#1 Florida and #2 UCLA took their respective shows on the road on Saturday, but only the Gators proved to be worthy warriors. Florida survived at Kentucky to win their 16th straight after the #2 UCLA Bruins were upset by West Virginia.
Florida 64 Kentucky 61 - Tubby's troops seem to be rounding into form at just about the right time. Ranked #20 in the nation, the Kentucky Wildcats pushed Florida to the limit on Saturday at Rupp Arena. Randall Morris scored 18 with 9 boards and Ramel Bradley led the Wildcats with 20. Bradley has scored 20 or more in each of his last four games. The Wildcats could not overcome the #1 Gators, however, even though they held Joakim Noah to his second-lowest score of the season - 6 points. Noah was plagued with foul trouble and played only 21 minutes.
It's likely that the Wildcats aren't as good as this score might indicate. Being at home and not having to deal with Noah for almost half the game made this one tighter than it should have been. Kentucky may also have hurt themselves more than the Gators. Both teams went to the foul line 21 times. Kentucky made only 12, Florida 13. When it comes to crunch time in March, neither of those foul-shooting performances are going to get it done.
West Virginia 70 UCLA 65 - Playing without point guard Darren Collison, The #2 UCLA Bruins managed to cut into a 19-point lead and make a close game of it late. Unranked West Virginia scrambled on defense, forcing 15 Bruin turnovers and held on valiantly down the stretch. Alex Ruoff led the Mountaineers with 17 points; the Bruins' Arron Afflalo scored 27 for UCLA.
The Pac-10 - Big East matchup pointed up the relative strengths of the conferences to a degree. While the Bruins were without Collison and on the road, the Mountaineers still won and are unranked and tied for 4th in the Big East standings. The Bruins lead their conference at 10-2.
Top 25 road winners:
#6 Texas A&M 66 Nebraska 55 - Josh Carter equaled his season-high with 26 points, Aggies are now 4-1 on the road in Big 12 action.
#9 Kansas 92, Missouri 74 - Julian Wright blasted off with a season-high 33 points and completed his 4th double-double of the season with 12 rebounds, including 8 offensive boards.
#15 Air Force 60 New Mexico 51 - The Falcons rallied from a 4-point halftime deficit and cruised to a relatively easy win, though they still trail BYU (unranked, why?) by a game in the Mountain West.
#24 Arizona 77 #13 Oregon 74 - the fast-sinking Ducks fell at home to the already fallen Wildcats in the always-exciting-but-never-inspiring Pac-10. Chase Budinger scored 30 for Arizona.
Top 25 home winners:
#3 Ohio St. 63 Purdue 56 - Banged up Greg Oden played only 21 minutes but still managed 14 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. If Oden makes it through the season, he'll be in the top 3 in the NBA draft.
#4 Wisconsin 74 Iowa 62 - Alando Tucker, 21 points, 7 rebounds. Ho-hum, just another day at the office. Iowa (14-11, 6-5 Big 10) looking very bubbly.
#5 North Carolina 104 Wake Forest 67 - 14 different players scored for the Tar Heels as they topped the century mark for the 7th time this season. Randall Terry led with 23.
#7 Pittsburgh 74 Providence 68 - Aaron Gray, 22 points, 7 rebounds. 15-8 Friars still looking like March dancers.
#8 Memphis 95 Tulane 51 - It doesn't get much easier than this.
#14 Washington St. 59 California 46 - Daven Harmeling scored 26 points, including 5-7 3-pointers. The Cougars may be the stealth team of the tournament unless they overtake UCLA for the Pac-10 title. 21-4 overall, with 3 of those losses by 3 points apiece to UCLA, Stanford and Oregon.
#17 Oklahoma St. 93 Texas Tech 91 2 OT - Mario Boggan 35 points, 14 rebounds. Texas Tech drops to 15-10 and is squarely on the bubble. OK St. has struggled against lesser opponents and should make an early exit from the tourney.
#21 Southern Illinois 72 Creighton 68 - Big win for the Salukis over one of the better teams in their conference. The win actually was for first place in the Missouri Valley. Southern Ill. now 12-3, Creighton 11-4. Watch out for 10-5 Missouri State. Matt Shaw, 25 points for the winners.
#22 Georgetown 76, #11 Marquette 58 - The Hoyas are playing as well as any team in the nation. Jeff Green had 25 points and 5 rebounds; Roy Hibbert 23 and 11. For Hibbert, his 5th double-double and 3rd in his last 4 games. Georgetown has won 7 straight and with the win took over sole possession of 2nd place in the Big East at 8-2. Marquette misfired badly from beyond the arc: 4-21 (19%).
Top 25 Losers (not already mentioned):
Wright St. 77 #10 Butler 65 - The boys from Wright State may have taken some umbrage at Butler rising to #10 in the polls and took it out on the visiting Bulldogs. Not only that, but the Raiders took a 1/2-game lead in the Horizon league, avenging a 73-42 thrashing at Butler earlier in the year. The league winner gets an automatic invite to the tournament and this win makes the case for Wright St. if they finish tied or second. Wright State has won 7 straight and has only 3 games left to play.
Mississippi 75 #18 Alabama 69 - The Rebels were unkind hosts, sending the Crimson Tide to their 5th SEC loss and tying them for the SEC West lead at 5-5. The contentious SEC may send as many as 7 teams to the tournament, especially now that Tennessee has Chris Lofton healthy again.
Tennessee 84 #23 Vanderbilt 57 - Freshman forward Wayne Chism recorded his third double-double of the season, with 17 points and 12 rebounds as the Vols ran roughshod over the visiting Commodores. Chris Lofton scored 16 in 26 minutes. It was Lofton's 2nd game back after missing four straight. The Vols are playing well at the right time. They've beaten LSU and Vandy since Lofton returned to the lineup after losing 3 of 4 without him. Look for the Vols to possibly replace Alabama in the Top 25 this week.