Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wednesday's Shootaround: No. 2 goes down

Oklahoma State 79, No. 2 Missouri 72: In the most surprising result of the night, Missouri went into Gallagher-Iba Arena and got dropped by the struggling Pokes, who were able to fight back from a deficit midway through the second half despite having starter Markel Brown tossed for his celebration of two thunderous dunks.

Missouri didn't play their best game, and that is far from a secret. Outside of Ricardo Ratliffe, who had 25 points and 12 boards on 10-17 shooting, the Tigers shot 33.3% from the floor. They were just 4-19 from three. The biggest culprit was Marcus Denmon, Missouri's all-american guard, who was just 4-16 from the floor. Perhaps the biggest issue that the Tigers had was that they weren't getting any shots created off of the penetration of their guards. When the Tigers have just eight assists as a team and aren't hitting (or are settling for) threes, they are susceptible.

But in the same vein, the credit for this win has to go to Oklahoma State, a team that has struggled this season despite fairly high expectations coming into the year. For the first time all season long, we got a taste of why LeBryan Nash was such a highly regarded recruit. An immense talent, Nash has had issues with consistency, not only in his performance but in his effort level as well. He told's Jason King that "I’ve needed to be more consistent as far as playing hard." After scoring a total of just 10 points in losses to Baylor and Kansas State, Nash exploded for 27 points against the Tigers. He had 13 in a 17-4 run that changed the game in the second half, hitting three threes in the run.

Oklahoma State may have already cost themselves a chance at earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but with how weak the field is around the bubble, all it would take is getting hot at the right time -- like, for example, right now -- for them to be able to make a run and get into contention. Playing in the Big 12, they will have the opportunities to get the wins. If they -- and is Nash -- decide to show up for those games, we now know what this team is capable of doing on the right day.

No. 12 UNLV 77, Boise State 72 OT: The Rebels got a bit lucky here. They shot a season-low 34.2% from the field and fired up a season-high 34 threes, which is a bad thing to do when you aren't hitting them. Throw in the fact that a young-but-talented Boise State team was gaining confidence, and it shouldn't be a surprise that the Broncos were able to erase an early 12 point deficit. Mike Moser led the way with 18 points and 21 boards.

This win should be a good sign for UNLV fans. The Rebels didn't play their best game by any stretch and were on the road against a team playing well. They blew a lead, but were able to hold it together enough to force overtime. In the extra frame, Oscar Bellfield stepped up and hit a big three with two minutes remaining to put them up five.

St. John's 78, West Virginia 62: For the first time since 1927, St. John's started five freshmen. Maybe they should keep doing it. Despite 26 points and 15 boards from Kevin Jones, the Johnnies were able to hold on after jumping out to a 21-6 lead. Moe Harkless led the way with 23 points and 13 boards. I guess no one wants to hold the title of the second best team in the Big East. UConn lost to Cincinnati, who lost to West Virginia. Does that title fall on Georgetown now?

This loss is also notable because WVU is far from a guarantee to make the NCAA Tournament. If the Mountaineers can't put it all together for the rest of the season, this loss may end up being noteworthy in six weeks.

Notre Dame 55, Seton Hall 42: The Irish successfully took any and all flow out of the game, getting 13 points and 11 boards from the suddenly-dominant Jack Cooley and 29 points combined from Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant. Don't look now, but the Abro-less Irish are now sitting at 5-3 in league play. Seton Hall has now lost three straight games to teams that shouldn't finish in the top half of the league. Is our love affair with the Pirates officially over now?

No. 6 Duke 74, Maryland 61: Mason Plumlee went for 23 points, 12 boards and four assists -- and, more importantly, hit all five of his free throws -- as the Blue Devils took Maryland's best punch on the night that the court at the Comcast Center was named after Gary Williams and hung on to win. Plumlee sparked a second half surge after Maryland was able to stay within three at the half.

South Carolina 76, Alabama 74: Bruce Ellington scored on a driving bucket with 1.4 seconds left as the Gamecocks notched their first win in the SEC this season. The bigger concern, however, is Alabama, who is putting themselves in another hole when it comes to bubble contention. They are now 2-4 in the SEC, having lost four straight, and 13-7 overall. Its a good thing they had a good start in non-conference play.

BYU 70, Virginia Tech 68: In a late non-conference game that may end up having some bubble implications, the Cougars were able to go into Blackburg and knock off the Hokies behind 22 points from Noah Hartsock. Brandon Davies added 17, but it was Brock Zylstra's three with 26 seconds left that broke open a 66-all game.

Atlantic 10: The A-10 is a mess right now. As of Thursday morning, there are five teams tied for first at 4-2 with six more teams sitting within a game of first place. Wednesday night's games only served to muddle the conference standings even more:

- St. Louis 73, Xavier 68: Brian Conklin scored 10 of his 19 points in a decisive 12-3 run that broke a second half tie as the Billikens ended Xavier's 43 game home court winning streak. Mark Lyons came off the bench in this one, scoring 24 points while Tu Holloway went for 22. The problem was that Xavier's front line, which cannot seem to figure out a way to consistently dominate despite their size, struggled again.

