Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dez Wells Pumps in 30 as Maryland Ousts Duke in ACC Tourney

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 15, 2013

On a night of heavy conference tournament action, the upset of the night was produced by the Maryland Terrapins, who whipped the 2nd-ranked Duke Blue Devils for the second time this season, 83-74, advancing to the semi-finals to face North Carolina Saturday afternoon.

The Terps led the entire game, though Duke cut the lead to one point midway through the second half, but Dez Wells, who pumped in a career high 30 points for Maryland, would not allow his team to fail in what some considered a must-win for the Terrapins' tournament hopes.

Wells was 9-for-13 from the field, including 2-for-2 from outside the arc and made all 10 of his chances at the foul line. He added six boards, three assists and a steal in 32 minutes.

Maryland topped the Blue Devils back on February 8th, 83-81, at the Verizon Center in Washington DC, and proved it was no fluke as they dominated Duke and sent them packing in a one-and-done tournament appearance, out-rebounding Duke, 36-26, and had 18 assists to the Blue Devils' 10.

The Terps were just 8-10 in ACC play, but 22-11 overall, stringing together 11 straight wins prior to conference action. Their match-up with the Tar Heels may be a troublesome one, as North Carolina topped the Terrapins twice during the regular season.

Elsewhere, Georgetown and Syracuse met for the third time this season, and this time the Orange avenged their previous two losses to the Hoyas with a 58-55 OT win, advancing to the Big East final against Louisville, a 69-57 victor over Notre Dame.

The Cardinals and Orange tip at 8:35 pm EDT at Madison Square Garden.

The Big 12 will also crown a champion Saturday night, when #7 Kansas meets #11 Kansas State for the tourney title.

Also on Saturday, UCLA faces Oregon for the PAC-12 championship.

It will be a busy weekend for crowning, as the Mountain West, Conference USA, America East, Southland, Big West, Great West, Big Sky, SWAC, MEAC, WAC and MAC all play tournament finals on Saturday. The ACC, SEC, Big Ten, and Atlantic-10 each have championship games on Sunday.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Olivier Hanlan Sets ACC Frosh Record in Boston College Win over Georgia Tech

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 14, 2013

With a 16-16 record and a 7-11 mark in conference, the Boston College Eagles are likely headed to the NIT rather than the NCAA tournament, but freshman Olivier Hanlan made certain that he'd leave a permanent mark on the ACC tournament.

Hanlan scored a career-high 41 points in the Eagles' 84-64 win over Georgia Tech in the opening round of the ACC championship, the most ever scored by an ACC freshman in the history of the conference, post-season or otherwise.

Hanlan had a nice season for the Eagles, scoring at a 15.4 ppg clip, but his performance on Thursday afternoon was one for the ages, making 14 of 18 shots, including eight of 10 from beyond the arc, adding five of six from the foul line.

In his 36 minutes of floor time, Hanlan also collected five boards, make three steals and dished a pair of assists. BC will play top-seeded Miami at noon EDT on Friday.

Elsewhere, the Big East tournament produced a pair of semi-final match-ups as Syracuse topped Pitt, 62-59, and Georgetown cruised past Cincinnati, 62-43. Georgetown and SU will meet for the third time this season at 7:00 pm EDT Friday night. Georgetown won the previous two meetings handily.

On the other side of the bracket, #4 Louisville overwhelmed Villanova, 74-55, and Notre Dame stopped Marquette, 73-65, setting up a 9:00 pm EDT meeting between the Cardinals and the Fighting Irish.

Conference tournament action heats up this weekend as all conferences will crown champions prior to the NCAA committee selections on Sunday at 6:00 pm EDT.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jahii Carson Lifts Arizona State over Stanford in OT; Bucknell Bison Earn a Bid

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 13, Month, 2013

Conference tournaments spanned the countryside on Wednesday with action from the Big East to the PAC-12 on tap.

In one of the most hotly-contested battles of the night, Arizona State's Jahii Carson scored the first five points for the Sun Devils in overtime on a three-pointer and a layup and teammate Evan Gordon sealed the 89-88 ASU victory, making five of six free throws to close out Stanford in the first round of the PAC-12 championship.

Carson, a 5'10" freshman who led the Sun devils in scoring at 18.2 points per game, topped the scoring charts with a career-high 34 points on 14-for-22 shooting, including three of four from three-point range. The diminutive guard was a perfect 3-for-3 from the foul line and added a steal, three rebounds and four assists.

Also in the PAC-12, Colorado advanced with a 74-68 win over Oregon State, Washington edged Washington State, 64-62 and Utah slipped by USC, 69-66.

In the Big East, Syracuse, Villanova, Notre Dame and Cincinnati advanced in second round games.

A full slate is set for Thursday, with the Big 12 and Big Ten opening tourney play. There are 53 games on the college hoops schedule for Thursday.

Bucknell captured the Patriot League title and received the automatic bid with a 64-56 win over Lafayette in the league final.

The Bison were led by Mike Muscala's double-double: 20 points and 11 boards.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Valparaiso, South Dakota State Make Tourney Field; CJ Garner Leads LIU-Brooklyn with Career Effort

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2012

LIU Brooklyn defeated Mount St. Mary's for the Northeast conference championship and an invitation to their third straight NCAA tournament, with a 91-70 victory.

Trailing by eight points midway through the first half, LIU head coach, Jack Perri, switched from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone on defense and his players responded, taking a 35-31 lead by half time and pulling away in the second half.

The Blackbirds were led by C.J. Garner, who scored a career-high 31 points on 13-for-17 shooting, adding five of seven from the foul line. LIU-Brooklyn shot 61% for the game, making five of nine from three-point range.

South Dakota State returned to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year, winning the Summit League tittle with a 73-67 win over North Dakota State.

Nate Wolters led all scorers with 27 points for the Jackrabbits, to go with six assists and six rebounds.

Valparaiso won the Horizon League championship, topping Wright State in the tournament final, 62-54. Erik Buggsled three Crusaders in double figures with 22 points.

13 teams have now qualified for the NCAA tournament by winning their league championships.

Harvard - Ivy League
Belmont - Ohio Valley
Florida Gulf Coast - Atlantic Sun
James Madison - Colonial Athletic Association
Iona - MAAC
Creighton - Missouri Valley
LIU Brooklyn - Northeast
Western Kentucky - Sun Belt
Liberty - Big South
Gonzaga - West Coast
Davidson - Southern
South Dakota State - Summit League
Valparaiso - Horizon League

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kelly Olynyk Leads Gonzaga into Tourney; Iona Takes MAAC

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, March 11, 2013

Gonzaga defeated St. Mary's in the West Coast conference tourney final to stamp their ticket to the NCAA tournament with emphasis, winning by a decisive, 65-51, score.

It was the third time Gonzaga had defeated St. Mary's this season; the Gaels will have to wait until selection Sunday to see if they receive an at-large invitation.

The Bulldogs were led by center Kelly Olynyk, who topped the scoring charts with 21 points and added 12 rebounds. Olynyk was 7-for-12 from the field and made seven of nine from the foul line.

Ranked #1 in the nation, Gonzaga completed a 16-0 season in conference and has the best overall record in the college ranks at 31-2.

Iona defeated Manhattan, 60-57, to take home the Metro Atlantic Athletic conference championship. Tre Bowman came off the bench for the Gaels to lead all scorers with 20 points, making seven of nine from the field and all four of his free throw attempts.

Davidson, Western Kentucky, James Madison Are In

The Davidson Wildcats extended the nation's longest winning streak to 16 games, capturing the Southern conference championship with a 74-55 victory over the College of Charleston in the tourney final. De'Mon Brooks led all scorers with 24 points and added eight rebounds.

Davidson the nation's top free-trow shooting team, made only 14 of 21 line attempts, but shot 55% from the floor while holding the Cougars to 30% shooting.

Western Kentucky took the Sun Belt title, winning four games in four days for the second straight season to earn the automatic invitation to the NCAA tourney.

The Hilltoppers outlasted a game Florida International squad, coached by Richard Pitino, son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, by a 65-63 score.

Center George Fant scored 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting and snagged 13 rebounds to pace Western Kentucky.

A.J. Davis led all scorers with 26 points to lead James Madison to the Colonial Athletic Conference championship with a 70-57 victory over Northeastern.

The Dukes led early, took a commanding 40-18 lead into the break and coasted to the easy win.

Five More Dance Tickets to Be Punched Tonight

With five teams already in the tourney (Harvard, Florida Gulf Coast, Belmont, Creighton and Liberty) five more conference champions will be crowned tonight, pushing the number of automatic bids handed out to ten.

The Southern conference starts the evening's action when Charleston 24-9 (Conf: 14-4) faces #1 seed, Davidson 25-7 (Conf: 17-1) at 7:00 pm EDT.

At the same time, James Madison 19-14 (Conf: 11-7) takes on Northeastern 20-11 (Conf: 14-4) for the Colonial conference championship and the Sun Belt final pits Western Kentucky 19-15 (Conf: 10-10) against Florida International 18-13 (Conf: 11-9).

