Following Shabazz Napier's game-tying three-pointer most coaches would choose to call a timeout to draw up a play, risking the chance of the defense aligning and taking away the primary scoring option. But with the man he wanted to take the final shot already in possession of the basketball, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin decided against calling a timeout and as a result his Bearcats are now 5-1 in the Big East. Sean Kilpatrick, who led five Cincinnati players in double figures with 16 points, knocked down a three with 2.7 seconds remaining to give the Bearcats the 70-67 victory.
"I was watching just to make sure he or Dion [Dixon] had the ball," said Cronin of their final offensive sequence. "It's to the point with both of those guys with their ability to score off the dribble, and make shots. If he would have hesitated, I would have called a timeout."
Napier led all scorers with 27 points and Jeremy Lamb added 14 to go along with eight rebounds and five assists despite Jim Calhoun not thinking much of his performance, but UConn was done in by the fact that they didn't receive much from their frontcourt despite playing a team that's made its living of late by playing small. Starting forwards Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi combined for just six points and twelve rebounds, while reserves Roscoe Smith and Tyler Olander added a combined eight points and seven rebounds off the bench. UConn grabbed 44% of their missed shots but due to the lack of production inside the Huskies were unable to take advantage of the edge they had on paper entering the contest.
"When you start the game with a 6-10, 280 pound guy, and another guy 6-9, 245 pounds, and they can't rebound, or you can't throw them the ball, or they're getting backed down into the post, you've got a problem," said Calhoun of his starting big men. "That was our game plan. And that didn't work out very well for us."
Cincinnati's undergone quite the transformation in winning ten of eleven games since the blowout loss and brawl at Xavier, and not just in regards to their style of play. While guards such as Kilpatrick, Dixon and Cashmere Wright have more leeway to make plays offensively, the Bearcats are a more unified team as well. Yancy Gates (13 points, 12 rebounds) has accepted his new role and has been productive in it, and that's one more reason why Cincinnati is currently the answer to the trendy "who's the second-best team in the Big East" question.
Of course with games against West Virginia and Syracuse next on the schedule the Bearcats stand the chance of losing, but that shouldn't nullify the potential shown at Gampel Pavilion. Cincinnati believes is Coach Cronin's plan, and just as importantly they believe in each other. And that's an attitude that wasn't always on display on the court, making the Bearcats all the more dangerous throughout the remainder of the regular season and even into the postseason.
"Coming into Gampel and getting a win is huge. Obviously, they have a great team and arguably the best coach in college basketball," said Cronin. "It's a big win for us but you've got to win these kinds of games if you're going to compete for the Big East championship."
Other Notable Happenings
1. Indiana takes their foot off the gas and ends up losing their third straight game.
With 7:06 remaining Tom Crean's Hoosiers led Nebraska 60-49 and looked to be well on their way to leaving Lincoln with a win to snap their two-game losing streak. But Indiana played the game as if it were over from that point forward, and they paid dearly as Nebraska scored 21 of the game's final 30 points to win 70-69. Jorge Brian Diaz's two free throws with 11 seconds remaining gave Nebraska their first lead of the game at just the right time, completing a rally that happened despite shooting just 34.4% from the field in the second half. Nebraska scored 16 points off of 15 Indiana turnovers while also limiting the Hoosiers to just two second-chance points on the night.
And the Huskers also did a good job of keeping Christian Watford (eight points, ten rebounds) and Victor Oladipo (five points, four assists) quiet. Watford's play is one example of what's plagued the Hoosiers during this current stretch, as they haven't played consistently at the level that made wins over Kentucky and Ohio State possible. That's the next step Indiana needs to take in their climb back, and they've found out the last three games that the return to prominence is just as much about the "routine" victories as it is the headline-grabbing results.
2. San Diego State remains composed and ends up winning at New Mexico as a result.
Down 10-0 in one of the nation's toughest environments would be a convenient reason for many teams to simply lie down and take their beating. That wasn't the case for Steve Fisher's Aztecs, who got back into the game by going on a 12-2 run and eventually beat New Mexico 75-70 in front of a stunned crowd at The Pit. Xavier Thames led the way with 22 points and four assists for SDSU, who is tied for first place in the Mountain West with Colorado State as a result of the win, and the limited the Lobos to 39.1% shooting on the night. How'd SDSU do it defensively? They kept New Mexico off the foul line (3-7 FT), and while scoring 55.7% of your points from beyond the arc would be good for most teams that wasn't necessarily the case for the home team.
Phillip McDonald scored 20 points (6-9 3PT), Kendall Williams 16 and Drew Gordon 15 to lead New Mexico, but their inability to get inside of the three-point line resulted many times in them having to fire away from deep. And while they entered the game having scored 32% of their points from deep, New Mexico also scored 22% of their points from the foul line. San Diego State was the team that stayed with their game plan and as a result they're the ones who remained atop the Mountain West at the end of the night.
