Saturday’s Things To Know: A recap of all of today’s college hoops action

AP Photo/Darren Hauck
1 Comment

PLAYER OF THE DAY: Markus Howard, Marquette

Marquette was a team badly in need of a win entering Saturday’s date with No. 12 Kansas State in Milwaukee.

The Golden Eagles had whiffed on their chance to land a marquee win last week, blowing an 11 point first half lead against No. 2 Kansas, a loss that forced them into a consolation game against Louisville instead of the NIT title game against No. 5 Tennessee. They had lost by 23 points at Indiana. Their best win of the year to date was a three point overtime win against a Louisville team that is profiling as a borderline top 25 team.

With the Big East looking like it is going to be a hodge-podge of mediocrity this year, the Golden Eagles need everything they can get out of their non-conference slate, and they got a big win on Saturday, beating No. 12 Kansas State, 83-71.

And the hero was exactly who you would expect it to be.

Markus Howard, the all-american.

He went for 45 points on just 17 shots on Saturday, going 11-for-17 from the floor, 4-for-10 from three and 19-for-21 from the line. The rest of his team combined for 38 points on just 27 shots and 15 free throws.

We’ve seen Howard have explosions like this before, and part of the reason that Marquette is a team that I’ve been bullish on since the preseason is that when he gets on a role like he did today, Howard can carry Marquette to a win over literally anyone. Kansas State has one of the best on-ball defenders in the country in Barry Brown, and he got cooked.

It’s hard to top all of that.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Gonzaga

The Bulldogs went into Omaha on Saturday as the No. 1 team in the country and quickly realized why we always talk about how the CHI Health Center is one of the most difficult places to play in America.

The Bluejays got on an early role, with Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock burying some threes and Davion Mintz dunking on the entire frontline of the Zags, and with all 18,000 people in the building going absolutely bonkers, the Zags slowly but surely cut away at what was at one point an 11 point lead. By the time it was all said and done, the Zags had a 103-92 road win that will carry some weight come Selection Sunday.

And perhaps the best part of this for head coach Mark Few was that the Zags didn’t simply rely on one guy going nuts. Yes, Zach Norvell Jr. caught fire in the second half (22 of his 28 points), but Gonzaga wouldn’t have been in firing range if it wasn’t for the play of Brandon Clarke (27 points, 10 boards, two steals, two blocks), Rui Hachimura (22 points, 11 boards, three assists, three steals) and Josh Perksins (13 points and 13 assists).

Just an all-around solid win.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Lagerald Vick, Kansas

Vick has been the most important player this season for Kansas. He bailed them out against Vermont and Louisiana, shooting 15-for-20 from three in those two games, scoring an average of 32.5 points and helping the Jayhawks avoid bad home losses in the process.

On Saturday, he did the same thing against Stanford, hitting the game-tying three to force overtime and then lighting up the Cardinal with the first eight points of the extra frame:

We wrote about Vick last week. Bill Self ran him out of the program. He declared for the draft with the intention of signing with an agent before he realized the NBA wasn’t in his future and returned to school, only without the same number or any guarantee of playing time.

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST WINNERS

MARQUETTE: We touched on it above, but Marquette landed a win that they really, really needed to get. Playing in a league where the best team is a Villanova that is not the same Villanova that we’ve known for the last half-decade, the Golden Eagles needed to do some work in the non-conference to ensure that A) they get into the tournament, and B) they get into the tournament with a seed that allows them a chance to make a run.

Thanks to that 45 point outburst from Howard, they now have one of those wins. Combine that with a win over Louisville and, potentially, wins against Wisconsin and Buffalo, and that would be a solid start to a tournament resume.

LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals picked up a pretty nice road win over Seton Hall on Saturday, coming back from an early double-digit deficit to pick up a 70-65 win in Newark. This comes of the heels of Chris Mack’s ballclub knocking off No. 9 Michigan State in Louisville on Wednesday night. The Cards are putting together a pretty solid non-conference resume. They’ll have a couple more chances to add to it, with games against Indiana and Kentucky remaining.

SAINT LOUIS: The Atlantic 10 desperately needed someone to start picking up some wins, and the Billikens have been doing so. They won at Seton Hall in November, and on Saturday they added to that with a win over Butler at home. They still get Southern Illinois, Oregon State, Houston and Florida State during non-conference play. That probably won’t be enough to get them an at-large bid given just how bad the rest of their league has been, but it could be enough to get them to a good seed should they earn the league’s automatic bid.

MICHIGAN: The No. 7 Wolverines capped off a wonderful week with a beatdown of No. 19 Purdue on Saturday. The final score was 76-57, but the game never really felt that close. Carsen Edwards finished with 19 points, but the preseason All-American never really felt like he was a threat to do all that much.

More importantly, as we discussed after Wednesday night’s win over North Carolina, was that Michigan was a juggernaut offensively once again. They scored 76 points on 62 possessions, shooting 13-for-26 from three after going 11-for-22 from deep against UNC. This is fun with small sample sizes, but in the last two games, Michigan went from outside the top 25- in three point percentage to 77th.