At 9:00 pm EDT, the Metro Atlantic tourney concludes when Manhattan 14-17 (Conf: 9-9) faces
Iona 19-13 (Conf: 11-7) and the West Coast conference will crown a champion when St. Mary's battles #1 Gonzaga.

All games will be carried live on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cody Zeller Leads Indiana to Big Ten Title in Win over Michigan

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 10, 2013

Indiana scored the last six points of the game to capture the Big Ten championship with a 72-71 win over Michigan.

After Glenn Robinson III made one of two free throws to give the Wolverines a five-point lead with 1:03 to play, Indiana took advantage of two missed front ends of one-and-one free throws by Michigan - one each by Tim Hardaway Jr. and by Trey Burke - scoring on each of their final three trips down the floor.

The win gave the Hoosiers the outright regular season title in a hotly contested Big Ten, with a 14-4 record. With a win tonight against Northwestern, Michigan State can finish tied with Ohio State for second place at 13-5.

With the loss, Michigan fell to 12-6, tied with Wisconsin for fourth place.

Cody Zeller tallied a game-high 25 points to go with ten rebounds, four on the offensive end. Victor Oladipo also had a double-double with 14 points and 14 boards.

Zeller was 10-for-19 from the field and 5-for-8 from the foul line.

Creighton Wins MVC with 68-65 Win over Wichita State

Even though All-American Doug McDermott was saddled with fouls and was held well below his average, his teammates shouldered the load and defeated Wichita State, 68-65, to capture the BlueJays second straight Missouri Valley conference tournament.

Creighton will get the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney for the second straight season. The Shockers, which finished up with a solid 26-7 mark - identical to Creighton - is likely to receive an at-large invite.

Creighton joins Belmont, Florida Gulf Coast, Harvard and Liberty as early recipients of automatic bids to the NCAAs.

Liberty Starts Season 0-8, Heads to NCAA Tourney from Big South

After starting the season 0-8, even the players of Liberty couldn't have imagined this.

The Liberty Flames won their fourth straight tournament game, topping Charleston Southern, 87-76, to capture the Big South tourney and punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament.

Liberty beat Coastal Carolina, High Point and Gardner-Webb to reach the final and achieve the dream. The 15-20 Flames were 6-10 in conference play, but put it all together when it counted.

It's Liberty's third trip to the NCAA tournament and first since 2004.

Next up: Missouri Valley conference final, Creighton vs. Wichita State, underway at 2:05 pm EDT.

At 4:00 pm EDT, Michigan hosts Indiana in a contest that will determine the Big Ten regular season title.

Kenny Kadji Leads Miami to ACC Title; Florida Gulf Coast, Belmont, Harvard Earn NCAA Berths

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 9, 2013

With regular seasons ending in some of the major conferences and a couple of minor conferences hailing tourney champions and the first entrants into the NCAA field, Saturday was a huge day for college hoops.

In the Big East, Georgetown took a share of the regular season title with Marquette and Louisville - both winners on the day - with a stunning, 61-39 rout of Syracuse, finishing up their conference schedule at 14-4. The Hoyas, Cardinals, Golden eagles and Pitt Panthers will get first round byes in the upcoming conference tourney.

Miami captured the ACC title outright with a signature 62-49 home win over Clemson to wrap up the regular season with a 15-3 mark (24-6 overall), a game better than Duke, which hammered North Carolina, 69-53.

Miami was led by Kenny Kadji, who scored 23 points and ripped down 12 boards for his third straight double-double and seventh on the season. Kadji was 6-for-11 with four three-pointers and went 7-for-9 from the stripe.

Miami and Duke head to the ACC tournament the #1 and #2 seeds, setting up a possible finals match-up that could determine a #1 seeding in the NCAAs.

Three conferences crowned champions on Saturday, the first going to Florida Gulf Coast, as they topped Mercer, 88-75, capturing the Atlantic Sun tourney and grabbing the first automatic bid to March's Big Dance.

In an ironic twist, Belmont, last season's winner of the Atlantic Sun with a victory over Florida Gulf Coast, took down Murray State in overtime, topping the Racers in overtime, 70-68, to win the Ohio Valley Conference their first year in the league.

Harvard won the Ivy League, winning their final game against Cornell, 65-56, to post an 11-3 record, but the Crimson had to wait until later in the evening to celebrate their second straight Ivy title, when Brown upset Princeton, 80-67, leaving the Tigers at 9-4 with a game yet to play, Tuesday night against Penn at Philadelphia's Palestra.

NOTABLE: Kentucky likely salvaged their season and might have possibly earned an at-large bid with a 61-57 victory over #11 Florida, the Gators having already wrapped up the SEC regular season title. The Wildcats had dropped two straight before entering Saturday's game and a win over a ranked opponent was just the tonic needed to revitalize the program.

Creighton will play Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference tourney final Sunday, the Blue Jays hammering Indiana State, 64-43, while the Shockers took a 66-51 decision over Illinois State in the other semi-final.

A slew of other minor conference title are up for grabs on Sunday, and a huge game is on tap for 4:00 pm EDT at Ann Arbor, Michigan, as the #7 Wolverines host #2 Indiana. A Hoosier win would give them the Big Ten title outright, while a victory by Michigan could produce a four-way tie at the top of the conference between Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan State.

#1 Gonzaga turned a one-point half time lead into a 66-48 win in a WCC semi-final. The Zags will meet St. Mary's for the West Coast conference tourney title and the automatic NCAA bid at 9:00 pm EDT Sunday night.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Tyler Brown Keep Illinois State Alive in Missouri Valley Tourney

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 8, 2013

Here come the bracket busters, the teams which can only hope to get an invitation to the NCAA Tourney by winning their conference tournaments.

With post-season tourneys already underway in eight conferences - Metro Atlantic, Sun Belt, Horizon, West Coast, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Atlantic Sun and Southern - there are a number of hopefuls still in the mix.

Illinois State downed Northern Iowa, 73-65, in the quarter-finals of the Missouri Valley tournament, possibly ending the Panthers' chances of making it any further toward March Madness.

The Redbirds, 8-10 during the regular season, were led by Tyler Brown's 28 points and nine rebounds, the senior guard taking charge with 11-for-17 shooting from the field with six of eight from three-point range. The Redbirds avenged a season-ending loss to UNI just six days ago, and have the opportunity to turn the Missouri Valley into a scramble.

Illinois State faces Wichita State in the semi-final at 5:05 pm ET Saturday, the winner advancing to the final to face the winner of Creighton vs. Indiana State.

NOTABLE: The Ivy League is one conference that doesn't hold a post-season tourney, and Friday's results put the ball back in the hands of the Harvard Crimson for the NCAA invite, as they slipped past Columbia, 56-51. With Princeton losing at Yale, 71-66, Harvard only has Cornell in their path to the tourney. The Crimson host Cornell at 5:30 pm ET Saturday. A win puts them into the NCAA field unless Princeton can win on the road at Brown on Saturday and at Penn on Tuesday.

In the case that Princeton and harvard tie for the title, there will be a one-game playoff, but Harvard has already beaten the Tigers twice this season.

In the Ohio Valley, Belmont, the new kid on the block after exiting the Atlantic Sun last year after three straight conference championships, will play in the tourney final against Murray State on Saturday. The Tigers, a fixture in the NCAA tourney recently, knocked off Tennessee state, 82-73, making the final on Saturday. Murray State, the #2 seed, defeated Eastern Kentucky, 81-73.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Lead Georgia over Kentucky

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Kentucky Wildcats may have finally played themselves right out of the NCAA tournament, losing badly in a critical spot, at unranked Georgia, 72-62.

The Wildcats dropped their second straight game and fourth of their last seven. Beyond Thursday night's loss, they host #11 Florida as they wrap up their regular season. Kentucky is 11-6 in the SEC, but sinking fast.

From the opposite perspective, the Bulldogs have been playing better of late, winning three of their last four, their only loss a 63-62 defeat at Vanderbilt last week.

Georgia's fate may be improved or denied dependent on how they fare in their season finale, when Alabama comes calling on Saturday, and how well they perform in the SEC tourney. The Bulldogs have reached respectability with a 9-8 conference mark, but a couple of wins in the post-season would go a long way toward receiving an NCAA bid as the selection committee will be taking five - possibly six - teams from the SEC.

Georgia was led by 6'5" sophomore, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who didn't shoot very well, making just six of 19 shots from the field, including going 2-for-7 from the three-point line, but he made up for his misses at the foul line, where he was 10-for-11. He also was a major factor on the boards, where he swiped 10 rebounds, three on the offensive end. His 24-point, 10-rebound effort was Caldwell-Pope's sixth double-double of the season.

NOTABLE: When a team wins by 15 points and shoots 37%, there's a good bet that the game was a Big Ten match-up, and an even better chance that the winner was Michigan State, where toughness and defense are core principles of coach Tom Izzo's success. The #10 Spartans absolutely spanked #22 Wisconsin, 58-43, holding the Badgers to just 29% from the field and 17% (4-for-23) from beyond the arc.

