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No. 17 Arizona beats No. 23 USC, moves into tie atop Pac-12

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Following a home loss to No. 11 Oregon January 28, a game in which their 49-game home win streak came to an end, No. 17 Arizona looked nothing like a team capable of winning a third consecutive Pac-12 title. But at the time they were playing without the injured Allonzo Trier, and since that defeat the Wildcats have won five straight games. Their most recent result was an 86-78 home win over No. 23 USC Sunday night, a result that moved Sean Miller’s team into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 with Oregon.

But while the game did show reasons why Arizona is more than capable of taking yet another Pac-12 title, it also showed the inconsistency that the Wildcats have fought to address throughout the season.

Arizona got off to a great start offensively against USC, getting just about whatever they wanted around the basket as they built a lead that reached 19 points late in the first half. Ryan Anderson made his first three shot attempts, with all three coming at the rim, and dribble penetration was working as well. But presented with the opportunity to land a decisive blow to start the second half, Arizona got complacent and that opened the door for a USC comeback.

The Wildcats settled for perimeter shots, and while some credit should be given to USC for their improved defense Arizona made things easier on the Trojans than they needed to be. Arizona has capable three-point shooters, with senior guard Gabe York being the best of the bunch. But when faced with a clear advantage on the offensive end of the floor they lost some discipline early in the second half, settling for contested looks as opposed to looking to the post feeds and dribble drives that were so successful at the game’s start.

“Coach always emphasizes that we get the ball inside early, try to get fouls on the other bigs, try to set the tone that way. For the most part, all year [the guards] have done a great job of starting the game that way,” Anderson said after the game. “And then once they start double-teaming, Parker, Gabe, Allonzo starting getting wide open shots and the game starts flowing for us. I thought that in the first half we were really flowing on offense and defense; we’ve just got to carry that over to the second half a lot better.”

USC managed to trim Arizona’s lead to two points but they were unable to get over the hump. Bennie Boatwright scored ten of his team-high 18 points in the second half, and both Jordan McLaughlin (11 second-half points) and Elijah Stewart (ten) were more productive in the second stanza as well. Arizona got back to attacking the paint offensively late, and with USC missing a couple opportunities to either tie the game or take the lead the Wildcats managed to put the game away.

York led four Wildcats in double figures with 17 points, and as a team Arizona shot 50 percent from the field and better than 56 percent inside of the arc on the night.

Arizona won’t get another shot at Oregon, but with five games remaining they’re in position to win another Pac-12 title. And as long as they look to take advantage of the areas in which they’re most successful, getting Anderson looks in the post and using dribble penetration from the likes of Trier, they’re more than capable of accomplishing that goal.

Arizona got away from that plan of attack early in the second half Sunday night, but managed to get back to what worked in closing the game out.

Bubble Banter: N.C. State, Indiana land massive wins

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There is plenty of action happening on the bracketology bubble watch despite it being a relatively slow night for college hoops.

Dave Ommen’s latest bracketology can be found here. Rob Dauster’s Bubble Watch can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

Here is everything you need to know to.

THE BUBBLE WATCH WINNERS

N.C. STATE (NET: 60, NBC: First four out): The Wolfpack are easily the biggest bubble winners of the week, as they blew out Duke (6) at home on Wednesday. It’s the fifth Quad 1 win for Kevin Keatts — they’re also beaten Wisconsin (30) at home and three sub-50 teams on the road — to go along with an 8-6 record against the top two Quads. The biggest problem here is that they have three Quad 3 losses, two of which came at home. As of today, I would have N.C. State on the right side of the cutline and in a play-in game.

INDIANA (NET: 63, NBC: 10): Indiana picked up their fifth Quad 1 win of the season on Wednesday, going into Minnesota (44) and knocking off the Golden Gophers. This one was particularly important because of the fact that the Hoosiers only had a single road win entering the night — at Nebraska (175). They are 7-9 against the top two Quads, and their worst loss is at home to Arkansas. The Hoosiers are in a better spot than people realize.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 53, NBC: First four out): After beating South Carolina (62) at home on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs have now won two straight games and five of their last seven games. Those two Quad 3 losses are not going away, but with a pair of Quad 1 road wins and a 6-7 mark against the top two Quads, Mississippi State has themselves in a spot where they cannot afford to slip-up given that they have just a single Quad 1 opportunity left on their schedule.

VIRGINIA (NET: 54, NBC: 11): The Wahoos have now won three in a row and six of their last seven after picking off Boston College (151) at home. They have three Quad 1 wins and an 8-6 mark against the top two Quads with home dates left against Duke (6) and Louisville (10). They’re in a good spot right now.

