Author: Dr. Saturday - NCAAF - Yahoo Sports

No. 11 Xavier ready for skidding St. John’s

CINCINNATI — Xavier got back on track in a big way on Saturday afternoon with a rout of Creighton. Meanwhile, the struggles continued for St. John’s, which has lost six straight.

It will be a matchup of two teams headed in opposite directions when the Musketeers (16-3, 4-2 Big East) and Red Storm (10-8, 0-6 Big East) play Wednesday night at Cintas Center, where XU is 12-0 this season.

There were high hopes for St. John’s, which began the season 10-2 but has since fallen on hard times. A season-ending injury to sophomore guard Marcus LoVett, who was averaging 15 points, hasn’t helped.

“I’m not concerned about predictions and expectations,” Red Storm head coach Chris Mullin told the New York Post last week. “The only thing that’s going to distract us or keep us down is a negative mindset. We just have to keep competing and keep working hard. Things will turn for us.”

Not even 37 points from Shamorie Ponds could get St. John’s over the hump in a 78-71 loss to top-ranked Villanova on Saturday. It will take another Herculean effort by the sophomore for the Red Storm to snap their four-game losing streak to Xavier.

Musketeers coach Chris Mack said the loss of LoVett for the season was a big blow for an SJU offense just beginning to gel.

“They’re a team that’s trying to figure out their offensive identity here in conference play thinking, they were probably getting him back,” Mack said.

The 11th-ranked Musketeers ended a two-game skid with a convincing 92-70 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. Highlighting that win was the return to form of Trevon Bluiett, who scored 24 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. XU’s offense was efficient throughout with 22 assists on 34 made field goals.

Xavier leads the all-time series with St. John’s 6-3, including four straight wins. The Musketeers have won six of eight meetings since the schools have been members of the Big East.

Mullin was a freshman guard when the teams met for the first time, a 75-55 victory for SJU in the 1981 Lapchick Memorial Tournament.

The Musketeers have gotten a boost lately from graduate transfer Kerem Kanter, who is averaging 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds over his past three games, and freshman guard Naji Marshall, who was named Big East Freshman of the Week after averaging 11.5 points in two games.

Beating Xavier could prove to be a tall order for St. John’s, which took ‘Nova to the wire before falling short on Saturday.

“We’re in a rut right now,” Red Storm forward Marvin Clark II said, according to the New York Post. “We just gotta figure out how to knock the door down. I feel like once we get that first win, we’ll taste blood and I feel like we’ll go on a run.”

Mack, in his ninth season, is on the verge of a coaching milestone. With a win on Wednesday night, he will eclipse Pete Gillen to become the all-time coaching wins leader at Xavier with 203.

Surging No. 8 Texas Tech roars into road game vs. Texas

Texas will be without two of the guards that began the season in its starting lineup when it faces No. 8 Texas Tech on Wednesday at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas,

With junior guard Kerwin Roach II out with an injured left hand and sophomore guard Andrew Jones at home in Irving getting treated for leukemia, the Longhorns will have to rely on their surprisingly productive bench and some freshmen to help them stay afloat in the stacked Big 12 Conference race.

Texas (11-6, 2-3 in Big 12 play) started four true freshmen — guards Matt Coleman and Jase Febres along with forwards Mohamed Bamba and Jericho Sims — during its Jan. 10 home win against No. 16 TCU. The Longhorns used a seven-man rotation in Saturday’s 65-64 loss at Oklahoma State.

Junior guard Eric Davis Jr. has stepped into the breech for the Longhorns, averaging 20.0 points per game while hitting 15-of-25 (.600) field goals, including 8-of-14 (.571) 3-pointers, in 37.0 minutes per game over the past two contests. He led Texas with 18 points (7-10 FG, 4-5 threes) in 33 minutes on Saturday in the Longhorns’ loss at Oklahoma State.

“Eric’s a feel-good guy,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “If it was up to me to orchestrate things, he’d go in and hit a quick three, he’d get a layup, make a couple of free throws. Then, you could count on him to play really, really well.”

Bamba rules the paint for Texas and registered his seventh double-double of the year with his 11-point, 10-rebound effort at Oklahoma State on Saturday. He enters Wednesday’s contest leading the Big 12 in both rebounding (10.4 rpg) and blocked shots (4.44 bpg) and ranks second nationally (thru games of Jan. 15) in blocks per game.