NEVADA: The Wolf Pack were down by by seven late in the first half at USC. They were up by 16 eight minutes into the second half. This team is talented, explosive and mature enough to not get flustered when they are down early. The problem? Next Friday’s date with Arizona State is the last time they’ll play a game that is actually relevant.

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST LOSERS

STANFORD: The Cardinal had a chance to turn their season around. They had played terrific for 39 minutes and 45 seconds in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, and held a 75-72 lead on the Jayhawks, the No. 2 team in the country. That’s the kind of win that can immediately vault a team into the NCAA tournament discussion and, at this point, it’s almost the kind of win that a borderline team from the Pac-12 needs to get an at-large bid.

Alas, Stanford decided not to foul up three, Lagerald Vick tied the game and the rest is history. Oh well.

CREIGHTON: Like Stanford, Creighton really missed on a chance to land a marquee win. When you play that well against the No. 1 team in the country, it’s not pleasant to lose out in the end, and while I hesitate to credit the Bluejays with a moral victory — who the hell wants one of those? — we did get a glimpse of just how dangerous this group can be. They’re young and talented, and this was, at the very least, a nice little learning experience.

MEMPHIS: The Tigers were up by nine at the half and led by double-digits in the second half against No. 20 Texas Tech. The Red Raiders scored 50 second half points and won by double-figures. Penny is going to be fine in the long run, but there are going to be some growing pains this season.

FINAL THOUGHT

I have never in my life seen a bigger mismatch than watching No. 3 Duke go up against 1-7 Stetson.

The Hatters were a constant stream of turnovers that led to a never-ending series of fast break dunks for Duke. At one point during the second half, Duke led 87-29. I don’t even want to mention the final score here. There’s no need to rub salt in the wound.

And I guess what my biggest question here is ‘Why?’ Why did Duke play this game? I understand why it would make some sense for Stetson to play it. How often do you get to play in a building like Cameron Indoor Stadium? How often do you get to play after three future top five picks? There’s literally no downside — the worst-case scenario is they leave with a game check and the beatdown that everyone expected, while there is always that possibility of that miracle win. That is, after all, why people play the Powerball.

But I don’t understand why this is the game that Duke would schedule.

Quite literally the only thing they are going to get out of it is a chance to play some of their bench guys major minutes in an actual game. I guess there is something to letting Alex O’Connell go out there and show out, but at the same time, with 13 minutes left and Duke up 56 points, Zion Williamson checked back into the game.

Stetson is one of the worst programs in the sport. They were 338th in KenPom entering today. They were 318th in KenPom last season. They have finished inside the top 300 in KenPom just once in Corey Williams’ six-year tenure. Nothing about this result will surprise anyone.

So what’s the point of playing it?

Gardner, No. 3 Virginia rally for 70-68 win at Michigan

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
15 Comments

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Tony Bennett’s team passed all its tests in the opening month of the season.

Jayden Gardner made a go-ahead jumper with 39.9 seconds left and blocked Jett Howard’s 3-point shot just before the buzzer, allowing No. 3 Virginia to stay undefeated with a 70-68 win over Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night.

The Cavaliers (6-0) won their first true road game against a team that was ranked in the first two polls this season, a little more than a week after beating then-No. 5 Baylor and then-No. 19 Illinois in Las Vegas.

“It got pretty intense in here,” Bennett said.

Virginia trailed by 11 points at halftime, rallied to go ahead with 7:25 left and built a five-point lead that didn’t last.

The Wolverines (5-2) went ahead 66-65 at the 1:42 mark when Hunter Dickinson made one of two free throws.

Michigan missed chances to stay or go ahead when Dickinson missed a hook shot with 1:01 to go and Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn turned the ball over with 16 seconds left.

“Hunter has made that running hook before,” coach Juwan Howard said. “The turnover, yes, down the stretch, it hurt, but overall that’s not the reason we lost the ballgame.

“We could’ve easily put our heads down when they came out in the second half and made a run.”

Reece Beekman, who finished with 18 points, stepped in front of Llewellyn’s pass in the final minute and made one of two free throws.

Virginia’s Armaan Franklin missed two free throws with 5.7 seconds left, giving Michigan a chance to extend or win the game. Howard took a contested shot beyond the 3-point arc on the right wing – near his father, Michigan’s coach – and Gardner came up with the block against the freshman guard while Wolverines coaches and players screamed for a foul call.

It appeared that Gardner got all ball on the block.

Kihei Clark scored 16 points, Gardner had 12, Kadin Shedrick fouled out with 12 points and Ben Vander Plas added 10 for the balanced Cavaliers.

“You need different guys, and that’s what it takes, to make plays offensively and defensively,” Bennett said.

Dickinson scored 23 points, Jett Howard had 11 of his 15 in the first half and Kobe Bufkin added 11 points for Michigan.

“Jett is a gamer, he’s going to compete no matter what,” Juwan Howard said. “He’s loved basketball since he was a little baby boy.

“He’s going to help us win a lot of games this year.”

