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Saturday’s Things To Know: Louisville, Ole Miss roll as no top ten teams lose

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Blake Hinson, Ole Miss

Freshman guard Blake Hinson picked a terrific day to put together the best basketball game that he has ever played.

Playing on the road against a top 15 team in a rivalry game, Hinson scored a career-high 26 points on 8-for-16 shooting while hitting five threes as the Rebels improved to 13-2 on the season and 3-0 in the SEC with an 81-77 win at No. 14 Mississippi State.

Not bad for a player in just his third career conference game.

“I was super fun,” Hinson said, and I do not doubt that it was.

The bigger story here, however, is that suddenly, out of nowhere, the Rebels look like a team that is going to be very relevant at the top of the SEC this season. This is now their second straight win over a top 15 team — on Wednesday, they beat No. 11 Auburn by 15 points at home — and currently sit in first place in the league, tied with Tennessee. Weird things happen in conference play, and it is probably too early to jump to too many conclusions, but I do think it’s fair to say that there has not been a more pleasant surprise in the SEC this year and there may not be a single coach in the country that is outperforming expectations more than Davis is in his first season in Oxford.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Louisville Cardinals

Louisville entered Saturday just 72 hours removed from losing at Pittsburgh, and with a trip to North Carolina and the Dean Dome coming up, I’m not sure how many people expected much of anything from the Cardinals.

Those people, apparently, were foolish.

Because Louisville went out and absolutely smacked the Tar Heels around. They held Luke Maye to 3-for-14 shooting. They kept Coby White from having any kind of impact, and he didn’t hit a single field goal and finished with as many turnovers as he did points. They limited the Tar Heels to 34.5 percent shooting form the floor and a 3-for-22 mark from deep, and the reward for all of that hard work was an 83-62 win.

It was, believe it or not, the worst home loss that North Carolina has suffered under head coach Roy Williams, and frankly, seeing that happen at the hands of this iteration of the Louisville Cardinals is not something I ever expected to see happen.

So good for Louisville and good for Chris Mack. This win more or less cements a trip to the NCAA tournament so long as the Cardinals find a way to remain above .500 in league play.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Cam Reddish, Duke

Reddish scored 23 points, carrying Duke after Zion Williamson went out with an eye injury and hitting the game-winning three to beat no. 13 Florida State in Tallahassee, 80-78.

More on the Blue Devils below.

EXTRA ONIONS

There were plenty of helpings of onions on Saturday.

Let’s start with D’Marcus Simonds, who traveled while making this game-winning shot and then hopped on twitter to let the world know that, yes, he did travel, and he also committed an offensive foul, too:

Then there was this shot from Texas A&M’s T.J. Starks to beat Alabama on the road:

And this miracle from UTEP:

What a day, folks.

What a day.

SATURDAY’S WINNERS

TOP TEN TEAMS ON THE ROAD: I would have bet any amount of money that, at some point today, one of the seven top ten teams that were playing on the road would lose.

Someone, somewhere, playing a road game in league play would have an off shooting night, get a couple of bad whistles and head home with a loss.

And I would have been very, very wrong.

  • No. 1 Duke beat No. 13 Florida State, and once that three from Cam Reddish went down, I should have known that there was no chance a top ten team was losing.
  • No. 3 Tennessee pulled away from Florida down the stretch before Grant Williams and the rest of the Volunteers went full Marshall Henderson, gator chomping the entire student section:

  • No. 4 Virginia was barely challenged at Clemson, leaving South Carolina with a 20-point win despite barely breaking 60 themselves.
  • No. 5 Gonzaga was tied with San Francisco with less than three minutes left, but a pair of threes created separated and, eventually, the Zags would win 96-83, covering the spread by the time it was all said and done.
  • No. 7 Kansas got 18 points from Lagerald Vick as they went into Waco and picked off Baylor.
  • No. 8 Texas Tech got 22 points from Matt Mooney in a 68-62 win over Texas.
  • And No. 10 Nevada was able to take care of Fresno State on the road despite the fact that Fresno State looks like the second-best team in that league.

It was the rare day where an upset of a top ten team was nowhere to be found. This will not be the norm.

KANSAS STATE: At 8:16 p.m. ET on Wednesday I texted a prominent college basketball writer and asked if this was going to be the year where Bruce Weber would get fired. At that exact moment in time, the Wildcats were trailing West Virginia 42-21 at home in the second half.

Things looked bad.

Since I sent that text, Kansas State proceeded to outscore West Virginia 50-27 to win that game by two points, and then they went into Ames and knocked off No. 20 Iowa State, 58-57, in the gym that Kansas couldn’t find a way to beat the Cyclones. That’s one way to stick it to the idiots that are questioning job security.