While the Longhorns are trying to piece together wins, Texas Tech is surging, heading to Austin with a full head of steam produced by a 72-71 win over No. 2 West Virginia at home on Saturday. Earlier in the season, the Red Raiders won decisively at Kansas; their only loss in league play is to now-No. 4 Oklahoma on the road.

“Coach (Chris) Beard has got them really bought into playing as a team,” Smart said about his Tech counterpart. “If you look at their statistics, I believe they have only (three) guys in double figures scoring wise. But they’ve got a lot of really good players who have bought in right now who have scored five, six, seven, eight points (per game).”

Texas Tech (15-2, 4-1 in Big 12 play) started off the year with six straight wins and then lost to Seton Hall. The Raiders kept going and now boast a 4-1 mark over ranked teams, which could make for a dynamite NCAA Tournament resume.

“Everybody in this room understands Big 12 basketball,” Beard said to the assembled media after Saturday’s win. “The difference between a disappointing season and a good season is three or four possessions. The difference between a good season and a great season is another three or four possessions.

The Red Raiders have established a program single-season mark and a nation’s-best five Top 25 victories on the season. Texas Tech has secured victories in eight of their last nine home games against Top 25 foes sparked by four wins over Top 10 opponents.

“We were right there last year,” Beard added. “This year, it is nice to win close games, but we’re just getting started. This race doesn’t even really start until February. We’re still all just kind of positioning ourselves and trying to survive and win the next one.”

Texas leads the all-time series with the Red Raiders, 85-56, with their most recent meeting a 61-52 Longhorns win in last season’s Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. Texas has won 21 consecutive games against Texas Tech in Austin entering Wednesday’s contest. The last Texas Tech win in Austin came during the 1995-96 season when both schools were in the Southwest Conference.

Stanford tries to keep rolling against ASU

STANFORD, Calif. — The best Pac-12 team in the nonconference season will meet the hottest team in conference play when No. 16 Arizona State visits Stanford on Wednesday.

Arizona State has lost three of its last five games after being the last undefeated team in Division I, while Stanford has won four straight after adding two valuable pieces in the past three weeks.

The Sun Devils (14-3, 2-3 Pac-12) have dropped from No. 3 to No. 11 and now No. 16 in the AP Top 25 since a loss at No. 14 Arizona on Dec. 30 started the slide.

Arizona State took losses at Colorado and to Oregon at home and has suffered a drastic dip to 41.3 field goal percentage in Pac-12 play.

The Cardinal (10-8, 4-1) have won four straight games with senior guard Dorian Pickens and freshman forward Kezie Okpala in the lineup.

Pickens missed 11 games because of a left foot injury, and Okpala gained his academic eligibility at the end of the semester. Included in the quick start was a buzzer-beating 50-foot shot by freshman guard Daejon Davis to stop USC.

“Stanford (is) playing as well as anyone in the league,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “They’ve won dramatically, so they have something going right now. They are leading the conference and we are 2-3, so that has to be enough motivation.

“We’re not like the Warriors or something. It (success) is fragile. You want to preserve it when you are going well, and when you face some adversity you have to find your gear again. Hopefully we’ll get that done again.”

Arizona State enters after a 77-75 victory in which it trailed Oregon State by 13 points with 11 minutes remaining before recovering.

Guard Shannon Evans had 22 points, but Tra Holder was held to four points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field. Holder, who entered the game as the Pac-12’s leading scorer, is now third at 19.9.

Reserve center De’Quon Lake and forward Kimani Lawrence were on the floor during the Sun Devils’ comeback, and Hurley hinted that they could play bigger roles moving forward.

“We need to try to play whoever is giving us the best chance to win that particular game,” Hurley said. “I told the team, particularly De’Quon, the way he played the last seven or eight minutes, I couldn’t take him out of the game. He had some impact in the paint.”

Stanford swept the Washington trip last week, its first conference road sweep since February 2010. The Cardinal’s only Pac-12 loss came when they failed to hold a 17-point lead at home against California on Dec. 30.

“It’s a big deal for us to have the confidence now to know we can go on the road and win some games,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase told reporters after a 73-64 victory at Washington on Saturday.

“We did a lot of things that are necessary. We still have room for improvement … but more importantly we did a lot of positive things.”

Davis, a native of Seattle, had his first double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in his return home against the Huskies and is the reigning Pac-12 player of the week.

