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WAC Preview: Can anyone catch New Mexico State?

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the WAC.

While realignment has drastically changed the WAC, there’s been one constant over the last four seasons: New Mexico State representing the league in the NCAA tournament. Marvin Menzies’ program has won at least 23 games in each of those seasons, and even with personnel losses to account for the Aggies have remained the WAC’s dominant program. However New Mexico State lost a lot of production from last year’s team, and with that being the case there’s a feeling that the rest of the WAC may be able to get closer to dethroning the reigning kings.

Four of the team’s top six scorers from a season ago, including forward Remi Barry and guard Daniel Mullings, have moved on. However, with forward Pascal Siakam (12.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and the WAC’s best three-point shooter in guard Ian Baker (9.3 ppg, 45.7 percent 3PT) back in Las Cruces it isn’t as if Menzies and his staff will be building from scratch.

As for who can step in to help fill the the void, players such as guards Jalyn Pennie and Braxton Huggins and forward Jonathon Wilkins will have the opportunity to contribute. And another positive of last season was that New Mexico State had enough available talent to redshirt five freshmen, and while those players may not have Division I experience they were part of the program a season ago. That all should help New Mexico State as they look to hold off a group of contenders led by one of Division I’s newest additions.

Grand Canyon has only been a Division I program since 2013, and as a result they won’t be eligible for an NCAA tournament bid until the year 2017. But it should be noted that in each of the last two seasons Dan Majerle’s program has played in the CIT, and a third straight appearance isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Senior point guard De’Wayne Russell averaged 14.2 points and 3.9 assists per game last season, and he’ll lead a group that also returns redshirt sophomore guard Joshua Braun.

GCU’s rotation will be bolstered by multiple transfers, including forward Grandy Glaze (Saint Louis) and Dominic Magee (Memphis). But if the Antelopes are to harbor any thoughts of dethroning New Mexico State, they have to get better defensively. Last season GCU ranked at or near the bottom of the WAC in many of the major defensive categories (conference games only), including field goal (last in the WAC) and effective field goal (6th) percentages.

Kansas City lost three of its top five scorers from a season ago, but they do return one of the WAC’s best players in guard Martez Harrison. Named WAC Player of the Year last season, Harrison averaged 17.5 points and 3.9 assists per game but he still has room for growth when it comes to the shooting percentages (39.3 percent FG, 28.0 percent 3PT). What should help Harrison is the improved health of point guard Noah Knight, forward Shayok Shayok and center Thaddeus Smith, as all three missed time due to injury last season with Shayok playing in just eight games before being lost for the season.

The Kangaroos’ returnees will be joined by a seven-member recruiting class that has six junior college transfers, with forward Kyle Steward (Butler CC), guard LaVell Boyd (South Suburban College) and wing Dashawn King (Erie CC) being possible immediate impact players. If the parts can mesh together in time for conference play, thus helping Harrison with the scoring load and in turn making him a more efficient scorer, UMKC has the pieces needed to contend.

Rod Barnes’ CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners finished right in the middle of the WAC standings a season ago, and with one of the WAC’s best post players in Aly Ahmed leading the way they’re hoping to take a step forward in 2015-16. In his first season on the court for CSU Bakersfield Ahmed averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, with fellow forward Kevin Mays averaging 9.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per contest despite being just 6-foot-4. Add in redshirt junior Jaylin Airington and CSU Bakersfield returns not only three of its top four scorers but arguably the best front court in the WAC.

Whether or not the Roadrunners make a run at the WAC title will ultimately depend upon their guard play, with Brent Wrapp (4.4 ppg, 20.6 mpg) being their lone returnee, and junior college transfers Dedrick Basile and Justin Pride and freshman Damiyne Durham needing to be immediate contributors. The big men can get Bakersfield to the finish line, but where they’re positioned for the stretch run will be decided by the growth of their perimeter options.

Beyond the top four, Seattle and Utah Valley may be best equipped to make a push to get into the top half of the WAC. While the Redhawks did lose leading scorers Isiah Umipig and Jarell Flora from last season’s team, they do welcome back one of the conference’s better forwards in junior William Powell and Deshaun Sunderhaus returns after playing in just eight games due to injury.

