The quarter-century day mark of the season has officially been hit and it led us to a terrific Saturday of College Basketball. We had our headline game of course with Auburn-Kentucky, but there was a Big 12 thriller, another SEC battle, upsets, and much more from Saturday. The roundup breaks down all of what you need to know from Saturday.
Auburn wins heavyweight battle against Kentucky
Auburn has been a program on the rise since Bruce Pearl took over, but Saturday presented the Tigers with an opportunity to move to #1 in the AP Poll for the first time in program history, but they first had to beat Kentucky. This represented what was likely the biggest game in Auburn Arena history, a win to make history and going against the blue blood program of the SEC to make that history. Students sat out the night before and this noon tip-off in Auburn Arena was as loud for this matchup.
Kentucky started the game strong, leading 17-7 after an early 13-0 run and everything seemed to be working for the Wildcats to start the game, but then TyTy Washington got injured. Washington’s injury was a catalyst in the comeback as the Wildcats became sluggish and predictable on the defensive end, while Sahvir Wheeler was without much help. Auburn didn’t quite tie the game, but they were able to cut the lead to 4 at the half, thanks in part due to ferocious dunks from Walker Kessler.
The Tigers started the second half strong and started to get it rolling from the perimeter, KD Johnson hit the game-tying shot, while Jabari Smith’s free throws sent Auburn into the lead for good. Sahvir Wheeler ran into Walker Kessler and missed part of the game with an injury, which made a big difference as he was almost single-handily keeping Kentucky in the game. Auburn pulled away and won 80-71.
The Tigers will almost certainly move to #1 in the AP Polls, as they will jump Gonzaga in the poll due to points. The Tigers season has gotten off to a historical start, but the SEC will still be tough. Auburn now has a two-game lead atop the SEC standings and are in a position to win the league title. For Kentucky, losing this game is going to certainly hurt their SEC title chances, but the important thing will be getting TyTy Washington to be healthy, as he’s the key to their success.
Ochai Agbaji makes National Player of the year case leading Kansas past Kansas State
The battle of the Sunflower State always seems to deliver some exciting games each and every year, but this one may have topped the cake. The Jayhawks were atop the Big 12 standings as usual, but Kansas State was hoping to make it three-straight ranked wins in this game. The Wildcats got off to the hot start, scoring 50 first-half points and leading Kansas by 16 going into the break. Kansas kept chipping away at the lead, cutting it to 8 early in the second half and they got it down to four before Nijel Pack hit a couple of key shots. Down three, Ochai Agbaji was fouled on a three-point attempt but was only given two free throws, so the lead was cut to one. After a stop, Kansas went back to their First-Team All-American, who beat his man, avoided a charge, and made the game-winning basket to put Kansas up for good.
Agbaji finished with 29 points and made his signature play of the season so far, as he now re-enters the National Player of the year race, likely sitting second behind Johnny Davis. Nijel Pack had a career game, scoring 35 points on 8-12 shooting from three. The Wildcats remain on the wrong side of the bubble thanks to the Archie Miller rule but are looking all the part of a potential Tournament team. Kansas remains in first place in the Big 12 standings and is still in a position to win the league title once again.
Tennessee takes care of LSU as tensions are high
There are certain games that wind up being destined for some extra chippiness and this was one of them. The two teams had to be separated at the halftime break, while this game provided some physicality and plenty of fouls. The game never seemed in doubt, Tennessee jumped out to a 14-0 start and got it rolling from there, although LSU made an effort to cut the lead to five at the half. The Volunteers extended the lead up to 15 midway through the second half and really just held on for the win. Santiago Vescovi had a good 16 point performance, while the Volunteers held LSU to just 50 points for the game. The Tigers being without Xavier Pinson seems to have caught up to them as they’ve lost three straight. They still are in a position to get into the NCAA Tournament with a good seed but are out of the mix for the SEC title. Tennessee also seems to be out of the SEC title mix, although they continue to build to their resumé.
Boise State gets signature win at San Diego State
In a battle of unbeaten teams in the Mountain West, Boise State went on the road looking to get another big win to help build their at-large case and they delivered. In what was a low-possession, low-scoring, rock-fight, the Broncos were able to have the game tied going into the final minute, and that’s where Marcus Shaver did what he does best. Shaver drilled a game-winning three to lift Boise State past Utah State earlier this week, and he did the same thing to San Diego State Saturday, as the Broncos were able to win 42-37. The Broncos now are undefeated in Mountain West play and are in prime position to get an at-large bid, assuming they would need it.
Florida State avoids collapse, wins at Miami
Leonard Hamilton and Florida State are living good right now as they moved into a share of first place in the ACC and capped off a four-game in eight-day stretch by winning at Miami. The Seminoles took a 43-19 lead into halftime and looked in position to win big. The lead was slowly trimmed down amidst Florida State only scoring 18 second-half points. The Hurricanes scored eight straight to cut the lead to one and got the stop needed to give themselves a chance to win, but Isaiah Wong’s game-winning shot missed and the Seminoles survived.
Mosley leads Bears past Ramblers
You will not find a much better performance than what Isiaih Mosley did against Loyola-Chicago Saturday, as Mosley scored 40 points to help Missouri State get the win. This was a battle between the Missouri Valley’s best teams, and while Loyola-Chicago has been coasting to what appears to be another at-large bid and Valley title, Mosley made sure that Missouri State got in the picture. The Ramblers still should win the Valley title, but Missouri State is really emerging as that second team in the league race and could be the team that ultimately gets the auto-bid.
Horned Frogs get signature road win at Iowa State
TCU seemed to be that odd team from the Big 12, as they have a record capable of getting the auto-bid but also are not really all that talented. The Horned Frogs did what they had to do to win in Ames, which was playing ugly. This game was a rock fight, the teams combined for 7-41 shooting from deep, Iowa State shot 30% from the floor, and the difference was that one team had Damion Baugh. Baugh had 23 to led the Horned Frogs and they were able to cruise towards a 59-44 win at Iowa State. TCU still has some work to do to make the NCAA Tournament, but certainly, if they can put together a solid 8-10 record in league play, that should be enough for them to get in, they currently need five more wins for that to be the case.
Carolina defense struggles again giving up 98 to Wake Forest
North Carolina has been one of the more disappointing teams this season, especially on the defensive end and it was on full display again at Wake Forest. The Tar Heels gave up 98 points and simply were not competitive as they lost 98-76 at Wake Forest. Jake LaRavia had a monster 31 point, 10 rebound performance, and looked fantastic, Alondes Williams and Davien Williamson scored 23 and 19 points respectively, while Wake Forest won big. At this point, it’s hard to sit and convince yourself that Hubert Davis is the right man for the job. The team doesn’t defend, they don’t seem to like playing with each other and are more concerned with stats than team success. He still has time, but this needs to be figured out ASAP otherwise this North Carolina program will be in one of its all-time slumps.