With hopes of not only remaining a factor in the ACC race but also notching their first win at #5 Duke since 1995, NC State was more than motivated for Thursday night's battle. And they played that way out of the gates, scoring the first eight points of the game and leading by as many as 19 points in the first half. But while the Wolfpack would continue to control play in the early portion of the second half, the foul trouble that developed for Mark Gottfried's team in the first half began to take its toll.
Thursday night provides a big matchup in the Big Ten, as #8 Michigan State (20-5, 9-3) looks to remain tied for first place with a win over #17 Wisconsin (19-6, 8-4). Their first meeting, a 63-60 Michigan State win in overtime on January 3rd, ended with Ryan Evans' game-tying three being ruled to have come after time had expired, so the rematch in East Lansing will likely be just as competitive.
With first place on the line in Columbus the expectation was that #11 Michigan State and #3 Ohio State would play a tight, physical affair. And that's exactly what it was, with the visitors from East Lansing seeming to be the more comfortable of the two teams in the first half. Michigan State shot 46.9% from the field but the reason for their 35-25 lead at the half was their defense, as they limited Ohio State to 33.3% and forced eight turnovers.
There have been some thrilling comebacks in the history of the Duke/North Carolina rivalry, but surprisingly there haven't been many games that have been decided at the buzzer. Wednesday night's game in Chapel Hill wasn't a case of "down eight with 17 seconds to go" as it was in meetings in 1974 (UNC with the comeback and win) and 1995 (Duke with the comeback but UNC ended up winning), but with the Tar Heels up ten (80-70) with 3:35 remaining one would expect them to win.
NO. 9 DUKE (19-4, 6-2 ACC) AT NO. 5 NORTH CAROLINA (20-3, 7-1 ACC)
Time/TV: 9 p.m./ESPN
Quite a bit was made of the team meeting called by UConn forward Alex Oriakhi on Friday, and how it may have sparked a revival of the reigning national champions. But maybe that should have been another red flag, given the first couple of paragraphs in the Hartford Courant recapping the Huskies' 69-46 win over Seton Hall.
A week after being outclassed at home by first-place Saint Mary's there was no ignoring the importance of BYU's game against Gonzaga, especially if the Cougars were to remain alive in the race for second place in the WCC. Dave Rose's team responded as good teams should, taking control of the game with an 11-4 run to close out the first half on their way to an 83-73 victory. The frontcourt matchup proved to be the difference as BYU's duo of Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies outplayed Elias Harris and Robert Sacre, with Hartsock's 24 points and 14 rebounds leading the way.
NO. 5 DUKE (18-3, 5-1 ACC) AT VIRGINIA TECH (12-9, 1-5 ACC)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./ESPN
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