There wasn’t a game between ranked opponents Wednesday evening, but the night wasn’t without drama or excitement. Any night in which Zion Williamson throws an alley-oop off the backboard to R.J. Barrett is a good night. Here’s what else you need to know from Wednesday’s action.
TEXAS IN TROUBLE?
There weren’t exactly monumental expectations for Texas coming into this season. Still, with Kerwin Roach, Dylan Osetkowski, Matt Coleman and Jericho Sims all back, the idea was the Longhorns would be pretty good. At least good enough to keep mentions of Shaka Smart’s 50-50 record in three seasons in Austin to a minimum. That theory is being tested early.
Texas lost its third-consecutive game Wednesday, the second-straight at home to a mid-major, with Smart’s former program, VCU, outlasting the Longhorns 54-53 at the Erwin Center. The Longhorns lost to Michigan State, no shame there, to start this slide, but after a loss to Radford and now the Rams, both of whom ranked outside the KenPom top-100, there is a bit of reason for alarm.
The Longhorns’ shooting is abysmal with a 28.9 percent mark from 3-point range and an effective field goal percentage of 47. They’re giving up a ton of offensive rebounds with opponents grabbing 31.7 percent of their misses, a rather astounding number for a team giving Osetkowski, Sims and Jaxon Hayes big minutes in the frontcourt. It also seems like some frustration may be setting in:
Texas is playing good defense – KenPom has them at 11th in adjusted D – and there is plenty of time to get things right, but Purdue is looming Saturday so things may get uglier before they get better. And both Texas and Smart have to hope things do eventually get better.
AMIR COFFEY SHINES IN GOPHERS WIN ON EMOTIONAL NIGHT
Amir Coffey looked like a star in the making for Minnesota after a freshman season in which the 6-foot-8 Hopkins, Minn. native and son of a former Gopher averaged 12.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game. However, a shoulder injury robbed him of the second half of his sophomore season, the second major injury of his career after he broke his leg and tore his ACL in high school. Given that, it was probably fair to wonder what type of player would return to Williams Arena.
The junior looked like a superstar Wednesday as he scored a career-high 32 points while tallying six rebounds and six assists as the Gophers erased a double-digit second-half deficit to beat No. 24 Nebraska, 85-78, in Minneapolis.
It was unquestionably a breakout game for Coffey, who had played well for much of the season to this point, but had produced nothing like this, topping a personal-best in the scoring department that he set as a freshman.
It was a major win for the Gophers, who were on the cusp of losing for the third time in four games and starting the Big Ten slate 0-2. It was especially important – and poignant – as Gopher guard Dupree McBrayer played while mourning the death of his mother, Tayra, who died Monday after a battle with cancer.
Temple has a full season to go, but there was a sort of finale Wednesday for coach Fran Dunphy, who is retiring at the end of the season. He coached his final game against Villanova, a 69-59 loss to rival Philadelphia school and reigning national champions.
The Owls haven’t beaten Jay Wright’s program since 2012, but neither has any other Big 5 team. Temple was the last to do it, exactly six years ago to the day.
Villanova seems to have righted the ship after a rocky couple days in November in which Michigan blasted them by 26 and Furman beat them by eight in OT with both games coming at home. SInce, they’ve won five-straight, including wins against Oklahoma State and Florida State on neutral courts. They’ve got St. Joe’s and Penn before a big showdown with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 15.