Super Tuesday captured much of the nation’s attention as the schedule was light on college basketball action. Plenty of notable results still came through.
Tennessee stunned No. 6 Kentucky with a comeback road win at Rupp Arena. And in the Big Ten, Rutgers might have punched its NCAA tournament ticket with a win over No. 9 Maryland. Meanwhile, No. 16 Michigan State stayed hot with its third straight win over a top-20 team at No. 20 Penn State.
1. Tennessee stuns No. 6 Kentucky with second-half comeback road win
The night’s biggest upset belonged to Tennessee.
The Volunteers used an impressive second-half comeback to beat No. 6 Kentucky, 81-73, at Rupp Arena.
Tennessee was down by as many as 17 points. Trailing by 11 at the half, it looked like the Wildcats were completely in control. Riding an eight-game winning streak entering Tuesday night, Kentucky was a team peaking at just the right time before the postseason began. Now, after another puzzling loss to an unranked team at home this season, we just have additional question marks about how good (and consistent) this Wildcats team might actually be.
John Fulkerson deserves a massive amount of credit for Tennessee’s win. Soundly outplaying Kentucky’s talented group of big men, Fulkerson finished with 27 points and and six rebounds on 10-for-15 shooting. Fulkerson was tough to guard one-on-one and his established presence inside helped Josiah Jordan-James (16 points), Yves Pons (15 points) and Jordan Bowden (11 points) all get going.
Kentucky looked disjointed at times during the second half as they completely derailed after a promising start. Tyrese Maxey had a solid night with 21 points. But Maxey didn’t have a lot of consistent help. Immanuel Quickley (14 points on 4-for-14 shooting) and Nick Richards (12 points) both had issues scoring in the half court. And Kentucky’s bench only accounted for a handful of points as nobody else stepped up.
In the grand scheme of things, this outcome probably doesn’t have many direct implications on the NCAA tournament. Tennessee still has to likely win the SEC tournament to even sniff the NCAA tournament. And Kentucky was always going to have a difficult time catching up to the current projected No. 1 seeds — barring an unforeseen collapse.
The biggest takeaway here is that Kentucky is still capable of mental lapses against mediocre teams that can cost them games.
2. Rutgers earns its biggest win of the season over No. 9 Maryland
The Scarlet Knights might be dancing for the first time since 1991.
Rutgers earned its biggest win of the season with a decisive 78-67 win over No. 9 Maryland. A No. 11 seed in CBT’s latest Bracketology, Rutgers was stuck in last-four-byes status before Tuesday night’s win. Losing four of five entering Tuesday, Steve Pikell’s club needed to stop its recent freefall. But with another high-quality Q1 home win, the Scarlet Knights should breath a little easier entering the home stretch.
Jacob Young (17 points), Montez Mathis (15 points) and Geo Baker (11 points) led a balanced effort for Rutgers. Shooting an efficient 7-for-16 from three-point range, the Scarlet Knights limited themselves to seven turnovers on offense.
Maryland’s cold shooting also didn’t hurt. The Terps couldn’t buy a bucket from deep, going 6-for-32 from the floor. Besides for Anthony Cowan Jr. (19 points) and a late solid stretch from Jalen Smith (16 points), Maryland’s offense had a mediocre evening.
Now that Rutgers has secured this victory, its Big Ten finale against Purdue this weekend won’t be a dreaded must-win bubble-versus-bubble game. And with Purdue winning at Iowa on Tuesday night, the Boilermakers should enter that game with plenty of confidence. Obviously, the Scarlet Knights would like to win that one and keep momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament. But now that doesn’t feel like a must-win for Rutgers as much as it did before.
But the Rutgers court storm on Tuesday was well-deserved for its long-suffering fanbase. This is a season that fans of that program have waited decades for.
3. No. 16 Michigan State rallies to get past No. 20 Penn State
Izzo in March…
Michigan State continued its late-season surge with an impressive comeback road win over Penn State. Trailing by 15 at the half, the Spartans scored as many points the first 10 minutes of the second half (31) as they had in the entire first half. With Maryland’s loss to Rutgers, Michigan State is now tied with the Terps for the Big Ten conference lead with both teams at 13-6.
Xavier Tillman Sr. put together a monster double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds. Senior point guard Cassius Winston chipped in an efficient 14 points and seven assists. Perhaps most importantly, Michigan State’s defense showed up in the second half.
After Penn State blitzed the Spartans in the first half with 10 three-pointers, Michigan State didn’t allow a triple during the second half.
Michigan State now has four straight wins with three straight victories coming against top-20 teams. The last two of those wins came on the road.
Although Michigan State was sluggish at times during the season after being ranked No. 1 this preseason, this is currently one of the most dangerous teams in college basketball. The Spartans will get yet another ranked matchup in their regular-season finale when they host Ohio State this weekend.