SATURDAY’S SNACKS: Kansas, Kentucky make statements; Texas A&M, Wichita State both fall

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 6 Kansas 76, No. 3 Oklahoma 72

The Jayhawks have the inside track on the Big 12 regular season title after a season sweep of Oklahoma. Devonte Graham was the hero in this one for Kansas as he went for 27 points and played tough defense. CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on this.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 22 Kentucky 89, South Carolina 62: Despite John Calipari getting ejected 2:26 into the game, Kentucky continued its recent stretch of SEC blowouts with another impressive road win. CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on this one and examines if the Wildcats are ready for a Final Four run.

LSU 76, No. 15 Texas A&M 71: Staying atop the SEC with Kentucky was LSU who earned an important home win after falling to South Carolina earlier this week. The struggle continued for Texas A&M as they’ve now dropped five straight SEC games. I have more on why Texas A&M is struggling and how LSU had a balanced outing today.

Duke 63, No. 7 Virginia 62: Grayson Allen’s much-discussed shot as time expired gave the Blue Devils the win over Virginia at Cameron, but it was Brandon Ingram who led the way. Ingram finished with 25 points and seven rebounds, keeping Duke alive in a game the Cavaliers appeared poised to run away with in the first half. And with the loss, Virginia hasn’t won at Cameron since 1995.

Michigan 61, No. 18 Purdue 56: Michigan needed a few more wins over top-flight teams to feel comfortable about their postseason fate, so this was a big win for them. More importantly, Caris LeVert returned to the lineup and played some minutes off the bench. CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on the Wolverines here.

Northern Iowa 53, No. 25 Wichita State 50: This loss was killer for Wichita State as it snapped a nation-leading 43-game home win streak while hurting the Shockers’ at-large chances. And, suddenly, Northern Iowa is really dangerous and playing good ball. See what this one means for the Missouri Valley Conference leading up to Arch Madness.

Wisconsin 70, No. 2 Maryland 57: Greg Gard’s Badgers picked up a huge win for their NCAA tournament hopes, handing Maryland’s its first-ever conference home loss as a member of the Big Ten. Vitto Brown scored 21 points and grabbed seven boards to lead the way, and his improved play of late has been a key development for Wisconsin.

BUBBLE BANTER: What do Saturday’s results mean for Selection Sunday?

STARRED

Keon Johnson, Winthrop: One of the country’s underrated mid-major scorers, the 5-foot-7 Johnson scored 32 points and beat Radford at the buzzer with a cold-blooded jumper.

Cat Barber, N.C. State: The junior guard was cooking in an ACC win over Wake Forest as he went for 38 points, five rebounds and three assists for the Wolfpack. Barber was 10-for-20 from the floor and 17-for-20 from the free-throw line in the win.

Erik McCree, Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs picked up an important win over UAB in Conference USA as McCree had 33 points, six rebounds and three assists. The junior forward was 11-for-20 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Cameron Oliver, Nevada: Oliver accounted for 20 points and 24 rebounds in the Wolf Pack’s overtime win over Fresno State.

STRUGGLED

Wichita State’s offense: In the loss to Northern Iowa, the Shockers shot just 30 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker combined to shoot 8-for-31 from the floor and 4-for-16 from 3-point range.

Isaiah Taylor, Texas: Taylor scored nine points, shooting 3-for-14 from the field, in the Longhorns’ loss at No. 14 Iowa State.

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: Wiltjer scored four points, shooting 2-for-17 from the field, in the Bulldogs’ loss at SMU.