KRISTIAN DOOLITTLE: Doolitte finished with 24 points and 10 boards to lead No. 23 Oklahoma as they knocked off No. 25 TCU, 76-74, in Norman. The Sooners trailed at the half, but with this win they keep pace with the rest of the league as they make a run at Kansas and a Big 12 regular season title.

SATURDAY’S LOSERS

OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes lost their third straight game on Saturday, falling at Iowa after losing at Rutgers and at home against Michigan State the last two games. Chris Holtmann can work magic as a head coach, but eventually the youth on their roster was going to catch up with it.

IOWA STATE: The Dauster Curse strikes again! Every time I get on board with a team, they immediately fall off of a cliff. This is proven. It’s a scientific fact. Last week, I called Iowa State a top ten team. This week, they lost at Baylor and they lost at home to Kansas State, who look like two of the bottom four teams in the Big 12.

I guess I’d like to walk that one back.

ST. JOHN’S: I know that the Johnnies were playing without Shamorie Ponds, but that doesn’t make a home loss to DePaul any more palatable. It’s not going to have all that much of an effect on their NCAA tournament standing — St. John’s is going to be dancing, and Ponds’ absence will be factored in by the committee — but this drops them two games behind Villanova atop the Big East standings.

But no one cares about regular season titles these days anyway.

SYRACUSE: The Orange lost by 14 points on Saturday. At home. To Georgia Tech. That’s not good, not when they have already lost to Buffalo, Old Dominion, Oregon and UConn. And guess what? They play at Duke on Monday. Good luck!

FINAL THOUGHT

Saturday was all the evidence that you needed that Duke is the best team in college basketball this season.

The Blue Devils were on the road playing against a top 15 team in a gym that has been their bugaboo for the last decade or so, and they played the entire second half without the player that just about everyone with a pulse believes will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and the National Player of the Year this year.

And it didn’t really matter.

Florida State looked pretty good, but R.J. Barrett (32 points) and Cam Reddish (23 points and the game-winning three) looked even better. It’s an embarrassment of riches, really. Lose the No. 1 overall pick and suddenly the third consensus top five pick, the one that has struggled for the last month of the season, figures things out and drops 23.

I’m sure that is a nice security blanket to have.

Reddish is actually the most interesting part of the Duke season. He is immensely talented — there are still people out there that think he has the highest ceiling of the three Duke freshmen — but he’s been in a funk for the last five weeks. He played just 16 minutes against Clemson and 20 minutes against Texas Tech and at Wake Forest. He entered Saturday shooting 25.4 percent from the floor and 18.4 percent from three over his last six games. It has not been pretty.

Saturday, however, was different. Without Zion Williamson on the floor, space and touches opened up, and Reddish pounced.

The question now is how he responds. Does this get him more involved in the offense? Does this mean that he’ll start knocking down the shots that he gets? Does this get Coach K to run more stuff for him?

Because the truth is that the issue here isn’t talent, it’s role. With Williamson, Barrett and Tre Jones on the roster, there are three players that play with the ball in their hands, and that’s actually what Reddish does best. It’s been an adjustment, one he has yet to truly figure out.

Was this the moment he woke up?

Because if it is, Duke just became scary.

Zach Norvell leads No. 5 Gonzaga over Loyola Marymount 73-55

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Zach Norvell Jr. scored 17 points and No. 5 Gonzaga used a stout defense to beat Loyola Marymount 73-55 on Thursday night, the eighth consecutive win for the Bulldogs since a pair of losses knocked them out of the top spot in The AP Top 25.

Brandon Clarke added 13 points, Corey Kispert 12 and Rui Hachimura 10 for Gonzaga (17-2, 4-0 West Coast), which beat Loyola Marymount for the 20th straight time. The Zags have won 18 straight games at home.

James Batemon led Loyola Marymount (13-5, 1-3) with 12 points.

Loyola used a slow-down offense and stingy defense to keep the scoring low, and it mostly accomplished that goal.

Gonzaga, which averages 92 points a game, led just 17-16 midway through the first half.

The Zags went on a 19-6 run the rest of the half to take a 36-22 lead at halftime. The Lions shot only 36 percent in the first and committed 11 turnovers.

A 3-pointer by Norvell highlighted a 14-2 Gonzaga run to open the second half that lifted the Bulldogs to a 50-24 lead. Meanwhile, the Lions were missing eight of their first 10 shots.

Loyola Marymount made just five of its first 20 shots in the second half, and fell behind 61-35 with less than 8 minutes left.

BIG PICTURE

Loyola Marymount: The Lions opened the season 11-1, but have dropped off since … The Lions ranked 13th in the NCAA in defense at 61.2 points per game … Their last win in this lop-sided series was in 2010. They have not won in Spokane since 1991 … The Lions have already surpassed last season’s 11 wins.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are cruising toward another WCC title, outscoring conference foes by nearly 30 points per game… The Zags suffered back-to-back losses to No. 3 Tennessee and at No. 13 North Carolina in mid-December and have not lost since … They lead the nation in field goal shooting at 52.6 percent and are second in scoring at 92.2 points per game … Gonzaga and Marquette are the only programs with both men’s and women’s teams in the Top 15.

