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Wednesday’s Things to Know: Duke ‘not competitive’ in loss at N.C. State, and halfcourt buzzer-beater gets waved off

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The biggest news of the night came out of Newark, where Seton Hall got a buzzer-beater to defeat Butler, but that wasn’t the only action across the country. Here’s what else you need to know:

1. Wolfpack pick up huge resume win in blowout of Duke

The headline is going to that Duke lost, because Duke is Duke and the Blue Devils are the sixth-ranked team in the country. And when Duke, being Duke, gets throttled by an unranked team, as the Blue Devils did in an 88-66 loss to NC State, that goes double.

“Sometimes when you’ve eaten a lot, you’re not as hungry,” Mike Krzyzewski said of his Duke team. “Our team obviously tonight didn’t feel like they needed the win. You have to stay hungry while you’re winning at that level because we’re not a team at that level, we’ve just won that many games and tonight we were not competitive.”

Really, though, this is a much bigger result for the Wolfpack than it is for Coach K’s team.

Kevin Keatts and Co. entered a monumental week with a resume that wouldn’t measure up to an NCAA tournament berth with losses to Georgia Tech (twice), Memphis, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Boston College (on Sunday) outweighing a number of good-but-not-great victories.

They’ve taken the first step in changing that reality with their thumping of the Blue Devils, who had won seven-straight coming into the evening.

Markell Johnson scored 28 points while Devon Daniels had 25 and DJ Funderburk 21. The Wolfpack converted at a 45.1 percent clip overall from the floor and made 8 of 13 from 3-point range (61.5 percent). They had just 10 turnovers and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. Perhaps most impressively they took a couple of big punches from Duke in the early part of the second half that many an ACC foe has been staggered by, but NC State found its footing and punched back to earn a 22-point win.

Wednesday, though, was just half of the Wolfpack’s big week. On Saturday, Florida State will visit PNC Arena in Raleigh, giving Keatts a second shot at another resume-bolstering win. The victory against Duke makes this week a win regardless for NC State, but if the Wolfpack can go 2-0, it’ll be absolutely massive for them. This week is especially important for the Wolfpack because of what comes next – just one more shot at a marquee victory, at Duke to start March. That’s a hard ask. It’s less of a must now because of the way they were able to take care of business on their home car. That goes double if they can do it again Saturday.

Meanwhile, it was a pretty miserable night for Duke if you weren’t Vernon Carey, who had 27 points and 12 rebounds. Tre Jones had 17 points, but was 6 of 18 from the floor, though he did also have nine rebounds. The Blue Devils shot just 37.7 percent from the field, and were 4 of 17 from 3 (23.5 percent). They assisted on just six of their 26 field goals.

It’s far from a catastrophic loss for the Blue Devils, but it does do damage to an already weak argument for a No. 1 seed. With a weak schedule to finish out ACC regular season play, there probably isn’t a whole lot Duke can do other than hold on to a No. 2 seed.

2. Auburn drops second-straight

Auburn hasn’t done much to dissuade the considerable amount of people that aren’t buying the Tigers as among college basketball’s best this week. Even if this past week comes with a considerable asterisk.

Georgia defeated Auburn, 65-55, to give the Tigers their second-straight road defeat after they lost over the weekend to Missouri.

That’s two pretty tough losses to a team that previously only had two losses on the whole season. Auburn shot 31 percent from the field and 15 percent from 3-point range. Of course, their performances against Mizzou and the Bulldogs comes with the pretty notable absence of Isaac Okoro, who is dealing with a hamstring injury. It’s probably not surprising that being down your most efficient offensive player is going to make winning on the road in the SEC pretty tough.

Still, a difficult two games for Bruce Pearl’s group.

3. Cincy’s would-be halfcourt buzzer-beater waived off

Cincinnati is getting well-acquainted with overtime. The Bearcats are also now well-acquainted with some heartbreak.

Down two in double-overtime to UCF, the Bearcats’ Jarron Cumberland let fly a halfcourt heave that that found nothing but net…but was too late.

Maybe the saddest thing about this – unless you’re a UCF fan – is that Cumberland seemed to know the minute the shot fell that it was too late. No celebration. Just dejection.

The Bearcats, who played in three-straight OT games in November, have now played four-straight overtime games, and sport a 2-2 record over that span. There’s a decent chance it stretches to five, with Wichita State coming to the Queen City this weekend.

Georgia hands No. 13 Auburn second-straight loss

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ATHENS, Ga. — Anthony Edwards of Georgia scored 18 points, including a late 3-pointer to slow No. 13 Auburn’s comeback attempt, and the Bulldogs beat the Tigers 65-55 on Wednesday night.

