College basketball scores: How Villanova and Texas Southern won the weekend
A crazy last-second comeback, a buzzer-beater in a rivalry game and the likely upset of the year highlighted the weekend that was in college hoops.
TOP 25 RECAP
No. 1 Kentucky 83, UCLA 44
No. 4 Louisville 76, Western Kentucky 67
No. 6 Virginia 76, Harvard 27
No. 7 Villanova 82, Syracuse 77 (OT)
No. 8 Gonzaga 63, Cal Poly 50
No. 9 Texas 78, Long Beach State 68
No. 10 Kansas 96, Lafayette 69
No. 24 North Carolina 82, No. 12 Ohio State 74
No. 13 Iowa State 83, Drake 54
No. 14 Utah 59, UNLV 46
No. 16 Washington 69, No. 15 Oklahoma 67
No. 17 Maryland 73, Oklahoma State 64
No. 19 San Diego State 70, Ball State 57
No. 21 Notre Dame 94, Purdue 63
No. 22 West Virginia 83, NC State 69
Indiana 82, No. 23 Butler 73
Texas Southern 81, No. 25 Michigan State 74 (OT)
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 7 Villanova 82, Syracuse 77 (OT)
I hate to bestow this honor upon Villanova’s win because I feel like it was also perhaps the most poorly officiated tilt of the weekend, but yeah, I’m doing it anyway.
Sean Keeley is right when he says that there will eventually come a day when it doesn’t feel like Syracuse and Villanova should play every year for no reason other than that it just feels like they are supposed to. That day isn’t this one, as watching the Wildcats and the Orange duke it out in a high-profile showcase Saturday game felt inalienably … right.
As for the game itself, it was one that the Syracuse players and coaches are likely going to have a hard time keeping out of their minds when they’re opening presents later this week. The Orange led by as many 15 and blew a 5-point lead with 17 seconds to play, thanks in large part to this steal and JayVaughn Pinkston layup which sent the game into overtime.
Still, there were some major positives for the Orange to take away from Saturday, none bigger than the play of Kaleb Joseph. The highly touted freshman point guard played his best collegiate game to date, finishing with 10 points and 10 assists while staying on the court for the entirety of the 45-minute contest.
For ‘Nova, this was the perfect type of “rise to the occasion” moment you want to see from a top-10 squad in December. Sure, you’d rather the team not have played itself into the corner it did, but that’s going to happen, and the Wildcats responded the way a group worthy of its lofty ranking is supposed to. Darrun Hilliard and Pinkston predictably led the charge, but you can’t say enough about the play of sophomore guard Josh Hart, who scored 21 points and might be the best sixth man in the country.
There were a lot of folks out there who accurately predicted Villanova’s early NCAA Tournament exit all last season, but I think this Wildcat squad is cut from a different cloth. Time will ultimately tell, but the response they gave with their backs to the wall against an old rival was an awfully audible one.
UPSET OF THE WEEKEND: Texas Southern 71, No. 25 Michigan State 64
You would have been accurate in saying that the Spartans probably didn’t deserve to be ranked last week, before adding the addendum that Tom Izzo’s teams are typically late-bloomers. Still, neither of those stances alter the fact that this what happened in East Lansing on Saturday was one of the more notable college basketball upsets in recent memory.
The reason isn’t as much about Michigan State as it is Texas Southern. You see, the Tigers are terrible. They came into Saturday’s game owning a 1-8 mark, and none of those losses had come by fewer than 10 points. Against the admittedly formidable quartet of Indiana, Baylor, Florida and Gonzaga, Texas Southern had lost by a grand total of 110 points. I’m not invested enough in the pursuit to pull up that little calculator on my computer, but I can tell you that’s an average of more than 25 points per game.
You can toss around all the “peak at the right time”-esque clichés you want, but Saturday was a really, really bad look for the Spartans.
