While much of the country was caught up in the hoopla that was the BCS Championship Game, an amazing comeback was taking place at Penn State. The Nittany Lions looked to be well on their way to their first Big Ten win of the season, leading a cold-shooting Michigan at the half 31-16. But if you're familiar with John Beilein-coached teams you know that at the snap of a finger they can heat up from the field. And that's exactly what happened in the second half, as the Wolverines outscored their opponents 48-24 in the final twenty minutes on their way to a 64-55 victory.
With four minutes left in regulation it looked as if North Carolina was on its way to surviving a treacherous trip to Charleston to take on the preseason favorites to win the Southern Conference. But the fun had yet to begin, with Andrew Goudelock helping to spark a 12-1 run that he completed with a three-pointer to send the game into overtime. In fact, Goudelock scored the Cougars' last eight points in regulation on his way to a 24-point night for him and an 82-79 win for his team.
Another year in the books, and thankfully conference play is finally here. After all the preseason tournaments, marquee matchups, and guarantee games played in the last two months, these teams have seemingly come out of nowhere to become the early season surprises so far.
William & Mary
The first few days of the Big East conference schedule certainly haven't lacked drama, with Seton Hall, Marquette and Cincinnati all having opportunities to knock off more established programs. But the difference between the Bearcats and the other two schools is that they were able to take full advantage of their opportunity, knocking off #10 Connecticut 71-69 at Fifth Third Arena. Lance Stephenson passed his first conference test with flying colors, scoring 21 points and knocking down two free throws with seven tenths of a second remaining to provide the final margin.
The Missouri Tigers hadn't beaten rival Illinois since 1999, losing games in which they've been favored as well as those they weren't expected to win. Wednesday's game was more of a toss-up with a slight edge going to Bruce Weber's team, who had already won at Clemson thus far. But the Tigers were able to control the flow of play, forcing 22 Illinois turnovers on their way to an 81-68 win. While Illinois outrebounded the Tigers 44-32 and all five starters reached double figures Missouri forced 22 turnovers and held the Illini to 39.7% shooting from the field.
Saturday was definitely a day full of action, but little did much of the nation know that the most-discussed event would be the end of the Xavier/Butler game at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Down one to the visiting Musketeers Butler scuffled through their final possession, even having the ball deflected into the backcourt as the clock ticked under fifteen seconds. But a peculiar thing happened as the ball rolled away from the Butler basket: the clock stopped.
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