UP NEXT

Loyola Marymount hosts Pepperdine on Saturday.

Gonzaga plays at last place Portland on Saturday.

Cassius Winston’s career-high 29 lifts No. 6 Spartans over Huskers

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Four nights after Tom Izzo called out Cassius Winston for his poor play in Michigan State’s previous game, the Spartans’ star point guard responded better than his coach would have expected.

Winston scored a career-high 29 points to go over 1,000 for his career, had six assists and played tough defense on Glynn Watson Jr. while leading No. 6 Michigan State past Nebraska 70-64 on Thursday night.

“I told him before the game, ‘You’re going to get measured on how you bounce back,’ ” Izzo said.

Winston more than passed the test.

“Cassius, the way he ran that whole thing, he was like a quarterback dissecting a defense,” Izzo said.

In a win at Penn State on Sunday, Winston had seven turnovers, and his 11 points were his fewest since Florida held him to 10 on Dec. 8. Izzo told reporters it was one of the worst games Winston had played in his three seasons.

Of the Spartans’ first 18 field goals against Nebraska, Winston scored eight of them and had assists on five others. He held Watson, the Huskers’ hottest player the last week, to 3-of-13 shooting from the field and eight points.

Izzo’s criticism motivated him, he said.

“Just get back on track, playing at the level I was playing at,” Winston said. “I want to play at the highest standard, my best ability. I’ve got to do that for this team and put us in the best situation.”

Michigan State (16-2, 7-0) won its 11th straight game overall and extended its school-record Big Ten winning streak to 19 games. The Cornhuskers (13-5, 3-4) had their school-record 20-game home win streak end.

Nick Ward added 15 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double. He also made his first 3-pointer of the season and second of his career.

“That should keep him happy for a week or 10 days,” Izzo said.

The Spartans led by 12 points in the final 2 minutes, but Nebraska cut the lead to four twice before Matt McQuaid made a pair of free throws for his first points with 14.2 seconds to put the game away.

Nebraska shot a season-low 32.8 percent and was just 5 of 26 on 3-pointers, 1 of 12 in the second half.

“I wasn’t very pleased with our offense in any way, shape or form,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said.

James Palmer, who led Nebraska with 24 points, struggled mightily from the field, going 6 of 21, but he made all 11 of his free throws.

“Palmer’s a good player, and I feel like I did a pretty good job on him,” McQuaid said. “I just tried to do what I could. He’s a bigger, more physical guard. I tried to get a couple charges, but things weren’t going my way. So I had to figure out different ways to guard him.”

Nebraska had hoped to build off its win at No. 25 Indiana on Monday night but couldn’t get going. The Huskers were trying for their first win over a top-10 opponent in nine tries.

“You need to build and play from the front against these teams,” Miles said.

He found no consolation in playing the Spartans close for most of the game, which had 11 lead changes and six ties.

“There are no moral victories,” Miles said. “I’m utterly mad and disappointed.”

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: This was a gut-check win for the Spartans, who were without Joshua Langford (ankle) for a fifth straight game and Kyle Ahrens (back) for a second in a row.

Nebraska: The Huskers were feeling pretty good about themselves after an impressive win at No. 25 Indiana on Monday, and they had an amped standing-room crowd on hand. But they could never find rhythm until it was too late against the nation’s No. 3 team in field-goal defense.

HE SAID IT

“We were paranoid of this game. They didn’t make shots tonight. Those things happen sometimes. Tim’s got a great team that’s going to be an NCAA Tournament team, and I hope they keep on winning now.” — Izzo.

UP NEXT

Michigan State hosts No. 19 Maryland on Monday.

Nebraska visits Rutgers on Monday.

WATCH: Ja Morant can’t be stopped

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The Ohio Valley Conference is just not equipped to deal with Ja Morant.

The Murray State guard just keeps dunking on anyone and everyone that stands in his way, the latest victim coming Thursday night at Eastern Illinois.

There’s just so much to love about this dunk. The athleticism. The explosiveness. The aggressiveness. The ferocity. It’s thunder meeting lightning at the rim.

If there’s someone who can stop Morant, a likely top-10 pick in June, it sure ain’t in the OVC.

UCLA, USC meet amid rocky seasons for crosstown rivals

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A fired coach. A transfer. Suspensions. Injuries. UCLA and Southern California have experienced it all barely halfway through the season.

Things began promisingly enough for the Bruins. They were an AP Top 25 team and were predicted to finish second in the Pac-12 before early consecutive losses to ranked Michigan State and North Carolina knocked them out. Then came stunning defeats at home to mid-majors Belmont and Liberty. Those precipitated the biggest shocker of all: coach Steve Alford’s firing on New Year’s Eve.

