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Iowa State stakes claim to title of Big 12’s best after dominant win over No. 5 Kansas

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The Big 12 title is going to run through Lawrence until it doesn’t, and an Iowa State win in a building that has played host to so many upset wins that the phrase ‘Hilton Magic’ was created doesn’t mean anything more than Ames, Iowa, never has and never will be a fun place for opposing Big 12 coaches to visit.

I know that.

You know that.

Bill Self and Steve Prohm know that.

But it should not take away from the statement that Iowa State made on Saturday afternoon.

The Cyclones got 24 points from Marial Shayok and shot 13-for-25 from three, pulling away from No. 5 Kansas in the second half of a 77-60 win over the Jayhawks in their Big 12 home opener.

And frankly, it’s not a result that should be all that surprising.

For starters, Kansas was playing without Udoka Azubuike, who suffered a sprained wrist in practice on Friday and was held out for precautionary measures. He’s expected to have an MRI in the coming days to determine the severity of the injury and just how much time he is actually going to miss. His absence was obvious, as the Jayhawks struggled to find a way to run their offense smoothly. They don’t have the guard play that they have had in recent seasons, which is why Bill Self has built his offense around throwing the ball into the post. Dedric Lawson is the best post-feeder on the roster, but when Azubuike is out, he is the guy that moves to the five and is asked to be that post presence.

That is the lineup that changed the game against Oklahoma on Wednesday night. Going small is when the Jayhawks made their run.

It did not work anywhere near as well on Saturday, which frankly, has more to do with Iowa State than it does anything else.

And that gets me to the larger point here: Iowa State is really, really good. This scoreline was not simply a result of a homecourt advantage wreaking havoc on a short-handed, highly-ranked team. This result was the byproduct of being better this year than anyone has acknowledged. It is far too early in the year to say this definitively, but there’s a chance that this group can be better than any team that Fred Hoiberg had during his five-year tenure with the Cyclones.

(It’s worth noting here that this group is currently 15th in KenPom, and Hoiberg never had a team finish better than 16th.)

The reason for that is that current head coach Steve Prohm has but together just about an ideal roster for the modern way that basketball is played. He starts four wings, all of whom stand between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-6. The smallest of the four — Talen Horton-Tucker — checks in at 240 pounds and has a 7-foot-1 wingspan. It makes them switchable and versatile on the defensive end of the floor, where Marial Shayok, Nick Weiler-Babb and Tyrese Haliburton can all guard up and down somewhere between adequately and effectively. Michael Jacobson starts at the five, where he is averaging 14.5 points and 6-2 boards, while Cameron Lard is probably their most talented big man and definitely is their best rim protector.

The Cyclones are historically a team that has a reputation for being soft on the defensive end, and that’s not this group.

They are, however, as dangerous on the offensive end of the floor as we’ve come to expect out of this program.

It’s starts with this: The best player in the program is Lindell Wigginton, a 6-foot-2 combo-guard that returned to action in the Big 12 opener after missing about a month with a foot injury. He’s one of three players on this roster that are skilled enough to play the point — Weiler-Babb is technically the starting point guard while Haliburton, a sneaky NBA prospect, is averaging 8.3 points, 4.5 boards, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals while shooting 45 percent from three. Throw in Horton-Tucker, and there are now four perimeter players on this team that are averaging 3.0 assists this season.

That doesn’t include Shayok, who is the leading scorer in the Big 12 at 20.1 points, and Horton-Tucker is the only member of that perimeter rotation that is not a dangerous three-point threat.

Think about that for a second.

Prohm can run out lineups where he has four players on the floor that are capable of being the handler in a ball-screen action while also being able to space the floor if someone else is the handler, and he can do it without sacrificing any of his defensive switchability.

This is what positionless basketball looks like, and we still haven’t seen their best.

Remember, Wigginton probably isn’t back to being himself quite yet. It takes a while to get back into shape and into a rhythm after missing as much time as he did. Solomon Young has missed 11 games. Lard missed the first five games of the season as well. Put another way, the best is yet to come, and to date, they’ve been pretty damn good.

