College basketball roundup: Top 25 matchups carry the week
The college basketball season finally had center stage this past weekend with the College Football Playoff Championship on Jan. 9 (congrats to the Clemson Tigers for their 35-31 victory) marking the end of this year's FBS campaign. And things did not disappoint with eyes fixed squarely on the hardwood.
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So to get you caught up NCAA.com runs it back on the past week.
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Tuesday night’s slate was replete with Top 25 action, including a trio of matchups among teams ranked in the top 15 spots of the AP Poll.
No. 10 West Virginia chops down No. 1 Baylor
The run at No. 1 for Baylor was short-lived though as they ran into a buzzsaw in No. 10 West Virginia. The Mountaineers forced Baylor into 29 turnovers in a 89-68 win, while eight Baylor players ending the game with multiple turnovers. West Virginia’s victory over Baylor marked the fifth time in school history that the Mountaineers knocked off the No. 1 team in the land.
No. 3 Villanova topples No. 15 Xavier
One of the stories of Villanova’s run to the national title a year ago was the team’s incredible streak of hot shooting in arguably its biggest games of the year. Well, that trend has continued into the 2016-17 campaign as the Wildcats are currently No. 7 in the nation in field goal percentage (50.7 percent). The latest team to fall victim to Villanova’s methodical yet potent attack, the Xavier Musketeers. On Tuesday, a battle among Big East hopefuls Xavier and Villanova started out competitively before Villanova took control late in the first half. Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart each poured in 20 points for head coach Jay Wright.
No. 9 Florida State runs through No. 7 Duke
Florida State’s run through a six-pack of teams in the Top 25 teams hit the midway point on Tuesday in an early-week win over the No. 7 Duke Blue Devils, 88-72. With their latest victory — buoyed by 21 points from junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes — the Seminoles are now 4-0 in ACC play (16-1 overall) and up to No. 9 in the country. The versatility and depth of this FSU squad has been shown in spades so far this year, which will certainly bode well for Leonard Hamilton and company as the conference tournament and postseason play draw near.
Hump day this week also had a busy schedule of basketball that included a matchup between teams located in the top dozen of the AP poll.
No. 8 Creighton tips No. 12 Butler to match program's best start
Another rough-and-tumble bout in the Big East on Wednesday pitted the Butler Bulldogs in a battle with the Creighton Bluejays. The hometown team cruised to a 20-point edge at halftime before Butler worked its way back into this one. But four players in double figures, led by Maurice Watson Jr.’s 21 points and seven assists, helped Creighton past the visiting Bulldogs in this one. A nice shooting effort (55.4 percent) worked to offset a With the win, Creighton matched its best start in program history.
Michigan State wins again, besting No. 24 Minnesota
Don’t look now but head coach Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans are tied for the lead in wins in the Big Ten Conference (4-2), including victories over Northwestern, Rutgers and a pair of victories over Minnesota. Freshman forward Miles Bridges (14.5 ppg) chipped in a team-high 16 points on Wednesday in an upset win over the Golden Gophers. He seems to have worked himself back into game action since the turn of the calendar year, which will be key for the Spartans going forward. But the absence of the team’s leading scorer — albeit a freshman — may have had the unintended benefit of making the team a bit deeper. Simply put, when your leading guy is out others have to step up and boy have they ever.
Iowa gives Purdue a taste of its own medicine inside
A Big Ten bout between Iowa and No. 17 Purdue saw the Boilermakers rush out to a nine-point lead at the half, but Iowa's senior guard Peter Jok saved his best for last. Jok, the team's leading scorer at 22.9 points a night, tallied 17 of his 29 points in the second half to key a comeback for the hometown Hawkeyes. However, this game hinged on the big man battle down low. Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas combined for their normal load (combined 30 points and 14 rebounds), but the difference was Iowa’s freshman forward Tyler Cook (16 points and six rebounds) who provided some timely buckets in the paint to keep Purdue at bay. Could be a big growing moment for a young Iowa squad with only two seniors. Fun fact: Purdue has not won at Iowa since 2011-12 season, and that streak continues.
It was a big day across the college basketball world on Saturday, including five games between Top-25 teams.
In the day's early action, No. 7 Duke and No. 14 Louisville hooked up in an ACC affair. Louisville got a double-double from big man Anas Mahmoud (17 points, 11 rebounds) in a ballgame the Cardinals would go on to win, 78-69. Duke’s 78-69 loss to Louisville was the Blue Devils’ fourth of the season, third in the ACC and second in five days — per NCAA.com's Mike Lopresti.
Another ACC bout featured No. 11 North Carolina in a tilt against No. 9 Florida State. FSU is in the midst of a six-game stretch against teams in the Top 25, but unfortunately the Seminoles suffered their first loss in conference on the road at UNC on Saturday, 96-83. UNC was paced by 26 points from guard Joel Berry II. Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks also chipped in 22 points apiece.
In a matchup of Big East foes, No. 12 Butler moved past No. 15 Xavier (83-78) behind a near double-double for Bulldogs' freshman guard Kamar Baldwin (career-highs of 21 points and nine rebounds). Xavier is still trying to work guard Myles Davis back into the mix, but struggled to deal with the offensive attack from head coach Chris Holtmann's Butler Bulldogs.
No. 1 Baylor bounced back from an early-week loss in the Big 12 to West Virginia by defeating No. 25 Kansas State, 77-68. The Bears were paced by 26 points from guard Manu Lecomte. It's likely that Baylor's run as the No. 1 team in the nation will be short-lived, but head coach Scott Drew has to focus on putting a one-off performance in the rearview mirror. Besting a fesity K-State squad is a good start.
And last but not least, a primetime matchup in the West Coast Conference put Gonzaga's unblemished record on the line against their conference rival Saint Mary's (California). The end result: The last unbeaten team in the nation still stands. Gonzaga moved its record to 17-0 on the year with a 79-54 win behind three players in double-digits. Nigel Williams-Goss led the way with 19 points and five assists in the victory.
RELATED: AP Top 25
In other action:
Mississippi Valley State wins first game
At the beginning of the week there was only one team in all of Division I college basketball that had yet to win a game on the year — the Mississippi State Valley Delta Devils, out of the SWAC conference. A year ago, the Delta Devils lost 14 straight before winning their first contest. This year it was a 15-game losing streak to begin the season. But Monday’s meeting with Alabama State, a 73-70 win, finally got the Delta Devils off the schneid.
The team’s leading scorer (13.8 ppg), senior guard Marcus Romain, scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half to lead things for head coach Andre Payne. Little has come easily for this year’s bunch — with losses on trips to play at Northwestern, West Virginia, Michigan State, Indiana, Gonzaga and Iowa State already in the books — but Coach Payne at least breathe a sigh of relief now that his team has its first win.