Monday Overreactions: Tennessee’s fine, P.J. Washington the GOAT, Texas Tech Big 12 champs?

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Cameron Young, Quinnipiac

It’s been a decade since someone in the college ranks has done what Cameron Young did on Sunday afternoon.

A senior guard from California, Young scored 55 points in a triple-overtime win on the road against Siena. He was 15-for-24 from the floor, shot 9-for-13 from three and made 16-of-20 free throws. It’s the first time since Dec. 12, 2008, that a Division I basketball player has gone for 55 points. The last time it was was when North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside had 60 against Stephen F. Austin, also in triple-overtime.

Young also added 10 rebounds in the game, making him the first player to do that in the last 20 seasons. In three games last week, Young averaged 36 points.

But that’s not the end of it.

Jalen Pickett, a freshman point guard for Siena, finished with 46 points and 13 assists in the loss. That’s the first time that a Division I player has posted at least 45 points and 10 assists since 2003, with LIU’s Antawn Dobie did it against St. Francis. The 101 combined points that they scored is the most by a pair of opposing players since 1996.

What a wild, wild basketball game.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: LSU Tigers

As wild as this sounds, the SEC regular season title is now LSU’s to lose.

On Saturday, the Tigers avoided a letdown by going into Athens and knocking off Georgia. It was their second road win of the week, as they went into Lexington and knocked off Kentucky on Tuesday evening. The Tigers are now 21-4 overall and 11-1 in the SEC. They’ve played five of their last seven games on the road and now head back to Baton Rouge for a three-game homestand.

And with six games left in the regular season, LSU’s SEC regular season title is in their control.

As things currently stand, the Tigers are tied for first in the conference with Tennessee, a game in front of Kentucky. LSU hosts the Vols next Saturday, meaning that if they find a way to win out, they will be the outright SEC regular season champions over a pair of top five teams and national title contenders.

MONDAY OVERREACTIONS

1. TENNESSEE IS JUST FINE AFTER GETTING EMBARRASSED BY KENTUCKY

It feels weird that I need to say this after Tennessee had their 19-game winning streak snapped on the road against a top five team, but here we are.

As bad as Saturday night went for Tennessee, I’m convinced that this had as much to do with the situation and the matchup as anything. Tennessee’s offense runs through the paint and it runs through Grant Williams. The problem is that Williams — whose talent is his ability to use his strength, leverage and understanding of angles — rans into the one player that can nullify the things that he does best in Reid Travis, who may be, pound for pound, the strongest player in the country.

Once that happened, Tennessee didn’t really have an answer, not after Kyle Alexander got into foul trouble and the Vols were forced to play against what has arguably been the best frontline in the country the last month of the season without a player taller than 6-foot-6 on the floor.

And don’t forget, this game was played on Kentucky’s home floor just 96 hours after they suffered a disappointing, controversial loss against LSU with their chances of an SEC regular season title on the line.

Tennessee is still a top five team, one that’s good enough to put together six straight wins in March.

Sometimes even good teams get their tails kicked.

2. P.J. WASHINGTON WILL BE THE SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR AS OF TODAY

There has been no one in college basketball that has been better than P.J. Washington over the course of the last month, and it is what has turned Kentucky from a good team to one of the nation’s very best. Over the course of the last eight games, Washington is averaging 21.0 poits, 8.1 boards, 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals. He was the best player on the court for the Wildcats in Saturday’s demolition of Tennessee, scoring at will in the post and leading Kentucky to an 86-69 win that they needed to get if they had any hope of winning an SEC regular season title.

Now, Grant Williams has been terrific all season for Tennessee, and it’s impossible to ignore what Tremont Waters means for LSU, but if Washington keeps up the pace that he has been playing at over the course of the final six regular season games on Kentucky’s schedule, I don’t know how you can come to any conclusion other than him being the best player in the conference.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

3. KANSAS IS GOING TO WIN THE BIG 12 AGAIN

Despite the fact that the Jayhawks have been playing without Marcus Garrett and Lagerald Vick to go along with the absence of Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa, and despite the fact that they are currently starting four freshmen, one of whom was supposed to redshirt this season, the Jayhawks are currently sitting one game out of first place in the Big 12, trailing a Kansas State team that is looking at a future potentially without Dean Wade on the floor.

