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Saturday’s Things To Know: Recapping all of the college hoops action

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Cassius Winston was at his very best on Saturday afternoon. Playing in the early tip on the first fully-loaded conference season college hoops slate, Winston finished with 25 points and five assists as the No. 8 Spartans went into Columbus without Josh Langford and knocked off No. 14 Ohio State, 86-77.

Winston finished with 18 of his 25 points in the second half, as he torched C.J. Jackson for layups three times in the opening minutes of the half and forced Chris Holtmann to change his personnel. The Spartans played without their starting point guard on the floor for long stretches of the second half as a result. Ohio State’s offense stalled. Michigan State continued to execute, and by the time it was all said and done, Tom Izzo’s team had turned a seven point halftime deficit into a nine point road win to move to 3-0 in Big Ten play.

It was Winston that was the star on Saturday, outshining Columbus-native Nick Ward and outdueling a young Buckeye backcourt. He’s now averaging 17.7 points and 7.7 assists on the season with shooting splits of 47.7/83.0/45.7. He’s as efficient as point guards can get, and he’s doing all of that on a team that is going to push Michigan atop the Big Ten standings.

At this point, I need to start paying more attention to Winston in the Player of the Year Power Rankings.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Virginia Cavaliers

What No. 4 Virginia did to Florida State on Saturday afternoon should not go overlooked by anyone.

The final score was 65-52, which is impressive in its own right but is nothing compared to the way that the game actually played out. With just over two minutes left in the game and well after Virginia had already emptied their bench, the Cavaliers held a 65-36 lead. Florida State had scored eight points in the first four minutes, which means that over the course of a 34-minute stretch, Virginia held Florida State to just 28 points.

Should I mention that Florida State entered Saturday as the No. 9 team in the AP Poll and ranked in the top 15 on KenPom?

This was a total and utter annihilation of a team that is very capable of making it back to the Elite Eight this year. That should tell you everything that you need to know about this Virginia team. They are just as good defensively as they have been over the years, and this year they have two pros that carry their offense. That doesn’t include Kyle Guy, who finished with 21 points and five threes on Saturday, just three days after he went for a career-high 30 points against Marshall.

The Wahoos are better than they were last season, and that’s saying something.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra

Justin Wright-Foreman might actually be the player of the day. The Hofstra star went for 42 points as the Pride knocked off Northeastern on Saturday afternoon, but that’s not all he did.

He also hit this ridiculous game-winner at the buzzer:

Not a bad afternoon for that young man.

EXTRA ONIONS: Curran Scott, Tulsa

Right after USF at tied the game at 75 with 4.4 seconds left, the Golden Hurricane went the length of the court and did this:

Believe it or not, this is actually a pretty important win for Tulsa because USF has been decidedly not-that-bad this year.

WTF OF THE DAY: Lavall Jordan rips his pants

It was quite the afternoon for Butler head coach Lavall Jordan.

Not only did he coach his team to a blowout win over Creighton in Hinkle Fieldhouse, but he also managed to go viral because … he ripped the seam of his pants while coaching.

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

And when you rip the seam of your pants while coaching, the only option is to tie a towel around your waste and keep on coaching:

WINNERS

ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide made a statement on Saturday, as No. 13 Kentucky came into Tuscaloosa and left with a 77-75 loss. That final score would look much more impressive had the Tide not found a way to let the Wildcats back into the game in the final minutes. Tevin Mack was the hero, popping off for 20 of his 22 points in the first half while Donta Hall found a way to put Reid Travis in his back pocket. This Alabama team is more talented that I think anyone realizes, and this is the kind of win that will look really good for them on Selection Sunday.

IOWA STATE: I don’t need to say anything about the Cyclones beyond this.

GONZAGA: The Zags smoked Santa Clara on Saturday night, but the best news for them is that they got back both Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall from their injuries.

NEW MEXICO: The Lobos have not been good this season. They entered Saturday with a 6-6 record against Division I competition. They were ranked 190th on KenPom. They had lost to New Mexico State by 35 points. They lost to Saint Mary’s by 25. They lost at home to North Texas and Penn.

And on Saturday, they handed No. 6 Nevada their first loss of the season, an 85-58 beatdown in The Pit. I mean, what in the world? With all due respect to the Lobos, I think that this loss said more about Nevada than it did New Mexico, but it also left me scratching my head — I know that they just got Carlton Bragg back, but there is enough talent on that roster that New Mexico probably should be better than it has been this year.