The Wolverines started slowly, trailing 9-2 in the opening minutes, before Howard scored eight points to lead a 13-2 run. Michigan led 45-34 at halftime when Bufkin made a layup after a steal.

“We can’t be sloppy like that on the defensive end, but we did battle hard in the second half,” Bennett said.

Vander Plas scored nine points during an 11-2 run that put Virginia ahead 65-60. The Cavaliers then went 4 1/2 minutes without a basket before Gardner’s big shot.

THE TAKEAWAY

Virginia: The Cavaliers have their highest ranking since the 2018-19 season – which ended with a national title – and are off to their best start since being 7-0 three years ago. The team continues to honor the memory of three football players who were fatally shot on campus earlier this month, wearing warmup jerseys with their names.

Michigan: Juwan Howard’s team matched up well in its first game against a ranked opponent this season.

“When we come out with the effort like we did today for 40 minutes, I love our chances against any college team in the country,” he said.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Hosts Florida State (1-7) on Saturday.

Michigan: Plays No. 19 Kentucky (5-2) on Sunday in London.

Marquette’s defense overwhelms No. 6 Baylor in 96-70 win

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

MILWAUKEE – Marquette has developed a habit under Shaka Smart of saving its top performances for the best opponents on its schedule.

Olivier-Maxence Prosper scored 24 points and Marquette capitalized on a dominant start from its defense to roll past No. 6 Baylor 96-70 on Tuesday night in the Big 12-Big East Battle. This was the highest-ranked team Marquette (6-2) has beaten under Smart and the Golden Eagles improved to to 7-6 against AP Top 25 squads in his tenure.

“Most of the time against these great teams, they don’t have us winning that game,” said David Joplin, who scored 19 points. “We just come out, we want to go out and prove everybody wrong. And that feeling, that chip makes us play so much better.”

Marquette nearly produced its most lopsided victory against a Top 25 team. The Golden Eagles trounced No. 16 Providence 88-56 on Jan. 4 in Smart’s debut season.

“When you go into a game and the game is bigger in the minds of your players than anything else, to me that’s the best recipe for winning,” Smart said. “It should be that way all the time, but human nature sometimes messes with that.”

Marquette’s defense embarrassed a highly regarded Baylor backcourt.

The Golden Eagles raced to a 51-25 halftime lead thanks to a 24-0 edge in points off turnovers. Baylor (5-2) already had a season-high 16 turnovers by halftime.

Baylor entered Tuesday ranked third among Division I teams in assist-turnover margin. The Bears had 20 turnovers and 12 assists against Marquette.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Credit the crowd. Credit them for building momentum. Credit Shaka for having them prepared and how hard they played. At the end of the day, we fed to the fire by turning it over and making some uncharacteristic mistakes.”

Prosper scored 10 points and sank two 3-pointers during a 23-2 run that turned an early 7-2 deficit into a 25-9 advantage. Chase Ross capped the spurt by getting a steal and throwing down a left-handed dunk.

Baylor never cut Marquette’s lead below 22 points in the second half.

Kam Jones had 20 points as Marquette shot 58.3% overall to win its third straight. The Golden Eagles shot 12 of 25 from 3-point range, with Jones going 4 of 7 and Prosper and Joplin each going 3 of 4.

Baylor’s LJ Cryer had 17 of his 19 points, in the second half. Adam Flagler had 16 and Keyonte George added 12 for the Bears.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The Bears shot 48.2% (27 of 56) but had no answers for Marquette’s defense and dug too deep a hole. Baylor rallied from a 25-deficit to force overtime in an NCAA Tournament loss to North Carolina last season, but the Bears never mounted any kind of comeback Tuesday.

Marquette: After losing to Purdue and Mississippi State earlier this season, the Golden Eagles delivered the kind of performance that showed they’re capable of beating anyone. Marquette will try to prove that again when it hosts Wisconsin on Saturday.

BIG 12 VS. BIG EAST

The Big 12-Big East Battle started Tuesday and runs through Sunday. Last season’s Big 12-Big East Battle ended in a 5-5 tie.

HONORING THOMPSON

Marquette came out of its locker room wearing shirts with No. 24 to honor George Thompson, who died in June of complications from diabetes. Thompson played for Marquette from 1967-69, and he was the school’s career scoring leader for 40 years.

Tuesday would have been Thompson’s 75th birthday. A No. 24 banner with Thompson’s name hangs from the Fiserv Forum rafters.

“I really felt like we needed to win tonight to honor George,” Smart said. “If you make it George Thompson Night, you couldn’t lose.”

UP NEXT

Baylor: Faces No. 14 Gonzaga on Friday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Marquette: Hosts Wisconsin on Saturday.

Houston reaches No. 1 in AP poll for first time since 1983

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men’s college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in the AP Top 25. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

“It’s not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We’ve been working for this,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They get along. They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

“Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

IN AND OUT

Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the only newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which dropped out after a one-week stay following its loss to TCU in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

CONFERENCE WATCH

There are six difference conferences represented in the first seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25 while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of them are in the top 10.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.