Murry Bartow was quickly tabbed as interim coach for the Bruins (10-7, 3-1 Pac-12). They’ve won three out of four games under him.

“We had a lot of ups and downs,” UCLA freshman Moses Brown said, “but I think we caught our stride and the sky is the limit for us.”

USC was predicted to finish fifth in a weakened Pac-12. The Trojans got off to a 5-2 start before dropping four in a row. They regrouped to reel off four straight wins, including a home sweep to open conference play. But they dropped a pair on the road, where freshman Kevin Porter Jr. got suspended last weekend.

In the midst of rocky seasons, the crosstown rivals meet Saturday at Galen Center. The Bruins have won four in a row in the series and are 8-4 at USC’s arena since it opened.

“Coming off a two-game losing streak, we’re kind of hoping this is a game that we can bounce back,” USC’s Nick Rakocevic said. “We want to be put in a good position for the rest of the Pac-12.”

Both teams would likely need to win the Pac-12 tournament title to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Last March, the Bruins played in the First Four for the first time in school history and lost. The Trojans were snubbed by the selection committee despite finishing second in the Pac-12 for the first time in 25 years after losing twice to UCLA.

“We play UCLA twice, but there’s 16 other games. You have to do well the rest of the league,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Whether you win or lose these games, yes, it’s great for a rivalry, it’s great for another win in your conference, but it’s a long Pac-12 season. We try to keep that in perspective no matter who we play even if it’s UCLA.”

The Trojans (9-8, 2-2) have played over half their games with eight or fewer scholarship players because of injuries and the recent transfer of Jordan Usher, who was suspended before he left.

“Nothing surprises us at this point,” Enfield said. “The injuries and distractions have had a significant impact on our team.”

Porter was back practicing with the Trojans this week, but he hasn’t been cleared to play in games.

“He’s working on some things off the court. He has very clear expectations that he has to meet,” Enfield said. “As he progresses, we will reevaluate his status.”

Bartow said the Bruins will prepare as if Porter will play Saturday. Before his suspension, Porter missed time with a leg injury.

USC’s Bennie Boatwright, a local product who was recruited by UCLA, has been on an offensive tear in his last seven games. He scored a career-high 37 points in an overtime loss at Oregon State and is averaging a team-leading 17.1 points. The Bruins are led by Kris Wilkes at 17.3 points a game.

“Inside, they’ve got some really, really good players,” said Bartow, who has the Bruins playing at a faster pace and zipping the ball around.

One of the intriguing matchups on Saturday will be the 6-foot-11 Rakocevic and Brown, who at 7-1 is the tallest player at UCLA in decades. Rakocevic averages 14.9 points and a league-leading 9.5 rebounds. Brown averages 11.9 points and 9.0 rebounds

“It’s going to be fun going against somebody like that,” Rakocevic said.

A famous name associated with the rivalry won’t be on the court.

USC’s Chuck O’Bannon, the son of former UCLA star Charles O’Bannon, is expected to seek a medical redshirt. The sophomore broke his pinky finger in practice in November, had surgery, got the cast off in December and it hasn’t healed properly. He’s still has pain, too, Enfield said.

Report: Cam Reddish cleared for Saturday’s showdown with Virginia while Tre Jones’ injury isn’t as severe as feared for Duke

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Duke may not be at full strength for its showdown with Virginia on Saturday, but the Blue Devils are on their way to that eventuality.

Cam Reddish is expected to play after missing Monday’s loss to Syracuse with an illness while Tre Jones will not miss an extended amount of time and is not initially ruled out for Saturday after suffering a shoulder injury, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told The Athletic on Thursday.

Reddish absence wasn’t expected to be a lengthy one, but there was fear that Jones’ might be after he suffered an AC sprain in a collision with Syracuse’s Frank Howard. Jones initially told coaches he thought he broke his collarbone, but x-rays revealed a sprain slightly more significant than a grade one.

“I don’t know if it’s for this game or the next game, but it’s not going to be long term, where it’s a month or something,” Krzyzewski told Dana O’Neil of The Athletic.  “He’s going to be back.”

While Jones hasn’t been ruled out for Saturday, he is unlikely to play against the Cavaliers, Krzyzewski said. That will diminish some of the luster for a game that pits The Associated Press’ top-ranked team vs. the coaches’ poll top team, but it’s ultimately fantastic news for the Blue Devils.

Losing Jones for any significant length of time would have been a significant blow to Duke. While Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Reddish headline the highlight reels and mock drafts, Jones’ skill, leadership and tenacity at the point guard position plays no small part in allowing that trio – and Duke at large – flourish. Without him, the machine doesn’t run as smoothly, as evidenced by the overtime home loss to the Orange.

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