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Mike Lopresti | | December 19, 2019

Utah upset of Kentucky, St. Mary’s 40-point shellacking highlight wacky night in college hoops

Filip Petrusev, Corey Kispert discuss No. 2 Gonzaga's impressive win over North Carolina

Some days remind us of high flighty college basketball can be. Wednesday, for example.

One screwball night in the sport . . .

Gonzaga 94, North Carolina 81. So who here had the Tar Heels 6-5 through 11 games after losing five of six, trailing in those defeats by 23, 13, 17, 25 and 24 points? North Carolina dropped out of this week’s Associated Press poll and got only 16 more voting points than Liberty.

Utah 69, Kentucky 66 in Las Vegas. Yeah, it was the usual young starting lineup, with three sophomores and two freshmen. No, not Kentucky. Utah. How often is Kentucky the oldest team on the floor? Hardly ever. And how often have the Wildcats lost to Utah? The last time was 1976, and the last time on neutral floor was the NIT. The 1947 NIT.  It was the 10th time this season a top-10 team in the Associated Press poll was taken down by an unranked opponent. By the way, Kentucky was picked to win the SEC in the preseason and Utah predicted to finish ninth in the Pac-12. Not that it mattered Wednesday. The Wildcats lost partly because there are times when they stand at the 3-point line and can’t hit the lake from a canoe. They were 2-for-17 against Utah, and 4-for-17 their other defeat by Evansville. And they’re 298th in the nation in 3-point shooting. This lowlighted a terrible night for the SEC, because there was also . . .

East Tennessee State 74, LSU 63. The same Buccaneers team that lost at North Dakota State and trailed by 19 blew into Baton Rouge and had LSU down 23. Patrick Good’s 19 points led East Tennessee State, this after scoring 16 in the past five games combined. In other SEC bad news . . .

Cincinnati 78, Tennessee 66. The Vols were eighth in the nation in field goal defense, allowing only 36.2 percent. Cincinnati shredded them with 56.4 percent shooting. Four days earlier, the Bearcats lost at home to Colgate. Another SEC item . . .

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Loyola Chicago 78, Vanderbilt 70. Ever see a buzzer-beating triple double? Cameron Krutwig grabbed a missed shot on the last play of the game in the final second to get 10 rebounds. along with his 22 points and 10 assists. First Loyola triple double in more than 30 years.

Ball State 65, Georgia Tech 47. Wait a second. The Yellow Jackets are in the ACC and will be going nose-to-nose with the likes of Duke and Louisville soon. They have already won on the road at North Carolina State. Any good reason they should be trailing Ball State by 30 at home? Home ain’t that sweet for Georgia Tech lately. The Yellow Jackets’ previous game at their place, Syracuse won by 34.

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Saint Mary’s 96, Arizona State 56. The good news for Arizona State was that Alonzo Verge Jr. came off the bench and scored 43 points. The bad news was that everyone else in a Sun Devils uniform contributed 13 points. Only two other players scored, for that matter. So here was Arizona State, 8-2 and playing close to home in Phoenix, getting blown away by the Gaels. At halftime. Saint Mary’s Jordan Ford had 22 points. The entire Arizona State team had 19. You get the idea.

Alabama 105, Samford 87. File this in the location-is-everything drawer. John Petty Jr. scored 39 points and went an other-worldly 10-for-13 from the 3-point line to lead the Tide. The game was in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena, which was fine by Petty. He won three high school state championships on the same floor.

UNC Greensboro 54, Vermont 53. Vermont loses at home about once every lunar eclipse. UNC Greensboro shot 39 percent, was outscored 14-7 from the free throw line, and still won. The same night the Spartans were pulling that off, Southern Conference colleague East Tennessee State was ransacking LSU. Just last Sunday, Wofford bused into Chapel Hill and knocked off the Tar Heels, and UNC Greensboro was beaten by a half-court heave at the buzzer at North Carolina State. 

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“It’s a tough way to lose,” UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller said that day. And he ought to know, since that was the second time this season a game-winning half-court shot did in his Spartans. It happened against Montana State, too, so maybe they deserved a break, when Vermont star Anthony Lamb missed in the final second.

Earlier this season, Furman took unbeaten Auburn to overtime, and Western Carolina lost by five at Florida State after leading by 17. Maybe the loudest message from a weird Wednesday: Beware the SoCon.

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