Auburn (22-4, 9-4 Southeastern Conference) suffered its second straight loss to a team with a losing record following seven straight wins. The winning streak ended with Saturday’s 85-73 loss at Missouri.

Georgia led 55-50 when Edwards’ 3-pointer with 2:15 remaining stretched the advantage to eight points.

J’Von McCormick led Auburn with 22 points. Samir Doughty, who had 15 points, cut Georgia’s lead to 58-53 with a three-point play with 1:02 remaining. Toumani Camara sank seven of eight free throws in the final 1:01 to help protect the Bulldogs’ lead.

It was a much-needed win for Georgia (13-13, 3-10), which had lost eight of nine, including four straight under second-year coach Tom Crean. The improbable win over the Tigers came before a sellout crowd.

Freshman forward Isaac Okoro missed his second straight game for Auburn with a hamstring injury. Another freshman, Allen Flanigan, again replaced Okoro in the lineup and scored three points.

Auburn was left with a three-guard lineup and appeared to miss the scoring of Okoro, who averages 13.1 points.

Edwards, who leads the nation’s freshmen with his average of 19 points, scored his first basket on a fancy layup midway through the first half. Edwards followed with a long 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 19-12 lead. A layup by Rayshaun Hammonds stretched the lead to nine points.

With Georgia leading 21-14, Crean gave Edwards and other starters a break with 8:33 remaining, The Tigers immediately launched a 9-0 run — with all the scoring coming from McCormick.

McCormick’s scoring spree gave Auburn a 23-22 advantage. The run ended on Anfernee McLemore’s turnover on an offensive foul. With Edwards and other starters back on the court, the Bulldogs took advantage of the turnover to start their own 9-0 run, including seven points from Sahvir Wheeler, who had 13 points.

Hammonds also had 13 points and Camara had 12.

BIG PICTURE

Auburn: McCormick was the Tigers’ floor leader and he continued to emerge as a go-to scorer. He topped 20 points for the third time in the last four games and only the fifth time this season. He was effective on long-range jumpers, short floaters and drives to the basket.

Georgia: Edwards appeared to have regained some strength after being slowed by flu-like symptoms for the last three games He was held to only six points, matching his season low, in a 74-69 loss at Texas A&M on Saturday. Edwards was active on the boards with six rebounds, but some of his season-high seven turnovers came on unforced errors.

UP NEXT

Auburn: Returns home to play Tennessee on Saturday.

Georgia: Visits Vanderbilt on Saturday night.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Creighton claims another top-10 win, Auburn keeps winning OT games and Villanova stops its skid

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It was a busy night for hoops around the country, that featured some good news for a team not even playing, Louisville struggling and Kansas showing itself to be just a notch better than West Virginia. Here’s what else you need to know:

1. Creighton lands another top-10 W

We’re probably not talking enough about Creighton. After Wednesday’s 87-82 win over No. 10 Seton Hall, the 23rd-ranked Bluejays are now tied for second in the Big East and have quietly assembled a resume that’s going to moving up to top-four NCAA tournament seed territory here shortly. Creighton is very much for real, and has a real chance of making the first Sweet 16 in school history next month.

It’s the offense that makes the Bluejays go, and Seton Hall learned that Wednesday. Creighton shot 46 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3-point range and grabbed 11 offensive rebounds while playing at a blistering 76-possession pace. Ty-Shon Alexander, Marcus Zegarowski, Denzel Mahoney and Damien Jefferson all had 18 points for coach Greg McDermott on the night. Creighton’s offensive night was almost even more impressive considering Mitchell Ballock, their best 3-point shooter and a consistent offensive threat, was 0-7 from the floor. Take that out, and Creighton was 51.8 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from 3.

They’re now up to sixth nationally in offense on KenPom, thanks strong 3-point shooting, good work inside the arc and their ability to take care of the ball.  The rotation is thin, but every player McDermott sends out on to the floor is a capable offensive presence. There’s something to be said for the power of simply not having a liability on the floor to help make an offense excellent. The defense isn’t much to lean on, but the Bluejays get buckets.

The loss is the second in four games for Seton Hall, with both Ls coming at home. There’s certainly no reason to start wondering about the Pirates now – they’re probably not winning on nights when Myles Powell goes an atypical 3 of 16 from the floor – but they’re missing on opportunities to push their resume up a notch.

2. Auburn wins in OT…again

What in the world do you make of Auburn?