OTHER TOP 25 RESULTS

  • No. 1 Villanova retained its two-game lead atop the Big East with a 73-63 win over St. John’s. Daniel Ochefu scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Wildcats.
  • Behind a balanced effort, No. 5 Xavier came away with a 74-57 win over Butler for a Big East road win.
  • No. 10 West Virginia forced 26 turnovers and rolled to an easy 73-42 home win over TCU in the Big 12. Jonathan Holton returned from suspension and contributed 14 points in the win.
  • No. 11 Oregon suffered its second straight loss, as they fell 76-72 at Stanford. Rosco Allen led the Cardinal with 25 points, and the Ducks’ comeback attempt fell short. And after being hailed as the class of the Pac-12 prior to their trip to the Bay Area, this could be the wakeup call Dana Altman’s team needs.
  • No. 13 Louisville also lost Saturday, falling 71-66 at Notre Dame. Demetrius Jackson scored 27 and dished out five assists for the Fighting Irish, who also received a much-needed boost from Steve Vasturia as they made their rally in South Bend.
  • Georges Niang and Monte Morris scored 24 points apiece as No. 14 Iowa State beat No. 24 Oklahoma, 85-75. Also of note for the Cyclones was the return of Jameel McKay, who tallied eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks on the night.
  • No. 16 SMU beat Gonzaga 69-60, keeping the Bulldogs from picking up a key win for their NCAA tournament hopes. Nic Moore was outstanding for the Mustangs, finishing with 25 points and 11 assists.
  • One of the teams that desperately needed a win on Saturday was No. 20 Providence, as they outlasted Georgetown, 75-72. The Friars built a 20-point halftime lead and almost lost. Kris Dunn (20 points) and Ben Bentil (16 points) had help from Rodney Bullock (23 points, 10 rebounds) so that’s a positive sign.
  • Texas Tech picked up a big win as it looks to earn an NCAA tournament berth, winning 84-66 at No. 21 Baylor. Keenan Evans scored 21 points and Justin Gray 17 for the Red Raiders, who shot 57.8 percent from the field.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • Clemson topped Georgia Tech in the ACC as Jaron Blossomgame had 17 points and seven rebounds.
  • Playing without Josh Scott, Colorado escaped with a home win over Washington in the Pac-12 as Wesley Gordon had 17 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
  • Ole Miss was a winner in the SEC over Arkansas as Stefan Moody went 4-for-17 from the floor but still finished with 17 points and seven assists.
  • Oklahoma State outlasted Kansas State in overtime in the Big 12 as Leyton Hammonds had 13 points.
  • Aaric Armstead his two free throws in the final seconds to give Northern Illinois an 80-79 win over Akron. The Zips still have a two-game cushion on the rest of the MAC.
  • Tulane snapped a 12-game home losing streak in the American with an overtime win over Memphis. Shaq Goodwin also picked up one of the dumbest technical fouls of the season trying to pull a Vince Carter on a breakaway.
  • Belmont, one of the leaders of the Ohio Valley Conference, blew a 14-point halftime lead in a loss to Morehead State. Brent Arrington scored 24 points for the Eagles as Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw (28 points) missed a look at the buzzer for the win.
  • Louisiana Tech scored 56 second-half points as they beat UAB 85-76 in Ruston. Erik McCree scored 33 points for the Bulldogs.
  • UNCW tightened its grip on first place in the CAA with a 78-68 win over James Madison. Craig Ponder scored 19 points and Chris Flemmings added 17 points and 11 boards for the Seahawks.
  • VCU rebounded from its loss at UMass with an 85-52 beating on Saint Louis. Korey Billbury led five Rams in double figures with 20 points.
  • Also adding a quality win to their résumé was Alabama, which won 61-55 at Florida. Avery Johnson’s Crimson Tide limited the Gators to 28.6 percent shooting in the win.
  • After jumping out to a 20-point lead UConn held on to beat Tulsa by two, with the Golden Hurricane hitting a three as time expired.
  • Princeton came back to beat Columbia 88-83 in overtime, grabbing sole possession of second place in the Ivy League. The Tigers take on first place Yale Friday night in a huge matchup in regards to the league race.
  • Wright State completed a season sweep of Valparaiso, beating the Crusaders 61-59. Valpo shot 7-for-26 from three in the loss.
  • Hawai’i maintained sole possession of first place with a 76-59 win over Cal-State Fullerton. UC Irvine, which received 36 points from Alex Young in a win over CSUN, remains a game back in the standings.

Duke women’s coach Kara Lawson says men’s ball used vs. FSU

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Duke coach Kara Lawson said her team played with a men’s basketball for the first half of a loss to Florida Stated.

The 16th-ranked Blue Devils lost to the Seminoles 70-57 in Tallahassee, Florida – the team’s second Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the season.