As for the Wolverines, they embark on a new era as former BYU assistant Mark Pope takes over as head coach. While they did lose two of their top three scorers from a season ago, forward Donte Williams and guard Marcel Davis return, giving Pope some solid options to work with. Closing out the standings are UT-Rio Grande Valley and Chicago State, with the Vaqueros returning four starters from a season ago (but adding ten newcomers) and CSU working to account for the loss of four starters.

While conference realignment dealt New Mexico State a tough hand, the Aggies have set their sights on dominating the WAC and over the last four years they’ve managed to do that. With this being the case, it’s going to take an awful lot for someone to knock NMSU out of the WAC’s top spot.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE

  • Favorite: “Absolutely New Mexico State’s the favorite. They should be, hands down, until somebody proves that they can consistently contend with them. What makes them dangerous is that they’re big, they’re athletic. They have high-major size and high-major athleticism; they can roll the ball out with just about any team in the country in those aspects.”
  • Sleeper: “I think that Grand Canyon’s done a good job in recruiting. I know they can’t go to the (NCAA) tournament, but I think they’ve done a good job in building their program with some transfers and they’ve got some talented guys who have come in.””I think everybody (in the league) has upped their talent, size and athleticism. Bakersfield with what Coach (Rod) Barnes is doing over there and their size, and they’ve improved their guard play. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pushed New Mexico State. Dan Majerle and Grand Canyon. As far as the regular season, with their size and athleticism they have a chance to do some things as well.”
  • Stars to watch: “I love Siakam at New Mexico State. I thought he was a Player of the Year-caliber player last season as a freshman. I think he poses so many challenges. He’s tremendous offensively and defensively; there’s nothing the kid can’t do so. I think he’s a big-time talent.””Martez Harrison at UMKC is a very, very talented player. He’s a special guard, and I think his defensive prowess is really undersold by a lot of people. And Aly Ahmed at Bakersfield is another one who jumps out at me as being a really skilled big man who’s versatile and really hard to guard.”

PRESEASON WAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Martez Harrison, Kansas City

Harrison’s percentages leave something to be desired, as he shot 39.3 percent from the field and 28.0 percent from three. But in spite of that he still averaged 17.5 points to go along with nearly four assists per contest last season. UMKC enters this season healthy, and those additional options should help make Harrison a more efficient player as a junior.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-WAC TEAM:

  • DeWayne Russell, Grand Canyon: Russell averaged 14.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in his first season at GCU.
  • Ian Baker, New Mexico State: One of the top three-point shooters in the WAC, Baker will be asked to do even more on the perimeter this season.
  • Pascal Siakam, New Mexico State: Last year’s top freshman, Siakam was the media’s choice for Preseason WAC Player of the Year and with good reason.
  • Aly Ahmed, CSU Bakersfield: Ahmed averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season, and he can be even better if the field goal percentage (49.2 percent) improves.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @WACSports

PREDICTED FINISH

1. New Mexico State
2. Grand Canyon
3. Kansas City
4. CSU Bakersfield
5. Seattle
6. Utah Valley
7. UT-Rio Grande Valley
8. Chicago State

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Baylor and Gonzaga lead the way

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

Baylor is not the No. 1 team in my poll, and I suspect that they are going to be the No. 1 team in the country when the AP poll is released on Monday morning. The only reason they weren’t No. 1 last week is because four people (like me) had Duke at No. 1, stealing votes from the Bears. That … did not go well, so here we are.

I also want to talk through something else: Last week, I wrote extensively about why I think that it’s foolish to allow the result of one possession games to have a significant impact on the way that you view a team. One shot in a 70 possession game that is just one of more than 30 games that will be played this season is insignificant when determining the quality of a team, and I truly believe that.

But I also think it is important to consider how and why teams are winning close games, not just games that are one-possession games.

So let’s use Duke and Baylor for this example once again.

One thing that the Bears have proven over and over this season — at Texas Tech, at Kansas, at Oklahoma State — is the ability to close out a tough game, particularly on the road. That’s because they have a number of players on the roster that are capable of taking and making clutch shots. Against Tech, it was Jared Butler. Against Oklahoma State, it was Devonte Bandoo. The Bears may not look as good in the metrics because they haven’t obliterated the mediocre teams they have played, but they are 15-1 because they come through in the clutch.

