While Tuesday was a signature night of College Basketball, Wednesday was a much more subtle night of College Basketball. Villanova-Xavier provided a really good matchup, which presented the only Top-25 matchup of the season, while there are some really close games that came down to the wire, so let’s dive into the daily roundup.
Villanova gets key road win at Xavier
Villanova has been the team that has dominated the Big East year after year, but in order to win the league title, they always get 1-2 wins that other teams don’t get, with this road win at Xavier seeming to be one of those types of games. Villanova started off strong and at one point had a 34-17 lead late into the first half, while they took a 38-27 lead heading into the half. Xavier made their early second-half runs, but it really felt like every time Xavier would start to build some momentum, Collin Gillespie would make a tough shot to keep Villanova’s lead at distance. Even still, the game was not over and a 6-minute scoring drought allowed Xavier to come back and tie the game up on a Paul Scruggs three. On the very next possession, Villanova responded with a Justin Moore and-one, which put Villanova up by three, while they were able to seal the game away late.
This Villanova team is really tough defensively and that was on full display in this game, as they held Xavier’s stars in check and forced Xavier into 32% shooting from the floor. While Collin Gillespie had a big 21-point performance, Eric Dixon had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while being key defensively inside on Freemantle and Nunge. This Villanova team may be one of the least talented teams Jay Wright has had, especially lately, but they defend tough, everyone knows their roles, and they get just enough shot-making, which will likely be a reason that the Wildcats will add another Big East title.
Short-handed Tigers win at Florida
Coming into this game, LSU was going to be without lead guard Xavier Pinson, who has been really good to start this season, but the game played out even more unfavorable, as Tari Eason fouled out early only playing 7 minutes. For LSU, Darius Days had a big 20 point performance, while sophomore Eric Gaines, and freshman Brandon Murray had key performances as well. This Tigers team really defends tough and forces teams, like Florida into having poor offensive performances quite often. The Tigers are now 15-1, rank #1 in defensive efficiency, and continue to win despite not having arguably their two best players for a considerable time in this game. Florida continues to be mediocre, they have good wins like beating Ohio State but have been quite inconsistent this season and missed a real opportunity to get a quality win.
Hauser’s basket lifts Michigan State past Minnesota
For 39 minutes and 59 seconds, Minnesota hung in the game on the road at Michigan State and nearly beat Michigan State, but Joey Hauser’s near buzzer-beater led Michigan State past the Gophers. This Gophers played a really great game overall, they hung around, even taking the lead midway through the second half. Joey Hauser and Max Christie both made tough shots to put Michigan State up five, while Minnesota tied it, those baskets set up the final play, which saw a Hauser score off a great pass from AJ Hoggard. The Spartans now move to 14-2 overall and collect their sixth Q1/Q2 win. They still don’t have a roster that screams Final Four, but then again you could argue that most Spartans teams that make it to the Final Four aren’t overly elite. For Minnesota, this loss could go down as a missed opportunity, they certainly played a great game but in a Big Ten that lends itself to tough game after tough game, this would have been a real opportunity to build upon their resumé.
Colorado State gets by Utah State at home
After losing by 30 to San Diego State, this game became extra important for Colorado State as they needed to keep up in the Mountain West race while continuing to build their resumé. This game was still not an easy spot, with the whole team coming off a Covid pause, this was only their third game back, and Utah State is no joke, even still the Rams found a way to win. The Rams got out to a good start, leading 33-24 at the half but Utah State just hung around. Foul trouble mounted for the Rams and on a jumper by Justin Bean, Utah State led 62-60. Colorado State still has the best player on the court, and they turned to him, as David Roddy drilled a go-ahead three, followed by a fadeaway jumper, to put Colorado State up for good, and they were able to ice the game away from there. As mentioned, this win goes a long way towards winning the league title, they are just a half-game back of San Diego State and Boise State in the league standings.
Duke’s freshman stars carry them past Wake Forest
Coming off a tough loss at home to Miami, as well as playing a tough road game, without Coach K (missed this game due to non-Covid illness), this was a spot where Duke could’ve gotten caught. Instead, it was Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin who stepped up and made sure this Duke team wasn’t going to lose. Banchero had a team-high 24 points, while AJ Griffin had 22, on an ultra-efficient 8-11 shooting from the floor and 3-5 shooting from deep. Wake Forest led 29-27 late in the first half, but Duke went on a 22-1 run that stretched from the end of the first half, into the second, which made the difference in the game. Duke is now tied for first in the loss column in the ACC Championship race. The Blue Devils have also welcomed the slow development of AJ Griffin, who barely played early in the season, he’s now scored in double-figures in 6 of Duke’s last 7 games and even moved into the starting rotation for this pivotal matchup. If Griffin can be a legitimate second or third option, alongside Wendell Moore, this Blue Devils team has a very real argument to be the team to beat come NCAA Tournament time.