Northwestern, Oklahoma, Utah, and Providence score major upsets

There were some cliffhangers on Saturday involving one of the three remaining undefeated schools at the Carrier Dome.  More on that in a bit, along with a Big 12 battle that nearly had Kansas saw its’ double-digit nearly melt away in the final seconds against Oklahoma State.

Northwestern earned their first Big Ten win of the season (almost an exact calendar year later when they won at Illinois on January 17, 2013), and ended a five-year losing streak in Bloomington at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers.  Both teams struggled with shooting in the first half, as the Wildcats were credited with only 8 field goals in 29 attempts (3 of 12 from long distance).  Meanwhile, the Hoosiers did not fare much better–6 of 31 from the field as Chris Collins’ bunch led 22-19 at the break.  Twice in the first half, Northwestern appeared to have pulled away from IU, leading by nine but could not put the game away.

Big Red Country did fight back for a few minutes in the second half before something really scary nearly happened.    Indiana nudged ahead 36-35 on Evan Gordon’s 3-pointer with 7:35 left in the game.  Hanner Mosquera-Perea then came up with a monstrous block on Kale Abrahamson on the other end, leading to Will Sheehey’s attempted layup.  Sheehey was fouled hard by Tre Demps, and could barely move while lying underneath the basket.  Medical personnel then helped him off the court, but thankfully would later return to finish the game scoring only two points.

With Sheehey hurt, Northwestern coach Chris Collins was allowed to pick an Indiana player to shoot the free throws. He chose Mosquera-Perea, who was shooting an incredible 75-percent for the season up to this point.  Hanner hit both freebies to give the Hoosiers a 38-35 lead with 7:15 to play.

Demps hit a trey of his own to tie the game at 38, then scored on Northwestern’s next possession to give the ‘Cats back the lead at 40-38.  Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell had a miserable game statistically speaking (9 points, nearly 9 below his Big Ten leading scoring average at 17.9 ppg entering the contest), but his two free-throws knotted the score once more at 40.  The next time down the floor, Demps hit another three (as part of his 13 of 15 total during the second half), then converted Ferrell’s missed jumper into a driving basket to seal the deal at 45-40 with 2:24 to play.  Jordan Crawford shared game high scoring honors with Indiana’s Noah Vonleh tabbing 17 points and 11 rebounds (Vonleh actually did one rebound better than Crawford).

Indiana shot an anemic 25 percent for the game (15 of 60), as they slipped to 12-6 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten play, while Northwestern improved to 2-4 in the league, 9-10 overall.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma got a statement win at Baylor, stopping the Bears’ 13 game home winning streak.  Leading the charge for Boomer Sooner was Buddy Hield, who scored a game high 19 points including 4 of 11 from three as part of his 7 of 14 shooting for the day.

What made this ending so zany was that Oklahoma nearly blew it in the final minute.

Freshman guard Jordan Woodard made two free throws with 29 seconds left to give Oklahoma a 65-58 lead.  Baylor’s 7-foot-1 inch center Isaiah Austin hit a trey from the top of the key before Sooners guard Jordan Woodard, a 78 percent free throw shooter up to this point, missed after being fouled with 18 seconds left.

Austin then hit another 3, carbon copy almost from his earlier attempt and Woodard found himself with the ball again and was fouled in the process.  Woodard made the second of two free throws with 9.1 seconds left, leaving Baylor with one more chance to tie the game and send into overtime.

After point guard Kenny Chery brought the ball down the court and got it to Royce O’Neale, his pass toward Austin was deflected by guard Cameron Clark.  O’Neale came away with the ball and turned while shooting haphazardly towards the basket.  However, the shot clearly came after the buzzer and the referee instantly waived it off.  Things won’t get any easier for Scott Drew, as Kansas provides the next challenge on Monday night.

But Kansas had some problems of their own in the final game of the CBS tripleheader.

Kansas was in command during the first half, leading 47-30 but the Cowboys came roaring back.  Markel Brown’s three brought OSU to within four, Kansas leading 54-50 with 13:35 remaining.  Kansas then extended their lead back to double digits at 75-64 after Naadir Tharpe made two technical foul shots with 4:05 to play.

Things got really interesting when Phil Forte nailed a three from the deep right corner with 3 seconds left.  Officials then put two more seconds back on the clock, then Frank Mason split two free-throws.  OSU brought the ball back down the court, but there was Mason coming up with the game deciding block some 19 feet away as Le’Bryan Nash’s game tying attempt was swatted away.  The real star for Bill Self had to centerJoel Embiid, who came up with a career high 8 blocks and put his name near the top of the list as far as Allen Fieldhouse great moments were concerned.

In Syracuse, Tyler Ennis was almost a one-man wrecking crew scoring 18 points in probably the best ACC game involving former Big East foes to date.  The Orange held off a gutsy squad from Pittsburgh, 59-54 as the Panthers had several chances to get the tying or lead basket in the final moments but was denied each time by some great defense.  With the win, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim passes Bob Knight for second place all-time in NCAA men’s coaching wins with his 938th triumph (Duke’s Coach K is the all-time leader, counting down to 1,000 victories which could probably be taking place by this time next year…depending on how Duke does in the Big Dance come March).

In other key games on Saturday night…

Louisville stunned UConn at Storrs in AAC action, 76-62 by using a 42 point second half to outdistance the Huskies.

But the bigger shocker was in Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center as the Friars ended the run of Creighton with Bryce Cotton played all 40 minutes while leading all scorers with 23 and holding Doug McDermott to a modest 21 point effort as Creighton suffered their first ever Big East loss 81-68.  It was Providence’s first victory against a nationally ranked team since Notre Dame when they were #21 in the nation on February 16, 2013.

Finally, Texas handed Iowa State its’ third straight Big 12 conference loss 86-76.  Boy, what a difference a week for Fred Hoiberg and the Cyclones in that farm town in Ames.

However, probably a really huge blow for the Pac 12 and their deflating tournament hopes as once mighty UCLA went down at Salt Lake City to Utah, 74-69.  It was the Utes’ first win against the Bruins since the 1983 NCAA Tournament and their first win against the Bruins at home since, get this…way back in radio’s Golden Age of 1928.  UCLA hit only three of 18 attempts in the final 11:07 of the first half in helping give Utah an advantage that they would never relinquish.

It is only appropriate we close this blog with mentioning about the Bruins, since Sunday is the 40th anniversary of one of college basketball’s biggest upsets when Digger Phelps saw his Notre Dame Fighting Irish end the record 88-game winning streak of the then seven-time defending NCAA champions.

As this clip attests to the guts and true fortitude that the players and especially the fans around the Golden Dome showed on that chilly South Bend day, TVS via WMAQ, NBC5 in Chicago provided the frantic action in a very thrilling final four minutes of play:

Legendary announcer Dick Enberg and longtime Utah Jazz announcer Hot Rod Hundley really captured the historic moment well.  My, how much time has flown.

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