FIVE GOOD WINS
No. 1 Kentucky 83, UCLA 42
A lot of people are sick of talking about Kentucky, and I get that, but it’s also impossible to ignore ridiculous performances like the one the Wildcats gave on Saturday just because they have turned shockingly dominant performances into the norm.
Was UCLA a little overhyped heading into the season? Probably. Have the Bruins been something of a disappointment so far this year? I think so. But this is still a likely NCAA Tournament team that was held to 7 points in the fist half of a neutral court game. SEVEN!
There’s no real need to dive any deeper into this because Ricky O’Donnell was there and he has all your other head-turning numbers and notes from the demolition.
No. 6 Virginia 76, Harvard 27
For all the attention that Kentucky’s (and UCLA’s) performance received on Saturday, I’m not sure that what Virginia (and Harvard) did a day later wasn’t more impressive (or less impressive).
The Cavaliers held a Crimson team that started this season ranked in the top 25 and which had lost only one game to just 1-for-20 (that’s 5 percent) from the field in the game’s opening 20 minutes, tying the NCAA record for fewest field goals in a half. It didn’t get much better after the break.
To be fair to the Crimson, it was the end of finals week, and we all know how … that uh … Harvard people … study a lot … so how you like them apples?
And that, folks, was the joke of the weekend.
By the way, Virginia might be the best team in that oft-discussed “elite” tier just below Kentucky and Duke. Just throwing that out there. The Cavs haven’t won a game by fewer than 11 points and have moved up to the No. 2 spot in the updated rankings from Ken Pomeroy, where they sit behind only the Wildcats.
No. 17 Maryland 73, Oklahoma State 64
The Terrapins have somewhat quietly built one of the better resumes in the country, one that now includes a victory over an Oklahoma State team that has been near unbeatable at home in non-conference play for the last couple of decades. In fact, Maryland’s win was just the fifth for a non-Big 12 team visiting Stillwater since 1987.
Mark Turgeon’s team is now 11-1 with its lone loss coming at the hands of undefeated Virginia.
No. 24 North Carolina 82, Ohio State 74
This was a big victory for the Tar Heels, whose November wins over UCLA and Florida aren’t exactly sparkling in the same way they were at the time they took place. UNC also pulled off the near wire-to-wire victory on an afternoon where Marcus Paige was not at his best. The preseason All-American missed several wide open looks, and finished with as many turnovers (4) as assists. Picking up most of the slack was Brice Johnson, who scored 18 on 8-of-10 shooting and appears poised to be a force in the ACC for the next couple of months.
No. 16 Washington 69, No. 15 Oklahoma 67
We dubbed this as a “crossroads season” for Lorenzo Romar and Washington at the beginning of November, and it’s safe to say that whatever path the Huskies chose has been the correct one. U-Dub improved 10-0 with arguably their most impressive win of the season, a neutral court victory over a good Oklahoma team in a game they led by double digits for most of the way.
It’s probably time for the country to start talking a little more about Nigel Williams-Goss, because I’m not sure there’s been a more complete performer in college basketball so far this season.
FIVE BAD LOSSES
No. 2 Louisville 76, Western Kentucky 67
The Cardinals didn’t lose the game, but their best player lost his cool and as a result U of L lost him for its last pre-Kentucky warm-up.
In perhaps the most-discussed event of the weekend, Montrezl Harrell was ejected in the first half of Louisville’s win at Western Kentucky after throwing sort of punch/elbow hybrid during a scuffle. Harrell was tossed for a flagrant 2 foul and not for fighting, which means he wasn’t automatically suspended from participating in U of L’s Tuesday night game against Cal State Northridge. That is, until the ACC intervened on Sunday.
I get that there was some unwarranted aggression from the Hilltopper players and that, in the grand scheme of things, Harrell’s actions weren’t particularly over-the-top, but if you’re Montrezl — a junior captain, preseason All-American and Player of the Year candidate — you simply can’t do anything that might put yourself in the position where he is now.