After her team beat Pittsburgh 53-44 , Lawson ended her news conference by speaking animatedly.

“This would never happen in a men’s game. This would never happen. It’s embarrassing for our sport,” she said.

The circumference of a women’s ball is about an inch smaller than a men’s ball and it is typically 2 ounces lighter. While it may not seem like a lot, that’s a big difference.

Lawson said throughout the first half, Duke players were “complaining about the ball.” The Blue Devils were 7 for 34 from the field in the opening 20 minutes of that game. They were 12 for 38 in the second half. Florida State made 10 of its 30 shots in the first two quarters and 14 of 31 in the second half.

“To have a game that, at the end of the season, could be the difference between a seed, between a title, my players don’t deserve that and neither do their players,” Lawson said. “It’s a complete failure. And you can figure out who the people I’m talking about that failed the sport and our players and both teams.”

Lawson said assistant coach Winston Gandy went to the scorer’s table at the half to check on the ball when he realized what the problem was. She said the game officials changed the ball to start the second half.

“We have concluded through our investigation that it was a men’s ball,” Lawson said. “The conference and Florida State is saying that it wasn’t.”

The ACC said it did a comprehensive review talking with game officials, administrators, the table crew and both schools.

“Following the thorough and objective review process, there was no evidence found to support the claim,” the conference said in a statement. “Per NCAA playing rules, there is no appeal or protest process.”

The ACC has instituted a procedural change that the game ball will be brought to the pregame meeting with the captains for approval.

“It’s very frustrating that (the game) … was not treated with the utmost respect that players on both teams deserve,” she said.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened in women’s basketball. In 2017, the College of Charleston played home games and practiced with men’s balls for most of its season until the error was was discovered.

“Let me be clear: Florida State beat us. They beat us playing with a men’s ball in the first half and a women’s ball in the second half. But I can’t say if we’d have played with a women’s ball in the first half and the second half that we would have won. But they can’t say that either,” Lawson said.

No. 1 South Carolina wins 28th straight 87-69 over ‘Cats

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Dawn Staley’s pleased South Carolina had made its once-lopsided series with UConn more competitive the past few years.

She hopes her top-ranked team can accomplish another milestone when the teams meet for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

“It still stands true that we haven’t won up there,” Staley said.

Aliyah Boston had 14 points and 14 rebounds as South Carolina prepared for the top-five showdown with an 87-69 victory over Kentucky on Thursday night.

The Gamecocks (10-0 Southeastern Conference) improved to 22-0 and won their 28th straight, a run that included a 64-49 victory over the Huskies in Minneapolis last April to win the national championship.

Staley had lost her first seven games as South Carolina coach against UConn. The Gamecocks have won three of the past four matchups since.

“This particular class committed to each other,” Staley said. “When you have that type of commitment and you just want to win, you find yourself winning some games that you haven’t won before.”

Against Kentucky, reigning AP player of the year Boston extended her school mark with her 75th career double-double and moved within 11 of the SEC record of 86 games with a double-double held by LSU great Sylvia Fowles.

Things weren’t perfect for South Carolina, which fell behind early, then had its 15-point halftime lead cut to 54-48 midway through the third quarter.

Still, its dominant inside game – South Carolina outscored the Wildcats 62-14 in the paint – was more than enough to shut down Kentucky (10-12, 2-8), the last team to defeat the defending national champions at the SEC Tournament last March.

The Wildcats went on top 16-15 after a pair of baskets by Adebola Adeyeye.

That’s when South Carolina, fueled by its bench, took control with a 17-2 run. Ashlyn Watkins had three inside shots and Kamilla Cardoso scored four points during the surge.

The Wildcats used a 13-4 burst to start the third quarter to give South Carolina a few uncomfortable moments. But the Gamecocks got going once more with an 11-0 run to extend their margin.

Cardoso, the 6-foot-7 reserve, had 14 points and five of South Carolina’s 14 blocks. Defensive ace Brea Beal had 10 including both of the Gamecocks’ 3-pointers.

Beal thought the team held together well to blunt Kentucky’s runs and regain control. “I think it’s our mental aspect of the game and us believing in each other,” she said.