What I like the most about this group is that this Iowa State team is built in the same vein as last year’s Villanova team was. They’re not as good, but they create many of the same matchup problems.

And it was those matchup problems that allowed those Wildcats to run over Kansas en route to the national title game.

It’s too early to predict that Iowa State will do the same in the Big 12 standings, not when Texas Tech might be the redneck version of Virginia and when Oklahoma is busy proving the Ewing Theory true.

But it’s not too early to say that the Cyclones are here to stay, or that if this group reaches their ceiling, it will be the better than any of the Hoiberg-era teams.

No. 15 Marquette beats Georgetown after Markus Howard leaves with injury

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Marquette got a career performance from Sam Hauser and won a Big East road game Tuesday, but the Golden Eagles’ 74-71 win against Georgetown came with a caveat.

Markus Howard, the nation’s fourth leading scorer, played just three minutes before bowing out with a back injury.

“He’s been experiencing some low back soreness,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said after the game, per The Associated Press. “I’m not going to put a guy out there unless he’s 100%.”

Hauser shined offensively for Marquette with Howard unable to carry the load. The sophomore scored 31 points in the victory. It was the Golden Eagles’ defense, though, that got them to the finish line. Marquette blocked two go-ahead attempts by Georgetown freshman guard James Akinjo in the final 15 seconds, with the first coming from Brendan Bailey and the second courtesy of Theo John.

Now, though, attention will turn to the health of Howard, who is averaging 25.8 points per game and is a week removed from dropping 53 points on Creighton. Marquette does have a pair of home games upcoming against Providence and DePaul, so the Golden Eagles do have some fortuitous timing in their favor, but if Howard is sidelined for an extended period of time or the back is an issue all season, that’s going to be a significant issue.

Little, No. 13 North Carolina hold off Notre Dame 75-69

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Once Nassir Little got rolling, No. 13 North Carolina didn’t have to worry much about yet another home loss.

Little scored all 11 of his points in the final 11 minutes, and the Tar Heels beat Notre Dame 75-69 on Tuesday night.

“It was just a matter of time,” Little said. “Everybody was just waiting for me to do what I do, to help the team be as good as we can be.”

Coby White had 17 points while Luke Maye added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Cameron Johnson finished with 11 points for the Tar Heels (13-4, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). UNC used a late 12-1 run to bounce back from its most lopsided home loss under Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams.

“I got my wish — I wanted to win one ugly,” Williams said.

Prentiss Hubb scored 18 points, John Mooney had 16 points and 19 rebounds, and D.J. Harvey added 15 points for the Fighting Irish (11-6, 1-3). Hubb put Notre Dame up 58-57 with a layup with just under seven minutes remaining, but the Irish missed their next six shots while North Carolina took control.

“Everything was just right for us,” coach Mike Brey said. “We just needed a few more plays, and we probably needed another scorer.”

White started the key run with a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down with 6½ minutes to play, and Little, a freshman, ended it with a twisting layup on the break that gave the Tar Heels their first double-figure lead, 69-59, with less than 90 seconds left.

The Irish didn’t get closer than seven until Hubb’s 3 with 4.7 seconds left made it 73-69.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have lost three of four to begin conference play and haven’t cracked the 70s in scoring in any of those games. They aren’t afraid to pull the trigger from 3-point range — no team in the ACC has taken more of them this season, and roughly half their shots in this one were from beyond the arc — but they didn’t quite hit enough of them to pull off the upset: Notre Dame was just 4 of 15 from long range in the second half.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels will hear less about that embarrassing 83-62 loss to Louisville. They also haven’t lost three straight home ACC games in nearly a decade. Perhaps the most encouraging sign: They had only two turnovers in the second half.

STAR WATCH

T.J. Gibbs, who averages a team-best 18.5 points for Notre Dame, was held to five points on 1-of-9 shooting in his return after an illness that forced him to miss a game for the first time in his career. “My trainer said, ‘You can’t play him as usual, 35 minutes, because he’s ill,'” Brey said. “And then I played him 35 minutes, because he was our only option. … We need to kind of get him back to 100 percent by Saturday.”