The game wasn't even as close as the score indicates. after 30 minutes of play, the Badgers were still in the 20s, and only Michigan State relaxing with a huge lead made the score respectable.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Travis Taylor, Xavier End St. Louis' 11-Game Win Streak with 77-66 Victory

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Upsets were everywhere in the college hoops universe Wednesday night, as five ranked teams went down to defeat.

The biggest surprise of the evening came from Philadelphia, where the Villanova Wildcats knocked off #5 Georgetown, 67-57, ending the Hoyas' 11-game winning streak and throwing next week's Big East tourney into a condition f total chaos.

Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown are tied for the regular season lead at 13-4, with one game remaining. Georgetown faces Syracuse on Saturday to close out the season. The Wildcats improved to 10-8 in the conference and have now defeated three different Top 5 teams this season, Georgetown joining Syracuse and Louisville on the victim list.

In the Big Ten, Iowa State downed #13 Oklahoma State, 87-76; the ACC suddenly became more competitive as Georgia Tech won at #6 Miami, 71-69; and the PAC-12 saw Washington State defeat UCLA, 73-61.

But there may be no more competitive a conference than the Atlantic-10, where Xavier took out #16 St. Louis in overtime, 77-66, as 6'8" senior forward Travis Taylor pumped in 19 points and ripped down 19 rebounds in one of the top efforts of the season.

Taylor was 6-for-11 from the field and 7-for-9 from the charity stripe, getting all of his points inside, punishing the Billikens on both ends of the court. Four of his 19 boards came on the offensive end in a game that was a total war in the paint. St. Louis record 16 offensive boards to Xavier's 11, but the Billikens could only must a 30% shooting mark for the game, getting off 19 more shots than the Musketeers, who hit at a 42% rate.

The win ended an 11-game St. louis winning streak and left the Billikens tied with VCU (a 93-82 winner over Richmond) atop the A-10 standings at 12-3. Xavier, keeping alive hopes for an NCAA bid, improved to 9-6 in the conference and 17-12 overall.

The Billikens close out their regular season at home vs. LaSalle on Saturday, while #21 VCU travels to Temple for their last A-10 game.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Missouri Hammers Arkansas, 93-63, Behind 24 and 11 from Laurence Bowers

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 5, 2013

#11 Florida may have already wrapped up the SEC regular season title, but that has not deterred other teams chasing the Gators from getting in valuable playing time down the stretch, leading to the conference tournament.

Missouri is one of those pursuing teams that appears to be peaking at the right time, dusting Arkansas in a big way, with a 93-63 victory over the Razorbacks at Mizzou Arena Tuesday night.

Senior forward, Laurence Bowers, led the Tiger romp with 24 points and 11 rebounds, scoring the first five points of the game, helping the Mizzou to an unassailable 48-22 halftime lead.

Bowers was simply unstoppable on senior night in Columbia, knocking down 10 of 13 shots from the floor and crashing the boards hard on both ends. Four of his rebounds were on the offensive end, leading to second-chance points for the Tigers.

It was Bowers' seventh double-double of the season and second in a row. He had 23 and 10 Saturday against LSU.

The Tigers have won three straight and four of their last five. They are 11-6 in the conference with the regular season finale at Tennessee on Saturday. Florida has two games remaining and are in the lead with a 13-3 mark.

NOTABLE: Winning on the road is huge in any conference, but it is especially tough in the Big Ten, but the Ohio State Buckeyes made their trip to Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana, a memorable one, keeping alive their hope of sharing the Big Ten title with a 67-58 win over the #2-ranked Hoosiers.

The result left the Big Ten race still undecided, with Indiana leading with a 13-4 mark, followed by the Buckeyes at 12-5. Both Ohio State and Indiana have just one regular season game left. Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin are all tied at 11-5, each with two more games to play, the most important being Indiana's trip to Michigan on Sunday. The race is so tight, four teams could claim a share of the crown. Michigan State hosts Wisconsin on Thursday night, the game will eliminate one of the two from title contention.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Jeff Withey Leads Kansas to Rout of Texas Tech, 79-42

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, March 4, 2013

Texas Tech got a stark reminder of what happens when Kansas gets into its offense early and their perimeter players allow seven-foot Jeff Whithey to get loose inside.

Layups and dunks are the usual results... and a lopsided, 79-42 victory for the Jayhawks.

Withey led all scorers with 22 points, making seven of eight from the field, mostly in so close to the bucket that it would have been harder to miss than make the shots, and converted eight of nine from the charity stripe, a solid showing and a big asset for a big man.

The senior center also stepped outside for one three-point attempt and it too found the bottom of the net. It was his first and only three-point shot of the season, and probably his last, keeping his perfect record from beyond the arc intact.

Withey also grabbed nine boards, falling just short of what would have been his 13th double-double of the season.

The Jayhawks shot 53% for the game, holding the Red Raiders to just 26% on 14-for-53 shooting. Texas Tech also hit just one of 15 three-point shots.

Kansas, 14-3 in Big 12 play, has just one game left on their regular season schedule. They are home against Baylor this Saturday and can capture another conference title if second place Kansas State (13-3) stumbles at home against 1-15 TCU (unlikely) or loses at Oklahoma State this Saturday. The Cowboys will be looking to overturn an earlier, 73-67, Kansas State win.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Michigan's Trey Burke Makes Key Plays in Win over Spartans

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 3, 2013

After losing at Penn State on Wednesday, the Michigan Wolverines knew they'd need a much better, more focused effort to defeat #4 Michigan State when the Spartans came calling Sunday afternoon in Ann Arbor.

Trailing by three at the half, Trey Burke and his Michigan teammates surged to a ten-=point lead with just over four minutes left to play, but saw the Spartans knaw into the lead and eventually tie the game at 56-all. Michigan State had the ball with the shot clock off and a chance to win when Burke came up with the play of the game - and maybe the season - stealing the rock from Spartan point guard Keith Appling at mid-court and taking it in for a go-ahead dunk with 22 seconds left.

Derrick Nix made one of two free throws with 8.8 seconds left to make it 58-57, and, after Mitch McGary missed the front end of a one-and-one, the spartans still had life with 4.7 seconds. As the Spartans tried to get a look, Burke again stole a pass as the clock went to all zeroes, the game over, victory assured, the final: 58-57.

A leader all season long, Burke ended with a game-high 21 points, eight assists, five steals four rebounds and a blocked shot.

The result left four teams in the Big Ten - Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin (a 69-56 loser to Purdue Sunday) - tied for second place at 11-5. They are all chasing 13-3 Indiana. The Hoosiers have their final two games Tuesday and Sunday, when they meet the Buckeyes at home and head out on the road to finish up at Michigan.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Ryan Kelly Returns with 36 to Lead Duke Past Miami

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 2, 2013

When Duke was blistered at Miami, 90-63, back on January 23, Ryan Kelly was wondering when he'd be back in the Blue Devil lineup as the 6'11" forward sat helplessly on the bench nursing a foot injury that had already sidelined him for two games.

On Saturday, Kelly returned to the Duke starting lineup. Most observers thought he could add some scoring, help the Blue Devils spread the floor and provide some minutes of solid defense. What they got from the senior was an effort for the ages, as Kelly responded with his best game as a collegian, scoring a career-high 36 points, leading Duke to a payback, 79-76, win that evened the score between the top two teams in the ACC.

For a player that hadn't seen game action in nearly two months, Kelly proved deadly accurate from anywhere on the floor, hitting 10 of 14 shots, including an incredible 7-for-9 mark from beyond the arc. He also canned seven of nine from the foul line and collected seven rebounds, an assists, a blocked shot and two steals, playing 32 minutes.

Beyond his scoring outburst being more than double his seasonal average, to do it with only a few days of practice and at the end of the long layoff speaks volumes about the senior's work ethic and coach Krzyzewski's fluid offensive system.

Miami did not make it easy on the Blue Devils, however, rallying late in the game to close the gap to three points, ending with a desperation heave from the corner by Rion Brown that would have tied the game, but clanged off the rim as the final horn sounded.

The result left the Hurricanes still comfortably atop the ACC standings with a 14-2 record - two better than Duke's 12-4 mark - but plenty to think about heading down the stretch and into the conference tourney. The Hurricanes need only to win one of two remaining games - both at home - to capture their first ACC regular season title. They face Georgia Tech this Wednesday and close out the schedule on Saturday against Clemson.

Duke hosts Virginia Tech on Tuesday before closing out their season at North Carolina on Saturday, March 9.

NOTABLE: Look for #12 Syracuse to continue sliding in the polls, losing their third straight game in a 58-53 home loss to #10 Louisville. The Orange had previously lost to Georgetown and Maquette in the past week.

#19 Memphis captured another Conference USA title, winning 76-67, at UCF to run their conference record to 14-0, three games better than second place Southern Miss (11-3) with just two games left to play. The Tigers had their 18-game winning streak - then the longest in college hoops - snapped this past Tuesday when Xavier got the better of them in a 64-62 upset.