The standings, as of today, look like this:

  • Kansas State (9-3)
  • Texas Tech (9-4)
  • Kansas (9-4)
  • Iowa State (8-4)

Kansas still has to play at Texas Tech next Saturday in the game that appears to be the most likely to keep Kansas from calling themselves Big 12 champions one again. The Jayhawks also host Kansas State while Texas Tech pays a visit to Iowa State on the last day of the regular season.

Those are the games that will decide the Big 12 regular season title. For what it’s worth, KenPom is currently projecting that all four of those teams will finish the season at 12-6 in Big 12 play.

Is anyone really going to bet against Kansas finding a way to get it done and keep the streak alive?

4. BUT DON’T SLEEP ON TEXAS TECH

The Red Raiders are currently the highest-ranked team in the Big 12 on KenPom, and that’s because they’ve started steam-rolling Big 12 competition. They’ve won their last four games by an average of 24 points, and in their last three games, they are shooting 34-for-76 (44.7 percent), and in the process have gone from being ranked 106th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric to 65th.

This is a team that is starting to hit their stride, and with the nation’s best defense, they don’t really need to do much more.

But the reason that it’s important to keep an eye on this team is because of who they have left on their schedule. They play Kansas at home. They play at Iowa State. A win in both of those games puts them a game up on them in the standings, and with just three other games on their schedule — Oklahoma State, at TCU, Texas — seeing them win out would not be too unrealistic.

Then all it would take for the Red Raiders to win the outright regular season title is for Kansas State to lose one game other than at Kansas with a banged up Dean Wade.

It could happen …

5. MICHIGAN STATE CAN BE TAKEN OUT OF THE TITLE CONVERSATION WITHOUT NICK WARD

This probably isn’t even an overreaction.

This is mostly just the truth.

The Spartans entered the season as a team that didn’t have all that much high-end talent on the roster, and now they are down their second and third best players with Josh Langford done for the year and Nick Ward dealing with a hairline fracture in his left (shooting) hand. Without Ward finding a way to get healthy before the tournaments start, we can take Michigan State out of the discussion as a title contender.

Cassius Winston is really, really good, but what he does best is pass. Now, without those two, the players he’s going to be passing to are Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins and Aaron Henry? Goins is a former walk-on that wears six knee braces and four shoulder braces every game. Henry is a promising freshman that is a year or two away from being something more than a role player. McQuaid is one of the most improved players in the country and a vital cog to what Michigan State wants to do, but if he’s your second-best weapon offensively you are going to struggle to score.

There appears to be a chance that Ward is back before the season comes to an end.

Michigan State better hope that proves to be true.

Gardner, Beekman lift No. 8 Virginia past No. 22 N.C. State

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia coach Tony Bennett had a simple message for his team after a poor defensive performance in a loss at Virginia Tech.

“Talk is cheap. Do it. Show us, to our players, to us as a staff, show up, work in practice, step to between the lines and don’t lose yourself in anything but what your job is,” Bennett said he told his players and assistants in the two days of practice since the 74-68 loss.

The team clearly got the message.

Jayden Gardner scored 18 points, Reece Beekman added 15 and No. 8 Virginia cooled off red-hot No. 22 North Carolina State 63-50 on Tuesday night.

“We had a great two days before State, you know, preparation and just diving in,” Gardner said. “It’s just this is the time of the season we need to lock in and you know, we’re playing for something. … We’re trying to win a championship.”

The Cavaliers (18-4, 10-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) handed the Wolfpack (19-6, 9-5) their second loss in 10 games and moved into a share of first place in the conference with Clemson and Pittsburgh.

The Wolfpack arrived leading the ACC with an average of 79.6 points and were 19-2 when scoring at least 70, but became the 38th consecutive league opponent held below 70 points at John Paul Jones Arena.

