Kansas State was led by point guard Jacob Pullen, who led all scorers with 22 points while adding five assists in a losing effort. Forwards Wally Judge and Jamar Samuels both reached double figures off the bench on a night that saw five Wildcats do so, but their shooting in the extra session was the difference, making just three of seven field goal attempts while the Jayhawks made four of five. Cole Aldrich led five Kansas players in double figures with 18 points and 11 rebounds, allowing the Jayhawks to hold their own on the boards against one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the nation. But for all the stats one can dig up to explain why Kansas won, it all came down to a play the Jayhawks also ran in holding off Cornell earlier this month.
"I think we took time with about 16 seconds and we did the same thing that we did against Cornell which was a tight game," said Kansas head coach Bill Self after the game. "We faked the ball screen and he (Sherron Collins) was able to turn the corner and made a nice and-one which was similar to the game in Allen Fieldhouse." (quote courtesy of kstatesports.com).
As for the Wildcats, they're in the middle of a group that features eight teams within two games of each other six games into the conference schedule. Kansas State's shot selection will determine just how good Frank Martin's team can be; Denis Clemente (4-15 FG) is one player who would be best served to play a more efficient brand of basketball when it comes to the shots he takes. But there's no shame losing to a team the caliber of Kansas. In a season where we may not know who the favorite is to win the national title, we do know that the Jayhawks are among the teams on the short list of favorites.
Three Key Happenings
1. Georgetown handles Duke in the nation's capital. The final score may have been 89-77 but was this game really that close? The Hoyas essentially did whatever they wanted offensively, shooting 71.7% from the field and assisting on twenty of their thirty-three made field goals, while also limiting the Blue Devils to 37.1% shooting. Georgetown limited Duke to 33.3% shooting in the first half in jumping out to a 46-33 lead, and their refusal to settle on the offensive end of the floor paid enormous dividends. The Hoyas outscored Duke 48-24 in the paint and starters Austin Freeman (20 points), Greg Monroe (21) and Chris Wright (21) all scored at least twenty points.
"This group, our team, with each game is getting a heightened sense and understanding that we don't have to take a bad shot," said head coach John Thompson III. "With the offensive players we have, we know where our shots are coming from and they're doing an outstanding job night-in and night-out to help each other get shots." (quote courtesy of guhoyas.com).
Their system allows Georgetown to find good looks, sometimes with little or no effort, but the same cannot be said for the Blue Devils. They have to rely on the triumvirate of Jon Scheyer (17 points), Kyle Singler (18) and Nolan Smith (19) for the majority of their offense and when those three aren't able to create for themselves and others Duke gets into trouble. But regardless of what they do offensively Duke cannot defend in the manner that they did on Saturday and expect success in March.
2. Kentucky and Cornell make statements in their respective leagues. Both the Wildcats and Big Red hosted key games on Saturday and both took care of business. Kentucky knocked off Vanderbilt 85-72, leading essentially from start to finish thanks to three three-point plays from freshman big man DeMarcus Cousins. He and Patrick Patterson looked as comfortable playing together as they have in SEC play to this point, combining for 33 points and 14 rebounds while Darnell Dodson added 16 points and seven rebounds. Eric Bledsoe added 13 and seven boards off the bench while the Commodores were led by Jermaine Beal, who finished with 19 points. The Wildcats shared the basketball (15 assists on 24 baskets) and dominated the boards (39-21 edge) but they've still got work to do when it comes to valuing the basketball (17 turnovers). This much is certain, if some disregarded it following their loss to South Carolina on Tuesday: Kentucky is the favorite to win the SEC.
As for Cornell, they stamped themselves the clear favorite in the Ivy League with their 86-50 beating of Harvard in Ithaca. For those who talked about the possibility of the Ancient Eight grabbing an at-large bid the Big Red may have beaten that idea out of the Crimson. All five starters reached double figures with Jeff Foote's 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks leading the why while Harvard's Jeremy Lin scored 19 but no other player scored more than eight (Dee Giger). Harvard turned the ball over twenty-five times and shot 36.1% from the field while the Big Red finished with just eight turnovers and twenty-two assists. Steve Donahue's team is simply too good to be given the number of opportunities they were presented via Crimson turnovers, and they're a team people should consider when filling out their brackets in March.
3. San Francisco upsets Gonzaga, breathes life back into the WCC race. It was a late-night result, with some moving onto other things such as Herschel Walker's MMA debut (he won, in case you were wondering). But with the Gonzaga Bulldogs being the biggest game on every conference opponent's home slate they're due to be tested in the majority of their seven WCC road contests. Unfortunately for the Zags Saturday night was their time to have their 22-game conference win streak come to an end, falling at San Francisco 81-77 in overtime. Dior Lowhorn, who going into the game made just 17% of his three pointers, made five of seven from behind the arc including the game-tying shot with 9.8 seconds left in regulation.
Lowhorn also grabbed nine rebounds while four other Dons reached double figures in their first win over Gonzaga since 2005. The Bulldogs were led by Elias Harris, who finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds. But they didn't shoot well from behind the arc (5-18) and also missed some key free throws down the stretch to give USF the opening they needed to pull off the upset. What does the loss do for the WCC race? Gonzaga is now tied with Saint Mary's for first place (6-1) with Portland just a game behind those two. Both still have to visit Spokane and the Bulldogs should be considered favorites despite this loss. But there is a chance for both, and that's more than they were thought to have after dropping home games to the Bulldogs.
Top Three Games
1. Kansas 81, Kansas State 79 (OT) See above.
2. UTEP 74, UAB 65 (2OT) The Blazers went cold in the second overtime as the Miners moved into a tie for first place in Conference USA with the win. Derrick Caracter led the way for UTEP with 20 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.
3. Kent State 74, Western Michigan 73 This was one of the wilder finishes of the day. David Kool's (38 points) off-balance jumper from the top of the key put WMU up two with less than ten seconds remaining. But it was Rodriguez Sherman who won the game for Kent State, converting an emphatic three-point play with two seconds left in the game.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Aubrey Coleman (Houston) Coleman posted a double-double with 37 points and 13 rebounds in the Cougars' 81-66 win over Houston.
2. G Tye Abbott (Arizona State) Another double-double, this one coming from Abbott, who scored 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Sun Devils' 88-70 win over Stanford.
3. G David Kool (Western Michigan) Kool scored 38 points (12-23 FG) in the Broncos' 74-73 loss at Kent State.