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Mike Lopresti | | January 5, 2022

14 numbers that highlight a wild night of basketball in the COVID age

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Ah, the ins-and-outs of college basketball in the Virus Age. Let the numbers from one Tuesday night in January, as conference play revved up, be an example.

12 – Turnovers by Baylor guards James Akinjo and Adam Flagler against Oklahoma. That can’t become a habit, but the 14-0 and No. 1 Bears managed well enough for one evening to beat the Sooners 84-74, their 11th victory by double digits. “When we’re turning it over a lot we’re hurting our team,” Flagler said. “And that’s the last thing we want.” A 19-0 Baylor edge in second-chance points helped overcome that.

34.8 – The combined shooting percentage in No. 2 Duke’s 69-57 win over Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils shot 40 free throws. In other words, this wasn’t an instant classic, but then Duke had gone nearly two weeks without playing a game as COVID has rolled through the program. Makes it hard to hone for league play. “Now most of our team has had it and most of our staff,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “We just have to start building again. It is very unusual; I have never gone through anything like this.”

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20 – Shots that No. 6 Kansas missed in a row to close the first half against Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks went the final 9:12 of the half without a point, but still won in the end 74-63. Any other result would have been big news. Kansas has won its conference opener 31 consecutive years, back to the Big 8 days.

22 – Points off the bench from Auburn supersub Wendell Green Jr. in the No. 9 Tigers’ 81-66 win over South Carolina. Green has reached double figures off the bench six games in a row.

7 – Kansas State players missing, plus coach Bruce Weber, against No. 14 Texas because of COVID protocols. Down to seven scholarship Wildcats, Kansas State tried but gave way in the second half, outscored 41-22 after halftime in a 70-57 victory for the Longhorns.

10-for-20 – Kentucky from the free throw line, which is one reason the No. 16 Wildcats lost at No. 21 LSU 65-60. Kentucky is now 1-3 away from Rupp Arena.

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32 – Providence was ranked No. 16 and came in 13-1 and 3-0 in the Big East. Marquette had lost five of its last six games. Of course, Marquette rolled 88-56, the 32-point margin its largest ever over a ranked opponent.

23 – Days without a game for No. 20 Colorado State because of various virus postponements. Finally back on the court, the unbeaten Rams promptly fell behind 7-0 but eventually resumed operations with a 67-59 win over an Air Force team missing three starters because of COVID restrictions. “It not just that we haven’t played in 24 days, about half of that we did nothing,” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said.

27 – Butler has now trailed by double figures in 27 of 38 games since the start of last season, and that includes the 71-56 loss Tuesday to No. 24 Seton Hall. The Bulldogs are 18-20 in those 38 games. Because of a flurry of postponements and two defeats, this was Seton Hall’s first win in more than three weeks.

18 – Georgia was down 18 points to Texas A&M Tuesday, roared back to finally get the lead with five seconds left — then lost on a 3-pointer by Marcus Williams at 0.9 seconds. The Bulldogs’ one and only lead all night lasted for four seconds.

1933 – Rutgers and Michigan first met in basketball in 1933 and had played 14 times before Tuesday night. Rutgers was 0-14. Not anymore. Geo Baker’s 27 points pushed the Scarlet Knights to a 75-67 victory. Once ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press poll, Michigan is now 7-6.

22.5, 11.9 – Kofi Cockburn’s scoring and rebounding averages after the 29 and 10 he put on Minnesota to lead a 76-53 Illinois romp. The Gophers were 10-1 and playing at home. Few expected them to be down 28 points. Maybe part of the problem was they had not played in two weeks. Then again, neither had Illinois. “I don’t know what the funk was,” Minnesota coach Ben Johnson said. “But that is something we need to find out.” Cockburn and Oakland’s Jamal Cain are the only players in the nation averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds. “If anyone can figure out how to guard that guy,” Johnson said of Cockburn, “please let me know.”

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16 – Arkansas’ winning streak at home, but that was ended by Vanderbilt 75-74, with 22 points from Scotty Pippin Jr. Scottie Pippen’s son is doing just fine for the Commodores.

38:41 – Kent State and Ball State were within one possession of one another — three points or under — for 38 minutes and 41 seconds. There were 16 lead changes and 14 ties, and Kent State won 66-65 on a putback with 10 seconds left. Might be the closest game of the year.

Last check, there were 17 more games out on Wednesday night. Poor Colorado State might have its next game with Boise State on Friday scrubbed as well. The 11-0 Rams are trying to find a Plan B opponent, or else they might play once in a month.

“Hopefully in some form or fashion we can get a game in this weekend,” Medved said.

College basketball vs. COVID. Again.

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