Wednesday, May 25, 2022

College basketball scores, winners and losers: USC hangs on to upset UCLA; Houston, Indiana on losing streaks

It’s been an up and down ride for Memphis this season, but the Tigers came through in a huge moment by winning 69-59 at No. 6 Houston in one of several college basketball games with NCAA Tournament bubble implications on Saturday. Memphis entered ranked 329th nationally in free-throw percentage at 66% but knocked down 18 of 19 free throws and outscored the Cougars 41-28 in the second half to end Houston’s 37-game home winning streak. 

It was the second straight loss for the Cougars (20-4, 9-2 AAC), who also dropped an 85-83 thriller at SMU on Wednesday. The win makes Memphis (14-8, 8-4) an impressive 4-2 in Quad 1 games. The Tigers are just 6-6 in Quad 2 and 3 games, however, which is why they’ll be fighting down the stretch for an NCAA Tournament bid. Nevertheless, Saturday’s outcome was a critical step toward getting the program back to the Big Dance for the first time since 2014 as fourth-year coach Penny Hardaway seeks to deliver with the talent he’s been able to pull into the program.

The outcome also brings some intrigue to the AAC title race after Houston looked to be in firm command entering the week. Now, the Cougars are tied atop the conference at 9-2 with SMU after the Mustangs handled East Carolina on Saturday. There were several other contests with league title implications on Saturday. So let’s take a spin around the sport and examine some of the day’s biggest winners and losers.

Winner: Gonzaga passes a rare test

No. 2 Gonzaga faced a ranked opponent for the first time since beating Texas Tech on Dec. 18 as it welcomed No. 22 Saint Mary’s to McCarthey Athletic Center. The visiting Gaels pulled within eight points on a Matthias Tass dunk with 3:08 remaining, but the Zags held St. Mary’s scoreless from there and closed on an 8-0 run to win 74-58. Drew Time led the way for Gonzaga with 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting. Given that No. 1 Auburn lost at Arkansas on Tuesday, there is a good chance the Zags (21-2, 10-0 WCC) will be No. 1 in the new poll on Monday. Saint Mary’s (20-6, 8-3) is likely to drop out of the poll after a 1-2 week that also included a loss at Santa Clara and a win over San Diego.

Loser: UCLA on the struggle bus

No. 12 UCLA has lost three of its last four games after dropping a 67-64 heartbreaker at No. 21 USC. Despite playing without leading scorer Isaiah Mobley for the second straight game due to injury, the Trojans (21-4, 10-4 Pac-12) held the visiting Bruins to just 30% shooting. Senior guard Drew Peterson picked up the offensive slack in Mobley’s absence with 27 points and 12 rebounds on 9 of 13 shooting. Peterson also blocked five shots. UCLA’s Jaylen Clark stole an inbounds pass with two seconds left, which set up a shot by Tyger Campbell that would have forced overtime. But the last-second prayer bounced off the back of the rim and off. The win marks five straight in the series for USC, but the crosstown rivals will meet again in the regular season finale for both on March 5 at UCLA. 

Winner: Baylor stays in Big 12 race

If you wrote off Baylor in the Big 12 race after it lost 83-59 at Kansas last Saturday and fell two games behind the Jayhawks in the Big 12 standings, think again. The No. 10 Bears capped off a 2-0 week with an impressive 80-63 win over No. 20 Texas on Saturday just five days after the Longhorns upset Kansas. Baylor (21-4, 9-3 Big 12) is hanging around within a game of the Jayhawks atop the league standings.

Loser: Baylor’s depth

While Saturday’s victory marked two straight league wins by double-digits for the Bears after their blowout loss at KU, it came with a cost. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua left the game in the first half after suffering a gruesome knee injury. The redshirt junior averages 8.6 points and seven rebounds per game off the bench and is an emotional leader who played a key role on last season’s national title team. His injury comes as the Bears have been without top scorer LJ Cryer for the past five games due to a foot injury. In Tchamwa Tchatchoua’s absence, starting center Flo Thamba could be asked to play a greater role. Thamba entered playing 17.4 minutes per game but logged 15 in the second half alone on Saturday, finishing with `12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Winner: Kansas closes it out

No. 8 Kansas narrowly maintained its solo hold on first-place in the Big 12 standings by outlasting Oklahoma 71-69. The Sooners (14-11, 4-8 Big 12) held a five-point lead with eight minutes left before Kansas (20-4, 9-2) rattled off an 11-0 run. The Sooners had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but Jordan Goldwire’s attempt just missed. A win would have been OU’s first at Kansas since 1993. One of the heroes for KU was true freshman Zach Clemence, a promising young role player who made the most of his opportunity off the bench with this clutch 3-point shot in the second half.