Now, some of that may eventually regress. I believe in the clutch gene because I think life — not just sports, but everything every human being does — is confidence. Baylor has confidence in clutch situations, as much as anyone in the country. They do not get rattled by the moment, and they have a number of different options they can go to down the stretch.

Duke, on the other hand, does not. Their three losses this season have all been close games where the Blue Devils have struggled to find an outlet for offense in the final minutes. Maybe that will come with more experience — Duke is loaded with freshmen, Baylor is as old as anyone in the country — but as it stands, that’s the difference between these two teams.

Baylor won their close games.

Duke did not.

And I don’t think that’s a fluke.


The other thing that I want to discuss in this space is where I have San Diego State and Dayton ranked in the college basketball top 25. They are currently sitting and eighth and ninth in my poll, exactly where they have been for a couple of weeks now. And that is where they are going to stay for the foreseeable future.

The reasoning for me is simple: I don’t want to fall into the trap where I’m bumping a team up in the rankings simply because they keep winning in a league that is not as tough as the leagues where the rest of the teams in consideration for the top ten are playing, and losing.

I’m sure there are going to be people in San Diego and Dayton that call me a hater for this, and that’s fine. Maybe I am being a hater.

But the truth is this: I love both of these teams. SDSU is so tough defensively and Malachi Flynn has proven himself to be a flat-out winner at the point, while Dayton runs a pro-style, aesthetically-pleasing offense heavy on three-balls and Obi Toppin.

I just don’t believe they are one of the top six or seven teams in the country, and beating the likes of Nevada and Saint Louis is not going to change my mind.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



1. BAYLOR (15-1, Last Week: 2)
2. GONZAGA (20-1, 3)
3. KANSAS (14-3, 6)
4. FLORIDA STATE (16-2, 12)
5. LOUISVILLE (15-3, 13)
6. SETON HALL (14-4, 15)
7. DUKE (15-3, 1)
8. SAN DIEGO STATE (19-0, 8)
9. DAYTON (16-2, 9)
10. MICHIGAN STATE (14-4, 7)
11. BUTLER (15-3, 4)
12. AUBURN (15-2, 5)
13. OREGON (15-4, 10)
14. KENTUCKY (13-4, 11)
15. WEST VIRGINIA (14-3, 14)
16. TEXAS TECH (12-5, 17)
17. VILLANOVA (14-3, 18)
18. IOWA (13-5, 22)
19. ARIZONA (13-5, NR)
20. HOUSTON (14-4, NR)
21. MEMPHIS (14-3, 25)
22. MICHIGAN (11-6, 20)
23. MARYLAND (14-4, 21)
24. ILLINOIS (13-5, 24)
25. CREIGHTON (14-5, 23)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 Arizona, No. 20 Houston
DROPPED OUT: No. 16 Ohio State, No. 19 Wichita State

Ten Things You Need To Know: Catch up on all of Saturday’s college hoops action

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College basketball went insane on Saturday.

Well, it was insane all week.

But Saturday was really nuts.

Here’s everything you need to know.

1. NO. 3 DUKE LOST THEIR SECOND GAME THIS WEEK

David Johnson exploded on to the scene with 19 points, seven assists, four boards, three steals and two blocks.

Louisville exorcised some demons.

Duke looked like a team that is banged up, can’t guard the four and lacks a go-to scorer.

A full breakdown of this game can be found here.

2. NO. 4 AUBURN LOST THEIR SECOND GAME THIS WEEK, TOO

Auburn entered this seek as one of just two undefeated teams left in college basketball, but there were question marks.

The Tigers don’t have a single win over a team ranked in the top 40 on KenPom. They have only played three Quad 1 games this season. Their only Quad 1 win is barely a Quad 1 win: It came at Mississippi State, who currently ranks 70th in the NET; the cutoff for Quad 1 road wins is top 75.

The other two Quad 1 games that Auburn has played this season?

They were both this week.

And they were both ugly losses.

On Tuesday, it was Alabama that ran over Auburn in the basketball version of the Iron Bowl, 83-64. On Saturday, it was Florida doing the damage, as they held Auburn to 25.5 percent shooting from the field, 4-for-23 shooting from three (17.4%) and to just a single point during an eight-minute stretch late in the second half that saw the Gators push their lead from 47-43 to 69-44. They won 69-47.

