Wednesday and Thursday had some interesting matchups, but the biggest surprises came from Chapel Hill, as Miami (Florida) upended the Tar Heels 63-57 and Butler could not find the magic touch from the perimeter as DePaul shocked the Bulldogs at legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse in double overtime, 99-94.
Thursday’s short slate also featured Memphis knocking cold the defending champions at Louisville, 73-67. Leading the charge for the always emotional Josh Pastner were Shaq Goodwin and Joe Jackson (no relation to the former pop rock star from the early 1980’s with the famous single, “Steppin’ Out”) with 15 points a piece. All five starters did finish in double figures as Geron Johnson added 13 points, Chris Crawford had 12 and Austin Nichols managed to score 10. These former Metro/Missouri Valley/Conference USA rivals really do know how to go at each other–and this ESPN clash was not any different after the Tigers used a 18-6 run in the final 5:26 of the contest after Louisville took their last lead at 61-55. The key to Memphis bouncing back after their shocking home loss to Cincinnati last Saturday was them shooting the ball effectively–28 of 55 for the game for a 50.9 percent clip. Louisville was not as fortunate, only hitting 25 of their 64 attempts for a meager 39.1 percent. Luke Hancock finished with 20 points in a losing cause, while Russ Smith had 19 to lead the Cardinals starters.
At Pauley Pavilion in “Lipstick City” Los Angeles, top ranked Arizona nearly blew a 13 point lead with 6:16 remaining. However, UCLA only shot 41 percent from the field as the Wildcats remain perfect at 16-0 after the 79-75 close shave win. A 16-1 run brought back vivid memories of the late, great John Wooden–but it was not enough in the end. Sadly, these two schools are not scheduled to meet again until possibly the Pac 12 Tournament come middle March in Los Angeles.
Key games to watch on Saturday:
- North Carolina at Syracuse, noon Eastern ESPN. Which UNC team will show up?
- Iowa State at Oklahoma, noon Eastern ESPNU. Tough test for the Cyclones in Norman.
- Wichita State at Missouri State, 8 p.m. Eastern Wichita State Radio. The Shockers should remain one of the final groups of unbeaten schools going into the middle of the month.
- Kansas State at Kansas, 2 p.m. Eastern ESPN. Can Bruce Weber cook up another miracle in Rock. Chalk. Jayhawks Nation.
To the people out East, please try to stay warm. The Midwest will be suffering a bit with possible flooding after all of the snow that was compiled during the first 96 hours of the new year.