Winner: Rutgers coming on strong

Don’t look now, but here come the Scarlet Knights. A Rutgers team that debuted at No. 217 in the NET ranking on its Dec. 6 release day is now 15-9 (9-5 Big Ten) after beating Wisconsin 73-65 on the road Saturday. The Scarlet Knights are now 6-3 in Quad 1 games, which actually equates to a better winning percentage than they have in the other three quadrants. The loss cost Wisconsin (19-5, 10-4) a share of first-place in the Big Ten standings, leading Illinois alone atop the league once again.

Loser: Georgetown still winless

Georgetown has never won fewer than four conference games in a season since joining the Big East for the 2003-04 season. But at this point, merely winning one league contest in 2022 might be a relief for the Hoyas after they dropped to 6-17 (0-12 Big East) with an 80-66 home loss to Creighton on Saturday. A Feb. 24 home game against DePaul looks like the Hoyas’ best opportunity for a victory after Georgetown was competitive in an 82-74 road loss against the Blue Demons on Feb. 9. But before then are road games against No. 18 Marquette and No. 15 Villanova next week. Embattled fifth-year coach Patrick Ewing needs a late miracle to provide any justification for the continuation of his coaching tenure.

Winner: Alabama wins ugly vs. Arkansas

Alabama committed 24 turnovers, was outrebounded on the offensive glass 21-11, shot just 24% from 3-point range and was outscored 23-11 in the final 10 minutes but managed to beat Arkansas anyway. The Crimson Tide’s 68-67 win was no piece of art, but it got them back to .500 in league play at 6-6 (16-9 overall). While the offensive performance was uninspiring, there are some positive takeaways for Alabama. For one thing, the outcome snapped a nine-game winning streak for Arkansas (19-6, 8-4). The Crimson Tide also held Arkansas to just 31.4% shooting in an encouraging sign for a defensive unit that has struggled to reach the elite standard set by last season’s squad.

Winner: Walker Kessler is a beast

Auburn’s 7-footer recorded his second triple-double of the season in the Tigers’ 75-58 win over Texas A&M. Its run at No. 1 is in peril after a loss at Arkansas on Tuesday, but Auburn is going to be just fine in the long run with Kessler playing like this. The North Carolina transfer is averaging 5.7 blocks per game over his last nine, and with Kessler patrolling the paint, Texas A&M shot just 17.9% from the floor in Saturday’s first half. Both Kessler’s triple-doubles have been with points, rebounds and blocks.

Loser: Florida State crushed by UNC

Injury-decimated Florida State continued its free-fall with a 94-74 loss at North Carolina, which marked the Seminoles’ sixth straight defeat. It was somewhat surprising that the final score was so respectable considering that UNC led 62-24 at halftime. It was UNC’s largest ever lead at halftime of a home game vs. an ACC foe. For context, FSU failed to score 62 points in its two most-recent contests before Saturday and allowed the Tar Heels to reach that mark in the first half. North Carolina, one of the “First four out” in Jerry Palm’s latest Bracketology, hit 23 of 31 shots in the first half, including 9 of 12 from 3-point range. FSU’s injury woes only worsened during the game, as well, with leading scorer Caleb Mills left due to an ankle injury. 

Winner: Big O shines again

Oscar Tshiebwe led the way with 27 points and 19 rebounds in No. 5 Kentucky’s 78-57 win over Florida on Saturday as the Wildcats improved to 21-4 (10-2 SEC). The big man came one first half rebound short of recording a double-double in each half of the game. Let that sink in. UK freshman guard TyTy Washington left the game in the second half with a leg injury and did not return, which cast a pall over the afternoon. But with Tshiebwe in the lineup, the Wildcats are going to be a force to reckon with in March.

Winner: Villanova’s balanced attack 

All five Villanova starters reached double figures as the No. 15 Wildcats used their balanced attack to knock off Seton Hall 73-67. The win completed a season sweep of the Pirates for Villanova (19-6, 12-3 Big East), which won both games by the same score. The loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Pirates (15-8, 6-7).

Loser: Indiana drops third straight

Indiana entered Saturday as a projected No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament, according to Palm, but the Hoosiers were considered on the bubble and did not help their case. The No. 17 Spartans’ 76-61 win marked IU’s third straight loss. The five Hoosiers who were suspended for Tuesday’s loss at Northwestern were back, but Indiana (16-8, 7-7 Big Ten) shot just 33.9% from the floor. By winning, the Spartans (18-6, 9-4) avoided a three-game losing streak of their own and stayed firmly within striking distance of the top spot in the league standings.

Winner: Miami wins bubble battle

Miami and Wake Forest entered their Saturday showdown with both teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Hurricanes were in “Last four in” territory, according to Palm, and the Demon Deacons in the “First four out.” Miami won the “Double-bubble” battle with a big second half as the ‘Canes overcame a 13-point first half deficit to win 76-72. The outcome marked a sweep of the season for Miami (18-7, 10-4), which committed just seven turnovers as guards Isaiah Wong and Kameron McGusty combined for 42 points.