Suddenly, those concerns look prescient.

The truth is this: Auburn is dangerous. They are a team that can make a lot of threes, that can force turnovers and play in transition and has the ability to play big (with Austin Wiley) or small (without Austin Wiley). They have a lottery pick in Isaac Okoro and they have a couple of guards on their roster capable of taking games over in J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty.

But they haven’t consistently played up to the level of a top five team, and their 15-0 record was inflated by feasting on teams that are just good enough to make us believe.

Auburn is still good.

They’re just not a top five team.

3. OH, AND NO. 5 BUTLER LOST THEIR SECOND GAME THIS WEEK AS WELL!

But this game said a whole lot more about DePaul than it did about Butler.

I explained why right here.

4. PAYTON PRITCHARD REALLY WANTS TO BE NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

The reason Payton Pritchard is one of the frontrunners for National Player of the Year is the fact that he is putting up terrific numbers this season for a top ten team and doing so while putting together some incredibly impressive performances in crunchtime.

Saturday might have been his statement game.

Oregon erased a 13-point second half deficit thanks in large part to Pritchard, who hit a huge three with a minute left to tie the game. In overtime, he hit a floater to give the Ducks the lead before burying this insane three to win the game with 3.2 seconds left:

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Payton Pritchard called game!!!!!!

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No. 8 Oregon avoided going 0-2 on the Washington road trip with a 64-61 win. Pritchard finished with 22 points. The Ducks are now 3-0 in overtime games this season largely due to the fact that Pritchard is arguably the most clutch player in college basketball.

Is there anyone that you would want taking a big shot in a big game more than him?

5. BUT SO DOES MYLES POWELL

Seton Hall capped off an absolutely stellar week by going into Madison Square Garden and knocking off their biggest regional rival, St. John’s, on the road despite trailing by 13 points at the half.

That’s a big time win.

And Powell was, as you might expect, once again a big time player.

He scored 23 of his 29 points in the second half and made big shot after big shot down the stretch. This came just three days after he went for 29 points as Seton Hall erased a 10 point halftime deficit on the road against No. 5 Butler.

In fact, the Pirates are currently sitting at 6-0 in the Big East after a slow start to their season, and they already have won at DePaul, at Xavier, at Butler and at St. John’s.

And now they get three straight home games.

Kevin Willard’s club has put themselves in a great position to make a run at the 2020 Big East regular season title.

6. KENTUCKY RALLIES AFTER COACH CAL GETS TOSSED

This was awesome.

Coach Cal was ejected on Saturday in the most mild-mannered way I’ve ever seen.

He was arguing with the refs about the way they were implementing the flop rule against his team, and — I think — he was given two technicals for being out of the coach’s box and staying out of the coach’s box to curse at the refs. Look at this:

The best part?

Kentucky was up 11 early in the first half, but they blew that lead. After going 3-for-4 on technical free throws, Arkansas held a 47-44 lead on a coach-less Kentucky team.

And how did the Cats respond?

A cool 17-2 run to put the game to bed in a 73-66 win.

7. HOUSTON BLEW OUT WICHITA STATE TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE AMERICAN

The Houston we expected to see all season long showed up in Wichita on Saturday night.

The Cougars beat the No. 16 Shockers in their own building, 65-54, and it wasn’t really that close. Wichita State was down 49-27 at one point, allowing just one player to crack double-figures.

The Shockers lost two games this week and now sit a game off the pace in the American, behind Houston and Tulsa, who are tied for first.

8. WEST VIRGINIA SOMEHOW GAVE UP 84 POINTS TO KANSAS FREAKIN’ STATE

Kansas State entered Saturday ranked 198th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric. James Madison, the 275th-best team in college basketball, and VMI, the 291st-best team in college basketball, ranked directly behind them. The only “high-major” players worse than Kansas State offensively this season?

Temple, South Florida, Virginia, East Carolina and Boston College.

West Virginia, on the other hand, entered Saturday ranked as the single-best defensive team in the entire sport. They were playing defense at a level that would rank among the very-best defensive teams that we have ever seen. Their four Big 12 opponents were averaging 51 points against them.

