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The Morning Dish – Wednesday, February 8, 2017

February 8, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

A few days after Eastern Washington and Portland State played a three-overtime game that ended with two players scoring 45 points each and EWU finally winning 130-124, Alabama and South Carolina did their best to wrestle the mantle away for wildest game of the season.

On Tuesday, the Crimson Tide and Gamecocks played on, and on, and on. It took four overtimes, but Alabama finally earned a very nice road win, 90-86 over South Carolina. Again: in four overtimes.

In true SEC hoops fashion, the numbers for this one were a mix of amazing and bizarre. The Gamecocks’ Sindarius Thornwell scored 44 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, yet shot just 9-for-25 from the field. Thornwell didn’t need to convert a lot from the field to score 44 points, though, when he was hitting 25 of 33 from the free throw line, setting a new SEC record for foul shots made in a conference game-breaking a record formerly held by none other than Pistol Pete Maravich.

Thornwell’s shooting from the floor was still better than his team did collectively-South Carolina hit a miserable 23 of 88 shots (26.1%). And other than P.J. Dozier (24 points, but just 8-for-24 from the field and 2 of 6 at the line), no other Gamecock scored more than nine points.

The truth is, it took a gritty effort for USC to just get this game to overtime. Alabama led 32-16 at halftime, and the Gamecocks didn’t tie it until Thornwell scored with 12 seconds in regulation to knot it at 57-57, then had to sweat out a final shot attempt by Bama.

The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, got most of its best work from its bench. Avery Johnson Jr. (23 points) and Ar’mond Davis (19) led a reserve corps that scored 56 of the team’s 90 points. Riley Norris was the only starter in double figures, but he also yanked down 14 rebounds as Alabama out-toughed South Carolina inside.

While not a great loss for the Gamecocks, this is a quality win for Alabama, the type that still gives this team a glimmer of hope to make the NCAA Tournament, which is welcome news after the Tide recently lost for the second time this season to hated rival Auburn. At 7-4 in conference games, Bama also is lurking just two games behind the tri-leaders in the SEC, and a hot finish to the season could make for an interesting case come March.

Side Dishes:

  • Butler and Marquette both needed their game in Milwaukee, but in crunch time the Bulldogs were simply the tougher squad, going on to a 68-65 win to snap a two-game losing skid. It always seems any of a number of players can lead Butler, and this time it was Andrew Chrabascz with 21 points, including eight in a row down the stretch.
  • We noted it yesterday, Maryland’s trip to Penn State had all the looks of a trap game, and indeed the Nittany Lions toppled the Terrapins 70-64. The Terps played from behind all night and never could come back, following up their emotional loss to Purdue with a second straight defeat. Also in the Big Ten: Northwestern is missing Scottie Lindsey, but an NCAA tourney team still should probably be expected to beat Illinois at home, even without its best player. The Fighting Illini picked up the 68-61 win, though, keeping their own slim NCAA hopes alive. And Michigan State…what was that? Just nine days after the Spartans defeated Michigan at home, the Spartans were flat-out drubbed in Ann Arbor 86-57, an embarrassing defeat that may have to be ground zero if MSU is going to make its patented late-season run.
  • Increasingly, it’s looking like we’re going to have to get used to it: Syracuse is going to be back in the NCAA Tournament. The Cuse pulled out another one on Tuesday, winning at Clemson 82-81, as Tyus Battle hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. Syracuse keeps coming from behind to win ACC games, while the Tigers keep losing close ones at home.
  • We also may have to get used to the idea of TCU being in the NCAA Tournament, too. The Horned Frogs nabbed another one at home, edging Texas Tech 62-61 to get to 17-7 overall.
  • Akron nipped Ball State 65-63 in a battle of MAC division leaders, as big Isaiah Johnson hit the game-winner, a 19-footer from the wing in the final second off a baseline out of bounds play. What a finish, and this game was also a prime example of how college basketball screws up replay, as officials spent five minutes trying to find a reason to add two tenths of a second to the clock, completely blowing the emotion of an incredible finish. Also: the Zips kept alive two streaks: their homecourt winning streak, now at 29 games, second-best in NCAA Division I, and as their streak of 20-win seasons, which is now at 12 straight years, a terrific feat for Keith Dambrot’s program.
  • Also in the MAC: Marcus Keene did it again, going off for 41 points, and Central Michigan won at Ohio University 97-87.
  • Siena defeated Iona 81-79, a mild surprise in the MAAC standings given the Gaels came in having won six in a row, but the even bigger surprise came earlier in the day when Siena announced guard Nico Clareth had returned to the team after leaving the squad more than three weeks earlier, and not long after coach Jimmy Patsos indicated he didn’t know if Clareth would be back this year.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • Having played its way back into the NCAA Tournament picture, Oklahoma State now gets a primo shot to solidify its standing with Baylor coming to town (7 p.m. Eastern, ESPNU).
  • North Carolina State is at Florida State, and the Wolfpack being the Wolfpack, they’re probably due to pull off the win in this one (7 p.m., ESPN2).
  • Southern Illinois has third place in the MVC right now, but Northern Iowa can move into a tie with the Salukis if it can win at home tonight.
  • Providence goes to Seton Hall in a classic old school Big East matchup. Don’t count the Friars out this year just yet. (8:30 p.m., FS1).
  • Minnesota hosts Iowa in what isn’t so much a ‘must-win’ as a ‘cannot-lose’ game for the Golden Gophers (9 p.m., Big Ten Network).
  • Virginia Tech goes to Miami (Fla.) in an important game, one that could eventually be an NCAA tourney play-in, per Hoopville’s Paul Borden earlier this week.
  • West Virginia already lost to Oklahoma at home, and now the Mountaineers play at the Lloyd Noble Center (9 p.m., ESPN2).
  • Central Florida has backslid some in the American, but the Knights can make some noise if they could upset streaking Cincinnati on the road (9 p.m., ESPNU).
  • Regular rivals South Dakota State and North Dakota State meet again in the Summit League. Also, very surprising South Dakota-just half a game off the pace of league-leading NDSU-tries to keep pace when it faces Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.
  • The Mountain West’s premier in-state rivalry resumes with UNLV at Nevada (11 p.m., CBSSN).

Have a terrific Wednesday.

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