Winner: Murray State validates ranking

No. 23 Murray State cracked the AP Top 25 this week for the first time since the 2014-15 season, and the Racers validated their place with consecutive road victories. Saturday’s triumph was a 57-53 victory over a Morehead State team that is one of its top challengers in the OVC title picture. The Racers (24-2, 14-0 OVC) have now won 14 straight since losing to Auburn on Dec. 22. Murray State trailed 50-42 with 4:24 remaining but closed the game on a 15-3 run as KJ Williams led the way with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Loser: Wagner falls to Merrimack

Wagner entered Saturday’s home game with Merrimack riding a nation-best 14-game winning streak, which included a 71-57 road win over Merrimack on Jan. 23. But despite having lost seven of its past eight, Merrimack brought its A-game and pulled away in overtime for an 80-65 victory in a Northeast Conference stunner. Wagner retained first-place in the league by virtue of Bryant’s loss to Long Island University, but the Seahawks’ hopes of an undefeated run through league play have been dashed.

Winner: Providence does it again

No. 11 Providence’s two losses this season are by a combined 50 points. But the Friars have won their other 21 games, with the latest triumph being a 76-73 overtime thriller against DePaul on Saturday. Providence is now 12-0 in games decided by single digits and has a two-game cushion atop the Big East standings with just five league contests remaining.

Loser: West Virginia falls to Oklahoma State

West Virginia briefly got right on Tuesday by knocking off Iowa State 79-63 to break a seven-game losing streak and remain on the bubble in Palm’s Bracketology. But any thought of that victory being a turning point for the Mountaineers dissipated during an 81-58 loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday. WVU was one of the “First four out” in Bracketology, but is now (14-10, 3-8 Big 12). The Cowboys (12-12, 5-7) continued to play the role of spoiler quite well and out-rebounded WVU 48-24.

Winner: Alabama A&M earns win in 4OTs

It took four overtimes, but Alabama A&M outlasted Mississippi Valley State 94-92 in an epic SWAC battle. Brandon Powell hit a jumper with eight seconds left in the fourth overtime, and then MVSU’s Devin Gordon saw his potential go-ahead look from the corner bounce off in the final seconds. The game-winning make was Powell’s first made shot from the field of the game.

Loser: Iowa State inconsistent play continues

Making sense of Iowa State was already tough before Saturday, but the Cyclones made interpreting their resume even more difficult by losing 75-69 in overtime at home to Kansas State after leading by 15 early in the second half. ISU is still 16-9 overall but is just 3-9 in Big 12 play. If, hypothetically, the Cyclones finished 6-12 in Big 12 play, would the NCAA Tournament selection committee admit a team with twice as many losses as victories in league play? Iowa State was regarded as a projected No. 7 seed entering the day, according to Palm. But it has now lost four straight and obviously needs to stop the bleeding.

Winner: Navy beats Army in dramatic ending

Navy evened its season series with Army by squeaking out a 52-49 victory over the Black Knights to avenge a 74-73 loss on Jan. 22. Tyler Nelson led the way with 16 for the Midshipmen (17-8, 10-4 Patriot). Army dropped to 13-13 (7-7) with the loss after a last-second shot attempt from Josh Caldwell fell short.

Winner: Idaho over Weber State

Idaho entered Saturday’s game against Weber State with just four victories against Division I opponents this season, while Weber State was in second-place in the Big Sky standings. But the Vandals pulled a stunner and upset Weber 83-79 behind a massive day from guards Mikey Dixon and Trevante Anderson. The duo combined for 57 points to hand the visiting Wildcats their third straight loss after an 11-1 start to conference play.

Loser: Oregon stumbles hard

Oregon had won five straight and 11 of its last 12 to reach the No. 10 seed line in Palm’s projected bracket entering what should have been a manageable home game against Cal on Saturday. But the Ducks lost, and they lost decisively, as the Bears used a 24-0 run in the first half to open up a commanding lead en route to a 78-64 victory. It will go down as the third Quad 3 loss of the season for Oregon (16-8, 9-4 Pac-12). The Bears (11-15, 4-11) had dropped 10 straight before this week. But it turns out a trip to Oregon was all they needed considering they got back in the win column. They won on Wednesday at Oregon State before Saturday’s stunning result.

Winner: Virginia Tech wins fifth straight

When Virginia Tech lost 78-75 at home against Miami on Jan. 26, the Hokies looked like roadkill in the ACC and in the NCAA Tournament picture. The team picked to finish fifth in the 15-team conference was just 10-10 overall and only 2-7 in league play. But the Hokies completed a rally back to .500 in the conference on Saturday by knocking off Syracuse 71-59 for their fifth straight victory. Now 15-10 (7-7 ACC), the Hokies suddenly have a pulse. Virginia Tech turned the ball over just four times against the Orange (13-12, 7-7) and carried that into a 17-2 edge in points off turnovers.

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