PLAY OF THE NIGHT

Seventh Woods earned some hustle points for his blocked shot that brought the crowd to its feet with about 12 minutes left. Nate Laszewski was headed for an easy open-court dunk after stealing the ball from Johnson. But Woods raced in to block the attempt at the rim.

BATTLE ON THE BOARDS

The ACC’s top two rebounders — Maye (10.1 rpg) and Mooney (9.8) — went at it in this one. Those two combined for 29 of the 83 total rebounds in the game.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: Plays host to No. 17 North Carolina State on Saturday.

North Carolina: Visits Miami on Saturday.

Tuesday’s Three Things To Know: It was a surprisingly wild night in college hoops

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While Golden State was busy putting up 50 points in a quarter, the college basketball world had themselves a wild night that featured a pair of top 25 teams winning in the final seconds, some big dogs rolling and a couple of trendy teams taking ugly losses.

Here is what you need to know from Tuesday night:

1. THE BIG BOYS ROLLED

The biggest game of the night ended up being one of the most boring games of the night, as No. 4 Virginia put away No. 9 Virginia Tech before we reached the under eight media timeout. The Wahoos hit nine of their first 11 threes, finished 13-for-24 from beyond the arc on the evening and took a 44-22 lead into halftime, eventually knocking off the Hokies, 81-59. It was an utterly dominant performance from Tony Bennett’s club, and one that had our Travis Hines convincing himself that this is the year for UVA.

The Cavs weren’t the only big dog to handle their business in impressive fashion on Tuesday. No. 3 Tennessee jumped out to a 23-6 lead on Arkansas and never looked back, beating the Razorbacks 106-87 in a game where the Vols never seemed to get out of third gear. While that was happening, No. 12 Kentucky was in the midst of going into Stegeman Coliseum and dropping a hammer on Georgia, 69-49. Ashton Hagans — who was previously committed to the Bulldogs — put a career-high 23 points on the board.

And lastly, while the Tar Heels didn’t run away with this win, they did manage to hold off Notre Dame, 75-69. This win was notable because of the second half performance from Nassir Little. He scored just 11 points, but all of them came in the final 11 minutes, and he had nine in a 14-6 run that turned a deficit into a 65-58 lead.

2. SAM HAUSER SAVES No. 15 MARQUETTE, No. 17 N.C. STATE IS NOT SO LUCKY

Hauser put up a career-high 31 points to go along with eight boards in a 74-71 win at Georgetown as he was forced into point guard duties as Markus Howard was dealing with a lower back issue and Joseph Chartouny has apparently forgotten how to be a point guard. The Hoyas are not exactly a powerhouse these days, but they are a dangerous team offensively that has won some games we did not expect them to win, and going into Washington D.C. and winning this game without the Big East Player of the Year is, frankly, really impressive.

And important.

The Golden Eagles remain the only team that is one game behind Villanova in the Big East regular season title race.

N.C. State was not as fortunate. Playing without starting point guard Markell Johnson, the Wolf Pack found themselves down by 15 points at the half and by as many as 22 points in the second half at Wake Forest. A 29-7 run tied the game at 58 with about seven minutes left in the game, but Wake Forest did enough down the stretch to get the win, 71-67.

This is not a great loss for N.C. State, who has now lost two of their last three games and no longer looks like a top 25 basketball team.

3. THE OLE MISS HYPE TRAIN DERAILS

The trendy team this week was Ole Miss, and deservedly so — in the span of 96 hours, they beat No. 11 Auburn by 15 points and went into Starkville and picked off No. 14 Mississippi State. They were 13-2 on the season and 3-0 in the SEC at that point. They deserved to be trendy.

And it all came crashing down with a visit from LSU. Tremont Waters scored 20 points and added nine assists as the Tigers knocked off No. 18 Ole Miss, 83-69, in Oxford. Now 3-0 in the league, it may be time that we start looking at LSU as the new Ole Miss.

AND I NEED TO MENTION …

That a pair of top 25 teams survived at the last second. In Starkville, Mississippi State survived Florida, 71-68, thanks to a three-point play from Quinndary Weatherspoon with 3.6 seconds left on the clock. And out in Boise, No. 10 Nevada knocked off Boise State, 72-71, thanks to a three with 4.5 seconds left from Cody Martin, who had not made a three since Dec. 15th and was shooting 19.5 percent from beyond the arc entering the night.

