Notre Dame, Kansas State begin new year with upset wins

Welcome to my first blog for 2014 and it turned out to be quite a set of games on Saturday.  Even though most of the Midwest was being blanketed by a major snowstorm, the games for the most part did not disappoint.

In South Bend, Notre Dame played their first ever game in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  It was a nip-and-tuck affair for most of the first half before something very weird happened.

The Irish led 35-31 with 1:13 remaining, but the clock stopped.

Duke was running their usual set for what seemed like a period between 10 and 15 seconds before any of the referees noticed.  Jack Nolan and LaPhonso Ellis noticed the problem right away on Notre Dame Radio.  But the CBS crew of Ian Eagle and Greg Anthony were basically just shooting the breeze for a good 3 minutes before they both realized what was wrong and we ended up seeing three separate replays at regular speed.

Nevertheless, Duke used it to their advantage to close out the first half as Rodney Hood splashed in a couple of threes in a 58 second span to turn a four point Irish lead into a two point Duke lead at the break.

The second half saw Notre Dame again dominating inside the paint.  Led by Demetrius Jackson and Eric Atkins (who finished with a team high 19 points), the Irish held off a furious Duke rally in the closing minutes for a signature 79-77 win.

Notre Dame shot nearly 53 percent from the floor (30 of 57), while Duke was its’ own worst enemy hitting on only 24 of 58 for a paltry 41.4%.  The Irish also dominated on the boards, 36 to 26.  This was Duke’s first loss to start in ACC play since 2007.

And no, Jabari Parker did not even see the last 3:36 of game action–largely because he only made 2 of 10 from the field.

Elsewhere on Saturday…Bruce Weber was really cooking with gas as Kansas State upset Oklahoma State 74-71 in a classic “bar fight”, according to junior forward Thomas Gipson.

Doug McDermott had another double-double (30 points to go along with 10 rebounds) as Creighton continues to roll winning at Seton Hall by a 79-66 count.

Larry Brown and SMU continue to make some noise as UConn dropped their second straight game in the new American Athletic Conference, 74-65.  It was the Mustangs’ first ever win against a Top 25 program since Houston was No. 25 in the nation on January 30, 1993.

The schedule is not going to get any easier for the Huskies, with Harvard paying a visit on Wednesday with future tough games in the likes of going on the road to Memphis on the 16th and hosting Louisville on the 18th.

Speaking of Memphis, the way they lost to Cincinnati was simply horrible.  The Bearcats won going away 69-53, with Josh Pastner’s bunch shooting a rather anemic 33.3 percent for the entire game–11 percent from three.  It snapped a streak of 27 straight home conference wins dating back to February 12, when the Tigers were dominating in Conference USA.

Small update from a light schedule on Sunday…

Wichita State dominated Northern Iowa at home to be one of only seven schools to remain undefeated.

Finally, the last 20 seconds might have spilled past the normal start time to 60 Minutes–but Xavier Thames made four huge free throws as San Diego State (CBSSports.com RPI of 31) upset Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, 61-57.  The Aztecs dominated inside with plenty of dunks and layups, plus Kansas only got one shot attempt most of the time when they were on offense.

The loss by the Jayhawks was their first in non-conference play snapping a streak of 68 consecutive wins dating back to when Oral Roberts shocked Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk Nation–in November 2006, long before Twitter and WordPress came about.

Time to bat down the hatches in most of the nation and hope the weather slowly gets better.

Tuesday night will be some huge games, leading off with the Big Ten’s huge encounter as Ohio State goes to East Lansing to face Michigan State.  Barring any power difficulties with the blowing snow prevalent on Sunday and extremely dangerous wind chills most of Monday and part of Tuesday, I hope to see you then.

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