The ACC race tightened up this weekend, as Virginia finally came down to earth. Wake Forest took out the Cavs 69-57 and handed them their first league loss. The score doesn’t do justice to the way Wake outplayed their rival in every area. Sylven Landesberg got 18 for Virginia…and the rest of the starting lineup combined for 14.
Wake’s win opened the door for Maryland to pull even for first place, as the Terrapins hammered N.C. State 88-64. The Terps' three-guard attack got to the line 19 times and they hit 14. Conversely, the Pack’s three guards got to the stripe exactly once—and missed. In ESPN’s Saturday prime-time game, Duke beat Clemson 60-47. As predicted here, the Tigers came up short in a big situation where they had a chance to make a real statement. Clemson won the battle of the stars—Trevor Booker had 22 points and outplayed Kyle Singler, but the Blue Devils got 22 from Nolan Smith in the backcourt and forward Lance Thomas grabbed seven rebounds in one of his most productive games of the year. The Blue Devils are a game behind Maryland and Virginia. As is Florida State, who nipped Georgia Tech 68-66. This conference remains up for grabs and you can’t count out Tech, with three league losses and even that struggling power in Chapel Hill who has the same.
BIG EAST ESCAPES
Villanova wasn’t supposed to have trouble at St. John. Nor was Syracuse when they hosted Marquette. Turnover problems turned them both into close games. ‘Nova had to overcome twenty miscues. They did it by shooting 50 percent from the floor and playing tough defense on the other hand, with D.J. Kennedy’s 2-of-12 game being the primary evidence of the latter. The Wildcats escaped 81-71. Syracuse had a 22-9 turnover differential with the Golden Eagles, but shot 58 percent and went ferociously to the glass, nearly doubling up Marquette. Wesley Johnson’s 22 points and 15 rebounds led the way.
Pitt wasn’t as fortunate. The Panthers dropped their second straight, losing to Seton Hall this afternoon. The Jesuits from Seton Hall turned to the Pope—Herb Pope, that is, who scored 19 to key the upset.
SEC UNBEATENS FALL
The big unbeaten in the SEC—Kentucky—is still perfect overall, and poised to become #1 when the new polls come out. Vanderbilt’s still perfect in league play. But Tennessee and Mississippi State each lost their conference game. State fell to Alabama, who got their outside-inside combo of Mikhail Torrance (20 points) and JaMychal Green (18 points and 9 rebounds) working in tandem. Jarvis Varnado wasn’t able to get untracked for the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, the Vols were smoked by Georgia thanks to a big game from Trey Thompkins. The Georgia star forward had a 21/8 stat line and the Dawgs got a virtuoso performance from point guard Travis Leslie, with 19 points, 7 assists and 9 rebounds. And defensively, they shut down Tennessee’s Wayne Chism in the post.
Cal maintained its spot atop the conference standings at 5-2 with a narrow escape against Oregon State. But Arizona State wasn’t so lucky, being routed at home by archrival Arizona. The Sun Devils’ three guards went 6-for-20 from the floor, and they fell back to a five-team pack at 4-3. One of those teams is UCLA, which won its second straight. This one was over Washington State. The Bruins’ got Ben Howland’s trademark defense back, holding the excellent Cougar guard, Klay Thompson, to 5-of-17 shooting, while getting 19 points from Reeve Nelson off their bench.
Kansas State couldn’t keep the momentum going from Monday’s win over Texas. K-State lost at home to Oklahoma State, which got 30 points from James Anderson. Michigan State escaped Minnesota 65-64 on the road. The Spartans didn’t get their usual rebounding advantage, but instead aired it out from treyland, connecting on 11-of-24, with Kalin Lucas being the primary marksman. MSU holds a two-game lead in the Big Ten.
The two main non-conferences game of the weekend went to the Big East. West Virginia beat Ohio State, and Texas lost at UConn. And there were some superlative individual performances in defeat this weekend. Shout-outs go to DePaul’s Will Wilke, who hung 35 on Notre Dame. South Carolina’s Devan Downey, rapidly becoming one of my favorites, scored 36 of his team’s 56 points against Florida. But the prize goes to South Florida’s Dominique Jones. In a wild 109-105 overtime loss to Providence, Jones exploded for 46 points and 10 rebounds.