Robyn Benton had 24 points to lead Kentucky, which has lost three of its past four games.

Wildcats coach Kyra Elzy said South Carolina is difficult to match up with because of its deep bench. “They have depth after depth after depth,” she said. “They keep coming.”

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats are the not the same team that featured two-time SEC player of the year Rhyne Howard the past few seasons. They have 10 newcomers – and six freshmen – who are still learning how to play against the SEC’s top teams like South Carolina.

South Carolina: Forgive the Gamecocks if their focus wasn’t fully on this one at first with a big week ahead. In an eight-game span, South Carolina will face No. 5 UConn and No. 3 LSU, a pair of high-profile games could expose any flaw – or show how powerful the Gamecocks are in chasing a second straight NCAA crown.

UCONN KARMA

South Carolina has opened 22-0 twice under coach Dawn Staley, in 2014-15 and the following year. Both runs ended against UConn. Next up for Gamecocks are the Huskies, although South Carolina has won three of the past four games over UConn including last April’s 64-49 victory to win the NCAA Tournament title.

UP NEXT

Kentucky returns home to face Alabama on Feb. 9.

South Carolina heads to No. 5 UConn on Sunday.

Miles, Citron lead No. 9 Irish past Boston College 72-59

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BOSTON — Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron had already scored 10 straight points to put away Boston College when they turned their attention to other things.

“I told Sonia I needed two more assists for the double-double. And she was like, `All right, I’ve got you,”‘ Miles said after helping No. 9 Notre Dame beat BC 72-59 on Thursday night.

“That’s just kind of our communication on the court,” said Miles, who found Citron for baskets on the next two Irish possessions to complete a 14-0 run – with all 14 points from Miles and Citron. “We just really play off each other really well.

Miles scored 22 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Citron scored 23 for the Irish (18-2, 9-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Maria Gakdeng scored 16 points, T’Yana Todd had 13 and Andrea Daly scored 10 with eight rebounds for BC (14-11, 4-8). The Irish beat BC at home 85-48 on New Year’s Day but hadn’t won in Chestnut Hill since 2019.

“This is such a tough place to play,” said Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey, whose team faces No. 16 Duke next. “We’ll celebrate it until about 12:30, and then we’ve got film. Tomorrow we start focusing on Duke.”

BC came within five points, 55-50, before the Irish ran off 14 points in a row – nine by Citron, and five by Miles. That put an end to what had been a back-and-forth game in which the Irish opened big leads and then frittered them away.

“I always feel like we’re close,” BC coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. “They’re young; I think consistency comes with experience.

“I think it’s a big improvement from the first time we played Notre Dame,” she said. “I still want to see more, and I want to see us grow up as fast as humanly possible because I think we do have a dangerous team when we going well.”

Notre Dame led by 11 in the first quarter and held a 38-30 lead with two minutes gone in the third. BC scored 13 of the next 18 points, capitalizing on back-to-back Irish turnovers to tie it 43-all with three minutes left in the quarter.

But Natalija Marshall put back the rebound of her own miss, Miles drove to the basket, Maddy Westbeld added a pair of baskets and then Miles stole the ball and found Citron on the fast break to make it 53-43.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame bounced back from their first league loss of the season, a 69-65 defeat at North Carolina State on Sunday. Now they face No. 16 Duke.

The Eagles, who beat Pittsburgh on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak, were looking for their second victory over a Top 25 team this season, having also beaten then-No. 10 N.C. State on Jan. 5.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: Hosts No. 16 Duke on Sunday.

Boston College: Visits Syracuse on Sunday.

No. 16 Xavier beats No. 17 Providence 85-83 in OT thriller

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CINCINNATI — Jack Nunge had 23 points and 14 rebounds as No. 16 Xavier held off No. 17 Providence 85-83 in an overtime thriller Wednesday night.

Colby Jones and Souley Boum each scored 20 for the Musketeers, who won a first-place showdown in the Big East without injured forward Zach Freemantle.

Noah Locke had 22 points and Ed Croswell added 21 for Providence (17-6, 9-3), which had beaten Xavier three straight times.

