The game was played relatively even in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night.
With a lighter schedule than usual due to many students taking final exams (for those enrolled on the semester system), the Wichita State Shockers (CBSSports.com RPI of 13) made some key rebounds in the final four minutes to break open what was a tight contest throughout–72 to 67 was the final score.
Cleanthony Early scored a game high 26 points, 7 of 11 shooting and was a perfect 11 for 11 from the free throw line. As a team, the Shockers won this game from the charity stripe, making 25 of 27 attempts.
Rodney Cooper hit a three of his own to bring the Crimson Tide (RPI of 132 entering the game) to within one at 65-64 with 1:57 remaining. Fred VanVleet responded with a basket and Darius Carter scored on a rebound basket with 37 seconds remaining after Trevor Releford hit two free throws. Alabama managed to grab a long rebound but Retin Obasohan’s 3-pointer missed. Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall remarked after the game on NewsRadio KNSS 1330 AM after the game, “We believed in ourselves…it was important playing in the SEC because of their overall athleticism and intensity (they bring to the game).” This was the Shockers’ second straight win over an SEC opponent–last Saturday, they beat Tennessee at home.
Cincinnati on the other hand, was not so lucky. In a throwback game where defense dominated the day at Madison Square Garden, Jim Valvano would have been proud. Titus Rubles proved to be the difference hitting a rebound basket with 4.2 seconds showing on the clock as Cincinnati upended Pittsburgh by the slimmest of margins, 44 to 43. Neither team shot 38 percent for the game.
Another key game in NYC had Florida getting a key win over Memphis 77-75, as forward Casey Prather led the Gators with 22 points, including the last 8 of the game to go along with 5 rebounds . Three other Gators finished in double figures. Memphis was led in scoring by Joe Jackson (no relation to one-time Ohio State guard from the early 1990’s who share the exact same name) with 17 points while playing 38 minutes.
Part II: The Conference season cannot get here fast enough. One more update to come before the week ends.