The Atlantic-10 continues to be a hotbed of activity, though St. Louis seems to be above all of it, winning their 11th straight and maintaining their lead in the conference at one game with a 66-58 win at George Washington. The Billikens are being pursued by VCU, who hammered Butler on Saturday, trouncing the Bulldogs, 84-52, to remain just a game back. The Billikens have two tough contests remaining: at Xavier on Saturday and home against LaSalle - currently in third place, at 10-4 - on Saturday.

Life in the PAC-12 got even screwier on Saturday, as the UCLA Bruins upended #11 Arizona, 74-69. That sent the Wildcats tumbling to fourth place in the standings with an 11-6 record. UCLA tied Oregon at 12-4 to lead the conference with just two games left for both teams. Cal is squeezed into third place, at 12-5. They host Stanford on Wednesday to finish up their regular season.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Princeton Shoulders Up to Harvard as Ian Hummer Leads 58-53 Victory

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 1, 2013

For the Princeton Tigers, the objective was apparent: beat Harvard for the 24th straight time at home, then win out the remaining four games of the regular season, force a playoff or win the Ivy League - and a trip to the NCAA tournament - outright.

Thanks largely to a huge effort from senior forward, Ian Hummer, the Tigers took the first step with a 58-53 nail-biter win over the Crimson.

Hummer registered his first double-double of the season, going 8-for-14 from the field and a perfect 7-for-7 from the line for a game-high 23 points, adding a season-high 14 rebounds, four on the offensive end.

The win left the Tigers at 8-2 in the conference with four games left to play, right behind 9-2 Harvard, which has only three games left on the regular season schedule.

In the case the two titans of the Ivy League end up tied, as has occurred in two of the last three seasons, a single-game playoff will determine which squad gets the automatic NCAA bid.

The contest was marked by solid defense, with both teams held to under 41% shooting. Princeton made the only three-pointer of the game - on ten attempts. Harvard was 0-for-8 from outside the arc. Both teams displayed proficiency at the foul line. The Tigers made 19 of 22 free throws; Harvard was 22-for-25 from the stripe.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Joe Harris Bombs Duke with 36 Points as Cavaliers Triumph, 73-68

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 28, 2013

A golden opportunity staring them in the face, the #3 Duke Blue Devils could not contain Virginia's Joe Harris, the junior guard scoring a career-high 36 points en route to a 73-68 Cavalier upset in Charlottesville, VA.

Harris, who averages more than 17 points per game, outdid his previous career mark by 10 points. The Cavaliers took a five-point lead into the half and played the Blue Devils even up in a wide open second half, each team scoring 45 points.

Joe Harris poured in 12 of 20 shots from the field and added 10 more points (on 12 attempts) from the foul line, disrupting Duke's plans and practically handing the conference title to the 14-1 Hurricanes in the process. Harris also ripped down seven rebounds and had a pair of assists, two blocks and a steal before fouling out late in the contest, which Virginia led throughout.

Virginia out-rebounded Duke, 36-25, with Akil Mitchell snagging 12 boards to go with his 19 points, his ninth double-double of the season.

Duke entered the game with an 11-3 conference mark, trailing Miami, whom they host this Saturday, by two games, so the opportunity to narrow the gap in the ACC was present, though predicated on winning at Virginia.

With a three-game lead in the standings, the Hurricanes have only to win one of their remaining three games. Following this Saturday afternoon's tilt at Cameron Indoor, the Hurricanes close out the season at home against Georgia Tech and Clemson. Those teams have identical 5-10 ACC records.

20-8 Virginia is poised for a nice post-season run. They are tied with North Carolina four third place in the ACC with a 10-5 record.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Penn State drops Michigan, 84-78, Behind Jermaine Marshall's 25 Points

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Somehow, we all knew it was going to happen sooner or later. The cocky - and often sloppy - attitude of the Michigan Wolverines would catch up to them, and, on Wednesday night, it finally did, as Penn State took advantage of home court and 15 Michigan turnovers to upend the Wolverines, 84-78, shining a very bright light on star point guard Trey Burke, who committed six turnovers himself and made just one of four shots from outside the three-point arc.

Michigan took a slim, three-point lead into the break, but the Nittany lions simply outplayed them in the second stanza, making three-pointers and trips to the foul line as they pressured the Michigan defense on each possession. Leading the charge was junior guard Jermaine Marshall, who led all scorers with 25 points on shooting of 8-for-17, nailing six of ten from downtown.

Marshall, the Lions' second-leading scorer among active players at 15.4 ppg (Tim Frazier has an average of 16.3, but has played just four games this season), also grabbed six rebounds, had three assists and a couple of steals in the upset victory.

With nothing to lose, the Penn State players made the most of their opportunity to make headlines. They are 9-18 overall, and, up until Wednesday night, were 0-14 in Big Ten play.

NOTABLE: Still receiving far too little acclaim, the St. Louis Billikens won their tenth straight game, whipping St. Joseph's, 70-53, maintaining their one-game lead in the Atlantic-10 over 10-3 VCU with an 11-2 conference record.

The Billikens haven't lost since back-to-back defeats at Temple and against Rhode Island, back on January 12 and 19 and need to forge wins at George Washington and Xavier before their season finale at home against LaSalle in order to take the conference title outright.

There will be plenty of hand-wringing come selection Sunday for all the teams in the PAC-12 other than the one which wins the post-season conference tournament. That's because the contenders in the conference haven't done much in the way of presenting a strong case by which the committee can single them out for an at-large bid. Currently, Oregon and UCLA lead the standings at 11-4, followed by Arizona and Cal at 11-5 and 10-5, respectively. Colorado is 9-6; Arizona State is 9-7 and USC improved to 8-7 after dropping Arizona Wednesday night, 89-78.

Winning records have been achieved by these seven - each of which believe they are worthy of at-large tourney selections - largely at the expense of Utah, Oregon State and Washington State, the conference cellar-dwellers with a combined conference record of 8-36.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Minnesota Dumps #1 Indiana as Trevor Mbakwe Outplays Zeller

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Big men in the Big Ten play important roles in their teams' successes, but none was bigger than Minnesota's 6'8" senior, Trevor Mbakwe, as he powered the Golden Golphers to a 77-73 defeat of top-ranked Indiana Tuesday night.

Mbakwe posted his ninth double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds, significantly outplaying Indiana's Big Ten player of the year candidate, Cody Zeller, who was held to just nine points on 2-for-9 shooting and a mere seven rebounds before fouling out late in the second half.

Mbakwe's prowess on both ends of the floor were evident as Minnesota dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Hoosiers, 44-30, and snaring an incredible 23 offensive rebounds. Mbakwe was 8-for-10 from the field and 5-for-7 from the foul line, completing what was surely one of his best effort as a collegian.

Indiana's loss is college basketball's gain. It's the seventh time this season a #1-ranked team has tasted defeat, setting up an exciting, unpredictable NCAA tourney, which commences in just three weeks. It also gives hope to the chasers in the Big Ten, as Indiana drops to 12-3 in the conference. Michigan State and Wisconsin are tied for second at 11-4; Michigan is 10-4 and Ohio State is 10-5.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Michigan Hammers Illinois Behind Trey Burke's 26 Points

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 24, 2013

Battling in the Big Ten has become something akin to sumo wrestling at times this season, with heavyweights taking each other up and off the court in a manic scramble to the top spot in the standings.

Currently, top-ranked Indiana holds sway in the conference with a 12-2 mark, with Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State - all ranked - playing catch-up.

On Sunday, Trey Burke provided ample offense for the Wolverines to tear up overmatched Illinois - a solid team that despite a 7-8 record in the conference still stands a good chance of receiving an at-large invitation to the national tournament - with a game-high 26 points in a 71-58 laugher that didn't seem very funny when the Illini took a three-point lead into intermission.

Michigan scored 43 second half points, limiting Illinois to 27, to run away for the home win. Burke proved quite the marksman, making eight of 11 shots, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. He also nailed eight of 10 free throws and added eight assists while committing just one turnover.

The win left the 10-4 Wolverines two games back of the Hoosiers with one more crack at them in the regular season finale - a mark 10 home game.

Adding to the mix was Ohio State, which did its part to keep the Big Ten the most fascinating conference in the country, with a 68-60 win over Michigan State. The 10-5 Buckeyes have just three games left on their conference calendar, one of them a trip to Indiana on March 5.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Otto Porter Jr. Leads Georgetown over Syracuse with 33 Points

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 23, 2013

With just five days left in the month of February, college hoops is being taken to a new level. Upcoming conference closeout games and tournaments await, with the victors getting the all-important post-season tourney invitations.

The most anticipated game of the day was at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, as the Orange hosted Georgetown, a game that produced a college record crowd for an on-campus meeting of 35,012.

For the locals, the outcome was disappointing, as Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr. proved nearly unstoppable, scoring a career-high 33 points on the Orange in a 57-46 Hoya win, a victory which will forever stand as a testament to one of college hoops' greatest rivalries, one which is ended as Syracuse departs the Big East for the ACC next season.

In a game in which the winners shot just 35% (SU was held to 34%), Porter was like a blazing supernova, making 12 of 19 shots from the floor, including five of 10 three-pointers and canning all four of his free throws.

