West Virginia 63, Marquette 62: For 39 minutes last night, Marquette beat West Virginia. They spread the floor against the much bigger Mountaineers, relying on their quickness advantage as they broke down defenders and created open three after open three. They hit 10-16 from deep, and competed just enough on the defensive glass (WVU had just 11 offensive rebounds) to take a 62-57 lead with 52 seconds left.
But then Marquette taught the nation the art of the late-game collapse. After a tough Kevin Jones lay-up, Darius Johnson-Odom missed a front-end. Then Devin Ebanks when Devin Ebanks drove the lane, he nearly lost the ball, but he ended up with a wide-open dunk to cut the lead to 62-61. Without the aid of a timeout, Da'Sean Butler rebounded Jimmy Butler's miss of a front-end, and hit a tough 19 foot turn-around with just 2.3 seconds left in the game. (In the video, the comeback starts at 6:00, and Butler's game winner is at 7:40.)
A side note to this game - this was easily one of the weirdest match-ups I have seen in a long time. Marquette essentially plays five guards, and didn't start a player taller than 6'7". West Virginia plays five forwards and their shortest starter was 6'7". 6'9" Devin Ebanks was defending 5'7" Mo Acker. It was a strange thing to watch, but the balance is key for both teams. Marquette runs a five out offense, meaning that they are strictly looking to penetrate and kick when they draw an extra defender. It works because instead of getting typical post touches - throwing the ball to a big man on the block - they simply dribble-drive to the paint, finishing if they have a shot, passing if they don't. Their two biggest players - Jimmy Butler and Hayward - are able to hold their own in the paint on the other end, creating mismatches on the offensive end.
The reason West Virginia is able to play five 6'7"-6'9" forwards is because each of them is essentially the same player. Sure, Butler and Ebanks are a little more perimeter oriented than Jones. But since all five players can defend 1-5, it allows West Virginia to mix up their defenses - last night, they used a straight-up man-to-man, a switching man-to-man, and a couple different zone looks - from a strict 2-3 zone to a match-up zone. Offensively, they put whoever has a size advantage on the block, look to get the ball into them in the post, and if the help is there, all five players can knock down a perimeter jumper. Eventually, West Virginia is going to need more offensively. They are not going to continue to win games without a playmaker and creator on the offensive end.
Syracuse 80, Seton Hall 73: In the first half, Seton Hall was able to pick up the tempo of the game, attacking the Orange offensively and not allowing the Cuse to set up their 2-3 zone. The Pirates opened up a 41-29 lead, but Syracuse was able to tie the game at 43 at the half. Seton Hall again opened up a lead in the second half, but Syracuse responded with a 15-0 run to take a 66-57 lead. The key to that run was Wes Johnson and Kris Joseph, whose athleticism was more than the Hall could handle, as they made plays defensively and were a nightmare to keep off the glass. They scored all 15 points in the run. Johnson, who is making a serious case for national player of the year, had 20 points, 19 boards, and 5 blocks and Joseph added 16 points off the bench.
Seton Hall once again showed that they have talent, but the issue right now is chemistry. They don't run great offense, and the biggest issue might be their best scorer Jeremy Hazell. Hazell has scored 79 points over the last two games, 38 last night, but it has taken him 64 shots to do so. Yes, he has knocked down some big ones. Yes, he has very impressive range. But until he realizes that Seton Hall's possession is about finding the team's best shot, and not just his, the Pirates are going to struggle.
Purdue 67, Iowa 56: Iowa took an early 15-6 lead in this one and went to the break up 27-26 as Purdue was cold from the field. But the Boilermakers came out hot (65.9% shooting) in the second half, led by 15 of E'Twaun Moore's 21 points. The decisive run came midway through the second half, as Purdue outscored Iowa 13-2 to open up a 53-38 lead.
Kentucky 104, Hartford 61: When Kentucky gets it going, they sure are a lot of fun to watch. John Wall set a school-record with 16 assists, many of them the alley-oop variety. DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and 12 boards in just 19 minutes. Over his last five games, Cousins has 85 points and 61 boards in 84 minutes.
Texas 95, Gardner-Webb 63: The Longhorns were sloppy at the star, committing six turnovers in the first four minutes, but once they got going this was a rout. 11 different players scored in the first half, and they only player that didn't score for UT was Jordan Hamilton. Damion James had 14 points and 13 boards.
Kansas 81, Belmont 51: Cole Aldrich showed why he doesn't need to score to make a difference for the Jayhawks - he had 14 points and 6 blocks to go along with his 11 points last night as Kansas overcame a sluggish start to win in a rout. Marcus Morris had 14 to lead Kansas.
New Mexico 90, Texas Tech 75: Texas Tech could not stop Darington Hobson, who went for 23 points, 12 boards, and 4 assists while Roman Martinez added 10 points and 11 boards. New Mexico held a high scoring Tech team to just 41% shooting, their season low.
