The game of the night clearly took place in Columbia, where Kansas and Missouri rekindled a nasty rivalry, but this game unfortunately showcased everything wrong with college basketball.
Early nerves led to an ugly opening half, especially for Missouri, who was held to a season-low 16 first half points, shooting just 1-10 from the three-point line and 24 percent from the field.
Kansas wasn’t much better, shooting 2-12 from the three-point line and 36 percent from the field. For the game, the teams combined to go 4-29 from three-point range.
Kansas’ freshman big man Marcus Morris stupidly shoved a ref and earned himself a technical. The Tigers promptly went on a 10-4 run, and the Mizzou students went bonkers. A few minutes later, the Tigers were just down three.
Shot selection and ball protection were terrible. Transition defense was virtually nonexistent.
The teams combined for 39 turnovers, and even a veteran floor general like Sherron Collins surprisingly got in the act, coughing it up six times and missing two key free throws with 1:45 left while Kansas was nursing a two-point lead. Missouri would tie the game just 10 seconds later as part of a 9-0 run.
All that said, however, the last 90 seconds of the game were well worth it: three lead changes, a dramatic last second shot by Zaire Taylor to give the underdog team a win that puts them in the thick of the Big XII race, and crazed fans storming the floor. The ugly 38 minutes and 30 seconds aside, that’s what college basketball is all about.
Missouri’s 62-60 wins puts them one game back of Kansas and within striking range of Oklahoma.
In the Big East, West Virginia traveled to Pitt Monday night and left on the wrong end of an ugly 70-59 loss.
While the Panthers looked good rocking the gold jerseys at home, Pitt’s play wasn’t nearly as shiny as their unis, and with DeJuan Blair on the bench after picking up two fouls in the first five minutes, West Virginia took a small early lead as Pitt went over six minutes without a field goal in the first half.
Blair would later pick up a technical foul and play only 16 minutes on the night. He wasn’t needed, however, as West Virginia seemed dead-set on lying down for the Panthers.
Blair is a great player and an absolute beast down low, but it just seems like this kid’s antics are eventually going to burn Pitt. Whether it’s his foolish fouls or his incessant smack talk, complaining, and taunting, you just get the feeling that Blair is going to cost the Panthers big time in a big game.
Can the big guy stay focused for six games in a row during a championship hunt? Maybe so, but I’m certainly not betting on it.
Meanwhile, Bob Huggins, who decided to go with the black button down underneath the blue blazer, kept busy by constantly frowning and putting his hands on his hips. Huggy and Mike Brey should get together and auction off their wardrobes for a charity. They would make at least 50 bucks total. Somebody call TLC’s What Not to Wear. Not that I’ve ever seen that show. But I digress...
The second half of this game didn’t get any prettier. West Virginia’s defensive rotations were in slow motion, they shot terribly and turned the ball over constantly—and Pitt still couldn’t put them away...until Alex Ruoff fouled out with seven minutes left. From there, the game essentially became mop-up minutes.
For Pitt, a win is a win, but for a team that ripped off over 90 points in their last three games, this game had to be somewhat of a disappointment.
In the Mid-major ranks, the Big South race rages on, as both VMI and Radford won Monday night to stay locked at first place at 11-2.
Chavis Holmes led VMI with a monster game of 33 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists. Despite shooting only 7-34 from three and struggling to score all night, VMI scrapped and stayed within range until finally taking the lead with two minutes remaining.
That has been the story of this team all season long. It was a rather fitting performance for the team’s 20th win of the season.
Radford, meanwhile, had a dogfight of their own, needing overtime to dispatch Coastal Carolina 71-67. The Highlanders also shrugged off a poor shooting night to pull out a thriller at home.
Looks like the Feb. 21 matchup between these two teams will decide the regular season crown and top seed in the conference tournament.
Game of the night involving terrible teams
Chicago State’s 112-108 comeback overtime win over 3-22 Houston Baptist featured David Holston, the nation’s third leading scorer, notching 39 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. He bombed seven threes and went 12-12 from the line.
Siena: Winners of nine of their last 10 games, the Saints are 13-1 in the MAAC and are on a mission. After last year’s pasting of Vandy in the first round, some unlucky opponent will be cringing when their matchup with Siena is announced on Selection Sunday.
The Bob Cousy Award Committee: Leaving Devan Downey off the list of finalists for this award is shameful, especially when guys like Jeremy Pargo, Dominic James, and A.J. Price are on the list.
The best-laid plans
Terrance Joyner, a freshman guard for New Mexico State, was arrested after marijuana was found in his luggage at the El Paso International Airport as the team was leaving for a two-game road trip.
Talk about an awkward conversation. “See, Coach, what had happened was...”
Joyner has since been suspended.