest, Sun. 6:30 p.m.
  • Oregon at Stanford, Sun. 7:00 p.m.
  • Purdue at Ohio State, Sun. 7:30 p.m.
  • Washington State at UCLA, Sun. 9:30 p.m.

3. Wild regular season finishes: The CAA, the Big South and the Horizon all have at least four teams that can win a share of the regular season title, depending on how the games this weekend play out.

4. Syracuse at No. 4 Duke, Sat. 7:00 p.m.: The last time these two played in Cameron Indoor Stadium, this happened.

5. Manhattan at Iona, Fri. 7:00 p.m.: The nation’s most underrated rivalry.

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

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
1 Comment

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
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

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
1 Comment

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
0 Comments

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.