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Breakfast Buffet: Wagner, Hawaii score stunning holiday upsets

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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Wagner

1. Wagner, in a stunning 59-54 Friday upset of 15th-ranked Pitt, took complete advantage of a Panther team that limped to the non-conference finish line. With highly-touted freshman Khem Birch deciding to transfer two weeks back and starting point guard Tray Woodall sidelined with an injury, now Pitt heads into Big East play with a noticeable limp. Ashton Gibbs had to run the point, and the Seahawks game-planned against him beautifully, making him work extra hard in setting up Pitt's offense, which ultimately took away from his scoring punch. He did tally 14 points, but was just 5-of-16 from the floor and 1-of-7 from long range. On the other side, Wagner's surprising 8-3 start under first-year coach Dan Hurley now includes the program's first win over a ranked team since 1978.

2. A couple of weeks back, the idea of continuing their blistering start in Honolulu over Christmas probably sounded just peachy to Xavier and coach Chris Mack. Now? They likely can't get back to the mainland fast enough. After leading most of the game comfortably by double-digits, Xavier collapsed late to host Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic late Friday night, eventually falling in overtime, 84-82. The loss makes the Musketeers now 0-3 since its brawl with Cincinnati on Dec. 10 that led to a wave of suspensions on both sides. It was their first game since the fight with both Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons in the backcourt (freshman wing Dez Wells is still out one more game), but it was hard to pin too much of the loss on either of them, as they combined for 44 points in the effort. A 13-of-25 free throw shooting performance, though, killed Xavier, including two misses by Kenny Frease in the final seconds that led to a game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation from Hauns Brereton. Now, Xavier has to try and enjoy a day off in Oahu before playing Southern Illinois on Sunday in the tourney's seventh-place game. Making matters worse? Cincy is 4-0 since the brawl, having topped the 100-point mark twice.

3. You might be hard-pressed to find too many Top 25 teams right now with more impressive non-conference résumés than No. 21 UNLV, who improved to 13-2 on the season with an 85-68 rout of Pac-12 contender Cal on Friday afternoon in Las Vegas. The Rebels dominated from start to finish, and looked considerably fresh for a team that has already played 15 games, and to this point has yet to have four full days off between contests. The win now gives them wins over Cal at home and both Illinois and North Carolina on neutral floors. The two losses — at Wichita State and at Wisconsin — can hardly be considered bad, and they have a firm Top-20 RPI right now. Barring a major collapse in Mountain West Conference play, UNLV should finally play its way off of the 8/9 line in the NCAA tournament, which is where the Rebels have found themselves in their last three trips to the dance.

4. Baylor remained among the undefeated by squeaking out an 83-81 overtime win against West Virginia in Friday's Las Vegas Classic title game. Bailing the 12-0 Bears out against a furious late flurry from the Mountaineers was Las Vegas native Pierre Jackson. Last year's junior college Player of the Year hit a huge game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation, and again came up big in overtime, finishing with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists. Baylor had its issues, as it gave up a bevy of offensive rebounds and second chance points that led to West Virginia erasing a double-digit second half deficit. Plus, star Perry Jones III had a brutal offensive evening, scoring just four points on 2-of-9 shooting. But Jackson and gunner Brady Heslip (19 points and five 3-pointers for the Boston College transfer) have given Baylor a true sense of balance this season, complementing one of the nation's longest and most athletic front-courts wonderfully.

5. What's been a wildly disappointing year for Rhode Island had another 'failure to launch' moment on Friday in an 80-61 loss to Providence. In the first game for highly-anticipated transfers Billy Baron (Virginia) and Andre Malone (Auburn), the Rams trailed the Friars by just two at the break. But the fact that neither of the newcomers could offer much offensively proved to be too much to overcome. URI dropped to 1-11 on the year as Baron went 0-for-7 from the floor and 0-for-3 from 3-point range, while Malone had four points off of 1-of-7 shooting.

Arizona didn't release this video until after we'd already posted our favorite videos of college basketball teams crooning Christmas carols, but otherwise it definitely would have made the cut. The Wildcats missed every high note in butchering "Winter Winterland."

"The zone really helped us tonight. If we hadn't gone to the zone, we wouldn't have won the game. It's been good for us. There's going to be times when we have to go to it. I'd rather play man, but I knew going into this game that they're so hard to guard. They're so precise." - UCLA coach Ben Howland on breaking from the defensive norm as his team won its fifth straight with a 71-63 home decision over Richmond. (Los Angeles Daily News)

• There are no games on Christmas Eve or on Monday, but the final four games of the Diamond Head Classic take place on Sunday. The one to watch? The 9:30 p.m. EST title game between Long Beach State (7-5) and Kansas State (9-1). K-State likely gets back into the Top 25 polls with a win, while, for Long Beach, it marks the end of a grueling non-conference schedule. If the 49ers get their third quality win of the pre-Big West season, they could legitimately be in play for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in a few months.

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Mike Moser

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