As conference play starts to get into full swing, the Pac-12 got a good jump on things on Friday night before most of the others pick up the pace. Four games were on tap, all after a big day for one of them in the Rose Bowl earlier in the day.
We start with the school whose football team won the Rose Bowl, and in convincing fashion. Stanford was never really challenged in that game, scoring on the first play from scrimmage to set the tone. On the hardwood against Utah at Maples Pavilion, it was a little different story. In fact, the Cardinal by rights should have lost this game, as it was mainly a poor finish by Utah that led to the Utes blowing a late four-point lead and sending the game into overtime.
The Utes took a 63-59 on a basket by Jakob Poeltl with 1:37 left as he was fouled. He missed the free throw, and that would prove not to be an isolated incident, as the Utes missed four free throws in the final 18 seconds of regulation as the Cardinal tied it. The Utes paid for their inability to close it out in the extra session, when Rosco Allen scored the final five points for Stanford as they won 70-68.
Three other games were on tap on the evening, two of them intriguing matchups. California went 10-3 in non-conference play, but still more was expected of the Golden Bears with their young talent. Meanwhile, Colorado went 11-2 under most radars. On Friday, host Cal ran out to a 34-21 lead at the half en route to a 79-65 win over the Buffaloes, getting 22 points from Jordan Mathews and a double-double from Jaylen Brown (17 points, 11 rebounds).
Then we have the last game of the night, a thriller between UCLA and Washington, two teams we’re still trying to figure out. UCLA had a 33-28 lead at the break after an uneven first half, but Washington came alive in the second half behind Malik Dime to take the lead. But there was much still to be written at this point, and not just because Dime fouled out in the final minutes.
Washington led late, but then Bryce Alford played like his dad. With the Bruins not having hit a three-pointer all night long – flirting with not hitting one in a game for the first time since 2000 – Alford hit a pull-up three-pointer to bring UCLA within one, then a tough off-balance contested shot from the right wing to tie it and send it to overtime. There, Alford hit another late three-pointer – this one a bit more conventional – and double overtime ensued. The Huskies made sure Alford didn’t do it again, fouling him on the floor in the final seconds with a three-point lead. He made both, though he attempted to miss the second on purpose, and the host Huskies finally pulled out a 96-93 win in double overtime. Andrew Andrews, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, tied a career high with 35 points to lead Washington. Thomas Welsh had 19 points and 15 rebounds in the losing effort.
In the other game, USC went to Pullman and beat Washington State 90-77 in a game that saw a double-double on both sides. Nikola Jovanovic had 20 points and 12 rebounds for USC, while Josh Hawkinson had 19 points and 13 rebounds in the losing effort. USC is now 12-2 overall and was the only road team to win in the four games.
It was quite a day for the Pac-12 all in all, aided by having the basketball attention mostly to itself.
Staying in the Pac-12 for a minute, Arizona is expected to get a boost for their conference opener at in-state rival Arizona State as Kaleb Tarczewski is expected to return on Sunday. The senior big man has missed eight games due to left foot injuries, last playing in the Wildcats’ opening game in the Wooden Legacy in November. Head coach Sean Miller said his role could be limited.
On Friday, Rick Pitino broke his silence on the biggest story surrounding the program since the fall during a news conference. The Louisville head coach questioned the credibility of former escort Katina Powell, who published a book last year alleging that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired dancers to strip and have sex with recruits and players in an on-campus dorm. But he didn’t stop there, also taking issue with ESPN given its coverage of the saga. Along the way, he noted that the NCAA has not yet interviewed him about the matter. McGee resigned his position as an assistant coach at UMKC in October.
Xavier was blown out at Villanova in their Big East opener, but at first it looked like they may have lost more. Freshman Edmond Sumner, who is second on the team in scoring and leads the team in assists, had a bad fall early in that game, then Villanova forward Kris Jenkins looked to have landed on his head as he was on the floor. Sumner was removed from the court on a stretcher, and later appeared to be fine. Sumner didn’t practice on Friday, but head coach Chris Mack said he did not sustain a concussion. Sumner has not yet been ruled out for the Musketeers’ game against Butler on Saturday.
Conference play is pretty much in full swing now, and Saturdays will be busy ones the rest of the way starting with this one.
- In the ACC, Georgia Tech takes a three-game winning streak to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina, Miami hosts Syracuse, and Notre Dame travels to Virginia in the most noteworthy matchups.
- The American Athletic Conference has a busy day that is highlighted by Cincinnati hosting Tulsa and SMU hosting USF.
- The Atlantic 10 starts with Richmond hosting Saint Joseph’s, while old CAA rivals meet as VCU hosts George Mason and St. Bonaventure hosts Davidson in a nice matchup.
- Highlighting the Big 12 slate is a pair of great contests, as Kansas hosts Baylor in the afternoon and Oklahoma hosts Iowa State early in the evening.
- The Big East has the first game of the day with Seton Hall traveling to DePaul, then later has Xavier looking to avenge their first loss of the season as they host Butler. Also, Providence hosts St. John’s, Georgetown hosts Marquette and Villanova travels to Creighton.
- The Big Ten continues with Penn State at Michigan, while Michigan State looks to bounce back from their first loss of the season as they travel to Minnesota. The intriguing matchups are Iowa at Purdue and Maryland traveling to Northwestern.
- A nice early Missouri Valley contest is on tap with Northern Iowa traveling to Southern Illinois, while Missouri State hosts Evansville in a sneaky-good matchup.
- Looking at the SEC, Kentucky hosts Ole Miss, Florida hosts Georgia and LSU travels to Vanderbilt.
- In non-conference games of note, North Florida travels to Eastern Michigan in the afternoon and South Carolina hosts Memphis in the early evening.