Also, just because you can put snowflakes on a screen doesn’t mean you should, Fox Sports 1.
Texas Southern 71, No. 25 Michigan State 64 (OT)
Because it was so bad we had no choice but to mention it again.
North Texas 62, Creighton 58
The wins over Oklahoma and Nebraska convinced a lot of people that post-Doug McDermott life might not be as cruel to the Jays as we all thought. Sunday, however, showed that Big East play is still likely to be a bit of a rollercoaster for the team that lost more than any other in the league.
North Texas led by as many as 27 points, but had to watch Creighton miss four potential game-tying shots in the closing seconds to hold on to the victory. The Jays now get 10 days off before starting Big East play at Providence on New Year’s Eve.
SMU 62, Michigan 51
We expected this to be a battle of two top 20 teams before the start of the season, but instead, the game inside the Crisler Center was a largely overlooked meeting between arguably the two most disappointing squads of the season’s first month. The loss was Michigan’s fourth straight, three of which have come at home. That’s why the game is here and SMU isn’t on the “good wins” list.
The Wolverines now have just one more tune-up before the start of Big Ten play.
Auburn 89, Xavier 88 (2OT)
On a weekend that wasn’t especially kind to the Big East, this may have been the biggest blow. The Musketeers blew a 13-point second half league and wound up taking a loss to arguably the worst team in the SEC. Losses to UTEP and Long Beach State had already made Xavier’s path to an at-large bid a tough one, but this was still a gut-punch.
FINISH OF THE WEEKEND
Pretty easy call here. Braggin’ rights:
MID-MAJOR SPOTLIGHT: South Dakota State
Lehigh’s triple overtime win over Arizona State deserves some love, too, but let’s focus in on the Jackrabbits, who took down Utah State in overtime to claim the World Vision Classic title, an event the Aggies had previously been 51-1 in.
South Dakota State’s style has made it one of the more entertaining teams to watch over the past handful of seasons, a statement that has held true even in the post-Nate Wolters era. This team might not be as talented as the ones that crashed the NCAA Tournament in 2012 and 2013, but they’re now 9-3, they’ve won seven straight (a streak that includes a convincing win at Saint Louis), and they appear to be the decisive favorites to win another title in the Summit League.
Break up the Jacks.
DUNK OF THE WEEKEND
The Fighting Irish, by the way, have a legitimate case for inclusion on the “best wins” list after destroying their in-state rivals, 94-63.
PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND: Anthony Livingston, Arkansas State
There really wasn’t a head-turning performance from any player in the national spotlight over the weekend, so we’ll go with Livingston, who pulled off the ridiculous 20-points, 20-rebounds feat in the Red Wolves’ win over Marshall. He also chipped in three blocks and four assists.
Troy Williams, Indiana – He scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but Williams is also being included here because we want to mention the Hoosiers’ huge win over No. 23 Butler. It feels like one of those games that is going to be brought up more than a few times when folks are resume-scouring in late February and early March.
Taylor Johns, UC-Riverside – The junior forward scored 28 points and snagged 17 boards in the Highlanders’ win over Houston Baptist.
Devonta Walker, Louisiana Lafayette – It wouldn’t be fair to hand Livingston player of the weekend honors and not even mention Walker, who nearly pulled off the 20-20 feat himself by scoring 23 points and pulling down 19 rebounds in ULL’s 89-85 loss to Northwestern State.
Kelly Oubre, Kansas – Jayhawk fans have spent the last six weeks waiting for the Oubre breakout to happen, and Saturday might have been the moment. The ultra-talented frosh scored 23 points and snagged 10 boards in Kansas’ rout of Lafayette.
Austin Nichols, Memphis – Nichols flirted with a triple-double, scoring 15 points to go with 9 rebounds and 8 blocked shots in a Tiger victory over Oral Roberts. As a team, Memphis tied a school record with 15 blocks.