3. Creighton and Wichita State both win, giving the MVC race even more clarity.
Entering Wednesday's action the Bluejays and Shockers were tied atop the Missouri Valley standings with 6-1 records, holding a two-game lead on Missouri State and Drake. Thanks to wins by both (Creighton over Missouri State and Wichita State over Northern Iowa) there's even more clarity with regards to the MVC race, with Drake being the lone team within two games of first place. In Wichita State's 71-68 win at UNI Toure Murry scored a game-high 24 points and Garrett Stutz once again came up big on the road with 17 and nine rebounds (Stutz entered the game averaging 16.4 points and 9.0 rebounds in five road games). Another reason why the Shockers won was the foul line, where they made 20 of 24 attempts.
As for Creighton life on the road was difficult but
just like Wichita State it was rewarding as well, as two Missouri State
misses in the final ten seconds locked up the 66-65 victory. Gregory
Echenique bounced back from a poor performance in the first meeting to
score 16 points and grab seven rebounds while Doug McDermott added 15
and six, and Grant Gibbs and Antoine Young scored nine points apiece.
Creighton turned the ball over 14 times to just three for Missouri
State, but the Bluejays made up for that by limiting the Bears to 39.1%
shooting. Kyle Weems finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, making
just five of sixteen shots against a team he lit up for 31 and seven in
the first meeting. To ensure multiple NCAA bids come March the Valley
likely needs a team or two to separate from the pack, and that's a step
both Creighton and Wichita State have taken.
1. While their win over Duquesne on Saturday was a sign that Xavier was regaining their flow, the Musketeers likely needed to do that against an Atlantic 10 contender to show the rest of the league they remained the top dog. It's safe to say that Chris Mack's team did so in a 68-55 win over Saint Joseph's, limiting the Hawks to 16 second-half points. Tu Holloway scored just six points but dished out 12 assists and Mark Lyons led four Musketeers in double figures with 17 points.
2. Despite 16 turnovers Villanova picked up their second Big East victory as they beat Seton Hall 84-76 at The Pavilion. The Wildcats were a plus-9 (45-36) on the boards and JayVaughn Pinkston put together the best game of his young career with 23 points and 11 rebounds. If Jay Wright's team is to make a run towards the middle of the Big East they need another consistent option to go along with Maalik Wayns (25 points, seven assists).
3. Zach Filzen led four players in double figures with 21 points as Buffalo handed Akron their first MAC loss by the final score of 82-70. Buffalo assisted on 23 of their 29 field goals and the Zips turned the ball over 18 times in defeat. The Bulls' win pulls Akron (3-1) closer to the pack, with the five teams below them in the MAC East all with 2-2 league records.
4. UCF made history and to a certain extent the Knights have the official who felt that NBA-style continuation was a part of college basketball to thank for it. Keith Clanton's three-point play gave UCF the 68-67 win over Memphis, their first-ever win over the Tigers. Clanton scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds and Marcus Jordan added 20, while Will Barton led Memphis with 24 and eight boards.
5. Scott Christopherson's banked-in three as time expired gave Iowa State a 71-68 win over Oklahoma State in a game the Cyclones trailed by three with 15 seconds remaining. In addition to Christopherson, Royce White and Tyrus McGee scored 17 points apiece as Fred Hoiberg's team stayed on track for an NCAA Tournament appearance.
6. California announced on Wednesday afternoon that sophomore forward Richard Solomon would be academically ineligible for the remainder of the season. Solomon averaged 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Golden Bears, who visit the Washington schools this weekend and are tied atop the Pac-12 standings with Stanford. David Kravish stands to see an increase in minutes as a result, and the Bears also need to hope that starting forward Harper Kamp remains healthy.
7. Murray State had their hands full with bitter rival Morehead State for much of the night but Isaiah Canaan and company did enough to win 66-60 and move to 19-0 on the season. Canaan and Donte Poole combined to score 35 points for the Racers, who moved to 7-0 in the OVC and remain a game ahead of Southeast Missouri State in the loss column. Those two meet for the first time this season on February 2nd in Murray.
8. After playing to a 30-30 tie at the half the difference between West Virginia and Marshall was more than apparent in the second half as the Mountaineers pulled away to win 78-62. Kevin Jones (25 points, seven rebounds) and Truck Bryant (22 points) led the way for WVU, who avenged last season's loss to the Thundering Herd. WVU made 17 of 22 free throws while Marshall finished the night 3-for-6.
9. Also in the Atlantic 10, Temple made up for 15 turnovers by shooting 51.9% from the field in their 75-70 win over La Salle. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson led the way with 19 points and seven rebounds, taking advantage of the Owls' size advantage inside against the smaller Explorers.
Three Notable Performances
1. G/F Colt Ryan (Evansville)
39 points (8-14 3PT), nine rebounds and three assists in the Purple Aces' 90-67 win over Bradley.
2. G Rodney McGruder (Kansas State)
33 points (11-16 FG) and eight rebounds in the Wildcats' 84-80 win over Texas.