Thursday’s College Basketball Recap: Porter, Jr. returns, Sexton soars and Duke/UNC set for Round 3

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PLAYER OF THE DAY

He didn’t make the game-winning shot, but Kamar Baldwin set it up. And he had an otherwise monster night.

The Butler sophomore scored 32 points on 12 of 20 shooting, had four rebounds and three assists to help the Bulldogs secure a 75-74 win over Seton Hall in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

Down a point with just 12 seconds to play, Baldwin went the length of the floor, getting to the rim and getting a good look at a layup that would have put Butler up one. Well, Baldwin’s attempt spun out, but he’d drawn enough defensive attention to free up Tyler Wideman on the offensive glass. Wideman’s put-back put the Bulldogs into the Big East semis.

Baldwin’s breakout game has to be a welcome sight for LaVall Jordan’s team as Baldwin had struggled to score in recent weeks. He’d broken double-digits just once in the last four games and was averaging just 8.75 points per game over that same stretch. Getting Baldwin right would help the Bulldogs keep playing awhile longer.

THE REST OF SATURDAY’S STARS

  • THEO PINSON, North Carolina: The Tar Heel senior had 25 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals and UNC ran away from Miami. Pinson’s big night is a big reason why we’re all getting treated to Duke/North Carolina, Round 3.
  • MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke: It would be easy to make the case for Bagley as the player of the day after he put up 33 points and 17 boards as the Blue Devils styied Notre Dame’s tournament hopes. The freshman was everywhere doing everything.
  • JEVON CARTER, West Virginia: Not only did he drill a 60-footer before halftime, Carter also had 18 points, 11 assists and six steals and West Virginia advanced to the Big 12 semis.
  • MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova: He put 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists on Marquette as Villanova smashed the Golden Eagles by 24.

BUBBLE BANTER: Everything that happened on the cut-line

TEAM OF THE DAY

Alabama entered SEC tournament play on a five-game losing streak and in serious need of a victory to keep its NCAA tournament footing steady. Collin Sexton delivered that victory and snapped the streak thanks to not only his 27 points, but his coast-to-coast sprint for the game-winning scoop-and-score before time expired.

Alabama helped itself as much as any other team in the country to reverse course on the season-ending slide the Crimson Tide were mired in. Plus, they – well, Sexton – did it in a really cool way. For that, they’re the team of the day.

GAME OF THE DAY

It wasn’t the most compelling basketball of the day, but Michael Porter, Jr.’s return to the floor for the first time since his two-minute debut in November’s season-opener is one of the biggest stories in the sport.

It didn’t really go great, as Porter, Jr. struggled in the Tigers’ two-point loss to Georgia.

The biggest issue for Missouri wasn’t the loss – they’re securely in the tournament – but that they won’t get any more live competition to try to bring Porter, Jr. seamlessly into the fold before they start playing again with their season at stake. It’s a gamble not only for Porter to play, risking injury and draft status, but also for Missouri to try to bring him in at this late juncture to a team that was already pretty good without him.

But when given the option of playing with a top-five talent or not playing with a top-five talent, there’s really no choice to make. Missouri would have liked a longer dress rehearsal, though.

WTF???? OF THE DAY

Xavier figuratively smacked St. John’s 88-60, and then apparently the two teams tried to do the same literally.

A bit of a brouhaha broke out at Madison Square Garden after the game due to some handshake-line drama, apparently, and then a St. John’s player allegedly tried to make his way into the Xavier locker room to continue the fracas.

WTF indeed.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

Louisville just couldn’t best Virginia this season. The Cardinals fell to the Cavaliers for the third time this season, 75-58, and will now have to await an uncertain future on Selection Sunday.

The idea was that Middle Tennessee State would cruise to a Conference USA title and become again a popular bracket buster after another strong season. Southern Miss had other ideas, bouncing the Blue Raiders from the CUSA tourney and maybe the field of 68.

Desmond Bane forced overtime with his 3-pointer at the buzzer but TCU couldn’t close the deal in overtime as Kansas State moved on to a semifinals matchup with Kansas with a 66-64 win.

Malik Newman scored a career-best 30 points and Kansas finally defeated Oklahoma State in its third try this season.