Kansas State had 42 points at halftime. They scored 84 points on the night. They won 84-68 to drop the Mountaineers two games out of first place in the Big 12 title race, because …

9. … BAYLOR ERASED A 12 POINT DEFICIT ON THE ROAD

The Bears looked like they were going to be the top five team to blow a win they should not be blowing on Saturday.

Oklahoma State threw a 2-3 zone on the Bears, doing the exact same thing that Washington did to Baylor late in the only game that they lost thus far this season, and Baylor was lost for the first half. They trailed 36-24 at one point late in the half before slotting MAtthew Mayer at the high post and thwarting all of Oklahoma State’s plans.

In the end, however, the Cowboys still had a shot to win late, but that was until Devonte Bandoo banged home three threes in the final eight minutes, including two in a one minute span after the final TV timeout, to secure a 75-68 win.

Bandoo scored 14 points off the bench. He is the fourth-best guard on this Baylor roster.

Put another way, this team is deep, they are loaded, and the guys all the way down their bench can make the shots that beat you.

That’s scary.

10. SAN DIEGO STATE IS STILL UNDEFEATED

The Aztecs trailed at the half but ran Nevada off the court after halftime, taking home a 68-55 win.

David Johnson shines as No. 11 Louisville beats No. 3 Duke, 79-73

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David Johnson scored all 19 of his points in the first half and added seven assists, four boards, three steals and a pair of blocks off the bench as No. 11 Louisville went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and knocked off No. 3 Duke, 79-73.

The Cards jumped out to a 25-10 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game as Duke struggled to protect the ball. The Blue Devils slowly chipped away at the lead and got within one point with three minutes left before Louisville put the game away.

Jordan Nwora finished with just six points on 3-for-12 shooting as he dealt with Duke’s best defender in Stanley, while Dwayne Sutton took advantage of a mismatch at the four and chipped in with 13 points.

Stanley led the way for the Blue Devils with 24 points and 11 boards. Tre Jones was 5-for-16 from the floor and Vernon Carey struggled with fouls, finishing with just 12 points and six boards to go along with six turnovers.

Here are three things that we learned in Louisville’s win:

1. DAVID JOHNSON HAS ARRIVED, BUT IS HE HEALTHY?

First things first: Johnson says he’s OK. He told reporters after the game that the injury he suffered to his surgically-repaired left shoulder is nothing more than a bump or a bruise. Chris Mack was not worried about he while speaking at his postgame press conference. For those that missed it, Johnson took an awkward fall on his left shoulder with three minutes left in the game. He stayed on the ground behind the play, went to the bench with his left arm dangling by his side and headed back to the locker room before returning to Louisville’s bench for the final minutes. He did not return to the game.

So it sounds like he is going to be OK.

And that is incredibly important news for a Louisville team that has desperately been searching for a guy to do all of the things that Johnson did on Saturday night.

He finished with 19 points, but the way he scored those points is the most significant part of the equation. He broke down defenses. He dribbled right past Jordan Goldwire and drove the lane for a dunk. He created out of ball-screens. He handled Duke’s ball-pressure like he was playing against high school opponents.

This is what the Cardinals have been waiting for. It’s been a talking point all season long, and every time I have mentioned it, I have also mentioned that Louisville was just waiting to see if Johnson would ever get healthy. That staff believed he was a pro after getting him on campus, and anyone that watched him play on Saturday night would be inclined to agree.

If he can remain healthy and play somewhere close to this level for the rest of the season, then this Louisville team is much, much more dangerous.

2. THIS FELT LIKE A TURNING POINT FOR LOUISVILLE

I try to avoid the content in this space to be entirely narrative-based, but I’m not going to be able to avoid it here.

So indulge me for a minute, OK?

This game really felt like a turning point in Louisville’s season. It felt like they rid themselves of quite a few demons by going into Cameron Indoor Stadium and winning the way that they won, and the biggest reason that I say that is because of what happened last year. I’m sure every Duke and Louisville fan will remember this quite clearly: The Cardinals blew a 23 point lead at home in the final 10 minutes and lost to the Blue Devils.