“Obviously, as I watched the Virginia Tech game and knew that those guys dropped the game and, you know, any time you’re going to play a very good defensive team on their home floor, you know you’re going to get that energy,” North Carolina State coach Kevin Keatts said.

Terquavion Smith led N.C. State with 19 points and Casey Morsell, who spent his first two seasons at Virginia and was jeered nearly every time he touched the ball in his first game back, had 18 points before fouling out in the final minute.

Jarkel Joiner, the Wolfpack’s No. 2 scorer at 16.2 points per game, missed 12 of his 14 shots and scored five points. D.J. Burns Jr. (eight points) was the only other Wolfpack player to score.

Reserve forward Kadin Shedrick, who did not play in Virginia’s loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday, had 10 points and six rebounds for the Cavaliers.

Virginia scored the first six points of the second half to open its largest lead at 40-20, but the Wolfpack began whittling away, fueled by a 12-6 burst in which Smith and Morsell each hit a pair of 3-pointers.

“In the past, we’ve been able to control the tempo and to get those guys to play a little bit faster and even turn them over,” said Keatts, whose team had won three of the last four meetings. “But we couldn’t.”

N.C. State twice closed within nine points but got no closer. Morsell’s 3 made it 55-46 with 3:46 to play, but Beekman made a free throw and then took a no-look pass from Kihei Clark for an easy backdoor layup.

Virginia closed the first half on an 8-2 run to lead 34-20 at the break. The Wolfpack missed 10 straight shots before Burns scored just before the half.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: The Wolfpack got scoring from just three players – Smith with nine points, Morsell with seven and Burns with four – in the opening half. They shot 25.8% with Smith going 4 for 13 and Joiner 0 for 6. … Burns picked up his third personal foul less than a minute into the second half after getting the ball stolen by Beekman. He stayed in the game and drew his fourth foul on a drive by Clark with 16:03 left.

Virginia: Beekman started the game ranking first in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (3.0) and third in assists (5.1). He had four assists and one turnover. Clark started first in assists (6.0) and second in assist/turnover ratio (2.8). He had six assists and three turnovers.

UP NEXT

N.C. State: At Boston College on Saturday.

Virginia: Hosts Duke on Saturday.

Michigan St. rallies to win after giving up lead to Maryland

Maryland v Michigan State
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Joey Hauser scored 20 points and Tyson Walker had 17 and Michigan State rallied after scoring the game’s first 15 points to beat Maryland 63-58 on Tuesday.

A.J. Hoggard had 10 rebounds and eight assists for Michigan State.

Jahmir Young scored 17 points for Maryland, Hakim Hart 12, Julian Reese 11 and Donta Scott 10 for the Terrapins.

The Spartans (15-9, 7-6 Big Ten) used an 8-0 run in which Walker made a layup and 3-pointer wrapped around a 3 from Jaden Akins for a 52-48 lead with 7:44 remaining and Michigan State led for the remainder.

The Terrapins erupted for a 12-0 run in less than three minutes in the second half turning a 38-26 deficit into a 38-all tie. Young and Hart posted back-to-back three-point plays, and Hart’s 3-pointer with 13:01 knotted it at 38. Prior to that 3, Hart was 3-for-last-27 shooting from beyond the arc. Maryland finished shooting 3 of 22 from distance.

Michigan State started the game with a 15-0 run and led 31-22 at halftime. Coming off an 81-46 win over Maryland (16-8, 7-6 Big Ten) on Saturday, the Terrapins have yet to win back-to-back contests in almost three years.

The Terrapins host Penn State on Saturday. Michigan State travels to play Ohio State on Sunday.

Arkansas pulls away from Kentucky in 2nd half, wins 88-73

Arkansas v Kentucky
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Ricky Council IV scored 20 points, Anthony Black had 19 and Arkansas used a blazing second half to pull away and beat Kentucky 88-73 on Tuesday night, giving coach Eric Musselman his 200th collegiate victory.

