Thursday night was certainly a step down from the madness that Wednesday provided, but it still gave us another unbeaten going down and a fellow top ten squad being pushed to the brink by an arch-rival.
Top 25 Scores
Oregon 80, No. 4 Arizona 76
We weren't the only saying it, but we told you this was coming. Arizona attempted to rise from the dead for about the 15th time this season, but ultimately Oregon was able to hold on for a huge victory that quite frankly it deserved.
E.J. Singler scored 14 points for the Ducks, who watched Arizona score the game's first 11 points before roaring back to take a 41-30 lead into the break. Of course that's precisely the positon where the Wildcats enjoy being. 'Zona again made a monster run in the game's final minutes, one which peaked when Mark Lyons banked in a crazy double clutch three-pointer to cut the lead to four with 1:18 to play. They would wind up with the ball down by just three in the game's closing seconds, but Johnathan Loyd's steal sealed the deal and the succeeding court storming.
If you missed this one, then not only did you miss out on the game of the night, but you missed out on Oregon's fantastic "Fighting Ducks" uniforms, its crazy horsehead fan, its blinding court and, most importantly, a performance for the ages from Bill Walton.
The upset leaves college basketball with just two remaining unbeatens, and both of those teams will be tested mightily over the weekend. A Ryan Kelly-less Duke team will play at No. 20 NC State on Saturday, while second-ranked Michigan will tussle with arch-rival Ohio State a day later.
No. 9 Gonzaga 83, Saint Mary's 78
We've seen the home team in this series cruise to victory a number of times in recent years, and it appeared as if this would be the case again on Thursday. Gonzaga led by 18 points at halftime, and then watched as that lead dwindled to a single point with 15 seconds left to play. A series of questionable calls (both ways) and a Matthew Dellavedova missed three later, and the 'Zags had escaped with a five-point victory.
I'm going to take a second to lob a quick shot at the WCC schedule makers. How in the world can you pencil this game in for a date before that falls before all Gonzaga students have returned for the spring semester? This was a revenge game for the Bulldogs against an arch-rival that ended their 11-year regular season championship run in the conference, and then knocked them off in the tournament title game. The Kennel Club was nowhere near as rowdy as it should have been, and I thought that was extremely disappointing. Some shameful ish.
Gonzaga game balls ought to be given to both Kelly Olynyk and Gary Bell Jr. Bell only scored three points, but he harassed Dellavedova into a 4-for-15 shooting performance and forced someone else (Stephen Holt) to get the Gaels back into the game. Olynyk, meanwhile, breached the 30-point mark for the second consecutive game, dropping 31 on 11-of-19 shooting.
These two will square off again on...Valentine's Day? Cute, schedule makers. You could not be more in the doghouse. Roses or we're f---ing done.
No. 22 Michigan State 62, Iowa 59
Michigan State escaped from Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a much-needed victory thanks to a big-time rally in the game's final minutes. Iowa controlled the game from the opening tip, but late turnovers and missed free-throws ultimately resulted in yet another second half disappointment for the home team.
I know he was playing a little hurt, but the time has come for the veteran Spartan guards to give way a little bit to Gary Harris. I'm sure they're proud guys, but proud guys also enjoying winning. Recognizing that Harris is the most talented player on the team and allowing him to take over for stretches is what is going to give this Michigan St. squad the best chance at turning into a true title (Big Ten or national) contender, because right now they are absolutely not.
Other Scores of Note
Miami 68, North Carolina 59
We officially have major problems in Chapel Hill. A Miami team without its best player (Reggie Johnson) waltzed into the Dean Dome and took it to a Carolina squad that looked slightly disoriented far too often. The Tar Heels have five losses after 15 games for just the third time in the past 20 years. The other two times that's happened they wound up missing the NCAA Tournament.
Xavier 57, Temple 52
The Musketeers ended a four game slide - their longest in 31 years - by beating a Temple team that has already proved itself on the national stage. It was the A-10 opener for both. Xavier didn't try to mask the importance they placed on this game, wearing special grey uniforms and playing with an intensity that had been absent at times during the non-conference portion of their season. Based on talent, X should finish in the bottom half of the conference. Somehow I don't see that happening.
Northwestern 70, Penn State 54
The game itself was relatively uneventful (the Nittany Lions are bad), but it still warrants mention because of the actions of these Penn State geography bros.
Arkansas Little Rock 67, North Texas 53
I don't know what's going on at North Texas, but it blows my mind that a team with a preseason All-American and potential lottery pick could be 1-5 in the Sun Belt.
Saint Louis 70, Massachusetts 62
Rick Majerus' longtime girlfriend Angie Kvidera returned to the Chaifetz Arena for the first time since his passing and watched the Billikens take advantage of a cold shooting UMass team to secure a win in the A-10 opener for both. A bad night was made worse for the Minutemen when second-leading scorer Jesse Morgan (14.5 ppg) suffered a nasty looking knee injury.
Kentucky 60, Vanderbilt 58
Yes, the missed shot clock violation call was atrocious and should be reviewable, but the bigger story here is Kentucky being life and death to beat a Vanderbilt team that is downright awful. I'm not buying the talk about the difficulty of conference life on the road or the unfriendly confines of Memorial Coliseum, this is a Commodore team that scored 33 points and lost to 4-13 Marist by 17. It's a Commodore team that's going to struggle to win five games in a bad SEC. UK had shown flashes of having top five NCAA Tournament seed potential in recent weeks, but that team didn't show up on Thursday...at least not for the final 12 minutes of the game.
The performance also produced the trollingest tweet of the evening, courtesy of Creighton SID Rob Anderson.
Congrats to Kentucky on its second win over a team in the top-215 of the RPI this season!— Rob Anderson (@_robanderson) January 11, 2013
His mentions are currently unpleasant.
BYU 76, Pepperdine 51
BYU outscored the Waves 46-16 in the second half to move to 3-0 in the West Coast Conference. The Cougars got 24 points from Tyler Haws and 19 from Brandon Davies.
UCLA 57, Utah 53
Larry Drew's driving lay-up with nine seconds left helped the Bruins avoid what would have been an extremely damaging loss. It was the eighth-straight win for UCLA, while hard luck Utah fell to 0-3 in Pac-12 play.
Colorado 66, USC 60
USC lost again. I'm sure that means they'll be on CBS at 9 p.m. on Saturday, because national television simply cannot get enough Trojan basketball. I can name at least eight USC basketball players now. Do you know who needs to be able to name eight USC basketball players? Nobody.
Loyola Marymount 84, Santa Clara 80
Anthony Ireland, one of the nation's brightest hidden gems, scored 29 points as Loyola Marymount erased a nine-point halftime deficit to pull the mild upset of Santa Clara. The Broncos, who recently had folks buzzing about at-large potential, have now dropped three of four.
Arizona State 72, Oregon State 62
The Sun Devils improved their sparkling record to 14-2 (3-0) by taking care of business against an Oregon State team that struggled without star forward Eric Moreland. Moreland, who is currently averaging a double-double, was suspended indefinitely on Thursday for an undisclosed violation of team rules.