Javan Felix

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Niang, Morris lead No. 14 Iowa State past No. 24 Texas

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After falling at Texas Tech for the second straight season midweek, No. 14 Iowa State needed to bounce back with No. 24 Texas visiting Hilton Coliseum. The return of Jameel McKay, who was suspended for two games, certainly helped the Cyclones and the play of Georges Niang and Monte Morris was key as well. But the biggest difference on this night was the fact that Iowa State was able to limit the effectiveness of Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor.

 

Taylor scored just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting from the field, and with Morris and Niang scoring 24 points apiece the Cyclones won by the final score of 85-75.

Taylor had multiple opportunities to make plays around the basket thanks to his ability to beat defenders off the bounce, but he struggled to finish. Add in a 0-for-4 night from three, and Texas’ most dangerous offensive option was unable to duplicate his performance in the first meeting between the two teams. In Texas’ 94-91 overtime win over the Cyclones January 12, Taylor scored 28 points and dished out six assists with just one turnover, shooting 11-for-17 from the field.

Four Longhorns finished in double figures, with Tevin Mack and Javan Felix scoring 18 apiece, but with Morris decisively winning the point guard matchup Texas was unable to pick up the win on the road.

For Iowa State the aforementioned tandem of Morris and Niang performed as they did in the first meeting, which should come as no surprise. What helped them, especially when it came to Texas attacking the basket, was the presence of McKay. McKay finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes of action, and to have their best interior defender back on the floor certainly helped the Cyclones on this night.

With their lack of depth Iowa State’s margin for error is small, especially when it comes to foul trouble, injuries and disciplinary reasons. Even with Texas’ size advantage Iowa State outscored them in the paint 48-34, and McKay’s defensive ability factored into that. The Cyclones can put points on the board with the best of them, but at some point they’ll need to string together stops as the games get even bigger.

Iowa State managed to do that down the stretch, with Morris and Niang running the show offensively. And that’s a good formula to be able to rely upon as the season approaches its most important month.

Texas throws wrench into Big 12 race, beats No. 6 West Virginia

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With No. 6 West Virginia convincingly beating No. 3 Kansas last week and losing to No. 1 Oklahoma on a Khadeem Lattin tip-in with less than five seconds remaining, Bob Huggins’ team rightfully moved up in the national polls released Monday. But Wednesday night’s home game against Texas served as a reminder of what can happen to “Press Virginia” when they aren’t forcing turnovers and can’t make free throws.

Shaka Smart’s team took good care of the ball throughout, committing just eight turnovers, and West Virginia managed to shoot just 8-for-23 from the foul line. Add in a 31.1 percent shooting night from the field, and the end result for the Mountaineers was a 56-49 home defeat few saw coming.

Of all the players on the court Texas senior Javan Felix was the only one who could put together a respectable night offensively, as he scored a game-high 17 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 from the foul line. As important was the fact that he and fellow guard Isaiah Taylor combined to commit just one turnover, quite the achievement when considering what West Virginia is capable of doing with its full-court pressure.

The lack of live-ball turnovers kept West Virginia from getting scoring opportunities in the open floor, and as a result the Longhorns were able to force the Mountaineers to find (and make) shots in the half-court. WVU couldn’t make those shots, shooting 3-for-21 from three, and despite rebounding 47.1 percent of their misses (24 offensive boards) the Mountaineers produced just 14 second-chance points.

These kind of offensive nights were always the concern regarding West Virginia, even with players such as Jevon Carter and Jaysean Paige stepping forward at various points into the “shot-maker” role held by Juwan Staten in each of the two seasons prior. Texas took away the “easy” shots by taking care of the basketball, and the end result was a quality win for a team that’s already beaten the likes of No. 2 North Carolina and No. 19 Iowa State.

WEEKLY AWARDS: Javan Felix’s big shot, Wichita State’s bigger week

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Javan Felix, Texas

Before we get into what it means, let’s talk for a minute about what actually happened. Texas upset No. 3 North Carolina, 84-82, in a game where their defense didn’t do all that much to slow down the Tar Heels. They won because they were able to keep UNC’s big men in check — specifically off the offensive glass — and because they shot the lights out, no one more so than Felix. He finished with 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting, hitting 5-for-7 from beyond the arc, but his biggest shot of the day may or may not have come with time left on the clock. A missed Isaiah Taylor jumper happened to bounce out to Felix who buried an 18-footer than came a split-second before the buzzer.

This is a critical win for the Longhorns for a couple reasons. For starters, it’s the kind of non-conference victory that is going to look really good on their résumé come tournament time. I still think North Carolina is the best team in the country, but at the very least, the Tar Heels now have a win over a team that is going to be in the top ten range all year long. That’s the difference between a 10 seed and the NIT.

But this was also the most visible non-conference game that Texas was playing. It came at home, on ESPN, against a blue-blood program on the first Saturday after yet another disappointing football season. It was always a struggle for Rick Barnes to get Texas fans fully committed to supporting the basketball team, and Shaka Smart is likely to have some of those same issues. But for a fan base desperate for a good team to root for, the timing of this win in this fashion could not have been more perfect.

THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • Kelan Martin, Butler: Martin had 25 points and 11 boards in 20 minutes off the bench in a come-from-behind win over Tennessee on Saturday, which followed up a 20-points, eight-rebound performance — also in just 20 minutes — on Monday against Indiana State. Martin is averaging 23.0 points over his last three games.
  • Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma: Buddy Hield is the guy that gets all the attention for Oklahoma, but Cousins was the best player on the floor in their blowout win over No. 9 Villanova, finishing with 19 points, 10 assists and six boards. He followed that up with 15 points, five assists and five boards against Oral Roberts.
  • Jameel McKay, Iowa State: Iowa State came back from 20 points down to beat Iowa at home on Thursday night, and McKay was the hero in that game. He finished with 20 points, 12 boards and a pair of blocks, but it was his energy — eight of those rebounds were offensive — that changed the course of the game.
  • Isaac Hamilton, UCLA: Hamilton looks like he is finally living up to his billing as a top 20 recruit in the country. He scored a career-high 21 points to help the Bruins avoid an upset against LBSU and followed that up with 20 points in UCLA’s win at No. 20 Gonzaga. He also added seven assists and seven steals this week.
  • Rodney Bullock, Providence: Bullock came up huge for Providence this week, scoring 15 second half points in the win over Boston College and following that up with 14 points, 13 boards, four steals and three blocks in a win over Bryant. Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil both missed the second half against BC and Dunn didn’t play against Bryant.
  • BENCH: Melo Trimble (Maryland), Josh Scott (Colorado), Allonzo Trier (Arizona), London Perrantes (Virginia)
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TEAM OF THE WEEK: Wichita State Shockers

This week was the most important week of the regular season for the Shockers. Having lost four of their first six games, Wichita State was in a position where they not only needed to prove — to themselves, to their fans, to the media — that their early season losses were a direct result of injuries to the likes of Fred VanVleet and Anton Grady, but they needed to start building a résumé that would give them a chance to play in the NCAA tournament this season if they don’t happen to win the Missouri Valley’s at-large bid.

And they did just that.

On Wednesday, the Shockers beat a talented UNLV team and followed that up by blowing out No. 25 Utah. In total, the Shockers gave up 100 points on the week, playing the kind of physical half court defense that we’ve become accustomed to from Gregg Marshall coached teams. VanVleet doesn’t quite look like he’s totally himself yet, but he had bursts in both games where it was quite obvious his hamstring is feeling better than it did prior to the Advocare Invitational in Orlando.

As of this moment, Wichita State is probably back to being one of the top 15-20 teams in the country, particularly if guys like Zach Brown and Markus McDuffie are going to play the way they did on Saturday.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Xavier Musketeers: Did anyone make a bigger statement this weekend than Xavier? The Musketeers totally blew the doors off of arch-rival Cincinnati, a pretty good team in their own right this season. The Muskies look like a legitimate title contender.
  • UCLA Bruins: The Bruins may be the most confounding team in the country. They lost to Monmouth at home, lost to Wake Forest in Maui and got their doors blown off by Kansas. They also beat then-No. 1 Kentucky and, on Saturday, went into Spokane and beat No. 20 Gonzaga at the Kennel. Are you buying them yet?
  • Marquette Golden Eagles: Even if Marquette misses the NCAA tournament this season, their season will be considered somewhat of a success as the Golden Eagles picked off in-state rival Wisconsin in the Kohl Center on Saturday. They seem to have made a renewed commitment to getting the ball into the paint.
  • Boise State Broncos: It’s been tough-sledding for Boise State early on this season, but the Broncos picked up two big wins this week. It started when they avoided getting upset by Loyola Marymount and ended with a win over No. 24 Oregon in Boise, a win that is only going to look better as the season progresses.
  • Chattanooga Moccasins: Not only did the Mocs go into Dayton Arena and knock off the Flyers on Saturday, they did it without their best player, Casey Jones. In his first season as head coach, Matt McCall has now landed wins over Georgia, Illinois and Dayton. Not bad.
  • SMU Mustangs: In their only game this week, the Mustangs pounded Michigan. It really is a shame this team is banned from the tournament, because they are certainly capable of getting to a Final Four this year.

SET YOUR DVR

  • No. 25 Utah vs. No. 8 Duke, Sat. 12:00
  • No. 9 Villanova at No. 10 Virginia, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 1 Michigan State at Northeastern, 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 3 North Carolina vs. UCLA, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
  • Indiana vs. Notre Dame, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • No. 23 Cincinnati at VCU, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • No. 18 Butler vs. No. 11 Purdue, Sat. 5:00 p.m.
  • No. 16 Baylor at Texas A&M, 9:00 p.m.
  • UNLV at No. 13 Arizona, Sat. 9:30 p.m.

VIDEO: You Make The Call: Should Texas have beaten North Carolina?

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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The biggest win in Shaka Smart’s short tenure as the head coach at Texas ended in thrilling fashion: A Javan Felix 15-footer at the buzzer to knock off No. 3 North Carolina.

But that excitement wasn’t without controversy.

There are actually two things to touch on here:

  1. If you’re wondering why Felix was so open there, watch Marcus Paige when the shot went up. He gets run over by Connor Lammert, or Brice Johnson, or both of them. Did Paige get fouled?
  2. Did Felix actually get the shot off before the buzzer?

Here’s my take: the call was too close to overrule on review when it came to Felix’s shot, although I think that he actually did get it off in time.

The Paige foul is more intriguing. I think that he probably did get fouled, but A) That call is never, ever going to get made, and B) Even if Paige doesn’t go flying, he would have been so far out of position, pinned down by Lammert, that he never would have challenged Felix’s jumper anyway.

What’s your take?