The Tigers improved to 22-2 on the year and 9-2 in SEC play with their seventh-straight win, a 95-91 victory over Alabama at home. It was the third-straight extra-time victory for the Tigers, and their fourth in five games.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but winning is, obviously, the thing that’s most important in a basketball game. When you’re trying to evaluate just how good Auburn is, though, all these close games make it awfully difficult. Does it say anything all that much different about a team if they win or lose an overtime game? It’s five minutes of basketball, and in five minutes of basketball anything can happen. Are they clutch? Lucky?

When a game comes down to such a small sample size, it’s hard to assign credit. The average KenPom ranking of these teams that are playing Auburn even for 40 minutes is 42. Not cupcakes, but hardly national title contenders, either. Making things even more difficult to judge is that the one game in this stretch that didn’t take OT was Auburn’s win against Kentucky.

I don’t really know what to make of Auburn, but I imagine they don’t care too much. They’re too busy winning.

Side note: Alabama shot 59 times from 3-point range tonight. The Tide are one of the fastest-playing teams and highest-volume 3-point shooting teams in the country. If Nate Oats starts loading up on skilled players that can maximize that style of play, they’re going to be a ton of fun.

3. Villanova gets back on track

Villanova’s three-game losing streak is no more.

The Wildcats salvaged their last chance in a tough four-game stretch by beating Marquette, 72-71.

It was the first victory in two weeks after losses to Creighton, Butler and Seton Hall. Even with two of the three coming at home, those are schedule losses as much as anything. Getting this one against Marquette, even if it came down to the wire, helps build a little momentum and confidence heading into a regular-season finale stretch of seven games when a rematch against Seton Hall is the only KenPom top-45 opponent on the slate.

Villanova has a real chance to stack victories over the next month.

Marquette, meanwhile, has a huge game against Creighton next week before a similarly light finish to Big East play that features a rematch with the Pirates.

 

Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe undergoes knee surgery

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Arkansas’ second-leading scorer is out after undergoing knee surgery Tuesday.

Isaiah Joe, who is averaging 16 points per game for the Razorbacks, is out indefinitely after an MRI revealed enough damage to warrant surgery on the knee, it was announced Tuesday.

“The results came back late Monday and it was determined Isaiah would undergo surgery Tuesday,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said in a statement. He will not be at the Auburn game tonight so he can recover and begin rehabilitation.”

Joe initially suffered the injury early last month, but it didn’t cost him any games until he aggravated it and missed the Big 12/SEC Challenge win against TCU.

The 6-foot-5 sophomore is shooting 36 percent from the floor and 34 percent from 3-point range. He’s also averaging 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Losing him ahead of the Tigers game is a hit simply because it’s one of the best resume-building opportunities left for them in an underwhelming SEC.

After tonight’s Auburn game, Arkansas has back-to-back road games against Missouri and Tennessee before getting Mississippi State at home.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Villanova gears up for big stretch, Auburn wins ugly in 2OT and Rutgers keeps rolling

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The headliner of Tuesday night was Virginia regaining an NCAA tournament pulse with a win over No. 5 Florida State, but there were plenty of other developments on the bubble across the country.  Here’s what else you need to know:

1. Villanova runs streak to seven ahead of grueling stretch

Jay Wright’s team had little trouble winning its seventh-straight Tuesday with a 79-59 victory at Madison Square Garden over St. John’s. Saddiq Bey was brilliant, scoring 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 9 from deep. Collin Gillespie was equally great, going for 17 points, 13 boards and six assists while Jeremiah Robinson-Early had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Cole Swider and Justin Moore both had 11 to put all five Wildcat starters in double-figures to help offset the absence of the injured Jermaine Samuels.

The victory, while unremarkable given St. John’s mediocrity, keeps momentum for Villanova heading into a huge stretch that very well could decide the Big East. They’ve got Creighton at home Saturday before a trip to No. 16 Butler and then back-to-back home games against No. 10 Seton Hall and Marquette, which handed the ‘Cats their lone conference loss this season.

How Villanova emerges from this four-game stretch – and subsequently what the Big East landscape looks like – will likely be determined by a couple of things. If the ‘Cats are going to make it through in the conference driver’s seat, it’ll probably because Villanova’s defense proves for real. The Cats’ defense this season on the whole has been fine, ranking 60th nationally on KenPom, but it’s been the best in the Big East during conference play. They’ve been stingier both inside and outside the arc while improving on the glass. They’ve kept opponents from launching a lot of 3s and have mostly kept them off the line.

Wright’s team is going to be fine offensively, even if they haven’t been elite in Big East play yet. If the defense holds up, the ‘Cats are going to be sitting pretty come March.