Black added five assists and five steals. Makhel Mitchell and Davonte Davis scored 15 points each and Jordan Walsh 13 for the Razorbacks (17-7, 6-5 SEC) who have won five straight conference games, including three in a row. It was Arkansas’ third straight win over the Wildcats (16-8, 7-4). The teams meet again in Fayetteville in a regular-season finale on March 4.

Cason Wallace scored 24 points to lead Kentucky, which had won six straight conference games. Chris Livingston added 13 points and Jacob Toppin and Antonio Reeves 11 each.

After a first half with 11 lead changes, there were none in the second when Arkansas shot 72% and Council and Black combined for 25 points.

Three steals, including two by Black who turned them into consecutive dunks, fueled an 11-3 run to begin the second half for a 52-43 lead. A basket by Black made it a double-digit lead with eight minutes left as the Razorbacks sank 7 of 9 over that span to finish the game. They made 8 of 10 free throws over the final two minutes.

Kentucky coach John Calipari was given a technical foul with 33 seconds left in the first half. Black sank the resulting free throws for a three-point lead before Daimion Collins’ midrange jumper made it 41-40 at halftime.

Both teams shot over 50% in the first half with Wallace leading all scorers with 11 points. Kentucky dipped under 50% for the game while Arkansas finished at 63% and outscored the Wildcats 46-28 in the paint.

Arkansas is home against Mississippi State and Kentucky is at Georgia, both games on Saturday.

Tulane secures 101-94 OT win over Cincinnati

Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW ORLEANS – Kevin Cross and Jalen Cook scored 27 points each as Tulane took down Cincinnati 101-94 in overtime on Tuesday night.

Cross added 15 rebounds and six assists for the Green Wave (16-7, 9-3 American Athletic Conference). Cook added 14 assists. Jaylen Forbes scored 24 points and shot 6 for 15 (3 for 6 from 3-point range) and 9 of 9 from the free throw line.

Landers Nolley II finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Bearcats (16-9, 7-5). Ody Oguama added 16 points and 13 rebounds for Cincinnati. In addition, David Dejulius finished with 12 points, eight assists and three steals.

Tulane entered halftime down 37-28. Cross paced the team in scoring in the first half with 10 points. Forbes scored 18 second-half points and hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.

Tulane scored seven unanswered points to break a tie and lead with 42 seconds left in overtime.

No. 16 Oklahoma women take 1st lead in OT, rally past Baylor

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WACO, Texas – Ana Llanusa and Skylar Vann each scored 20 points and No. 16 Oklahoma took its first lead of the game in overtime before rallying past Baylor 98-92 on Tuesday night.

The Sooners trailed for 39 minutes in regulation and were down 75-63 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Baylor turned it over twice on inbounds plays in the closing seconds of regulation and Taylor Robertson tied at 83-all on a wide-open 3-pointer with 14 seconds left.

Llanusa started overtime with a 3-pointer, and she finished with eight points during the extra session. Baylor never led in overtime, shooting 2 of 6.

Robertson, who tied Danielle Robinson’s program record of 140 starts, finished with 14 points and three 3s for Oklahoma (19-4, 9-3 Big 12), which trails Texas (18-6, 9-2) in the hunt for its first conference title since 2009. Nevaeh Tot added 13 points, Liz Scott added 11 points and eight rebounds and Madi Williams had nine points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

The Sooners, the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense at 86.5 points per game, have scored at least 88 points 14 times this season, seven in conference.

Caitlin Bickle scored a career-high 30 points with four 3s and Sarah Andrews added 20 points for Baylor (16-7, 7-4). Freshman Darianna Littlepage-Buggs had 14 points and 17 rebounds and Ja’Mee Asberry scored 11. Jaden Owens had 14 of Baylor’s 25 assists on 32 field goals.

Bickle was 8 of 11 from the field, including 4 of 7 from distance, and Littlepage-Buggs recorded her sixth double-double in the last seven games.

It was the first time in 20 years the Sooners were ranked in game against an unranked Bears squad. Oklahoma continues its road trip at Kansas State on Sunday. Baylor plays at Oklahoma State on Saturday.