No. 2 Kansas 61, West Virginia 56
And Kansas rolls right along, besting Big 12 foe West Virginia in Morgantown. The formidable Jayhawks have won 18 consecutive games; their only loss of the season was against Michigan State on Nov. 13. Oddly, Kansas shot 54.1 percent (20-37) from the field but only 52.9 percent from the charity stripe (18-34). It also committed 16 turnovers. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, WVU is not all that good.
Inside-out combo Jeff Withey and Travis Releford scored 15 points apiece to lead Kansas.
The ‘Hawks will try for 19 in a row when they host Oklahoma State on Saturday.
No. 19 NC State 55, Virginia 58
Sitting at 16-5 on the year, the Wolfpack have enjoyed a nice little season thus far. But Virginia’s Joe Harris scored 22 points, Akil Mitchell dropped in 14 and the Cavaliers bested NC State on their home floor in Charlottesville.
NC State is averaging just over 78 points per game (11th in the nation). Virginia, however, held the Wolfpack to just 55 points on 37.7 percent shooting.
Kentucky 87, No. 16 Mississippi 74
For fans of run-and-gun hoops, this was your game of the week. I finally got a chance to watch Kentucky for more than a couple of minutes, and a few things stood out.
First off, it’s a remarkably athletic group, if a bit unpolished. That’s no surprise; Coach Cal always has athletes. Second, the Wildcats are scary quick on the fast break, but with such young players leading the charge they have a tendency to hurry. And lastly, they can defend the rim. Maybe I should expound on that: Nerlens Noel can defend the rim. The flat-topped forward swatted 12 blocks against Ole Miss, many of them spectacularly.
Kyle Wiltjer scored 26 points, including five three-pointers, and Archie Goodwin added 24 for the Wildcats. Alex Poythress and Ryan Harrow had 15 and 13, respectively. Kentucky shot 50 percent from the field and was 8-23 from behind the arc.
On the Ole Miss side, Ladarius White scored a team-high 22 points, but the Rebs were just 28-85 from the field—a testament to Kentucky’s defensive prowess.
I think we all knew that John Calipari would get this Wildcats team moving in the right direction. He’s that good, and regardless of how you feel about his spotty trail of NCAA violations, or his one-and-done methodology, the man can flat-out win basketball games. (I am by no means a Coach Cal apologist, but I respect his coaching ability.)
If this team rounds into form by late February/early March, and if it consistently plays the way it played on Tuesday night—with defensive discipline and fast-breaking wizardry—the Wildcats will not only make the Tourney, they’ll be a damn tough out.
Ole Miss, on the other hand, is still 17-3 and playing well. Aside from Florida, the SEC has no clear-cut favorite, and Mississippi is certainly in the race for the league crown.
Nebraska 65, No. 23 Minnesota 84
If you’re a Big Ten team that’s been struggling of late, play Nebraska. The Huskers are always an effective tonic.
No. 10 Oregon 52, Stanford 76
The Ducks had risen all the way to No. 10 and were flying high in the Pac-12, thinking conference crown and Tourney berth. But 12-8 Stanford, always a thorn in Oregon’s side, took command of this ballgame and dominated the Ducks from start to finish.
Playing without point guard Dominic Artis, who’s out with a foot injury, Oregon racked up 20 turnovers and never found an offensive flow—the Ducks shot just 34.6 percent from the field.
Stanford’s offense wasn’t a problem. The Cardinal shot almost 52 percent, hit eight three-pointers and never let Oregon into the game. A balanced Stanford attack included Chasson Randle’s 17 points, Josh Huestis’s 14 and 12 apiece from Dwight Powell and Aaron Bright.
No. 20 New Mexico 63, Wyoming 59
Just when I was getting all fired up about the Cowboys, they go and lose three games in a row. The ‘Pokes lost to Air Force and its hybrid Princeton Offense on Saturday, 57-48, then hosted New Mexico on Wednesday and couldn’t defend their home court in Laramie.
Steve Alford’s Lobos were led by Cameron Bairstow, who scored a game-high 17 points. This very talented New Mexico squad is now 18-3, 5-1 and leading the Mountain West.
Other Wednesday notables:
Maryland 71, Florida State 73
No. 17 Missouri 70, LSU 73
UMass 61, La Salle 60
Boise State 57, Colorado State 77
DePaul 74, St. John’s 79
No. 8 Arizona 57, Washington 53
A pretty good ballgame in the Pac-12, even if play was pretty ugly at times. The surging Wildcats mixed it up with Washington in Seattle and came away with a conference win. Nick Johnson had 15 points for Arizona, and held Washington’s C.J. Wilcox—the top scorer in the Pac-12—to 11 points.
Some silly plays and poor free throw shooting from Washington in the waning minutes of the second half all but handed this game to the Wildcats, who moved into second place in the conference standings, one game behind Oregon.
The game was characterized by turnovers, sloppy passing and rugged interior play. Or as Bill Walton put it, after an especially muscular encounter between two big men, “The giants walking tall in the land.” Whatever he means by that, I agree with it.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Michael Snaer, Florida State
Snaer hit two buzzer-beating game-winners in one week. The first came against Clemson on January 24, when he banked in a long triple to give the Seminoles a 60-57 win. The second was Wednesday against Maryland, when Snaer knocked down a three-ball with about one second left in the game. FSU prevailed 73-71.
GAMES I’LL BE WATCHING
No. 1 Michigan vs No. 3 Indiana, Saturday, 9:00 ET
I’m sooo pumped for this game. Watch it.
Oklahoma State vs No. 2 Kansas, Saturday, 4:00 ET
Can the Jayhawks win 20 in a row?
No. 16 Mississippi vs No. 4 Florida, Saturday, 7:00 ET
A big game down south as two SEC title contenders do battle.
No. 22 SDSU vs Air Force, Saturday, 3:00 ET
Air Force can play, and we have a potential upset brewing.
No. 25 Marquette vs No. 12 Louisville, Sunday, 2:00 ET
Two top-end Big East squads do battle in Kentucky.
Wisconsin vs Illinois, Sunday, 3:30 ET
Remember the Illini? Maybe they can find some of that old early season mojo.
No. 11 Ohio State vs No. 1 Michigan, Tuesday, 9:00 ET
Another legit threat to Michigan’s No. 1 ranking comes to town on Tuesday night.