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No. 8 Iowa loses at Ohio State, suffering fourth loss in five game

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In early February the debate regarding No. 8 Iowa wasn’t only whether or not they were the best team in the Big Ten, thanks to their sweeps of both Michigan State and Purdue, but also whether or not Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes had a case as the best team in the country. Jarrod Uthoff was playing at a first-team All-America level, Peter Jok was much improved from his first two seasons, and the Hawkeyes were receiving contributions from other players as well.

Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes those discussions have come to a halt, as they’re limping to the finish line. Sunday, Ohio State handed Iowa its fourth loss in the last five games by the final score of 68-64.

This was a big win for Thad Matta’s Buckeyes, who despite having 11 conference wins still have work to do when it comes to getting into the NCAA tournament. Of those 11 wins just three have come against teams not in the bottom five of the Big Ten standings, with their win over Iowa qualifying as the best of the bunch. Marc Loving led the way with 25 points, Keita Bates-Diop added 19, six rebounds and four blocks and Kam Williams scored 11 second-half points as Ohio State picked up its best win of the season to date.

As for Iowa, a team that appeared to have turned the corner when compared to past editions under McCaffery that would struggle to stop negative momentum is right back in a familiar spot.

One issue during this stretch is that Iowa, beginning with Uthoff, hasn’t been as good offensively as they were earlier this season. In Iowa’s last four losses the All-America candidate has shot just 35 percent from the field (21-for-60) and 25.9 percent from three (7-for-27). Jok’s been better during that same period, shooting 41.7 percent from the field, but neither has been as efficient as they were when the Hawkeyes were rolling through their schedule.

In these situations the supplementary players are needed to step forward, and outside of Mike Gesell (16 points) that did not happen against Ohio State. As a team the Hawkeyes shot just 40.7 percent from the field, with Uthoff (16 points), Gesell and Jok (12 points) responsible for 44 of the team’s 64 points. Shooting better than 43 percent in just one of their last five games (46 percent in a loss at Indiana), Iowa’s obviously struggled to make shots. And the task of finding quality looks becomes more difficult when opponents are essentially able to focus their defensive efforts on two players.

The question now is whether or not Iowa has what it takes to turn things around heading into the Big Ten tournament. If they can, given how college basketball as a whole has been this season, they’re still a team that can play deep into the NCAA tournament. Uthoff’s still a force to be reckoned with, and with Jok as his sidekick Iowa has two players teams will have to work to slow down. But the crisp ball and player movement that Iowa rode to the top spot in the Big Ten has been absent in recent weeks, resulting in this current stretch of four losses in their last five games.

After appearing to have taken the step forward that past Iowa teams under McCaffery struggled to navigate, these Hawkeyes find themselves in a similar spot. The hope now is that experienced players such as Uthoff and Jok, who have experienced many peaks and valleys during their time in Iowa City, can use the lessons learned then to spark a turnaround in advance of the NCAA tournament.

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:

Pritchard finished with 22 points on 7-for-16 shooting, but it was the shots he hit that were more important that the number of points that he finished with.

There was a deep three late in regulation that helped the game get to overtime. There was a floater in the late with a minute left in overtime to put the Ducks ahead. There was the game-winner itself.

These are the moments that people remember when they talk about the National Player of the Year.

 

Dotson and Azubuike lead No. 6 Kansas over Texas 66-57

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Devon Dotson’s left hip looks fine. And that’s good news for No. 6 Kansas.

Dotson returned to the lineup after sitting out a game with a hip pointer injury and gave the Jayhawks a big late 3-pointer and free throws down the stretch to lead Kansas over Texas 66-57 on Saturday.

Dotson scored 21 points, including the final seven of the game for the Jayhawks. His long 3-pointer with 2:49 put Kansas ahead by eight and four straight free throws in the final 39 seconds closed out the win.

“If we played without him today, we would not have won,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.