OKLAHOMA: The Sooners went into Stillwater and picked off Oklahoma State, which means that this Oklahoma team is now 12-2 on the season and is sitting pretty with eight Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 wins, the most of any team in college basketball. They were already a No. 4 seed in our most recent bracket projection.

SHAMORIE PONDS: Ponds finished with another monster performance at Georgetown, finishing with 37 points in a 97-94 overtime win over the Hoyas. It is going to be a tremendously fun race to watch and see who wins Big East Player of the Year, Ponds or Markus Howard.

LOSERS

OREGON: As if things weren’t already bad enough for the Ducks after losing Bol Bol for the season and Kenny Wooten for a couple more weeks, Oregon went out on Saturday and lost a rivalry game at home, falling to Oregon State, 77-72, behind a 28 point outburst from Tres Tinkle. The Ducks were supposed to be the second-most likely option for an at-large bid in the Pac-12 behind Arizona State. Both teams lost at home this week to teams projected to finish in the bottom half of the conference.

That’s not ideal.

FLORIDA: The Gators had been one of the hottest teams in college basketball heading into Saturday. Then they opened up a double-digit lead on South Carolina in both the first half and the second half. Then they blew both of those leads, allowed the Gamecocks to tie the game up in the final seconds and then lost like this:

That’s not ideal, either.

CINCINNATI: The Bearcats had finally managed to convince people that they might actually be pretty god this year, and then they had to go and do this: Lose at East Carolina. This is a bad loss. A really, really bad loss. East Carolina is the team in the AAC that, along with Tulane, you cannot lose to. They are going to go onto Cincinnati’s tournament profile as a bad loss and drag down their computer numbers. In our most recent bracket, Cincinnati was a No. 6 seed, so they have some room to work with.

NEVADA: Oh, we’ll get to them.

FINAL THOUGHT

Nevada was absolutely embarrassed on Saturday night.

New Mexico mollywhopped them. The Pit looked like it did in Steve Alford’s glory days. The Wolf Pack got down 22-9, trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half and eventually ended up losing 85-58 in a game that they never truly threatened to win.

And that’s a problem for this group, who did not look all that impressive through the first six weeks of the season. They needed a second half comeback to beat Arizona State. They struggled to knock off Grand Canyon. They beat South Dakota State by four, Akron by six and needed to pull away from Utah in the second half to win.

Now this, a 27 point home loss to a team that entered the day ranked 190th by KenPom, a team that had lost by 35 points to New Mexico State, 25 points to Saint Mary’s and to Colorado, North Texas and Penn in the same building that they manhandled Nevada.

The question that we now need answered is which team is Nevada — the one that we fell in love with because of last year’s run to the Sweet 16 and their wins away from home against teams we once thought were pretty good (Arizona State, USC, etc.), or are they the team whose best win, according to KenPom, is either at Loyola-Chicago or at home against Utah State?

I understood why Nevada had some slow starts early on this season. This is a team full of fifth-year seniors that thought they were headed to the NBA. They’ve already won the Mountain West title and are playing out a regular season where they may not end up with a top 50 KenPom team on their schedule when it’s all said and done. It makes sense that this group threw it into cruise control — hell, the Warriors have done it for three straight regular seasons.

On Saturday, they finally got caught coasting by a team that was able to slow down their one-on-one game in the second half.

Frankly, I’m pretty interested in seeing where Nevada goes from here, because I do think that this team can beat just about anyone in college basketball. That’s how high their ceiling is. This roster is built around three all-american caliber players that thrive in isolation and when asked to make a play against smaller, less-talented defenders. That’s what they do, and on the nights when the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline get it rolling, they can do things like they did in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year: light up Cincinnati, one of the nation’s toughest defensive teams.

But Saturday proved that they are not talented enough to avoid getting caught on the nights they decide not to show up, and that matters because of how weak their schedule is. To put this into context, Saint Mary’s entered Selection Sunday with a 28-5 record last season, a win at Gonzaga and four of their five losses away from home — their one home less was to the Zags. They missed the NCAA tournament. Now, Nevada’s non-conference schedule was tougher than that Saint Mary’s team, and the Mountain West is better than last year’s WCC, but there’s nothing that Nevada can do that will be remotely as impressive as winning at Gonzaga.

We’re still three losses away from really needing to have this conversation, but if Nevada can lose by 27 points at New Mexico, why should we assume that they’ll go 17-1 in the Mountain West?

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.