College basketball winners and losers
No one will be surprised if Kentucky guard John Wall wins the Wooden Award this spring, but the vote may be a little closer than expected.
Ohio State’s Evan Turner entered the mix when he returned from a back injury a few weeks earlier than expected. And after Saturday, there’s no denying that Texas’ Damion James deserves to be in the conversation, too.
Heck, James may be the leading candidate.
A 6-foot-7 senior, James scored 23 of his game-high 26 points after halftime as the No. 1 Longhorns outlasted Texas A&M 72-67 in overtime. James also snared 12 rebounds and swatted three shots for Texas, which impproved to 17-0.
“I was determined not to lose,” James told reporters after the game. “By any means … if it means taking a three or getting to the rack. It was ride or die.”
James is averaging 17.8 points and 11.3 boards. He became the Big 12’s leading rebounder earlier this season. James entered the NBA draft after his junior season before withdrawing his name and opting to return for his senior season.
“This is what you dream of,” he said. “This is how you make a name for yourself.”
Now the rest of Saturday’s winners and losers.
Ohio State – Evan Turner had just one rebound and two assists, but the Buckeyes managed to beat No. 13 Wisconsin 60-51 in Columbus. The return of Turner has the Buckeyes right back in the Big Ten title race – especially with Purdue sliding.
Virginia – At 3-0, the Cavaliers are the only team in the ACC with an undefeated league record. Quite an accomplishment, considering Virginia was picked to finish last in the preseason coaches poll. Tony Bennett’s squad has defeated North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and Miami.
Kentucky – Major props to John Calipari for organizing a “Hoops for Haiti” telethon that will air throughout the state and into portions of West Virginia. Wildcats basketball players will be answering phones and other local celebrities are expected to appear on-air and by phone. Various items will be auctioned off, with all funds going to the American Red Cross and United Way to aid in their relief efforts for earthquake victims in Haiti.
Brad Wanamaker and Nasir Robinson – Both played heroic roles in Pittsburgh’s 82-77 overtime victory over Louisville. Robinson scored 26 points – 11 more than his previous career high of 15 – and Wanamaker had five points in the final 15 seconds of regulation to help force overtime.
Auburn, Georgia and Arkansas – The cellar dwellers of the SEC are proving to be anything but pushovers. Arkansas – which has been boosted by the return of Courtney Fortson – defeated upstart Alabama 71-59. Auburn and Georgia hung with league favorites Kentucky and Mississippi State until the final minute before losing by five and two points, respectively.
Brandon Triche – Syracuse’s freshman point guard scored a game-high 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting in a 72-71 win over West Virginia. Triche is averaging 12.7 points and four assists in his last three games.
Northwestern – The Wildcats lost three of their first four conference games before pulling of a mammoth upset, 72-64, over No. 6 Purdue. Northwestern needed a big-time win to increase its chances of earning an NCAA tournament berth for the first time in school history.
Zachery Peacock – Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert had the gaudy stat line with 30 points, but it was Peacock’s pull-up jumper with 25.7 seconds remaining that lifted the Yellow Jackets to a 73-71 win at North Carolina. Georgia Tech pulled off the victory despite blowing a 20-point lead.
Chris Mack – The first-year Xavier coach suffered some tough losses early in the season, but his fortunes have since changed. The Musketeers’ 78-74 win over Dayton marked their sixth victory in seven games. At 12-5 and 4-0, Xavier is one of three undefeated teams in Atlantic 10 play. The others are St. Louis and Temple, who the Musketeers play Wednesday in Philadelphia.
Brady Morningstar – The junior guard continues to play a huge “energy” role off the bench for the No. 3 Jayhawks. Morningstar had eight points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in an 89-63 win over Texas Tech.
Todd Lickliter – The Iowa coach picked up a huge, 72-64 victory against Penn State. The win was the first against a school from a power conference for the Hawkeyes, whose roster has been gutted by transfers.
Tennessee – It’s hard not to be impressed with Bruce Pearl and the Volunteers for the way they’ve handled themselves in the wake of the Jan. 1 arrests of four players, including leading scorer Tyler Smith, who was later dismissed. An overtime win over No. 23 Ole Miss was the fourth in a row for Tennessee since “the incident.” Wayne Chism scored 26 points.
LaceDarius Dunn – The Baylor guard made 4 of 9 3-point attempts en route to a 25-point performance in a 83-70 win over Oklahoma State. Dunn has connected on 15 of his last 27 shots from beyond the arc.
Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks – The West Virginia twosome went a combined 9-for-25 from the field in a 72-71 loss to Syracuse. “Those are supposed to be our studs,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said.
Purdue – A 72-64 setback against Northwestern marked the third straight loss for the Boilermakers, who opened the season with 14 straight wins. All of a sudden a team that looked like the clear-cut favorite to win the Big Ten title looks incredibly vulnerable, especially at point guard.
North Carolina – The Tar Heels are in danger of falling out of the Top 25 following their 73-71 loss to No. 20 Georgia Tech. North Carolina has lost three of its last four games and is 1-2 in ACC play. Roy Williams’ squad is 12-6 overall, with five of those losses coming against Top 25 opponents.
Missouri – The Tigers opened the Big 12 season with impressive wins over No. 12 Kansas State (at home) and former Top 25 team Texas Tech (on the road). Missouri, though, blew its chance to break into the rankings by losing to one of the conference’s worst teams (Oklahoma) in Norman.
Fred Hill – Rutgers fell to 0-5 in Big East play with a 73-64 loss to lowly South Florida. The Scarlet Knights’ struggles could spell trouble for Hill, who entered the season on the hot seat.
Illinois – After barely squeaking by Indiana, Penn State and Northwestern, things finally caught up with the Illini in a 73-63 loss to Michigan State. Every team in the Big Ten has at least one conference loss other than the Spartans, who are 5-0.
Cal – Just a brutal performance in an 84-69 loss to Washington. The Golden Bears shot just 33.3 percent from the field and had 21 turnovers. Patrick Christopher scored 28 points in a losing effort.
Oregon and Oregon State – You have to feel sorry for basketball fans in the Pacific Northwest. The Ducks and Beavers lost to Arizona and Arizona State, respectively.
Duke Edsall, Rick Randall, Brent Meaux – The officiating crew for the Kansas State-Colorado game whistled the Wildcats and Buffaloes for a combined 67 fouls. Three players fouled out and nine others were cited for four fouls apiece.
Miami – The Hurricanes created some false hype by running roughshod through an incredibly soft non-conference schedule. It’s been a different story in conference play, where Miami is 1-3 following a 75-57 tail-kicking by Virginia.
Matt Doherty – The SMU coach continues to struggle. His team blew a 24-point, second-half lead in losing to Alabama-Birmingham 63-62. The Mustangs are now 6-10 overall and 0-3 in Conference USA. SMU needs to make a coaching change.