Dotson played nearly 39 minutes and afterward said he felt good.

“It felt great,” Dotson said. “Coming in, there were no restrictions. When I’m out there playing, I have no excuses. I’m getting treatment. It’s gonna be fine.”

Udoka Azubuike scored 17 points and a burst from him early in the second half allowed Kansas (14-3, 4-1 Big 12) to take the lead.

Kansas closed the game with a 12-3 run that started with consecutive baskets from Marcus Garrett. The Jayhawks got a big break when Garrett was initially called for a charge, but the foul was quickly reversed. The layup counted, Garrett made the free throw and Jayhawks led 59-54 before Dotson closed it out.

Garrett had a scary moment earlier when he landed hard after an off-balance shot attempt. He stayed on the floor for several minutes and then briefly went to the Kansas locker room. He returned a few minutes later and made the big plays.

“That was a remarkable recovery,” Self said. “I think (the fall) scared him more than anything else.”

Dotson’s 3-pointer was just the second of the game for Kansas, the best-shooting team in the Big 12 from long range. Kansas attempted only 10, opting instead for Dotson and Garrett to drive or to push the ball inside to Azubuike, who was locked in a battle under the basket with Texas’ Jericho Sims.

Sims scored a career-high 20 points for the Longhorns (12-5, 2-3) and tied the game at 54-all. Texas gave him little help from the outside. After averaging 12.5 3-pointers in their previous two games, the Longhorns were just 6 of 20 on Saturday.

“Those two (Sims and Azubuike) canceled each other out,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “”Their guards were the biggest difference in the game.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: Saturday was the eighth time the Jayhawks made four or fewer 3-pointers and the third time in Big 12 play. Isaiah Moss, who started in Dotson’s place against Oklahoma and made six, took and made only one in 32 minutes against the Longhorns.

“Its going to catch up to us,” Self said. “We were fortunate today. We’ve got to be a team that knock (them) down. We’re not going to shoot as many at most.”

Texas: The Longhorns let what would’ve been a big upset get away. A win could have changed a lot for the Longhorns going forward, but instead Texas now has two home losses in its first five Big 12 games. The inconsistency of the 3-point shooting continues to be baffling. In all three Big 12 losses, Texas has made six or fewer from long range.

“This a game you’ve got to seize, that you’ve got to grab,” Smart said.

DEFENSIVE CLAMPDOWN

Texas guard Andrew Jones scored eight consecutive points for Texas in the first half in a 13-1 run that opened an eight-point lead. Jones didn’t score again and missed all four of his shots in the second half.

Smart lamented that Texas didn’t build a bigger lead. The Jayhawks pulled the game back within six by halftime.

“For it to be six at halftime, that’s a good half, but the way that we defended,” Smart said. “But if that lead is 10 or 12, that’s a big difference.”

FAN SCARE

The game had an extended break in the second half when a fan collapsed behind the Texas bench during a timeout. Emergency officials had to move several chairs off the Texas bench to take her out of the arena across the court on a stretcher.

Texas officials didn’t release any further information on the incident or the women’s condition.

UP NEXT

Kansas hosts Kansas State on Tuesday.

Texas plays at No. 12 West Virginia on Monday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Payne’s career game helps Florida beat No. 4 Auburn 69-47

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Omar Payne had the best game of his college career, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and led Florida to a 69-47 victory over No. 4 Auburn on Saturday.

Payne, a freshman from Kissimmee, was widely considered an afterthought in Florida’s highly touted recruiting class. Against the Tigers, he looked like a future lottery pick.

The 6-foot-10 forward dominated in the paint, scoring on tip-ins, putbacks and layups, and creating a mismatch nightmare for Auburn (15-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference). His three-point play, which came after an offensive rebound, put Florida (12-5, 4-1) up by 14 with a little more than 4 minutes to play.

