Thursday night’s college basketball schedule was stacked, as good of a weeknight schedule as we may see all season.
From the top of Division I to the bottom, from the East Coast to far into the Pacific, games of significance took place everywhere. Fantastic finishes, overtime games (sometimes both in one-see: Arkansas’s exciting 93-91 OT win over Alabama), rivalry games, offense, defense, you name it, you were able to find it.
But more than anything, the night featured a number of important battles for the top in conference standings. Among the biggies:
- Arizona is officially boss in the Pac-12 right now after an 89-82 win at Stanford. The Wildcats shot 55.6%, and that’s wins over Utah and Stanford over the last week.
- Remember back in November when it Indiana’s season looked like it was spiraling out of control before it even started? Seems like that was about, what, 10 years ago? The Hoosiers are now tied with Wisconsin for the top spot in the Big Ten at 5-1 and knocked Maryland from that perch with their convincing 89-70 win over the Terps Thursday night.
- Later into the night, Gonzaga took care of St. Mary’s in the latest continuation of their classic WCC rivalry. The Gaels hung tough for about 25 minutes before falling apart, losing 68-47. Right now, the Bulldogs look to be simply on a different level from the rest of the league.
- Suddenly, DePaul-yes, DePaul-is tied for the Big East lead. The Blue Demons won at Seton Hall 64-60 to improve to 5-2 and tie Georgetown and Providence for the top spot. Watching DePaul play matador defense in the Diamond Head Classic, never saw this coming. The Friars, meanwhile, moved into that tie for first with a 69-66 overtime win against Xavier. Kris Dunn was magnificent again with 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
- In the battle of win streaks in the OVC, Murray State’s is now at 14 while Eastern Illinois saw its stop at nine after the Racers’ 77-62 victory. Cameron Payne was huge with 33 points while Jonathan Fairell gave us a Dennis Rodman-style single-double for MSU (0 points, 12 rebounds).
- The leader in Conference USA and only undefeated team is not Louisiana Tech, Texas-El Paso or Old Dominion, but Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers held off UTEP 71-66 in overtime Thursday night for their eighth straight win and a 6-0 C-USA start. Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech dug itself a 21-point halftime deficit and lost to North Texas 73-66 to drop a game behind WKU, while Old Dominion lost to Middle Tennessee State 68-58 in overtime.
- The America East also had a big night, too, but one that leaves Albany as the lone unbeaten. The Great Danes won at challenger Hartford 62-53 to move to 6-0, while Vermont was pinned with its first league loss by upstart New Hampshire, 73-68.
Extra Helpings: The night featured no fewer than 10 overtime games. In addition to those mentioned above:
- St. Bonaventure rallied from well behind to beat Duquesne 100-97 in overtime in the Atlantic 10. Marcus Posley scored 36 points.
- UAB is now a very surprising 5-1 in Conference USA after an 81-76 OT win at UNC-Charlotte.
- Extra sessions in the Northeast Conference twice, where Robert Morris won at Mount St. Mary’s 63-59 and Sacred Heart nipped Fairleigh Dickinson 78-77.
- North Dakota State stays atop the Summit with a 69-61 overtime win at IUPUI.
- Lipscomb and Jacksonville played the longest game of the night, the lone one going two overtimes before the Bisons edged the Dolphins 80-77. Lipscomb is 4-0 in the Atlantic Sun.
- Virginia bludgeoned Georgia Tech 57-28. Defense is great, and have a lot of respect for the pack line defense and what the Cavaliers are doing this year. When college football and college basketball scores are interchangeable, we have a problem. One of the big problems is the idea that these two physical teams can commit a combined 20 fouls. Total.
- Also in the ACC, Miami got an important 65-60 win over N.C. State. Free throw line was the difference, as the Hurricanes got there 21 times (making 18) while the Wolfpack was 3-for-4.
- George Washington’s hot-and-cold offense ran hot again Thursday, as the Colonials shot 56.3% in a 79-59 win at Fordham.
- Washington got a very important 52-50 win at Colorado, as well-named Andrew Andrews hit a pull-up 17-footer with :00.3 left for the winning points.
- Oregon State continues to be a terrific story in the Pac-12. The Beavers defeated UCLA 66-55 and are now 13-5 overall and 4-2 in league.
- Ohio State won 69-67 at Northwestern, but there is fair reason for concern about the Buckeyes, as it took 33 points from D’Angelo Russell to do so. OSU has a big one with Indiana on Sunday.
- Eastern Washington got 35 points from Tyler Harvey in a 95-85 win over Northern Colorado. The Eagles stay half a game behind Big Sky leader Sacramento State, which won again, 62-59 at Idaho State.
- Virginia Tech lost 85-60 to Notre Dame last night, and earlier in the day the Hokies announced that junior Joey van Zegeren had left the team. The 6-10 junior from the Netherlands was averaging 9.8 points and a team-high 5.3 rebounds per game, but had been suspended the past four games. According to the school’s release, van Zegeren is staying in school to finish his degree in May and then will either turn professional or transfer.
- UC Santa Barbara defeated UC Riverside 83-75, and the Gauchos did so without their All-American candidate Alan Williams. According to a release from the school, the 6-7 big man will miss at least two weeks after suffering a shoulder injury in a practice collision. Williams is averaging a double-double with 17.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. It’s been an uneven year for UCSB, which came in with high hopes but had a host of close losses against a tough non-conference schedule, but a number of players have the chance to step up while Williams is out.
- The Naismith Hall of Fame on Thursday announced the teams for the first-ever Hoophall Miami Invitational, to be held in this November at AmericanAirlines Arena the day after Thanksgiving. The one-day doubleheader on Nov. 27, 2015 will feature Kentucky vs. South Florida and Ohio State vs. Memphis. It’s a good mix of teams, but one question about so many of these events now: why not more two-day tourneys anymore?
Tonight’s Menu: Six games on tap, though this diet is high in fiber with quite a bit of good stuff, plus three of the six are on TV too.
Valparaiso at Wisconsin-Green Bay (9 p.m. EST, ESPN2) One of the best games of the year in the Horizon League with two of its best players facing off in Alec Peters for Valpo and of course Keifer Sykes.
Detroit at Cleveland State The Vikings are hanging right with Green Bay and Valpo at the top of the Horizon. The Titans are going to be a dangerous spoiler all year, though.
VCU at Saint Louis (7 p.m. EST, ESPN2) It only seems like every time one looks that the Rams are on the road.
Manhattan at Quinnipiac (7 p.m. EST, ESPNU) Though they come in with a combined record at .500, don’t think we’ve heard the last of either team in the MAAC this year.
Niagara at Monmouth The Hawks try to keep pace with Iona in the MAAC.
Marist at Siena Two teams going through tough seasons.
Have a fantastic Friday.