UTAH STATE (NET: 41, NBC: Play-in game): After beating Wyoming, the Aggies have won five in a row and eight of their last nine games, ensuring they are still in the NCAA tournament mix and fully turning around a season that looked like it was lost as recently as four weeks ago. Wins over LSU (31) and Florida (35) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-90 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses? They don’t play another top 100 team the rest of the season. I don’t see how they can get in without beating San Diego State (1) in the MWC tournament.

MEMPHIS (NET: 59, NBC: Next four out): Memphis is hanging on by a thread right now, but they are still alive after knocking off a bad East Carolina (208) team at home. Memphis has just one Quad 1 win and they don’t have a win over a team inside the top 50; their best win is Cincinnati (50) at home. Throw in a pair of quad 3 losses, and the Tigers have plenty of work to do. The good news? They still get two games against Houston (27), a trip to SMU (67) and a home date with Wichita State (43).

RICHMOND (NET: 46, NBC: Play-in game): The Spiders are still in a good spot for an at-large bid after beating up on George Mason (167) at home. They’re sitting at 20-6 overall with a pair of Quad 1 wins — Wisconsin (30) on a neutral and at Rhode Island (32) — as well as two Quad 2 wins. The trouble with their resume is a a pair of Quad 3 losses, but in a year where so many bubble teams look destined to amass 11 or 12 losses, Richmond will be in the mix. They cannot truly improve their resume until the A-10 tournament.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 42, NBC: 11): After beating Furman (71) on Wednesday night, the Buccaneers have gotten through the toughest part of their schedule. They have a win at UNCG (55) and a win at LSU (31). With a 21-4 record and a loss to Mercer (205) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lost to only UNCG or Furman in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that might be a bit of a longshot.

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (NET: 87, NBC: 12): Stephen F. Austin is 23-3 on the season and 20-3 against Division I competition. Their losses came at Rutgers (28), at Alabama (38) and at home to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (316) by a single point. That’s the worst loss that anyone on the bubble is going to take this season. But they also own a road win at Duke (6), which will go down as one of the very best wins that anyone gets this season. I’m not sure what else they can do.

… AND LOSERS

CINCINNATI (NET: 48, NBC: Play-in game): The Bearcats shot themselves in the foot on Wednesday, losing at home to UCF (125) in the fourth straight overtime game that they have played and their sixth one possession game in a row. Cincinnati have just two Quad 1 wins and four Quad 3 losses. They’re in a bad spot.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): The Hoyas fell to 15-11 on the season with a home loss to Providence (58). It snapped a two-game losing streak and put the Hoyas in a very difficult spot. With road trips to DePaul (70), Marquette (23) and Creighton (11) and home dates with Xavier (39) and Villanova (15), Georgetown has a tough, tough schedule remaining. They do have five Quad 1 wins and a 9-11 mark against the top two Quads, so they are in a good spot.

MINNESOTA (NET: 44, NBC: Off the bubble): The Gophers are below .500 after losing to Indiana (63) at home. This is the last time they’ll be in this space until they start winning a few games.

SOUTH CAROLINA (NET: 65, NBC: Next four out): The Gamecocks had a chance to play themselves into a really good spot on Wednesday, but they lost a close game at Mississippi State (53). At 16-10 overall with a Quad 3 and a Quad 4 loss, the Gamecocks have plenty of work left to do and not all that many great chances left for wins.

ALABAMA (NET: 36, NBC: First four out): Alabama fell to 14-12 overall with a loss to a bad Texas A&M (134) on Wednesday. They now have just one Quad 1 win compared to a pair of Quad 3 losses. Throw in their overall record and the fact that they don’t have a road win over a team ranked in the top 95, and they are in serious trouble.

No. 12 Villanova wins 20th-straight over DePaul

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CHICAGO (AP) — Saddiq Bey and Collin Gillespie each made five of Villanova’s 18 3-pointers, and the 12th-ranked Wildcats used their long-range shooting to beat DePaul 91-71 on Wednesday night.

Villanova went 18 for 26 from deep in its 20th straight victory against DePaul. The Wildcats (20-6, 9-4 Big East) have made at least nine 3s in their last five games, including 17 during Sunday’s 76-56 victory at Temple.

Bey finished with 22 points and seven assists. Gillespie and Justin Moore had 17 points apiece.

DePaul (13-13, 1-12) dropped its eighth straight game. The Blue Demons took the Wildcats to overtime in a 79-75 loss on Jan. 14, but the rematch was a blowout.