When he wasn't killing the home team with relentless scoring, the 6'8" sophomore from Missouri was hitting the boards hard, collecting eight of Georgetown's 34 rebounds. He played all forty minutes, the second time he's done so this season.

The win was Georgetown's ninth straight, and resulted in giving them sole possession of first place in the Big East with a 11-3 mark, as Marquette fell to Villanova, 60-56 and Louisville defeated Seton Hall, 79-61, producing a three-way tie for second place, with the Orange, cardinals and Golden Eagles all at 10-4.

There are still four regular season games left for each of the Big East contenders, so the regular season race is far from concluded.

Elsewhere, the ACC got a little more interesting, as Wake Forest upset Miami, 80-65, the first Hurricane loss in conference play. The 13-1 Hurricanes have four more conference games remaining, three of them at home, against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Clemson, though next Saturday's meeting at 10-3 Duke looms large.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mike McCall Jr. Has 19 as St. Louis Whips Butler for 9th Straight

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 22, 2013

The St. Louis Billikens set a school record Friday night when they beat #15 Butler, 65-61, their fourth win of the season over a ranked opponent.

In control of the Atlantic-10, the Billikens have a 10-2 conference mark, one better than 9-3 VCU, whom St. Louis bettered, 76-62, this past Tuesday.

Mike McCall Jr. notched a season-high 18 points to lead all scorers, going 5-for-10 from the field with a pair of three-pointers, canning six of eight from the foul line. McCall also grabbed three boards and had an assist and a steal, helping the Billikens overcome a five-point half time deficit to take control early in the second half and never relinquish the lead.

St. Louis has topped Butler twice this season en route to a 21-5 record overall, the best in the A-10 and a mark that should surely catch the eyes of the tourney selection committee come March. They've won nine in a row after starting out the conference schedule with a 1-2 mark.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Connecticut Previals in OT over Bearcats as Shabazz Napier Drops 27

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 21, 2013

Only two top 25 teams were in action on Thursday; #6 Duke trampled Virginia Tech, 88-56, and, #22 Oregon was upended on a buzzer-beater by Cal's Justin Cobbs, 48-46, sending the Golden Bears to their fourth straight win and leaving them, at 9-5, a game behind PAC-12 co-leaders Oregon and Arizona - both 10-4.

With UCLA at 9-4 and Arizona State posting a 9-5 mark, the conference title is still up for grabs and the post-season tournament should prove to be a wide open affair.

The tightest game of the night ended in overtime, when Connecticut's Shabazz Napier took over the game and scored 11 of his game-high 27 points for the 73-66 victory over Big East rival, Cincinnati.

UConn took a three-point lead into intermission, scored just 18 points in the second half, but then equalled that total in overtime as Napier drove the Huskies to their third win in their last four games. The win sent Connectivut to a 9-5 record and dropped the Bearcats to a pedestrian 7-7, endangering their acceptability as an NCAA tourney at-large invitee.

Napier - UConn's leading scorer at 16.7 ppg - was 7-for-14 from the field, going 6-for-9 from beyond the arc, adding seven of eight from the charity stripe.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera's 33 Points leads Georgetown; Showdown at Carrier Dome Looms

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Big East will break apart at the end of this season, but there's no lack of enthusiasm as old foes meet for what may be the last times.

Upcoming is an epic meeting between Syracuse and Georgetown, a rivalry that dates back decades, including the likes of coaches John Thompson and Jim Boeheim (still coaching) and players as diverse as Patrick Ewing, Carmello Anthony, Rony Seikaly and many others.

Both teams were in action Wednesday night, tuning up for the showdown for first place this Saturday at the Carrier Dome.

The Orange rode 20 points and 11 rebounds by C.J. Fair to an 84-59 rout of Providence, improving the Syracuse mark to 10-3 in the conference.

Georgetown was also on the winning end, whipping DePaul, 90-66, behind D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera's 33 points, a career high for the freshman guard.

Smith-Riavera came off the bench, as he has in all of Georgetown's games this season, to hit 10 of 12 from the field, including a 5-for-6 mark from three-point range. He also canned eight of 10 from the foul line and added three rebounds, an assist and a steal.

The Hoyas improved to 10-3 in conference play, tying Syracuse and Marquette for the top spot in the Big East.

Saturday's contest in Syracuse may be the last meeting between the two for some time, as Syracuse will move to the ACC next season. The game, which tips off at 4:00 pm, is already a sell-out, and will likely set a record for the largest crowd ever to witness an on-campus, regular season NCAA game, estimated at 35,012. The Hoyas are ranked #11 in the AP Poll; Syracuse checks in at #8.

NOTABLE: The Big 12 has heated up, as #9 Kansas valiantly tries to record its ninth straight regular season title. On Wednesday, the Jayhawks had to go to double overtime to defeat #14 Oklahoma State, 68-67, tying them with Kansas State at 10-3, for the conference lead. Kansas has already beaten the Wildcats twice and has a chance of running the table, with five regular season games remaining.

#21 Memphis was an 81-74 winner over Houston, extending the nation's longest winning streak to 17 games and a 12-0 mark in Conference USA. The 23-3 Tigers haven't felt the sting of defeat since a 87=78 loss at Louisville on December 15.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Indiana Tops Michigan St.; Jordan McRae's 34 Leads Tennessee to 4th Straight SEC Victory

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 19, 2013

As hotly anticipated was the Big Ten showdown between top-ranked Indiana and #4 Michigan State, the result was hardly a shock, even though Indiana hadn't come away with a win from East Lansing in 17 years, but the Hoosiers - and especially Victor Oladipo - had more game down the stretch and cemented their #1 status with a 72-68 victory.

Oladipo finished with nine boards and 19 points, including the final six points on a stick-back, a dunk and a pair of clutch free throws. The win put the Hoosiers on a direct path to the regular season conference title and a possible #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They are 12-2 with the win, dropping the Spartans to 11-3. The Hoosiers have just four games left, though the last two will be testers as they face Ohio State at home and go on the road to Michigan for the final contest.

A couple of upsets marked Tuesday night's action, as Missouri stunned #5 Florida, 63-60 and St. Louis routed #24 VCU, 76-62.

#2 Miami topped Virginia, 54-50, to remain unbeaten in the ACC (13-0), but the team to keep an eye on is Tennessee, which won its fourth straight with an 82-72 win over LSU.

Junior Jordan McRae poured in a career-high 34 points for the Vols, making 13 of 18 shots from the field, including a perfect 6-for-6 from three-point land. The 6'5" swingman also grabbed six boards and snatched a trio of steals. At 7-6 in the SEC, the Volunteers have a good shot at getting a bid to the big dance. With just five games remaining - including home tests against Florida and Missouri - the Vols aren't likely to win the conference, but may make enough of a late season showing to impress the selection committee.

Also making noise is Northern Iowa, winners of six straight in the Missouri Valley Conference after their 69-63 road win at Missouri State. The Panthers are two games behind conference leader Wichita State and a game back of Creighton, neither of who are on the Northern Iowa schedule down the stretch. A good showing in the conference tourney should get the Panthers an invite to the NCAAs.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fred Sturdivant Leads Texas Southern to 8th Straight Win

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 18, 2013

Seldom getting any press, the SWAC has turned into a three-way dogfight for the regular season title with Southern University, Texas Southern and Arkansas Pine Bluff all within a game of the top spot, currently held by 13-2 Southern, Texas Southern 1/2 game back and the Pine Bluff Golden Lions a full game out.

All three were in action Monday, each posting a win. Texas Southern put on a second half thumping of Mississippi Valley State, outscoring the Delta Devils, 38-16, after heading into the half down six points. The 73-57 victory was the eighth straight for the Tigers, last tasting defeat at Pine Bluff on January 19.

Fred Sturdivant posted his tenth double-double of the season, scoring 21 points with 17 rebounds, the 6'7" senior absolutely controlling the paint with eight blocked shots.

Sturdivant was 8-for-13 from the field, but needs some work on his free throws, going just 5-for-18 from the stripe. On the season, he's a 60% shooter from the field, while just 48.5% from the line.

The win puts the Tigers in a position to capture the SWAC title. They have just four games left, one of them a home contest with Southern, in which they plan to avenge a 63-57 road loss with which they opened conference play.

The regular season crown may well be worth the fight, but everyone knows that winning the conference tournament is what it's all about, as that team gets the automatic nod to the NCAA tourney.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Trey Burke, Glenn Robinson III Lead Michigan to Win at Penn St.

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 17, 2013

With #2 Duke losing to Maryland on Saturday, a few of the highly-ranked teams figure to move up when the new poll is released Monday.

For #3 Miami, their meteoric rise in the rankings nearly came to an abrupt halt at Clemson as one of the more defensive-oriented games of the season came down to the final seconds as Kenny Kadji nailed a long three-pointer with 36 seconds left to give the Hurricanes a 45-43 victory and keep their ACC record unblemished at 12-0.

#4 Michigan had an easier time of it, whipping the Penn State Nittany Lions, 79-71, behind Trey Burke's 29 points and Glenn Robinson III's double-double.