2. No. 17 Auburn comes from behind to win in 2OT

Things were looking pretty dire for Auburn. The Tigers narrowly avoided a third loss in four games over the weekend when they blew a big lead to a sub-.500 Iowa State team, and then they fell behind by 19 in the second half Tuesday at Ole Miss.

It turned out to be nothing to be worried about, unless you were on your couch hoping to watch good overtime basketball.

The Tigers narrowly escaped, 83-82, against the Rebels, overcoming a huge deficit and mistakes of their own making that could have negated their comeback but instead will be footnotes.

Auburn shot 56 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range in the second half to mount its comeback while Ole Miss shot just 33 percent. They nearly gave the game away, though, after taking a two-point lead in the final seconds of overtime. The Tigers missed a jumper that would have put them up four with 25 seconds left, but the shot missed and they inexplicably fouled on the rebound to allow Ole Miss to tie the game with 22 seconds left on free throws. After a missed 3 in a tie game by Danjel Purifoy, Ole Miss gave Auburn a gift it just wouldn’t accept. Devontae Shuler’s inbounds pass under the basket with 2 seconds left went astray and was headed out of bounds, which would have resulted in no time coming off the clock and Auburn getting the ball on the baseline, but Isaac Okoro, for some reason, grabbed the ball, waited a second and called timeout. Samir Doughty’s forthcoming 3 out of the huddle as time expired miss to send things to 2OT.

Ole Miss led by as many as four in overtime, but Auburn took the lead with 1:41 left. The two teams traded missed opportunities for the remainder of the game, leaving the Tigers with a win.

College basketball: Not always pretty, but rarely boring.

3. Rutgers continues to build its case

It’s been 29 years since Rutgers last made the NCAA tournament. It’s been 13 since the Scarlet Knights even finished above .500 in a season. Both those streaks seem incredibly likely to fall in just a handful of weeks.

Rutgers ran its overall record to 16-5 and its Big Ten mark to 7-3 with a 70-63 victory Tuesday at home against Purdue.

Steve Pikiell’s team is building a bulletproof resume after losses to St. Bonaventure and Pittsburgh in the first month of the season made it seem as the status quo would be very much in place in Piscataway this winter. Since then, the only three losses Rutgers have taken have all been on the road to high-quality opponents, with Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa the only teams able to get the best of them.

Rutgers is doing it o the strength of a top-10 defense that overcomes an offense that can be clunky at times, especially at the 3-point line. Defense as stout as the Scarlet Knights are playing, though, makes up for a lot of deficiencies on the other end.

Alabama knocks off unbeaten No. 4 Auburn

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Alabama dropped previously-unbeaten rival Auburn with an 83-64 home win on Wednesday night.

College basketball is down to only one undefeated team with the loss for the No. 4 Tigers.

The Crimson Tide took advantage of an off-night from the Tigers to jump out to an early lead and hold on from there. It helped that Kira Lewis Jr. came through with 25 points and a strong effort on the defensive end. Lewis played in attack mode while still making strong decisions, driving the Alabama offense to a strong night.

Lewis was also a menace on the defensive end. The sophomore was tasked with guarding Samir Doughty or J’Von McCormick. Lewis came through by helping to shut both of them down. Herb Jones complimented Lewis with a strong two-way effort of his own, finishing with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The win jumps Alabama to 9-7 and 2-2 in the SEC. They’re still a long way from thinking about an NCAA tournament bid. But a rivalry win like this over a top-five team could jumpstart bigger things. Particularly if Lewis plays like this every night. At the very least, this is an early signature win for new head coach Nate Oats.

The real story in this one is the collapse of Auburn during a rivalry game. The Tigers (15-1, 3-1) started the game 3-for-18 from the field. Things didn’t get much better from there. Turning the ball over a season-high 21 times and shooting 56 percent from the free-throw line, Auburn had a terrible night completing even the fundamentals. Auburn shot a season-low 32 percent from the field.

Outside of Isaac Okoro (13 points) and Austin Wiley (10 points, 13 rebounds), nobody on Auburn really stepped up on the road Wednesday night.

Although losing a rivalry game hurts, the pressure of being an undefeated team halfway through January is also tough to deal with. The Tigers were always going to be the hunted coming off of last season’s Final Four appearance. But there’s a little extra bullseye on a team’s back if they’re still undefeated at this point in the season. This loss takes a small amount of pressure off of Auburn as they regroup for the rest of conference season.

One thing is for sure, Auburn has to come with more intensity on the road next time. A lackluster effort from the start in a rivalry game is not assuring for a team trying to make another deep run in March.

San Diego State is now the final undefeated college hoops team for the 2019-20 season.