The Gators sent the home crowd into a late frenzy – and to the exits – with a 14-0 run that included 3-pointers by Noah Locke, Keyontae Johnson and Kerry Blackshear Jr. Fans chanted “over-rated” in the closing minutes.

Locke and Blackshear finished with 11 points apiece for the Gators, who haven’t lost at home to Auburn since 1996. Blackshear added a season-high-tying 16 rebounds.

The Tigers have lost two in a row since starting 15-0.

Danjel Purifoy was the only player in double figures for Auburn, which shot 25.5% from the field. He had 10 points.

The Tigers struggled out of the gate, missing 15 of their first 16 shots. But Florida failed to take advantage of Auburn’s sluggishness, turning the ball over far too often for coach Mike White’s liking.

Auburn kept it close thanks to being perfect (10 for 10) from the free throw line.

The Gators led by five at the break and quickly built a double-digit lead coming out of the locker room. Nembhard, Johnson and Blackshear made consecutive baskets and then Payne followed with a putback and a layup that pushed the lead to 38-27.

Florida looked like it might really pull away a few minutes later, but Samir Doughty answered with back-to-back 3-pointers. Auburn’s leading scorer missed all four shots in the opening 20 minutes and didn’t record a single positive statistic.

BIG PICTURE

Auburn: The Tigers won’t win many, if any, games shooting like this. Purifoy made 3 of 11 shots and Doughty was 3 of 12 from the field.

Florida: The Gators finally look like a top-10 team. They opened the season ranked No. 6 but lost two of their first four games. White tweaked the offense, and the results are starting to show.

UP NEXT:

Auburn: Hosts South Carolina on Wednesday. The Tigers have lost four of the last six in the series.

Florida: Plays at LSU on Tuesday. The Gators have won four of the last five meetings, including two in overtime.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

No. 5 Butler loses second straight as DePaul gets first Big East win

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Paul Reed scored 23 points and shot 8-for-9 from the floor and 5-for-5 from the line as DePaul finally found a way into the win column on Saturday, pounding No. 5 Butler at home, 79-66.

The Blue Demons jumped out to a 22-6 lead early in the first half, and outside of a late first half surge that cut the lead to five, were never really threatened by the Bulldogs. Jalen Coleman-Lands finished with 19 points and Romeo Weekms added 11 as Dave Leitao’s club was able to land their biggest win of the season despite the fact that leading scorer Charlie Moore finished with just nine points to go along with his eight assists.

It helps that Moore was the only player that did not shoot the ball well for the Blue Demons. He was 3-for-13 from the floor and 1-for-4 from three. The rest of the team shot 18-for-30 from the field and 9-for-13 from three.

The truth is that DePaul, who entered the game in sole possession of last place in the conference with an 0-4 record, has been much closer to being this good than they have been to being a typical, winless DePaul program. They won non-conference road wins at Iowa and Minnesota — and we know how hard it is to win on the road in the Big Ten — while beating Texas Tech in overtime in Chicago. Their four losses have come by a total of 20 points, one of which came in overtime at Villanova.

Put another way, DePaul has taken as many tough losses as anyone in league play.

They were never going to be an easy out.

Butler found that out the hard way.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start asking questions about the Bulldogs, who have now been outscored 123-88 in the last three halves of basketball that they have played. For a team that prides themselves on their defense, their execution and their ability to prepare for an opponent, this is worrisome.

The Bulldogs aren’t winning based on talent. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that is willing to say that Butler is more talented than DePaul. Where they make up the difference is in being able to blow up anything that a team wants to run against them while executing well enough offensively to be able to land a win.

They haven’t been able to do that since the first half of the loss to Seton Hall.

Now, this could be as simple as the Bulldogs shooting poorly and running into a couple of tough, athletic teams that got hot at the right time.

Or it could be a sign that Butler has been figured out.

Either way, the truth is that the Bulldogs needed to find an answer, because things do not get easier for them this week.

They head to No. 14 Villanova next.