Burke, the Wolverine point guard, took matters more into his own hands, dishing just five assists, but hitting nine of 16 shots, including three 3-pointers. He was nearly flawless at the line, make eight of nine.

Robinson was perfect from the field, going 6-for-6, adding 9-for-11 from the stripe for 21 points to go with his 10 boards.

The win was important for Michigan, coming off consecutive road losses to Wisconsin and Michigan State. At 9-4, Michigan is tied with Wisconsin for third place in the Big Ten, behind co-leaders Indiana and Michigan State, both with 11-2 marks.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Duke Upset at Maryland; Michael Lyons Scores 45 for Air Force in Defeat

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 16, 2013

Eighteen of the nation's top 25 teams hit the hardwoods on Saturday. All but one game pitted ranked vs. unranked, that being the Big East battle won by #18 Marquette, besting #16 Pittsburgh, 69-59, tying the Golden Eagles for first place in the conference with Syracuse and Georgetown at 9-3.

Notre Dame (21) was one of the few ranked teams to suffer defeat, running into a buzz-saw at Providence, where Vincent Council scored just seven points for the Friars, but dished 11 assists and snatched the same number of rebounds in the 71-54 rout.

Another losing effort was seen at Tennessee, where the Volunteers whalloped #25 Kentucky, 88-58. At 17-8 (8-4, SEC) and without flashy frosh, Nerlens Noel, for the rest of the season, the Wildcats are in deep trouble.

#1 Indiana powered past Purdue, 83-55, but #2 Duke took it on the chin at the Verizon Center as the Maryland Terrapins - despite 26 turnovers - upset them, 83-81. It was the final meeting between the two schools as ACC participants, Maryland moving over to the Big Ten next season. Mason Plumlee was held completely in check by the Terrapins' seven-footer, Alex Len, who scored 19 points and grabbed nine boards while limiting Plumlee to season lows in points (4) and rebounds (3).

The performance of the day, however, came in a losing effort by Air Force, the Falcons coming up just short in an 86-83 defeat by #22 Colorado State. Michael Lyons, a 6'5" senior guard, pumped in a career-high 45 points on 17-for-25 shooting, making seven of 13 from three-point range and five of eight from the foul line. Lyons also chipped in a couple of rebounds and a pair of assists.

Lyons' effort was the most scored by a Mountain West player this season, the most ever by a Falcon in a conference game and just five short of the school record of 50, set by Bob Beckel in 1959.

Colorado State's win left them 1/2 game behind conference-leading New Mexico with an 8-2 record. The Lobos (9-2) kept their edge with a 60-50 win over Boise State.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kenyatta Smith Leads Harvard to Big Road Win; Big East Scambled

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 15, 2013

The Harvard Crimson got a huge effort from sophomore center Kenyatta Smith, winning on the road at Penn, 73-54, to maintain a 1/2 game lead over Princeton in the Ivy league.

Smith put up a career high with 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting, adding 4-for-5 from the foul line. A monster in the paint, Smith also set a career high with nine rebounds and set a school-record with 10 blocked shots. Riding Smith's inside prowess, the Crimson expanded a ten-point half time lead to win by 19.

If Harvard is to continue on to capture the conference crown - and earn a trip to the NCAA tourney in the process - they'll have to compete hard over the next five games. Following Saturday's home game with Princeton, the Crimson embark on a pair of weekend road trips - at Brown and Yale next weekend and at Princeton and Penn the following Friday and Saturday.

Harvard is 14-7 overall with a 6-1 mark in the Ivy. Last season they went 25-6, won the Ivy League and lost to Vanderbilt, 79-70, in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

NOTABLE: In a rare Friday night Big East tilt, #15 Georgetown improved to 9-3 in the conference with a 62-55 victory at Cincinnati. The win gave them a 1/2 game lead over Syracuse and Marquette, both at 8-3. The Orange play at Seton Hall Saturday night; Marquette hosts Pitt earlier in the day.

The Big East scramble is monumental, with six teams within a game of the lead. In addition to the top three, Louisville, Pitt and Notre Dame have each posted 8-4 conference marks. All six of the leading contenders in the conference are ranked.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Davidson Closing on Division Crown as Jake Cohen Racks 32

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Davidson Wildcats took another step towards wrapping up the Southern conference South division title with a 75-59 victory at Charleston Thursday night, boosting their record in the conference to a gaudy 13-1, with four games remaining on their regular season schedule.

Led by 6'10" senior, Jake Cohen, the Wildcats have a three-game bulge in the division over the Cougars. Cohen was simply unstoppable as an offensive force from anywhere on the court, but especially in the paint. Scoring a career-high 32 points, Cohen was 13-for-24 from the field, including 3-for-7 from outside the arc. He added three rebounds, an assist, a steal and four blocked shots in 31 minutes of action as the Wildcats won their ninth straight.

Davidson broke open a close contest in the second half, outscoring Charleston 43-29 in the period, hitting 10 of 24 from three-point range (42%).

The Wildcats have a February 27 date with North division leader, Elon, though by that time the outcome should be academic. Davidson can wrap up the division with wins over their next two opponents - Citadel and Furman - who have a combined conference record of 6-21.

NOTABLE: Central Connecticut State's sophomore Kyle Vinales scored a career-high 42 points in the Blue Devils' 101-82 loss at Wagner, making eight of 13 three-pointers. Vinales is fifth in scoring nationally, checking in at 22.1 points per game. At 10-13, the Blue Devils are unlikely to reach any higher than possibly an NIT invitation, so Vinales massive talents won't be on display for the nation to see.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Markel Brown's 7 Treys Lead Oklahoma State Rout of Texas Tech

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 13, 2013

With just a few weeks remaining before the end of regular season conference schedules, it's time to start winnowing down the field of possible entrants to the field for the NCAA tournament.

In the Big 12, Baylor - a possible player in March - and Oklahoma State did some narrowing of the field on Wednesday, topping, respectively, West Virginia, 80-60, and Texas Tech, 91-67.

In Lubbock, Texas, Oklahoma State took care of business in the first half, on their way to the massive, 24-point rout of the Red Raiders, getting a game-high 25 points from Markel Brown, who hit seven first half three-pointers as the Cowboys took a 55-34 lead into intermission.

Brown, who had just 25 minutes of playing time, added four assists, a pair of rebounds and a couple of steals. The #17 Cowboys are locked into a three-way tie with Kansas and Kansas State atop the conference standings, each with 8-3 records. The good news for OK-State is that they play both of their chief rivals at home, with Kansas coming to town February 20 and the Wildcats visiting on March 9, the regular season finale. The Cowboys have won six straight.

NOTABLE: There was more than enough Top 25 action on Wednesday to satisfy everyone, with the top two teams, Indiana and Duke, both hitting the hardwoods. #1 Indiana cruised past Nebraska, 76-47, while the Blue Devils came from behind to upend North Carolina, 75-68, at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

#3 Miami won their 12th straight, invading Florida State for a 74-68 victory, maintaining their two-game lead in the ACC over 9-2 Duke with an 11-0 record.

Upsets included #6 Syracuse getting whacked by arch-rival UConn, 66-58, and Charlotte dumping #11 Butler, 71-67, producing quite the scramble in the A-10, as seven teams are within two games of each other, vying for the top spot, currently claimed by VCU and St. Louis, both with 7-2 marks.

Flying stealthily under the radar, Memphis has moved up to #22, winning over UCF, 93-71, their 15th straight victory. The Tigers are a perfect 10-0 in Conference-USA play, two ahead of 8-2 Southern Miss., and are 21-3 overall.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

State of the Hoop: Florida, Michigan State Romp; Nick Minnerath Leads Detroit with 34 and 12

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 12, 2013

President Obama's State of the Union address wasn't particularly exciting, and neither were Tuesday's pair of top 25 match-ups, though they looked as though they might be prior to the opening tips.

In Gainseville, the 20-3 Florida Gators cemented their lead over the rest of the SEC with a 69-52 breeze past #25 Kentucky, dropping the Wildcats into a second-place tie with Alabama at 8-3 in the conference standings. 7th-ranked Florida, winners of 12 of their last 13, improved to 10-1 in the SEC with the victory, holding the Wildcats to just 42% shooting.

While the president was speaking, Tom Izzo's Spartans were making a statement of their own, dumping #4 Michigan, 75-52. The win moved #8 Michigan State into first place in the Big Ten with a 10-2 record, a half game better than 9-2 Indiana. The Spartans took an early lead, were up 14 at the half, and never looked back.

Following a game at Nebraska this Saturday, the Spartans embark on a rugged four-game stretch against Indiana, on the road for Ohio State and Michigan, and then back home for #20 Wisconsin. How Michigan State survives the upcoming schedule will largely determine the standings in the Big Ten, and will surely prepare the Spartans for the Big Dance in March.

In Detroit, Nick Minnerath was making his presence felt in a 92-62 rout of Cleveland State. Minnerath scored a game-high 34 points on 12-for-22 shooting with a pair of threes, and went 8-for-10 from the charity stripe. He also nabbed 12 boards, six on the offensive end.