Other notable games:
- Clemson 70, South Carolina State 67: The Tigers held a double digit lead for much of the second half, but a layup with 27 seconds left cut it to 68-67. Demontez Stitt hit two free throws at the other end, and Andre Young came up with a steal to seal the win for Clemson. Stitt had a team-high 13 points.
- Cornell 78, La Salle 75: Ryan Wittman had 34 points, breaking Cornell's career scoring record, to lead a Big Red team playing with out two starters. Cornell was up 38-27 at the half, and an Explorer 12-2 cut it to 40-39, but La Salle never got any closer. Rodney Green had 19 for the Explorers.
- Duke 84, Long Beach State 63: Jon Scheyer had 22 points and Nolan Smith added 19 as the Blue Devils put this one away early.
- Kansas State 85, Cleveland State 56: Jacob Pullen scored 18 points and Curtis Kelly added 17 as the Wildcats pulled away with a big run midway through the first half, opening up a 40-19 halftime lead.
- Georgia Tech 78, Winston-Salem 43: Mfon Udofia has done an admirable job filling in while Iman Shumpert is out with a knee injury. The freshman had 17 last night in what could be his last game in the role - Shumpert is expected back Jan. 2nd.
- Ole Miss 90, Jacksonville State 75: Terrico White had 29 points as the Rebels hit 14 threes and jumped out to a 17-2 run before cruising to the win.
- Dayton 74, Boston U 60: Rob Lowery had a career-high 23 points and Chris Wright added 19 as Dayton used a late 11-2 run to close out the Terriers. The Flyers have now won eight straight games.
- Rhode Island 80, Drexel 79: Exciting finish to this one. Rhody was down 79-74 with 39 seconds left, but two free throws from Keith Cothran cut the lead to three. A jumper 16 seconds later would make the lead one. After Cothran stole to the ball, he missed a jumper, but Lamonte Ulmer was there for the winning tip-in with 1.7 seconds left on the clock.
- Xavier 89, LSU 65: Terrell Holloway led X with 20 points as the Musketeers controlled the pace of the game, running away from the Tigers.
- Siena 92, St. Joe's 75: A 9-3 run at the end of the first half gave the Saints a 43-42 lead at the break, and they never looked back, forcing 11 St. Joe's turnovers in the second half. Alex Franklins had 25 and 12, Edwin Ubiles scored 20 of his 22 in the second half, Clarence Jackson had 23, and Ronald Moore, the nation's leading assist man, had 12 dimes.
- VCU 82, East Carolina 74: Brandon Rozzell hit a go-ahead three with 2:29 left to spark a 9-0 run as the Rams knocked off the Pirates. Larry Sanders led VCU with 23 points, 9 boards, and 4 blocks.
- Oklahoma State 66, Pacific 50: James Anderson scored 25 points, Obi Muonelo had 22, and the Cowboys held on despite seeing a 24 points halftime lead cut to just seven.
- Louisiana Tech 99, Houston 94: The Bulldogs got 29 points and 10 boards from Magnum Rolle and 17 points and 21 boards from Olu Ashaolu as they knocked off the Cougars. Most impressive - they held Aubrey Coleman, the nation's leading scorer, to just 19 points on 9-22 shooting.
- Missouri Valley play:
- Missouri State 74, Evansville 60: The Bears blew this one open with a 23-6 second half run. Jermaine Mallett had a team-high 17.
- Northern Iowa 60, Creighton 52: Creighton missed 15 of their first 16 shots and never recoverd, as the Panthers got 15 points from Ali Faroukmanesh and 12 from Kwadzo Ahelegbe.
- Illinois State 72, Wichita State 57: Osiris Eldridge scored 26 points, hitting four second half threes as the Redbirds outscored the Shockers by 15 points in the second half.
- Minnesota 75, Penn State 70: Lawrence Westbrook scored a career-high 29 points as the Gophers were able to outlast a feisty Nittany Lions team. Talor Battle had 23 points to lead Penn State.
- UTEP 58, Air Force 47: UTEP got 14 points from Randy Culpepper and 9 points and 11 boards from Derrick Caracter, but could never pull away from the Falcons.
- San Diego State 58, UC Riverside 53: Billy White scored 13 points as the Aztecs were able to hold off Riverside.
- Cal 87, UC Santa Barbara 66: Patrick Christopher scored 19 of his 25 points in the first half and Jerome Randle added 23 points as the the Bears cruised.
- St. Mary's 85, Binghamton 57: Mickey McConnel and Matthew Dellavedova combined for 43 points as the Gaels beat the undermanned Bearcats.
- Ryan Wittman scored 34 for Cornell and James Florence had 22 points for Mercer as both players set their respective schools career scoring records.
- Delaware's Alphonso Dawson had 23 points, including eight straight in OT, and 14 boards as the Blue Hens beat Lafayette in overtime.
- Keith Cothran scored 28 points for Rhode Island as he led the Rams back from a five point deficit in the final 33 seconds.
- Markeith Cummings scored 27 points to lead Kennesaw State to a win over Fordham.
- Justin Greene scored 26 points and added 10 boards as Kent State beat Wofford.