"They [Texas] were the tougher team down the stretch," said Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel. "I thought we played well for 31 minutes. Then their older guys stepped up and made plays (quote courtesy of the University of Texas)." What cost Oklahoma? Their inability to get stops and that's been an issue for much of Big 12 play for this young team; Texas shot 53.6% in each half as well as for the game. Oklahoma, on the other hand, shot just 23.1% from behind the arc after making seven of eleven three-pointers in the first half to take a 40-38 lead into the locker room. Does not having Willie Warren hurt? Of course it does but for a team that's struggled defensively how much of a difference does Warren really make on that end of the floor?
As for Texas and their prospects in March this could be one team that experts and office pool hopefuls have a difficult time figuring out. Every March there's a team that underachieves throughout the regular season only to turn it on in the Big Dance and make a run. But there's also an underachiever every season that simply fizzles out early, showing that they never had the chops to begin with. Which one is Texas? They still have the potential to be either one at this point.
Three Key Happenings
1. West Virginia clinches a double bye in the Big East Tournament. With Austin Freeman sent back to the nation's capital due to a stomach virus the slumping Georgetown Hoyas were without their leading scorer, a serious blow going into Monday's matchup at West Virginia. And the Mountaineers took full advantage of his absence in the first half, gradually building their lead to seventeen by halftime on the way to an 81-68 victory. Da'Sean Butler led the way on Senior Night with 22 points, six rebounds and six assists while three other Mountaineers also scored in double figures. WVU didn't shoot particularly well from the field (42.9% overall; 33.3% second half) but they got to the foul line, attempting 34 free throws to the Hoyas' 21.
Greg Monroe (22 points) and Chris Wright (21 points) led the way for Georgetown but without a third scorer (after Vee Sanford's nine points no one else scored more than five) they didn't stand much of a chance once they fell behind by double digits. West Virginia's defense was just as important on Monday, forcing twenty turnovers and scoring 24 points off of the Hoyas' miscues. On a night in which they were actually out-rebounded 33-31 and scored just three more 2nd chance points than Georgetown, the Mountaineers found another way in which to take care of business. That should serve them well going into the regular season finale at Villanova and the Big East Tournament.
2. Jackson State clinches the outright SWAC regular season title. Behind 18 points from Garrison Johnson the Tigers wrapped up the SWAC title with their 57-54 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Neither team shot particularly well from the field but the Tigers got the job done with turnovers, forcing eighteen UAPB miscues while handing over the ball just six times themselves. But how much does the top seed mean despite Tevester Anderson's Tigers being far and away the best team in the SWAC? In the last decade the top seed won the league's automatic bid just five times; it's essentially an even bet when taking history into account. And if there's one area that could get Jackson State into trouble it could be foul shooting; the Tigers made just nineteen of thirty-two from the charity stripe to make things more stressful than they needed to be.
3. Binghamton withdraws from the America East Tournament. With a lengthy review of the athletic department still ongoing the powers that be at Binghamton made the decision on Monday to pull the team from the upcoming America East Conference Tournament. Mark Macon's team was to be the fifth seed but due to "possible distractions" the Bearcats won't be playing. Is it right to punish young men who had little to do with the issues that got the school into trouble to begin with? You could argue no. But with other league members applying pressure to Binghamton to make this move why not do it earlier? For coaches to lose preparation time, regardless of how little that may have been, due to the delay of releasing the matchups is an inconvenience to say the least. Four months is a length of time it should take to complete an investigation not figure out whether or not you'll be playing in the conference tournament.
Top Three Games
1. Texas 87, Oklahoma 76 See above.
2. UNC Greensboro 81, Georgia Southern 79 Ben Stywall bounced back from a horrific performance in a loss to Davidson with a UNCG record 14th double-double (30 points and 11 rebounds) as the Spartans hung on for dear life at home. Antonio Hanson led the Eagles with 20 points.
3. Jackson St 57, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 54 See above.
Three Notable Performances
1. Ben Stywall (UNC Greensboro) 30 points, 11 rebounds in the Spartans' 81-79 win over Georgia Southern.
2. Damion James (Texas) On Senior Night James scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Longhorns' 87-76 win over Oklahoma.
3. Reggie Holmes (Morgan State) Holmes led the way with 32 points and five rebounds as the Bears erased a ten-point second half deficit to win going away 81-67 against North Carolina A&T.