Detroit is chasing Valparaiso in the Horizon League, the Titans in second place at 9-4 with Valpo on top with a 10-2 mark. The two meet for the second time this season on Saturday, February 16. In their first meeting, Valparaiso came out of the Titans' home court with an 89-88 victory. The Titans will be looking to return the favor.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jayhawks End 3-Game Losing Streak as Ben McLemore Pumps in 30 for Win over K-State

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 11, 2013

A pair of games Monday matched up ranked teams in conference play.

At the Verizon Center in Washington DC, the #15 Georgetown Hoyas held off #18 Marquette, 63-55, despite shooting just 39% from the field. Marquette was sloppy with the ball, turning it over 19 times, and were also out-rebounded, 32-28, allowing 11 offensive boards by the Hoyas. Otto Porter scored 21 points for the Hoyas to lead all scorers.

Having lost three straight - the last two on the road at TCU and Oklahoma - the Kansas Jayhawks were pleased to be back at Allen Fieldhouse to face #10 Kansas State in an attempt to regain some winning form and hopefully tied the Wildcats for first place in the Big 12.

Freshman Ben McLemore provided ample firepower, making six of 10 from beyond the arc on 9-for-13 shooting overall in an 83-62 blowout.

McLemore was also a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line and collected six rebounds en route to scoring an even 30 points.

Seven-footer, Jeff Whithey had his usual dominant inside game, scoring 17 points with 11 boards and five blocked shots. The Jayhawks fell from $5 in the nation last week to #14 in Monday's poll.

Monday's result produced a tie between the Jayhawks and Wildcats for the Big 12 lead, both teams at 8-3, with Oklahoma 1/2 game back with a 7-3 mark. The Jayhawks play at Oklahoma State, Wednesday, February 20, looing to erase their 85-80 loss to the Cowboys on February 2nd.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Indiana May Retain #1 Ranking off Victor Oladipo's 26 in Win at Ohio State

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 10, 2013

After Thursday's last-second loss at Illinois, the Indiana Hoosiers weren't about to let another game go down to the wire, so they took out their frustrations at Ohio State, taking a 41-33 lead into half time en route to an 81-68 laugher.

6'5" Victor Oladipo took the game to the Buckeyes, his 26 points good for a share of the high-scoring honor with Ohio State's DeShaun Thomas. A match-up nightmare, Oladipo - too quick for big men and too big for smaller guards - made eight of 10 from the field, none of 10 from the foul line and helped out on the boards with eight rebounds. He added three assists and two steals in 33 minutes of playing time.

Indiana took the lead early and were never seriously threatened, cruising to their 21st win against three losses, tying Michigan State for the top spot in the Big Ten, at 9-2. Michigan and Wisconsin are a game back at 8-3, the loss sending the Buckeyes down to fifth place, with a 7-4 mark.

When the new poll is released on Monday, the Hoosiers may retain their number one ranking despite their loss earlier in the week, in part because Illinois continued their winning way on Sunday, topping #18 Minnesota, 57-53. Also, #4 Duke barely squeaked by Boston College, winning, 62-61, at BC.

Elsewhere, the Cal Golden Bears got 31 points out of Allen Crabbe and knocked off #7 Arizona, 77-69, and James Southerland returned to the Syracuse lineup after a six-game academic absence to score 13 points as the #9 Orange manhandled St. John's, 77-58.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Alex Oriakhi Scores 22 with 18 Boards as Missouri Prevails over Mississippi

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 9, 2013

Even though they're only 6-4 in SEC play, the Missouri Tigers - along with Florida - are among the elite teams in the conference, evidenced in their 98-79 rout of Mississippi Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers have one of the country's best point guards in Phil Pressey, who scored 22 points in the win, tying him with Alex Oriakhi for high scoring honors.

While Pressey generally controls the perimeter and pace, Oriakhi, the 6'9" senior transfer from UConn, has given the Tigers a new look with a ferocious presence inside and on the boards. Oriakhi's 22 points was a career high on 7-for-10 shooting, helped along by his 18 rebounds, 10 of which came on the offensive end.

Missouri's glass cleaning resulted in the game's most lopsided statistic, as they out-rebounded the Rebels, 50-32.

The 21st-ranked Tigers improved to 17-6 overall, avenging an earlier, 64-49, loss at Ole Miss, but they are still only in fifth place in the conference standings, led by #2 Florida, at 9-1, after putting it on Mississippi State, 83-58.

The 19-3 Gators rebounded from Tuesday's 80-69 loss at Arkansas and have won 11 of their last 12. They are likely to remain in the top five - and may even be #1 - come Monday's new poll, as #1 Indiana and #3 Michigan both suffered defeats this week, the Hoosiers losing on a buzzer-beater to Illinois on Thursday, 74-72, and Michigan going down to Wisconsin in overtime Saturday, 65-62.

The #1 ranking may fall, by default, to Duke, which plays at Boston College on Sunday, in a game they are widely expected to win.

#5 Kansas also will be further down in the rankings after losing at Oklahoma, 72-66, their third straight loss. Likely to take the Jawhawks' place is Miami, the Hurricanes winning their 11th straight on Saturday with an 87-61 pounding of North Carolina. The #8 Hurricanes are all alone atop the ACC standings, at 10-0.

Further down the rankings, #23 Pitt overwhelmed #17 Cincinnati in the second half for a 62-52 win; #11 Louisville's Chane Behanan scored 30 points and had 15 rebounds - both game highs - but came up short in five overtimes to #25 Notre Dame, 104-101.

#15 New Mexico lost at UNLV, 64-55, and #16 Creighton continued to slide, losing their second straight in a 75-72 home loss to Illinois State, setting up a three-way tie for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference with Wichita State and Indiana State, each team at 9-4.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Siyani Chambers Keeps Harvard on Top in Ivy with 18 over Cornell

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 8, 2013

Siyani Chambers scored a game-high 18 points to go with 11 assists and five boards as the Harvard Crimson prevailed on the road over Cornell's Big Red, 67-65.

A freshman guard averaging 13.5 points per outing, Chambers had a solid shooting night, making eight of 12 from the field, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.

Harvard held on for the close victory in the face of a furious Cornell comeback. The Crimson led by 16 at the break, only to see the Big Red whittle away their edge with 43 points in the second half.

The win was the fifth straight - without a loss - in the Ivy league, keeping them a half-game ahead of Princeton at 4-0 after defeating Brown on Friday, 63-46.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Brandon Paul, DJ Richardson Lead Illinois to Upset of #1 Indiana

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, February 7, 2013

Holding onto the #1 ranking in college basketball this season is becoming an exercise in futility, akin to grabbing a live salmon with oiled hands.

The Indiana Hooisers need no explanation or reminder after what happened to them at Assembly Hall in Champagne, as the Fighting Illini came from eight points down with under three minutes to play to defeat the Hoosiers, 74-72, the go-ahead bucket coming on an easy layup by Tyler Griffey off an inbounds pass with 0.9 seconds left.

Griffey, a senior, scored 14 for the Illini, but none were bigger than what was one of the easiest buckets of his career. With the score tied at 72, Illinois inbounded the ball from the sideline, about six feet from the baseline, setting up their players near the perimeter. Griffey slipped by Tyler Zeller and raced to the basket, where the pass from Brandon Paul hit him in stride without no Indiana player within ten feet of him.

Paul scored 21 points, while teammate D.J. Richardson had a game-high 24, eight of them coming on consecutive trips under three minutes when he hit two threes and a deuce to tie the game at 70. The Illini traded a pair of Paul free throws after a Victor Oladipo basket to knot the game at 72, setting up the decisive score.

Richardson was 8-for-15, hitting four of eight from three-point range with three steals. Paul was less accurate, making six of 14 from the floor with three treys, but he added two rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Illinois turned the ball over just nine times, as compared to 14 for the Hoosiers.

Prior to the win, Illinois had lost eight of their last 11 and were just 2-7 in conference play. The Indiana loss produced a three-way tie atop the Big Ten, with Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State each with identical 8-2 records.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

A-10 Tightens as Dwayne Evans Leads St. Louis over Fordham

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 6, 2013

An interesting night in college hoops was in evidence Wednesday as eleven Top 25 teams took to the hardwood, with four taking losses.

Topping the list was #5 Kansas, a 62-55 loser at TCU. Indiana State tightened the Missouri Valley Conference race with a 76-57 win over #16 Creighton. Kadeem Batts ripped Cincinnati for 25 points and nine rebounds, sending the #17 Bearcats to a 54-50 defeat; while in the Big Ten, #12 Michigan State trounced #18 Minnesota, 61-50.

The most interesting development was in the Atlantic-10 conference, where all eyes are focused on Butler, an easy, 77-58 winner over St. Bonaventure, though the result from St. Louis, where the unranked Billikens swamped Fordham, 90-73, causing a three-way tie for first place with Butler, St. Louis and VCU all at 6-2.

