This weekend: Doug McDermott surpasses Larry Bird, top 5 teams were stunned, Syracuse and Florida stay hot, and Duke bids a storied rivalry farewell in the best way possible.
Arizona State outlasts #2 Arizona in a 2OT thriller. In a hard fought contest throughout, Arizona State used a late surge from guard Jermaine Marshall and physical defense to secure a huge 69-66 win against the Arizona Wildcats. ASU’s Jermaine Marshall, injured the last time these two teams met, had another big game against a big name program. His 29 points, a career high, follow up previous highs of 29 and 27 against Michigan and Michigan State respectively (both ranked in top 20 on respective game days). His eight points in the final overtime proved to be key in ASU’s win. Senior center Jordan Bachynski continued his defensively impressive year (4.6 blocks per game) in this contest, swatting away eight shots. With six seconds left to go in the second overtime, the 7’2” big man sent back a driving lay-up from guard T.J. McConell, all but ensuring the historic win.
Offensively speaking, this wasn’t a pretty performance for Arizona, who ended up shooting a combined 36% from the field. They couldn’t hit at the charity stripe either (16-30 on the night), a trend that has plagued them all season. “Eventually that’s going to run its course, and we’re going to lose,” said head coach Sean Miller, “because we’re leaving too many points on the table.”
Coming into this contest, ASU had lost its last 18 games against top 5 teams. ASU head coach Herb Sendek might have recognized that, “In terms of college basketball, that’s as good as it gets.”
Top ranked Syracuse stays unbeaten against NC State. In yet another close match-up, Syracuse eked out their 25th win in a row–a 56-55 victory–against the Wolfpack of NC State. The Orangemen are now seven wins short of the best start in ACC history, a record held by the 1956-57 North Carolina Tar Heels. Forward Rakeem Christmas led the way for Syracuse, scoring 14 points and adding a key steal in the final seconds of the game. It was another tough performance from Jim Boeheim’s squad, who mustered a combined 35% shooting from the field. “We got out of it by making a good play at the end,” said the head coach, referring to Christmas’s game-sealing steal.
To NC State’s credit, they pushed the nation’s top team, leading by two with just under seven minutes left in the second half. Solid performances from big men T.J. Warren (23, 11-22) and Kyle Washington (14 points, 7-11 FG) went wasted as two late turnovers by the Wolfpack helped decide this game. “They’re terrific,” said NC State head coach Mark Gotfried, adding a tip of the hat to his own squad, “We just tried to prepare for them as best we could, and I thought our guys did a great job.”
Syracuse’s push towards an undefeated season will not get any easier, as they’re slated to face #8 Duke and #17 Virginia.
#3 Florida Gators win record tying 17th straight against #14 Kentucky. Playing at one of the most historically raucous venues in college basketball, the Florida Gators came away with a 69-59 victory in a clash between top SEC teams. The win, Florida’s seventeenth in a row, ties a school record. Moreover, it gives the Gators (12-0 in the SEC) a bigger lead in the conference race leading up to their second bout against the Wildcats (9-3 in conference). Seniors Scottie Wilbekin (23 points) and Casey Prather (24) combined to shoot a blistering 13-20 from the field. The pair also hit 19 of their combined 24 free throws, with points at the line becoming key for the Gators (78% ft for Gators, 60% for Wildcats). Though a 31-28 defensive rebounds margin favored Kentucky, the Wildcats were outworked in the post. Forward Julius Randle was held to 13 points, six of which were in the paint. In contrast, Florida’s Prather collected 14 of his 24 points in the middle. Rupp Arena was rocking for most of the night, making this contest, as Gators head coach Billy Donovan put it, “one of those games where you have to kind of stay the course.”
#8 Duke stays alive against Maryland in last meeting between ACC rivals. Jabari Parker’s 23 points (6-16 FG) led Duke to a closely fought 69-67 win against the Maryland Terrapins. The Blue Devils played Maryland for the last time in their ACC rivalry, as the Terps make their way to the Big Ten Conference next season. As such, this game was, in the words of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, “one for the ages.” The Blue Devils, usually riding the coattails of torrid three-point shooting, were a paltry 5-24 from deep. In fact, Maryland had the more efficient offensive game, shooting 42% from the field against Duke’s 33%. Nonetheless, Duke found a way. The Terrapins’ Dezmond Wells and Jake Layman combined for 35 points, but it was Charles Mitchell’s late hook shot that decided this game. The shot took some time languishing on the rim before bouncing out, the duration of which, “felt like an eternity” to Parker. How close was it?Painfully so.
McDermott makes history as #13 Creighton dominates #6 Villanova. Forward Doug McDermott pours in 39 points to help Creighton to a dominant 101-80 win against Villanova. McDermott’s scoring total tied both his season high and Creighton’s total bench points, placing him atop the nation’s scoring ranks, and taking Larry Bird’s place as the 13th best scorer in college basketball history. This was the second meeting of the season between the two teams, both ending in a Creighton rout. “They’ve got the best player in the country,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright, who’d opted not to double team McDermott as much. It was hard to argue with that assessment, as McDermott put on an offensive show. He would finish the game going 14-17 from the field (4-6 from deep), knocking down all nine of his free throws, and even adding seven boards. In accepting his place in NCAA basketball history, McDermott paid homage to the legend he surpassed. “That’s one of my idols,” he said of Bird, adding, “Imagine if (Bird) had the three-point line and he stayed four years. He would be way ahead of me.”
*All statistics credited to ESPN Stats and Info.