Forward Reid Travis is second in the Pac-12 with a 20.1 scoring average and Pickens has had 26- and 28-point games since returning from a left foot injury for the Cal game. He had six 3-pointers in one game and seven in another.

The Cardinal have overcome second-half deficits in their last four victories, three of double-digits. It had a 48-28 rebounding edge over Washington.

Arizona State players met before the Oregon State game last week to address the recent sluggish stretch, Shannon Evans II said,

“We took it for what it was,” said Evans II, who is averaging 17.4 points a game. “Nobody really got butt-hurt or anything like that. It shows the character of our team. Guys are growing up and actually want to win.”

The teams have one Top 25 common opponent. Arizona State beat Kansas 95-85 in Lawrence on Dec. 10. Stanford lost to Kansas 75-54 on a neutral court in Sacramento 11 days later, without Pickens.

“Getting Pickens back has been a game-changer for them in the league,” Hurley said. “They are not the team they were in the nonconference.”

Southern beats Mississippi Valley State 78-70 in OT

ITTA BENA, Miss. (AP) — Jared Sam scored nine of his 20 points in overtime, Emanuel Sheperd and Jamar Sandifer each had a double-double to help Southern beat Mississippi Valley State 77-70 in overtime on Monday night.

Sheperd finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Sandifer added 15 and 12.

Sam Converted a 3-point play and then made a layup before Sandifer hit a jumper as Southern (6-13, 2-4 Southwestern Athletic Conference) scored the first seven points in overtime. Jordan Evans made a layup to pull the Delta Devils within three points, but Sam hit four consecutive free throws to make it 72-65 with a minute left.

Evans, who led MVSU with a career-high 41 points, made a layup with four seconds left in regulation to force overtime. His previous was 16.

MVSU, the only winless team in Division I, extended the nation’s longest active losing streak to 19 games, dating to last season. The Delta Devils, who came in averaging 57.2 points per game (No. 350 nationally out of 351), reached the 70-point plateau for just the third time this season. They scored a season-high 71 in a nine-point loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Jan. 1.

Vermont pulls away for 83-62 win over Maine

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Drew Urquhart scored a career-high 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting to lead Vermont to its seventh-straight victory with an 83-62 win over Maine on Monday night.

Trae Bell-Haynes added 18 points, Payton Henson had 16 points and Cam Ward scored 10 for Vermont, which had 16 assists on 27 baskets while shooting 53 percent. Ernie Duncan had six assists and Bell-Haynes had five.

Maine (4-16, 1-4 America East Conference) got a bucket from Isaiah White early in the first half to edge into its only lead of the game, 6-4, and twice pulled to within a point of the Catamounts, including Aaron Calixte’s 3 with 7:25 left to trail 21-20.

Vermont (14-5, 4-0) then broke it open with a 14-1 run stretching across both sides of the intermission. Everett Duncan and Ernie Duncan both had 3-pointers during the run, which was capped with Urquhart’s layup to make it 41-25 with fewer than 19 minutes to play.

Maine, which has lost three straight, got 19 points from Calixte and Ilker Er had 18 points.

Radford moves alone atop Big South with OT win over Liberty

RADFORD, Va. (AP) — Ed Polite Jr. scored 18 and made all seven of his field-goal attempts, including the go-ahead dunk with 1:25 left in overtime, to help Radford beat Liberty 59-57 on Monday night.

The Highlanders (12-7, 5-1) moved alone into first place in the Big South Conference standings with Gardner-Webb dropping into a second-place tie with UNC Asheville after a 90-67 loss to Winthrop on Monday night.

Caleb Tanner grabbed an offensive rebound off Carlick Jones’ miss with 1:32 left in overtime and fed Polite on the baseline for a quick-leaping dunk to make it 56-55. Jones, who finished with 14 points, added a pair of free throws to make it 58-55 with 30.7 seconds left.

Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz drew a pair of foul shots and made them both to pull the Flames within 58-57 with 8.9 seconds left. Donald Hicks made 1 of 2 for Radford with 7.5 seconds and Pacheco-Ortiz came up short on a jumper at the buzzer.

Lovell Cabbil had 14 points and nine boards, Ryan Kemrite and Pacheco-Ortiz added 11 points each for Liberty (12-7, 3-3). Pacheco-Ortiz hit a 3-pointer from the deep right corner with 3.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.