Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series
A day after the completion of Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series got under way with three match-ups pinning Big 12 teams against Pac-10 teams.
In the featured game of the series, No. 8-ranked Texas defeated No. 9-ranked UCLA by a tally of 68-64. Texas made numerous defensive stops down the stretch to finish off the Bruins.
Texas forward Damion James collected a key rebound (as a part of his double -double) with 15 seconds left after UCLA forward Josh Shipp missed the front end of a one-and-one from the free throw line. Texas then sealed the game when A.J. Abrams added his 31st point of the game from the free throw line at the other end.
Coming off a loss to Notre Dame in Maui, this home victory was essential for Texas to maintain its identity as a Top Ten team in the country.
The earlier game in the Hardwood Series provided a close finish as well, as No. 6-ranked Oklahoma survived USC by a score of USC 73-72. Oklahoma star Blake Griffin overcame a cheap-shot blow to the groin from USC freshman Leonard Washington to score 25 points in the winning effort.
Griffin is averaging an astronomical 25.7 points per game and 19.2 rebounds per game on the season.
There was one other game in the Hardwood Series on the night, where Washington defeated Oklahoma State by a score of 83-65 to end the first day of competition with the Big 12 leading the Pac-10 by a count of 2-1.
On Thursday No. 2-ranked Connecticut played their only true road non-conference game of the season as they took on Buffalo out of the MAC conference. The Huskies were less than stellar as they played back and forth with Buffalo for the entire game before escaping with a 68-64 victory.
No disrespect to Buffalo, but UConn will have a hard time earning road victories in the tough Big East conference this season if they have trouble winning in a MAC team's arena.
UConn looked impressive in victories over Miami and Wisconsin in the Paradise Jam tournament earlier in the season, but the Big East schedule will provide a much better indication of how good this team really is.
Two mid-major teams that earned good seeds in last season's NCAA Tournament squared off on Thursday in a game that could be important for potential at-large bids in March. Both Saint Mary's (No. 10 seed) and Kent State (No. 9 seed) lost their first round games last season but are looking to return to the tournament and earn a victory this season.
Kent State had a strong comeback to tie the game at halftime on their home court, but Saint Mary's took control of the game midway through the second half and won 75-69. Saint Mary's was led by sophomore sensation Patrick Mills, who scored 26 points in the contest, including 19 in the second half.
The win bodes well both for Saint Mary's and the West Coast Conference, which looks to be in good shape to have at least two teams in the NCAA tournament already at this point in the young season.
The shot of the day belonged to Butler's Zach Hahn, who drained a three-pointer as time expired to propel the Bulldogs to a 50-48 road victory over Horizon League rival Cleveland State.
Butler, frequenters of the NCAA tournament as of late, is now 6-0 on the season and 1-0 in the Horizon League with several impressive early season victories. The Bulldogs seemed to have rebounded well from the loss of star A.J. Graves from their team a season ago that made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.