This year, the game was starting to look like it might play out the same way. Louisville led by 15 points in the first half, by 10 at halftime and had a cushion of at least three possessions for what felt like the entire second half before Matthew Hurt capped off a 9-0 run by hitting three free throws to tie the game at 58. What happened? Fresh Kimble immediately answered with an and-one bucket to take the lead back. Duke tied things up against at 63, and on the next possession Kimble hit a three to, against, take the lead back. Duke made multiple runs in front of the Crazies, and Louisville had an answer every single time.

And on the road, no less.

Louisville has not been great playing away from the Yum! Center, and they have not played tough against elite competition all that often this season. It sometimes felt like they didn’t realize just how good they can be when they actually play with some heart.

That it happened in a game where they blew a lead and still won against Duke while getting elite play out of the point guard spot just feels like everything coming together.

The Cards head home to face Georgia Tech and Clemson next week.

We’ll see if that take ends up being true.

3. DUKE’S TWO MAJOR FLAWS WERE ON DISPLAY ON SATURDAY

The two biggest issues that there are on this Duke roster are that they lack someone that can truly lock up at the four, and they don’t have a go-to scorer in crunch-time if teams are going to collapse on Vernon Carey.

Hurt is who Louisville went after on Saturday night. It wasn’t Jordan Nwora, who was being guarded by Cassius Stanley for much of the night, but instead the likes of Dwayne Sutton, or Samuell Williamson, or whoever Hurt ended up guarding on a switch. The three that I mentioned Fresh Kimble hitting in that last section? That came against Matthew Hurt.

And Hurt was really good on the offensive end tonight. He finished with 16 points. He hit three threes. He had a tip-dunk. He also didn’t get a single defensive rebound, steal or block. If he added 16 points, how many was he responsible for giving up?

The other issue is one that we knew Duke was going to face this season. Tre Jones has definitely gotten better this season, and he definitely is still not a guy that you want being the player you’re calling up a play for in crunch time. Neither is Cassius Stanley, who is elite in transition and has proven himself a capable floor-spacer that can make things happen with his athleticism, but you’re not drawing up a play to get him the ball when you need a bucket against a set defense.

Carey is the answer, but between the foul trouble and the size that Louisville had inside, he was never able to get it going. And that could be a problem considering how many good teams around the country have plenty of size inside.

In a vacuum, I don’t think a road loss to Clemson and a home loss to Louisville is the kind of thing that should scare you off of thinking that the Blue Devils are the best team in the country. But a vacuum doesn’t take into account the matchup issues that those teams — who play two different styles — both exposed in Duke.

I’m worried.

If you’re a Duke fan, getting Wendell Moore healthy and Tre Jones back to 100 percent should be your biggest priority.

Diarra, Gordon lift Kansas State over No. 12 West Virginia

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MANHATTAN, Kan. — Cartier Diarra tied a career high with 25 points, Xavier Sneed added 16, Dujuan Gordon had a career high 15, and Kansas State held off No. 12 West Virginia 84-68 for their first win in Big 12 play this season on Saturday.

Kansas State (8-9, 1-4 Big 12) went up by as many as 23, but a 15-0 run by the Mountaineers cut the lead to eight in the second half, thanks in part to seven turnovers in four minutes by the Wildcats.

West Virginia (14-3, 3-2) would get as close as six, but the Wildcats held on and won by 16.

Miles McBride and Chase Harler paced the Mountaineers with 11 points each, Gabe Osabuohein had 10 as West Virginia lost their first game when the trailed at halftime.

Turnovers proved costly for West Virginia as they committed 18 and Kansas State scored 28 off those mistakes.

Kansas State shot 59% from the field and held the Mountaineers to 45%. The Wildcats hit nine 3’s while West Virginia had 41 bench points.

With two minutes left in the first half, it was a fastbreak dunk by Antonio Gordon assisted by Dujuan Gordon that got the crowd on their feet pushing the Wildcat lead to 11.

Kansas State held a 17-point lead at halftime and shot 58% in the first 20 minutes of play.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State: This was the best game played by the Wildcats all season. They needed a win like this one before taking on their in-state rival up next.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers had way too many turnovers and didn’t shoot the ball very well.

UP NEXT

Kansas State travels to Kansas on Tuesday.

West Virginia hosts Texas on Monday.