LSU cruises past No. 18 Ole Miss 83-69; 3-0 in SEC

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OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Tremont Waters scored 20 points, Kavell Bigby-Williams had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, and LSU beat No. 18 Mississippi 83-69 on Tuesday night.

LSU (13-3, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) used an early 8-0 run in the second half to take a 48-39 lead. The Tigers maintained a healthy advantage from that point, playing tight defense and forcing several turnovers.

Waters also had nine assists, and Skylar Mays scored 14 points. LSU has won six straight.

Ole Miss (13-3, 3-1) had its 10-game winning streak snapped. The Rebels hadn’t lost since Nov. 24, when they fell 71-57 to Cincinnati. Terence Davis led the Rebels with 21 points and 10 rebounds. K.J. Buffen added 13 points.

Neither team played particularly well in the first half, with LSU and Ole Miss both shooting 36 percent from the field. Tyree had 12 points before the break, and the teams went into halftime tied at 31.

BIG PICTURE

LSU: It’s another good win for LSU, which has quietly established itself as one of the SEC’s elite teams. The Tigers are extremely athletic in the post and should cause problems for plenty of teams around the league.

Ole Miss: The Rebels were probably due for some sort of regression and struggled in their return to the national rankings for the first time since 2013. They didn’t play very well offensively, and their 16 turnovers were particularly costly. Ole Miss will still take its 3-1 league start, but a big home game against Arkansas looms on Saturday.

UP NEXT

LSU returns home and hosts South Carolina on Saturday.

Ole Miss hosts Arkansas on Saturday.

Quinndary Weatherspoon lifts No. 24 Mississippi St over Florida 71-68

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — In need of a key bucket, No. 24 Mississippi State went to old reliable — Quinndary Weatherspoon in crunch time.

Weatherspoon converted a three-point play with 3.4 seconds left to lift the Bulldogs over Florida 71-68 on Tuesday night.

It was the sixth time in his career that Weatherspoon sank the winning shot. He drove the lane and was fouled by Kevarrius Hayes while dropping in the winning layup. Weatherspoon finished with nine points.

“We were supposed to get the ball in, and then me and Lamar (Peters) go back and forth with it,” Weatherspoon said. “Lamar broke off the play and got out of the way, and that left me an open lane. I thought it went good, and it gets our confidence back to get back on the right track.”

Peters scored all 16 of his points in the first half, and Tyson Carter added 12 for Mississippi State (13-3, 1-2 Southeastern Conference).

“That was obviously a huge win over a very good team that is very well-coached,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “I was very proud of our guys, and I thought we kept our composure so much better in this game than we did last Saturday (against Ole Miss). And Q (Weatherspoon) just seems to have that rare, rare ability to make that play.”

KeVaughn Allen had 17 points for Florida (9-7, 1-3), and Andrew Nembhard had 13 points. Noah Locke had 12 points for the Gators, who had won eight straight against Mississippi State.

Mississippi State shot 53.1 percent from the floor and made 10 of 17 beyond the arc. Florida shot 42.4 percent from the field and made just 10 of 31 shots from deep.

“Our tempo press was effective for 39 and a half minutes,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Q made a good play, and we didn’t keep him in front. We rotated a little bit late and he finished and made a big play.”

The Bulldogs led 36-34 at halftime and the teams played close throughout the second half. Allen’s 3-pointer with 2:55 remaining put the Gators ahead 66-61, but Aric Holman answered with a 3 on the next possession, and Weatherspoon tied it at 66 with a layup with 1:27 left.

Holman and Locke exchanged baskets in the final 24 seconds before Weatherspoon won it with his three-point play.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators have dropped three of their first four SEC games. The road doesn’t get easier with a road trip to Georgia this weekend.

Mississippi State: After losing two closes games to open SEC play, the Bulldogs finally closed out a game thanks to Weatherspoon’s heroics.

UP NEXT

Florida travels to Georgia on Saturday.

Mississippi State travels to Vanderbilt on Saturday.