Gonzaga strengthens grip on No. 1 spot in AP Poll

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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A two-week layoff did nothing to slow down Gonzaga.

The Zags strengthened their grip on the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press college basketball poll released on Monday, earning 61 of 64 first-place votes from a media panel after knocking off then-No. 3 Iowa.

No. 2 Baylor received the remaining three first-place votes and Kansas moved up two spots to No. 3. Iowa and Villanova rounded out the top five.

Gonzaga showed no signs of rust after pausing team activities for two weeks due to COVID-19 issues. The Zags (4-0) jumped on the Hawkeyes early and went 13 of 26 from 3-point range to win 99-88 at The Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey said.

Gonzaga had last played on Dec. 2, an 87-82 win over No. 7 West Virginia in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs canceled their showdown with Baylor on Dec. 5 just hours before tipoff because a player and a staffer tested positive for COVID-19.

Gonzaga had to shut down after that and missed four home games before returning to the court last week.

The break worked out well for freshman Jalen Suggs, who had 18 of his 30 points in the first half against Iowa and went 7 for 10 from the 3-point arc.

“This past week-and-a-half, I spent a lot of time in the gym by myself, just late at night spending time getting shots up under the gun,” he said. “Coming into this weekend, I really felt like my jump shot improved and I felt really comfortable with it.”

TOP-10 LONGHORNS

No. 10 Texas has taken a big step forward in its sixth season under Shaka Smart.

The Longhorns (7-1) barely beat Davidson to open the relocated Maui Invitational, but followed up with wins over Indiana and No. 17 North Carolina to claim the tournament title in Asheville, North Carolina.

Texas lost to Villanova by four but has won three straight since, the latest 77-74 over Oklahoma State.

The Longhorns also beat Sam Houston State last week, helping them move into the top 10 for the first time since reaching No. 6 in 2014-15.

SPARTAN FALL

Michigan State had climbed to No. 4 after winning its first five games and remained there last week.

The Spartans took a big fall after an unexpected loss Sunday night.

Michigan State looked rusty in its first game in a week when it played Northwestern, falling into a big early hole before losing 79-65.

It was Northwestern’s first win over a top-five team in the AP poll since an 83-65 victory over Magic Johnson and then-No. 4 Michigan State on Jan. 27, 1979.

The loss dropped the Spartans eight spots to No. 12 this week.

“One of the more inept performances of my 26 years,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “It’s kind of a harsh statement. I’m blaming myself. I’m the one that has to have my team ready.”

No. 18 Illinois had the next biggest drop, falling five spots after losing to Rutgers.

RUTGERS RISING

Rutgers was ranked in the preseason Top 25 for the first time since 1978-79 and has kept climbing.

The Scarlet Knights improved to 6-0 with a 91-88 victory over then-No. 13 Illinois, their first win in a game with both teams ranked in 35 years.

As a result, Rutgers had the biggest jump of the week, moving up eight spots to No. 11. The Scarlett Knights play No. 23 Ohio State on Wednesday and a win could move them into the top 10 for the first time since 1975-76.

No. 19 Michigan had the second-biggest jump this week, gaining six spots.

MOVING IN

Undefeated Xavier is ranked for the first time this season after moving into the poll at No. 22. The Musketeers improved to 8-0 by hitting 19 3-pointers in a 99-77 win over Oklahoma and a buzzer-beating victory against Marquette last week.

Virginia Tech dropped out of the poll last week following a loss to Penn State. The Hokies are back in this week at No. 24 after wins over Clemson and Coppin State.

No. 25 Oregon also returned to the poll following wins over San Francisco and Portland.

MOVING OUT

San Diego State dropped out from No. 18 after a home loss to BYU.

Clemson’s loss to Virginia Tech knocked the Tigers out of the poll from No. 24.

Louisville dropped out from No. 23 following a blowout loss to No. 9 Wisconsin.

No. 14 Texas Tech routs Sam Houston St to improve to 2-0

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Mac McClung is already doing for No. 14 Texas Tech exactly what he told coach Chris Beard he would after transferring from Georgetown.

McClung had 18 points to again lead the Red Raiders in scoring as they improved to 2-0 with an 84-52 victory over Sam Houston State on Friday.

“No surprises with Mac, He’s delivered,” Beard said.

“We knew what we were getting into when Mac was coming, he’s a scoring guard,” said Terrence Shannon Jr., one of Tech’s returning players. “He’s doing well out there right now. … We’re happy for him scoring the ball well.”

Marcus Santos-Silva, a graduate transfer, had 12 points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes to just miss out on another double-double. He is the only Texas Tech senior after starting all 64 games for VCU the past two seasons. Shannon had 10 points as the Red Raiders shot 50% percent from the field (26 of 52) and led by as many as 38 points.

McClung, the leading scorer for the Hoyas last season, has 38 points in 41 minutes of action in his first two games for the Red Raiders. The 6-foot-2 junior guard is 13-of-21 shooting, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers. In the first eight minutes against Sam Houston State, he had two 3-pointers among 10 points as Tech already had a 20-4 lead.

“Mac’s playing the game the right way. He’s not forcing anything. He’s trusting the offense, he’s trusting his teammates. He’s trusting himself,” Beard said. “He came in here is a guy that has an edge second to none. … He’s the ultimate competitor, but also an unbelievable teammate.”

McClung scored 20 points in a 101-58 win over Northwestern State in his Tech debut, when Santos-Silva had 10 points and 13 rebounds while playing 18 minutes in that game Wednesday.

Zach Nutall had 14 points to lead three players in double figures for Sam Houston State (0-2), which shot only 31% from the field (17 of 54). Demarkus Lampley added 12 points and Bryce Monroe had 11.

“I thought we were a little intimidated and I thought their defense was so good that it took us out of what we wanted to do, and it took Zach out of the game, which I knew that was what they were going to try to do,” coach Jason Hooten said. “We’re not good enough yet when someone plays like that to figure out that second or third option, or take advantage of something they’re not doing.”

Nutall was coming off a 36-point game in the Bearkats’ season-opening 97-67 loss at SMU two nights earlier, when he was 12-of-23 shooting and had six 3-pointers. But he missed all six of his field-goal tries and had only four free throws at halftime against Texas Tech, where he finished 5-of-17 shooting overall and was 0 of 3 on 3s.

Sam Houston State’s roster has nine newcomers, five junior college transfers and four freshmen, and had pauses during preseason practice because of COVID-19 issues. Nutall, a junior guard, is the only of four returning lettermen with more than one letter.

BIG PICTURE

Sam Houston State: Hooten called three timeouts in the first 10 1/2 minutes of the game, the third when the Bearkats were already down 18 and Nutall had missed his first five shots.

“I really was disappointed in the start. I still think we’ve got a few guys with the deer in the headlights look,” Hooten said. “I just think we’ll be better. We’ll be better for it.”

Texas Tech: Texas Tech has three transfers among their seven newcomers in McClung, Santos-Silva and sophomore guard Jamarius Burton from Wichita State. Burton had eight points and three rebounds. … The Red Raiders are 62-9 at home under Beard, who is in his fifth season with the Red Raiders.

STEPPING UP

After two lopsided wins, their third game in five days will be more of a test when the Red Raiders play No. 17 Houston on Sunday, before playing St. John’s.

“These two games, we’re going to learn a lot about our team through the great competition,” Beard said. “There’s an unselfishness and a flow to our team right now. It’s fun to watch.”

UP NEXT

Sam Houston State: Plays Boise State on Sunday at Dickie’s Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Texas Tech: Plays No. 17 Houston on Sunday, also at Dickie’s Arena.