The good games will be mentioned in a bit…but first, some breaking news late on Saturday night:
It was in the closing seconds as Oklahoma State was trying to hold on to a 63-61 lead.
Jaye Crockett of Texas Tech was fouled hard going to the basket. The clock showed 6.2 seconds remaining. Out of nowhere, Marcus Smart was being helped after spilling hard to the edge of the floor underneath the basket. Not more than two seconds later, Marcus Smart was not so smart.
He simply lost it, nearly shoving a male fan–presuming to be in his mid to upper 50′s.
The referees only whistled him for a technical foul, but Smart was not ejected. Smartly, campus police and his teammates rushed in and escorted him into the locker room to prevent any further harm. Clearly, the Big 12 Conference will come down with (hopefully) a stern enough suspension (the last such suspension, according to ESPN college basketball insider Jeff Goodman was in 2006)–after publicly apologizing for a Bobby Knight type tantrum when he threw a chair in Tuesday’s loss to Iowa State.
Now that all of this frustration and pent-up anger is finally out of the way…
Onto the fun stuff from earlier in the evening!
Statement wins by SMU and Memphis
Larry Brown worked his magic again at age 73, completely slicing and dicing through Cincinnati like a hot knife through butter. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was whistled for a technical foul late in the first half in what the WLW 700 AM commentators mentioned as, “a rather casual conversation.” Nick Russell had 15 points as the Mustangs won 76-55 for the third time this season against a Top 25 ranked team (the others being UConn and Memphis. Their current RPI is 47, a respectable 31 in AAC play. The win marked the first time since the introduction of the three-point shot in college basketball (1986-1987) that SMU won over a team ranked in the Top 10.
Even more impressive was Memphis staging a 17-2 run to close the game against a highly regarded Gonzaga squad. This was about as close to a statement game that this could be, similar to Memphis/Tennessee when they were the top 2 ranked teams in the nation back in February 2008. Joe Jackson (playing on his birthday) and Shaq Goodwin each had 10 points, offsetting the great individual effort by Sam Dower. Dower finished with a game high 18 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the floor. This loss could be devastating for the Bulldogs, since most of their wins have not padded their RPI rankings. West Virginia might be the closest for a prime cut, but that’s about it. Their RPI is 18 overall, but 31 against non-conference opponents. Had Gonzaga won, this would have clinched them at least an at-large berth. They would have to win the West Coast Conference championship tournament outright in order to return to the Big Dance. And yes, they still are sitting pretty in the WCC–11 wins in 12 contests to date and still in first place.
Melvin Ejim Sets Big 12 Conference Individual Game Scoring Record
Iowa State thumped TCU, 67-52 in Ames. But Ejim could not miss.
He had two baskets from behind the arc and six dunks. His stat line was impressive:
20 of 24 shooting, perfect 6 of 6 from the foul line for a Big 12 Conference record 48 points. Ejim also had 18 rebounds as the Cylcones handed the Horned Frogs yet another conference loss. TCU has still not won a conference game yet this season.
Even the Iowa State fans got into the act in the final minute, chanting his name. For all of you trivia buffs out there, the previous conference record stood at 44 points and was shared by Kansas State’s Denis Clemente in 2009 and also Michael Beasley in 2008. Ejim more than doubled his previous high, which had been 23 points against Oklahoma last season. Iowa State’s school record is 54 by Lafester Rhodes in an overtime victory over Iowa in 1987.
Outside of that, Wichita State remained perfect with a tense 82-73 win at Northern Iowa. Tekele Cotton scored all 18 of his points in the first half, while Cleanthony Early continued his steady play with 16 points of his own in helping lead five individual Shockers players in double figures. The UNI Panthers were trying to get their heads to sea level at .500, but could not do it. Missouri State remains to be the last major roadblock on March 1 in Wichita State’s attempt to equal Memphis when Derrick Rose (remember him?) led the Tigers to an undefeated regular season in 2007-2008.
The other unbeaten team, Syracuse has an early evening game on Sunday at home against Clemson–6 p.m. Eastern time at the Carrier Dome.