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.
What could have been!
With Cincinnati down 89-87, Jarron Cumberland throws up a half-court heave at the buzzer for the win, but after review it is CALLED OFF! pic.twitter.com/PUlAgVBpND
— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) February 20, 2020
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.