SMU jumps ahead of Tulsa in AAC standings

Defending champs throttle Tulsa, while SMU escapes in Houston

Believe it when I say this, but Larry Brown and the SMU Mustangs are back where they belong.

Led by Markus Kennedy scoring 17 and Nic Moore’s 15 points, they both combined for 23 in the second half as Southern Methodist held off a furious rally by the Houston Cougars in prevailing by a 75-69 count on the road at the Guy V. Lewis Center.

Yes, SMU may be 25th-ranked in the Associated Press polls, but shooting nearly 54 percent should aid in the cause.

While the defending champions of UConn demolished Tulsa in snowy Storrs 70-45 as the Golden Hurricane shot only 31.5 percent for the game, this sets up a big showdown on Saturday night in Dallas (9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN).

But for the moment, I think we can safely pencil in SMU as a 2015 NCAA Tournament invitee.  20 wins on the season, and they have earned every one of them thus far.  Their RPI is very good as well.

Two shocking finishes as two former champions see their last gasp on reaching the Big Dance slip away for good

In Gainesville, Ole Miss used a last second three-pointer from the wing by Stefan Moody with 2.7 seconds left to upend Florida 62-61.  Ole Miss (17-7 overall, 8-3 in SEC) is looking really good to get an at-large bid, while Florida is pretty much NIT bound at this point suffering yet another heartbreaking loss (12-12 overall, 5-6 in SEC play).

In Champaign, the Orange Crush was out in full force in overtime after Kendrick Nunn drilled a three after pulling down a Rayvonte Rice rebound to force a tie at 50 at the end of regulation time.  The Fighting Illini then proceeded to score the first 14 points of the extra session and only allowed the Wolverines to hit two free throws with 13.7 seconds left.  ESPN ran a graphic at the end of the game showing that Michigan had given up 26 straight points in two successive overtime games, both losses.

Illinois earned a statement win 64-52 and are inching closer to the upper echelon of the always rugged Big Ten (17-8 overall which includes four straight wins, 7-5 in Big Ten play).  Michigan appears to be NIT or CIT bound at this point (13-12 overall, 6-7 overall including four straight defeats).

Illinois could earn a major seeding boost if they can hang close with Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. Eastern on CBS from the Kohl Center in Madison).

Elsewhere…

Gonzaga, BYU, and Murray State all won their games comfortably at home.

But the game of the night had to be North Dakota State at Denver.

North Dakota State appeared to have won the game in regulation after one player hit a three point shot with a little over 4 seconds left.  But with time running out, Brett Olson put up a Hail Mary from just outside half court:

SWISH.  Nothing…But…Nylon!

Overtime in the biggest of miracles, but sadly–the home team did not have enough gas left in the tank in the extra session.

The Bison outscored the Pioneers 10-6 in overtime to avoid a major upset by a 73-69 score.  North Dakota State with the win moved to 18-7 overall, 10-2 in Summit League play while Denver dropped to 10-14 overall, 4-7 in league play.

Lawrence Alexander made two free throws and also made a layup to put the Bison 69-65.  However, Cam Griffin dunked on the next possesion.  Cam Delaney then proceeded to foul Alexander again.  He made both free throws as part of his game high 28 points.  Denver came back again to pull within two at 71-69 on a Nate Engesser layup with two seconds left.  Jalen Love immediately fouled Alexander once more, and iced the game with two more  free throws.

With the NBA All-Star break in full force for one whole week, it is time for the college game to come on BIG TIME!

No pro hoops for a while?  No problem.

Get your Valentine’s weekend started right away at 6 p.m. Eastern time on ESPNU as Kent State pays a visit to Toledo.

One hour later, it is off to the snowy ARC (Athletics and Recreation Center) in Valparaiso as Ginger Zee’s alma mater takes on Wisconsin-Green Bay in a key Horizon League battle on ESPN2.

Arizona at Washington will air on ESPN shortly after the likes of Mone Davis, Common, Nick Cannon, Spike Lee, Chris Mullin, and other celebs play in the annual Celebrity All-Star basketball game from Brooklyn.  That game is scheduled to start shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern time.

The MAAC has a key game if you wish to check that out at 10 p.m. Eastern over on ESPNU, with Iona playing at the Jaspers of Manhattan.

And on Valentine’s Day, there will be 135 games to check out (a good handful will be featured on TV), which includes…

Baylor at Kansas in the early afternoon on CBS, Villanova at Butler in the dinner hour on the CBS Sports Network cable channel, and Connecticut at SMU in prime time on ESPN.

This weekend is going to be huge and lots of fun!

Settle back, grab your favorite beverage (in an non-alcoholic form, of course) and enjoy some excellent college basketball.

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