Here's the question I have for you: is Xavier a team that has fallen on hard times, or are they a group that we overrated early in the season. The Muskies struggled with some inferior opponents early in the season, and if it wasn't for the two comebacks that were capped by a flurry of Holloway threes early in the year, I don't think we ever would have had this team anywhere near the top ten. Could it just be that this is, in fact, the real Xavier team?

- St. Joe's 77, Dayton 63: Ronald Roberts came off the bench to lead four scorers in double figures with 27 points as the Hawks ran through the Flyers, who came into this game leading the conference. St. Joe's is one of the six teams sitting a game out of first place.

- La Salle 78, George Washington 63: Ramon Galloway scored 21 of his career-high 28 points to lead a hot-shooting explorer team over the Colonials. Galloway was 11-12 from the floor and 6-7 from three while La Salle, as a team, shot 21-29 from the floor en route to 51 first half points. La Salle is tied for first in the league.

- St. Bonaventure 72, Rhode Island 66 OT: The Bonnies overcame a slow start, using a 19-6 run to open the second half to take a three point lead, but couldn't pull away. It may have been ugly, but a win is a win, and this win puts them in a tie for first.

- Richmond 102, Fordham 58
- Temple 79, Charlotte 57

Conference USA: If you've been paying attention, than you know that the Conference USA race is going to be one of the most intriguing to follow this season, and Wednesday night didn't disappoint.

- UAB 56, Marshall 49: Most of the pundits agree that the winner of CUSA is going to be the team in the top four (Marshall, Memphis, UCF and Southern Miss) that does the best in their home-and-home round robin and avoids having bad losses. This qualifies as a very bad loss for Marshall. Forget, for a second, the fact that this game was played in Huntington, UAB is just 7-12 on the season. They are a young team that is getting better -- their six CUSA games have now been decided by a total of 24 points -- but this is still a team that Marshall has to be able to handle at home. They had no answer inside for Cameron Moore, who went for 21 points, and shot just 35.2% from the field.

- Tulsa 66, UCF 61: I said it last week -- with their weaker CUSA schedule (their football team is in the west division, which means they only have to play the top four teams once instead of twice), Tulsa has a chance to sneak up on some people if they can steal a couple of wins. They did exactly that tonight, as Scottie Haralson led the way with 18 points. Marcus Jordan, who struggled in this one, got called for a charge and picked up a technical in the final seconds. That tech was followed up by a technical on Keith Clanton.

- Memphis 73, Rice 51: The result isn't what is notable here. What happened late in the second half is. After Tamir Jackson put a hard foul on Joe Jackson, the two went nose-to-nose and a brawl nearly erupted. During the confusion, both Will Barton and Tarik Black jumped off of the Memphis bench. That's not allowed, and they were both ejected from the game. Its unclear whether or not they will be suspended for a game, but if they are, that will be a huge hit for the Tigers, who get Marshall next.

- Southern Miss 72, East Carolina 60: With the win, USM is now tied with Memphis at 5-1 in the league, with UCF and Tulsa sitting at 5-2 and Marshall at 4-2.

The rest of the top 25:

- No. 3 Ohio State 78, Penn State 54: Jared Sullinger went for 20 points and 13 boards as the Buckeyes knocked off the Nittany Lions handily at home.

- No. 11 Michigan State 78, Minnesota 62: Draymond Green had 22 points, 14 boards and six assists as the Spartans ended the Gophers three-game winning streak and gave Tom Izzo his 400th win as a head coach.

- No. 14 Creighton 77, Drake 69: Doug McDermott overcame the constant double teams to score 30 points and grab nine boards as the Bluejays kept pace with Wichita State at the top of the Missouri Valley standings.

- No. 16 Mississippi State 76, LSU 71: Arnett Moultrie had 28 points and 12 boards as he continued his push for SEC player of the year, scoring 19 in the second half to carry the Bulldogs. Dee Bost, who did had 10 assists, and Renardo Sidney both struggled for Rick Stansbury's team, which begs the question: how good can this team be when they put it all together, and is that ever going to happen?

- No. 24 Kansas State 69, Texas Tech 47: Martavious Irving and Rodney McGruder combined to go for 29 points as the Wildcats pushed their winning streak to three games in league play. This group looks like the third best team in the Big 12, a title that no one seems to be able to hold onto for very long.

- No. 25 Louisville 84, Villanova 74: On Saturday, it was Kyle Kuric and Chane Behanan breaking out offensively. On Wednesday, it was Peyton Siva, who had 16 points and made a number of key plays down the stretch as Louisville held on to beat Villanova. Gorgui Dieng added 12 points and 13 boards. Louisville may not be as good as their ranking indicated early in the season, but they also aren't as bad as they have been playing. Have these last two games been the sign that they are breaking out of their slump.

Other notable scores:

- VCU 67, Towson 42
- ODU 53, UNCW 48
- George Mason 55, Hofstra 50
- Drexel 68, Georgia State 46
- Pitt 86, Providence 74
- Florida State 75, Wake Forest 52
- Ohio 56, Western Michigan 51
- Bucknell 67, American 61
- Illinois State 76, Missouri State 69 OT
- Arkansas 56, Auburn 53
- New Mexico 85, Colorado State 52

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