Fighting for a bid in the NCAA Tournament, at home, against its archrival, Michigan came out flat.
Well, "flat" doesn't really do the Wolverines' first-half performance justice. They made a total of six field goals. Six. They shot 2-of-10 from deep and even missed three of their four free throws. Yet even with the abysmal offensive showing, Michigan was still only down eight, 23-15, at half.
But multiple scoring droughts of at least four minutes—including a nearly eight-minute stretch from the end of the first half through the start of the second—doomed the Wolverines, which lost at home to No. 9 Michigan State, 54-42.
The loss drops Michigan to 5-7 in the Big Ten, and may have burst its bubble. Before the contest, sophomore guard Manny Harris called the game a "must win," and it's hard to argue with him. Michigan has the high-profile non-conference victories, but has been inconsistent in the competitive Big Ten.
With four of its remaining six games on the road, Michigan could've really used another win against a top-10 team last night. Instead, Harris was shut down by a suffocating Spartan defense that held him to 2-of-10 shooting.
Maybe the fact that the Wolverines played last Thursday night before travelling to Storrs to take on the No. 1 team in the country on Saturday night left them with tired legs. But the Spartans were playing their fifth game in less than two weeks and were without second-leading scorer Raymar Morgan, so that's no excuse.
The effort seemed to be there for Michigan, but in front of a sell-out home crowd in a game of this magnitude, its offensive struggles couldn't have come at a worse time.
Now the Wolverines find themselves near the bottom of the conference standings with less than a month left in the regular season. They need to somehow find a way to get back to .500 in conference, then win a game or two in the Big Ten tournament, if they want a shot at another top-ranked team in the Big Dance.
Michigan State, meanwhile, is poised to win its first conference title in seven years. Once Morgan returns, this Spartan squad will once again be a very tough team come March.
Not In Our House
This one had it all: an injury to a key player, an ejection to a key player, and even an orange on the court.
But it wasn't over until Florida's Nick Calathes, who had 33 points, stepped to the line with less than a second left and missed all three free throws to seal Kentucky's 68-65 win. Kentucky's star, Jodie Meeks, hit a double-clutch three on the previous possession to break the tie.
Florida's lone senior, Walter Hodge, was ejected shortly into the second half for stepping on the arm of a Kentucky player who had fallen to the court. It was a dead-ball situation, so when the refs reviewed the replay, they decided the leg-stomp warranted a technical foul and kicked Hodge out.
With under 10 minutes to go, Kentucky's Patrick Patterson injured his ankle and had to leave the game. Before any of this happened, someone threw an orange on the court. Wild stuff.
The win prevented the Wildcats from dropping three straight at Rupp Arena and tied them atop the SEC East standings with Florida and South Carolina. Kentucky has two stars in Meeks and Patterson, a couple quality non-conference wins, and a rich basketball tradition. It would be a shame if the 'Cats didn't make the Big Dance, and last night's win will likely go a long way in helping them get there.
If it's possible for a Big East team to do anything quietly, then Villanova is quietly playing like one of the best teams in the country. No. 13 'Nova beat No. 12 Marquette last night, 102-84, for its sixth straight win.
Neither team seemed to give much thought to playing any defense. Look at it this way: Marquette had 45 points at half, which would've been enough to beat Michigan's full-game total, yet the Golden Eagles lost.
Both teams shot over 50 percent, combined for 24 threes, and had multiple players score 15+. But Scottie Reynolds was the difference, scoring a game-high 27 points. Marquette simply couldn't keep up with him, and the result was its second straight loss after a perfect Big East start.
With Villanova running out its best backcourt since the 2006 Elite Eight team, it's possible this Wildcat team can make a similar Tournament run. The 'Cats should get to 12 or 13 conference wins, which could put them in line for a top seed in the Big East tournament. No matter its draw in the Big Dance, it's unlikely 'Nova's opponent will be able to match its outstanding guard play, something that can take a team very far in March.
Other Tuesday Night Highlights
Stopping the Skid
Texas halted a three-game losing streak by pounding Oklahoma State, 99-74. Five Longhorns scored in double figures. Judging by the score, Cowboys coach Travis Ford is probably lucky this game wasn't on national television, or else he would've had to do some more apologizing for profane language.
One of the Elite
By racking up another road win, this one at Boston College, 87-77, Clemson has proven it is one of the ACC's elite. The Tigers, along with Duke, North Carolina, and Wake Forest, are capable of winning the league crown.
Florida State is making its case for being considered in the aforementioned ACC elite, winning its third straight last night, 68-57, over Virginia. The Seminoles already won at Clemson and have a chance to pad their résumé even more when they visit Wake on Saturday.
Crean of the Crop
It's no secret that the coaching in the Big Ten is spectacular, and Indiana's Tom Crean might be doing the best job of the bunch. Indiana fell to Minnesota last night, 62-54, but the Hoosiers led in the second half. Crean's team only has one conference victory, but aside from a few lopsided road losses, Indiana has been very competitive. When those scholarship players start rolling in, Indiana will once again be a force in the Big Ten.
Should've Talked to the Other Billy
Maybe ESPN reporter Jeannine Edwards would've been better off questioning Florida's coach Billy Donovan at halftime instead of Kentucky's Billy Gillispie.
Two weeks ago, in another Tuesday night, nationally televised game, Gillispie mocked Edwards, telling her she'd asked a "bad question." Last night, he couldn't hear Edwards' first question, which happened to be a rather long one. Then, he acted as if he hadn't heard of Florida's star player, Nick Calathes.
I doubt the bloggers will go crazy over last night's awkward interview like they did two weeks ago, but maybe Edwards should avoid the Kentucky coach in the future.