Dwayne Evans, who leads St. Louis in scoring and rebounding, was a nightmare for the Rams, scoring a game-high 24 points to go with his 10 boards. Evans was 10-for-12 from the field, adding four points on six attempts from the foul line. A 6'5" junior, Evans appears to be rounding into late-season form, having scored in double figures the past five games. Wednesday's effort was his first double-double of the season.

Since back-to-back mid-January losses to Temple and Rhode Island, the Billikens have strrung together five straight wins, and can look ahead to Tuesday, February 19 and Friday, February 22, when they will host VCU before traveling to play at Butler. The pair of games will go a long way toward not only determining the overall winner of the A-10 regular season, but how many teams from the often-overlooked conference will be heading to the NCAA tourney in March.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Tim Hardaway Jr. Hits Six 3-Pointers as Michigan Defeats Ohio State in OT

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, February 5, 2012

Tuesday night's Big Ten showdown between #2 Michigan and #10 Ohio State turned out to be as good as expected, the teams battling to a 72-all tie in regulation, with the home-standing Wolverines eventually coming out on top in a defensive overtime period which produced just six points total for a 76-74 Michigan victory.

While the Buckeyes shot 52% for the game, Michigan was kept in the contest by Tim Hardaway Jr., who scored a game-high 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting, making six of nine from beyond the arc. Hardaway's buckets came at critical points of the game, often putting the Wolverines ahead or answering a Buckeye basket.

Trey Burke, hounded by Ohio State's Aaron Craft throughout, chipped in with 16 points and eight assists, turning the ball over just twice against Craft's relentless defense.

The victory pushed the Wolverines into second place in the Big Ten, behind Indiana, which has an 8-1 conference record. Michigan is 8-2 in the Big Ten, with a stellar, 21-2 record overall, Tuesday's win avenging an earlier, 56-53, loss at Ohio State. Their other loss was on the road to the Hoosiers, coming out on the wrong end of an 81-73 score.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

CJ Fair Scores 18 as Syracuse Ends 2-Game Slide

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 4, 2013

With two straight Big East road losses - at Villanova and Pitt - the Syracuse Orange were happy to be back within the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome for their Monday night match-up with Notre Dame.

The Orange slipped from #6 to #9 in the latest poll, and a win was needed to get them back on the right track.

C.J. Fair came to the rescue, scoring a game-high 18 points in the 63-47 Syracuse victory.

Fair, a 6'8" junior with fast-developing skills both inside and out, made five of 10 shots from the floor, including a three-pointer, went 7-for-8 from the foul line and corralled 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.

Fair and his teammates clamped down on the Irish defensively, holding them to 35% shooting, forced 13 turnovers, made seven steals and out-rebounded the South Bend invaders, 32-28.

The win put SU a half game ahead of 6-2 Marquette, in first place in the Big East at 7-2. The Orange won't meet the Golden Eagles until Monday, February 25, at Marquette.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Shabazz Napier Hoists Huskies over South Florida, 69-64

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 3, 2013

Shabazz Napier scored a game-high 24 points as the Connecticut Huskies overcame a 12-point half time deficit to defeat South Florida, 69-64, handing the Bulls their fourth straight Big East loss.

Napier made five of ten three-pointers on 7-for-15 shooting from the field, adding eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

The Huskies have won three straight, but are on the road their next two games - at St. John's and Seton Hall - before returning home to host #6 Syracuse on Wednesday, February 13. Connecticut is 5-3 in the conference, trailing 6-2 Syracuse and Marquette for the top spot. In its final season under the current alignment, the Big East is a jumble, with nine teams within two games of first place.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII Special: Latest Odds and Picks

Super Bowl Latest Odds and Picks

Super Bowl XLVII pits the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers. Game time is 6:30 pm ET, and Doc's Sports, one of the oldest, classiest and best handicapping services on the internet has up-to-date odds as time winds toward the first ever showdown between brothers in the Super Bowl. Jim Harbaugh is the coach of the 49ers; older brother John coaches the Ravens.

Just go to for the latest odds. Doc's also has plenty of other features on the site, including odds and handicapping advice for all major sports.

If you still aren't sure which side you'll be backing, and need analysis and picks, check out Fearless Rick's Super Bowl pick. Rick's been handicapping the NFL since 1982 and usually has the figure for big games right on the money.

Enjoy the game with the latest odds and best picks.

Indiana Tops #1 Michigan, 81-73, Behind Cody Zeller's 19 Points

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 2, 2013

Michigan may have been #1 for a week, but that week ends Sunday, and, along with it, their short stay atop the college hoops rankings.

Finding few ways to counter the front line of the #3 Hoosiers' Cody Zeller, Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo, the Wolverines fell at Indiana's Assembly Hall, 81-73, and with that, another team - most likely either Indiana or #4 Florida - will assume the position of the nation's top team... for a while.

For the first five weeks of the season, the Hoosiers were ranked #1, but a loss in mid-December boosted Duke to the top spot for four weeks, until Louisville got the nod on January 14. Duke took it back on the 21st, relinquishing it to Michigan this past Monday. If there anything for certain, nobody knows which team is the best at this point.

In their win over Michigan, the Hoosiers took back first place in the Big Ten, posting a record of 8-1 in the conference, but they are by no means alone. The Wolverines, along with Michigan State and Ohio State are all just a game back, at 7-2, and Indiana still has two games with the Buckeyes and one each with the two Michigan teams before the regular season ends.

What the Hoosiers have, however, is possibly the best front line in the country, emphatically proven in their win over Michigan. Cody Zeller had one of his finest games, scoring 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting, with 10 rebounds (his 7th double-double of the season) and two blocked shots in 34 minutes. Watford pitched in 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Mr. Do-it-all, Oladipo, had 15 points, two boards, two assists and a pair of steals.

Despite 16 turnovers, the Hoosiers dominated the rest of the game, hitting at a 52% clip with seven three pointers. They also out-rebounded the Wolverines, 38-29. Most telling was the free throw line. Indiana went to the stripe 25 times, making 22 (88%), while Michigan was only 6-for-7.

NOTABLE: #2 Kansas will not be elevated to the #1 spot come Monday, as they suffered their second loss of the season in an 85-80 loss to Oklahoma State. Markel Brown led the Cowboys with 28 points. #14 Miami won their ninth straight, topping #19 NC State, 79-78. Pitt topped #6 Syracuse, 65-55, #10 Oregon lost at Cal, 58-54, #15 Wichita State fell at Iowa State, 57-52, and #22 San Diego State dropped a 70-67 decision at Air Force.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Nick Minnerath's 27 Points Lead Detroit over Youngstown State

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, February 1, 2013

With a very light schedule (9 games) in college hoops Friday, the top two teams from the Horizon League were in action, as first place Valparaiso (7-2) defeated Wisconsin Milwaukee, 71-40, and second place Detroit (7-3) got 27 points from Nick Minnerath en route to an 88-77 victory over Youngstown State.

A 6'9" forward, Minnerath was a shooting machine, making 11 of 25 shots, including 2-for-5 from beyond the arc. He added five boards and a pair of steals, his point total the second highest of the season for the senior.

The Titans' leading scorer, Ray McCallum, tossed in 23 points in the winning effort, keeping Detroit a half-game back of Valpo. In their first meeting with Valparaiso earlier this season, McCallum was held to a season-low six points, but Minnerath picked up the slack, scoring a career high 36 against the Crusaders in an 89-88 defeat.

The Titans travel to Valaraiso for a rematch on Saturday, February 16, a game which will go a long way toward determining the eventual conference champion.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Keith Appling Leads Spartans to 80-75 Victory over Illinois

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, January 31, 2013

Big Ten basketball is not for the feint of heart.

There are five ranked teams and that list doesn't presently include Wisconsin and Illinois, both of which were ranked earlier in the season and are safe bets to be heading to the NCAA tournament in about six weeks, assuming they can grind out tough schedules in conference play.

The Fighting Illini came out smoking at Michigan State Thursday night, but eventually fell to the Spartans, 80-75, in a pivotal match-up for both squads.

Illinois took a ten-point, 37-27, lead into the half, but the Spartans responded with 12 straight points to open the second half, taking the lead and never relinquishing it.

Point guard Keith Appling took over the game when it counted the most, scoring 19 of his game-high 24 points after the break. Quietly emerging as a team leader, Appling dazzled the Illini with crossover dribbles and deft passes, dishing the ball seven times to teammates, twice finding Brandon Dawson (12 points, 9 rebounds) at the rim for thunderous, momentum-building dunks.

The 6'1" junior was 7-for-12 from the field, making two of four from three-point land and eight of 12 at the charity stripe. He also snagged a season high eight boards as the Spartans out-rebounded Illinois, 33-24.

The win was crucial for the 13th-ranked Spartans, following their 75-70 loss at Indiana this past Sunday.

For the Illini, the loss was their fifth in their last six games, lowering their Big Ten mark to a putrid 2-6. In the midst of a challenging stretch, Illinois has already lost consecutive games to Michigan and Michigan State, and have Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota straight ahead.

Michigan and Indiana top the conference at 7-1, followed by the 7-2 Spartans.