Payton Pritchard three caps come-from-behind win for No. 8 Oregon at Washington (VIDEO)

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Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard hit one of the shots of the year on Saturday, as he buried this ridiculous, step-back three with the game tied in overtime to deliver a 64-61 win over Washington:

“They can put the blame on me. I can take all the criticism, but I will be right there to take that last shot, take that pass, make that play whether it goes good or bad,” Pritchard said.

Pritchard hit his sixth 3-pointer of the game with 3.4 seconds left in overtime and Oregon rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to stun Washington 64-61 on Saturday.

The Ducks (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12) avoided being swept on their trip north by overcoming a 48-32 deficit with 10:22 remaining in the second half and handed Washington (12-7, 2-4) its third loss in four games.

Pritchard was the extent of Oregon’s offense, finishing with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting. He hit a floater with 1:08 left to give Oregon the lead and provided the winning 3-pointer despite tough defense from Washington’s Jamal Bey. Pritchard was able to get just enough space to get the shot clear before the shot clock expired.

The Ducks rallied from 19 down to beat Seton Hall earlier this season. But this one felt a bit sweeter getting the better of one of their rivals.

“I don’t think the length really bothers me. If you don’t have a hand up I’m going to let it fly,” Pritchard said.

Chandler Lawson added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Ducks, who rebounded from an ugly loss to Washington State on Thursday. Lawson had not scored more than eight points in a game this season and played just seven minutes in the loss to Washington State.

“If you don’t get started right, you’ve got to keep battling,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I was really disappointed Thursday night. We didn’t compete. We got outworked. … I thought we played a lot harder. We didn’t play well, but we did play a lot harder.”

Isaiah Stewart led Washington with 25 points and 19 rebounds. The freshman was dominant on the interior but didn’t get the help he needed from others. Marcus Tsohonis had 12 of his 14 points in the first half, but the Huskies were 0 of 11 on 3-pointers in the second half and overtime, and 14 of 23 at the foul line.

Washington scored just 24 points in the second half and overtime combined.

“It was like he was going to will us to the game,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said of Stewart. “He’s just special. … I wish we could have got that one for him today.”

Stewart opened overtime with a baseline reverse, but it turned out to be Washington’s only basket of the extra period.

Lawson scored in the lane with 2:10 left and Pritchard followed with a runner to give Oregon a 61-59 lead, its first since it was 9-7 in the opening minutes. Stewart hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 49 seconds left. Pritchard forced another deep 3-pointer and missed, but Chris Duarte got the offensive rebound and Pritchard didn’t miss given a second opportunity.

THE COMEBACK

Washington led by 12 at halftime after perhaps its best first half of the season. The Huskies led 48-32 with 10:22 remaining in regulation after a pair of free throws by Stewart. Oregon then went on a 15-2 run to get back into the game, triggered by a change in its defense. The Ducks went to a full-court press and it flustered the Huskies. Washington scored just eight points the rest of regulation.

Meanwhile, Pritchard was the catalyst at the offensive end. He hit Oregon’s first 3-pointer of the second half to get the Ducks within 50-45 and then left a perfect pass for Lawson’s dunk to pull them within 50-47 with 4:26 left.

Pritchard later hit a 3 from about 35 feet with 1:08 left to pull Oregon even at 54. Stewart hit a pair of free throws, but Shakur Juiston scored underneath for the Ducks with 17.8 left to tie the game at 56.

Washington’s final possession was rushed and Jamal Bey’s 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the back rim.

“The press changed the tempo of the game. … Got them on their heels a little bit,” Altman said.

STEWART’S DAY

Stewart is the third player this season to have at least 25 points and at least 19 rebounds in a game, joining Purdue’s Trevion Williams (36 points, 20 rebounds) and Rider’s Tyere Marshall (28 points, 20 rebounds). All three performances ended up coming in losses.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks changed the starting lineup with Will Richardson getting his first start of the season and Anthony Mathis coming off the bench for the first time. The switch didn’t work and Oregon lacked the scoring punch Richardson had provided coming off the bench. Richardson had one point. Mathis scored just two.

Washington: The Huskies got Jaden McDaniels back in the lineup after missing Thursday’s win over Oregon State with an ankle injury. McDaniels struggled with his shot, hitting 1 of 9 from the field, and finished with five points.

UP NEXT

Oregon: The Ducks return home to host USC next Thursday.

Washington: The Huskies travel to Utah next Thursday.

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