A layup by Boum put the Musketeers (18-5, 10-2) ahead 82-79 with 51 seconds remaining in overtime. A turnover by the Musketeers led to a layup by Devin Carter that cut Xavier’s lead to one with 24 seconds left.

Boum hit one of two free throws, and Jared Bynum’s 3-point attempt from the left corner rimmed out at the buzzer as the Musketeers held on.

Xavier played its first game without Freemantle, the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. He is expected to miss four weeks with a left foot injury, the same foot that required surgery in 2021.

Jerome Hunter, who has excelled off the bench for the Musketeers, made his first start of the season and scored nine points with eight rebounds. Xavier had used the same starting lineup in each of its previous 11 Big East games.

Things started well for the Musketeers. who went on a 12-1 run to build a 25-11 lead.

With Boum on the bench with two fouls, the Musketeers didn’t have a field goal in the final 4:18 of the first half and the Friars pulled to 39-35 at halftime.

Providence outscored Xavier 8-2 to start the second half and took its first lead, 43-41, with 17:41 left.

There was a frantic finish to the second half, with Adam Kunkel’s 3-pointer putting Xavier ahead 76-73 with 55 seconds left. But then Bynum banked in a tying 3 and Boum missed two long shots to send the game to overtime.

BIG PICTURE

Providence: The Friars, who won their first Big East regular-season title last year, entered the night tied atop the conference standings with Xavier and No. 14 Marquette, which hosted Villanova later. Providence was picked fifth in the preseason.

Xavier: Hunter, who averages 14 minutes, left with three minutes remaining in OT with an apparent cramp in his right leg. With Freemantle out, Hunter played 36 minutes.

UP NEXT

Providence: Hosts last-place Georgetown on Wednesday.

Xavier: Will host St. John’s on Saturday.

Florida upends No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 behind Colin Castleton

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Colin Castleton had 20 points and nine rebounds, Kyle Lofton added 14 points and Florida used a 13-0 run late in the second half to upend No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 on Wednesday night.

The Volunteers, playing with their highest ranking in four years, lost for the first time in five games. They had won nine of 10.

Tennessee (18-4, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) looked like it had taken control midway through the second half. They outscored Florida by 10 points in the early going to take a six-point lead.

But the Gators (13-9, 6-3) stormed back behind Castleton, who scored 11 of 14 points as Florida rallied. The senior had a dunk, two free throws, a three-point play, a layup and a short jumper – essentially putting the team on his back down the stretch.

Myreon Jones and Will Richard chipped in nine points apiece for the Gators.

Zakai Ziegler led the Vols with 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Olivier Nkamhoua added 11 points and nine rebounds for the vistors, who also got 11 points and eight boards from Vescovi Santiago.

Florida led 27-21 at halftime, just the fifth time the Volunteers has trailed at the break this season. Tennessee rallied to win three of the previous four.

The Gators were red hot to start, making six of their first eight shots – including all three from 3-point range – while building a 17-4 advantage. But they quickly cooled against the nation’s best defense, missing nine of their next 11 as Tennessee made cut it to 22-21.

The Vols had it going coming out of the locker room, with Ziegler getting into the paint and making things happen. But it was short-lived – thanks mostly to Castleton.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Tennessee surely will drop a few spots in next week’s AP Top 25 college basketball poll.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers gave up 10 points in the opening four minutes of the games, a rare sluggish start for the nation’s best defense. Tennessee had held four of its first eight SEC opponents scoreless at the first media timeout, roughly the first four minutes of games. It was a sign of things to come.

Florida: The Gators have been resilient much of the season, and this was arguably the most impressive comeback of the season for coach Todd Golden’s team. The Gators squandered a 13-point lead early and a six-point advantage in the second half. But they rallied when it mattered.

IN THE HOUSE

Football coach Billy Napier watched the game from a few rows behind Florida’s bench alongside his two sons and receiver Ricky Pearsall. Former Florida tennis star Ben Shelton, the NCAA singles champion in 2022, also was in attendance. So was former Gators and NFL quarterback Doug Johnson.

UP NEXT

Tennessee hosts No. 25 Auburn and former coach Bruce Pearl on Saturday.

Florida plays at Kentucky on Saturday. The Gators have lost seven of eight in the series.