While Villanova was taking aim from deep, DePaul went 4 for 12 from 3-point range. Jalen Coleman-Lands scored 17 points, and Paul Reed finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

RELATED: WEDNESDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

During one telling sequence in the second half, Coleman-Lands made a nice steal before missing a jam for DePaul. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree then slammed it home at the other end, giving Villanova its biggest lead of the game at 77-46 with 8:21 left.

Cosby-Roundtree finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Wildcats grabbed control when they closed the first half with a 15-2 run for a 46-26 lead at the break. They had 10 3s at halftime; the Blue Demons had 10 made field goals.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova improved to 15-1 this season when it wins the rebounding battle. Cosby-Roundtree led the Wildcats to a 35-28 advantage on the glass.

DePaul dropped to 1-4 against ranked opponents this season. The Blue Demons got off to a great start this year, but the Big East slate has been a disaster.

UP NEXT

Villanova visits Xavier on Saturday. The Wildcats beat the Musketeers 68-62 in their Big East opener on Dec. 30.

DePaul hosts Georgetown on Saturday night. The Blue Demons lost 76-72 to the Hoyas on Feb. 8.

Second-half surge powers No. 22 Houston past Tulsa

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HOUSTON — Caleb Mills scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half to lead No. 22 Houston to a 76-43 win over Tulsa on Wednesday night.

Mills shot 9 of 16, including hitting 5 of 9 on 3-pointers. Nate Hinton added 15 points for Houston (21-6, 11-3 American), which shot 41%.

The Cougars moved into sole possession of first place in the American with the win combined with Cincinnati’s loss to Central Florida on Wednesday. The Cougars rebounded after losing to SMU, 73-72, in overtime on Saturday and avenged a 63-61 loss at Tulsa on Jan. 11.

RELATED: WEDNESDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

Martins Igbanu had 15 points, and Jeriah Horne added 12 points and seven rebounds for Tulsa (17-9, 9-4). The Golden Hurricane shot 35% but were 4 of 20 on 3-pointers.

Houston opened the second half by outscoring Tulsa, 30-8, to take a 56-28 lead with 11½ minutes remaining behind Mills, who scored 20 points in the run.

With just under 13 minutes remaining in the game, Tulsa’s frustrations and tensions between the two teams heated up.

Tulsa coach Frank Haith was ejected with 12:50 left in the second half after receiving two technical fouls within two seconds.

After Igbanu was called for traveling on the ensuing possession, Igbanu shoved his shoulder into Fabian White Jr, who fell to the ground. The two teams had to be separated, and Igbanu and White were issued technical fouls on the play, while Elijah Joiner was ejected for an unsportsmanlike flagrant two technical foul for running up on to the play and needing to be held back by the official.

BIG PICTURE

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane has lost five straight to the Cougars in Houston, with their last win coming on Feb. 5, 2015. … Tulsa fell to 2-1 against ranked teams this season, with wins over Wichita State and Memphis coming at home. Tulsa last beat a ranked opponent on the road on Feb. 10, 2016 when it won at SMU.

Houston: The Cougars improved to 12-2 at home this season and have won eight straight at home. … Houston forced Tulsa in 16 turnovers and converted it into 18 points. … The Cougars are 6-0 this season after a loss and 16-0 after a loss over the last three seasons.

UP NEXT

Tulsa hosts SMU on Saturday.

Houston travels to Memphis on Saturday.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: NC State blows out Duke, Auburn loses again and a halfcourt 2OT buzzer-beater gets waved off

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The biggest news of the night came out of Newark, where Seton Hall got a buzzer-beater to defeat Butler, but that wasn’t the only action across the country. Here’s what else you need to know:

Wolfpack pick up huge resume win in blowout of Duke

The headline is going to that Duke lost, because Duke is Duke and the Blue Devils are the sixth-ranked team in the country. And when Duke, being Duke, gets throttled by an unranked team, as the Blue Devils did in an 88-66 loss to NC State, that goes double.

Really, though, this is a much bigger result for the Wolfpack than it is for Coach K’s team.

Kevin Keatts and Co. entered a monumental week with a resume that wouldn’t measure up to an NCAA tournament berth with losses to Georgia Tech (twice), Memphis, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Boston College (on Sunday) outweighing a number of good-but-not-great victories.

They’ve taken the first step in changing that reality with their thumping of the Blue Devils, who had won seven-straight coming into the evening.

Markell Johnson scored 28 points while Devon Daniels had 25 and DJ Funderburk 21. The Wolfpack converted at a 45.1 percent clip overall from the floor and made 8 of 13 from 3-point range (61.5 percent). They had just 10 turnovers and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. Perhaps most impressively they took a couple of big punches from Duke in the early part of the second half that many an ACC foe has been staggered by, but NC State found its footing and punched back to earn a 22-point win.

Wednesday, though, was just half of the Wolfpack’s big week. On Saturday, Florida State will visit PNC Arena in Raleigh, giving Keatts a second shot at another resume-bolstering win. The victory against Duke makes this week a win regardless for NC State, but if the Wolfpack can go 2-0, it’ll be absolutely massive for them. This week is especially important for the Wolfpack because of what comes next – just one more shot at a marquee victory, at Duke to start March. That’s a hard ask. It’s less of a must now because of the way they were able to take care of business on their home car. That goes double if they can do it again Saturday.

Meanwhile, it was a pretty miserable night for Duke if you weren’t Vernon Carey, who had 27 points and 12 rebounds. Tre Jones had 17 points, but was 6 of 18 from the floor, though he did also have nine rebounds. The Blue Devils shot just 37.7 percent from the field, and were 4 of 17 from 3 (23.5 percent). They assisted on just six of their 26 field goals.

It’s far from a catastrophic loss for the Blue Devils, but it does do damage to an already weak argument for a No. 1 seed. With a weak schedule to finish out ACC regular season play, there probably isn’t a whole lot Duke can do other than hold on to a No. 2 seed.

Auburn drops second-straight

Auburn hasn’t done much to dissuade the considerable amount of people that aren’t buying the Tigers as among college basketball’s best this week. Even if this past week comes with a considerable asterisk.

Georgia defeated Auburn, 65-55, to give the Tigers their second-straight road defeat after they lost over the weekend to Missouri.

That’s two pretty tough losses to a team that previously only had two losses on the whole season. Auburn shot 31 percent from the field and 15 percent from 3-point range. Of course, their performances against Mizzou and the Bulldogs comes with the pretty notable absence of Isaac Okoro, who is dealing with a hamstring injury. It’s probably not surprising that being down your most efficient offensive player is going to make winning on the road in the SEC pretty tough.

Still, a difficult two games for Bruce Pearl’s group.

Cincy’s would-be halfcourt buzzer-beater waived off

Cincinnati is getting well-acquainted with overtime. The Bearcats are also now well-acquainted with some heartbreak.

Down two in double-overtime to UCF, the Bearcats’ Jarron Cumberland let fly a halfcourt heave that that found nothing but net…but was too late.

Maybe the saddest thing about this – unless you’re a UCF fan – is that Cumberland seemed to know the minute the shot fell that it was too late. No celebration. Just dejection.

The Bearcats, who played in three-straight OT games in November, have now played four-straight overtime games, and sport a 2-2 record over that span. There’s a decent chance it stretches to five, with Wichita State coming to the Queen City this weekend.

No. 11 Louisville stops skid with rout of Syracuse

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Jordan Nwora scored 17 points, Dwayne Sutton added 16 and No. 11 Louisville routed Syracuse 90-66 on Wednesday night to end a two-game losing streak.

The Cardinals (22-5, 13-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) never trailed the Orange after losses at Georgia Tech and Clemson dropped them six spots in the rankings and out of the conference lead. They stretched a 41-34 halftime lead to double digits early in the second half before an 18-2 run made it 69-44.

Nwora shot just 5 of 18 from the field and 2 of 7 from beyond the arc but regrouped from scoring just seven points the past two games. Louisville shot 47% with 10 3-pointers and controlled the boards 45-36.

Sutton had three 3-pointers and eight rebounds, McMahon had four 3s for 13 points and 6-foot-11 Malik Williams 14 points while matching a career high with 13 rebounds in his first start this season.

Buddy Boeheim had 15 points and Quincy Guerrrier for Syracuse (14-12, 7-8), which shot 38% and lost its fifth in six games.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse: After losing four of their last five by a total of 17 points, the Orange stayed within reach in the first half. Things steadily slipped away in the second as they struggled to limit Louisville’s offensive options, especially from long range. Bourama Sibide (five rebounds, two points) fouled out with 10 minutes left, leaving them more vulnerable inside and the Cardinals…

Louisville: After shooting 34% and 35% respectively in the two losses, the Cardinals were patient and worked the ball around Syracuse’s trademark 2-3 zone defense for looks. They initially succeeded from deep with Sutton and McMahon before working it down low for chances. Nwora struggled from deep despite good looks but created chances elsewhere.

UP NEXT

Syracuse: Hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday in search of a season sweep of the Yellow Jackets. The Orange won the first meeting 97-63 in December.

Louisville: Hosts struggling North Carolina on Saturday. The Cardinals won last season’s meeting 83-62 in Chapel Hill before the Tar Heels answered by winning 83-70 in the ACC Tournament.