It was not a good Big 12/SEC Challenge if you’re a fan of a team that calls the artist formerly known as the best league in college basketball home. Bad losses by WVU and TCU, as well as disappointing ones by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State overshadowed solid performances from Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Kansas. Let’s take a look back.
Texas A&M 68, #5 Kansas 79
The Jayhawks just took care of business Saturday, dispatching the Aggies with ease before halftime. Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman had big games, dropping 24 and 15 a piece, and Kansas shot the ball well from behind the arc to overcome a bad rebounding effort. KU was in control early, and the short-handed Aggies got blown out in their own building.
Kentucky 83, #7 West Virginia 76
This is the worst loss of the weekend, barely usurping TCU’s effort in Nashville. The Eers led for all but the final moments, as they choked away a 17 point second half lead on their home floor. No sugar coating this one, it’s a really bad loss, as unranked Kentucky took over down the stretch with a combination of size and athleticism that overwhelmed the Mountaineers, despite a raucous home crowd. UK’s Kevin Knox had a virtuoso performance, scoring 34 points on 11-17 shooting, with seven rebounds and just one turnover. The Eers got a big night from Jevon Carter (26/7/3), but not much else, especially on the boards where they were out-rebounded by 15. WVU will fall out of the top ten after a two loss week, and Kentucky is right back in the thick of things with a statement win on the road.
#12 Oklahoma 73, Alabama 80
In the much ballyhooed battle of Trae Young verses Collin Sexton, it was Bama’s star that got the last laugh, as he led the unranked Crimson Tide to a win over Young’s Sooners. Young had 17 points on 6-17 shooting, and while he added eight assists, he turned it over five times and got to the line just twice. Sexton had an efficient 18 points, three rebounds, and two assists with three turnovers, but had a far more balanced attack supporting him - as OU got just three total points from their bench. It was a huge home win for Avery Johnson’s squad, who has a shot to build on the victory and turn it into an NCAA seed. OU, meanwhile, needs to regroup from a bit of a mini-slump if they want to compete for a high seed.
#14 Texas Tech 70, South Carolina 63
We all owe a bit of a debt to the Red Raiders, who got the best win of the weekend, beating a really good Gamecocks team in Columbia. Of course, we have been carrying Tech in football for several years, so no reason to feel all that badly. After a couple of up and down weeks, the Red Raiders played a solid team from start to finish, and though they didn’t take control until the closing minutes, they were always within striking distance, making it easier to pull off the comeback win. A great performance by Keenan Evans, who had 31 points, including 13/13 from the free throw line, led a group that had eight different players score. In a defensive battle, Tech held SC to just 37% shooting from the field and 19% from three, and while they were out-rebounded, it was by just four. If TT is back on track, it could be a wild second half of conference play.
Baylor 60, #20 Florida 81
Baylor is bad. Florida is good. This went about as expected. The only stat you really need to know is that the Bears were 3-15 from behind the arc while the Gators went 14-25. That will lead to a big loss more often than not.
#22 Tennessee 68, Iowa State 45
While there were some bad L’s across the conference Saturday, this was the most embarrassing of the bunch, for sure. The Cyclones aren’t a great team, far from it, but when is the last time they got absolutely smothered on their home floor? Tennessee is a really good team, but was only favored by 2.5 heading into the matchup. In front of a sold out crowd in Hilton, ISU couldn’t get anything going, as the Vols turned a 12 point halftime advantage into an absolute slaughter. Tennessee’s bench nearly matched Iowa State’s entire output, and though the Vols shot a paltry 38% from the field, it was more than enough on a night the Cyclones couldn’t do anything right. 45 points on your home floor? Yuck.
Ole Miss 72, Texas 85
Texas took care of business against an Ole Miss team that doesn’t have much going right for them this season, and though it was tighter than expected early, Mo Bamba was a big problem when it mattered, finishing with 25 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks. I hope that dude is a one and done. Four Horns finished in double digits, while the Rebs shot under 40% from the field and hit just eight threes. I would talk about their players, but let’s be honest, you have never heard of any of them.
Georgia 51, Kansas State 56
This was a really nice win for Kansas State, who is one of the hottest teams in the conference heading into their showdown with Kansas tonight. Wildcat Basketball isn’t all that different from Wildcat Football, as both programs just keep finding ways to win games they probably shouldn’t. Saturday, it was Dean Wade’s late charge, including six of the 12 points of a 12-2 run over the final six minutes, leading the Cats to a comeback over a Georgia team that isn’t all that good, but seemed to have Bruce Weber’s number early. K State’s defense held the Dawgs to 37% shooting and a 2-18 afternoon from deep, while Wade had 20 and Cartier Diarra added 12 for a team that did not get a single point from their bench in the win. In fact, the four man bench was so bad - 0-1 shooting, one rebound, and one foul in 19 minutes - I am shocked the Cats actually won. Can they keep winning without getting any help off the pine? Probably not. But I wouldn’t bet against them.
TCU 78, Vanderbilt 81
This was just a dumb loss, there’s really no better way to say it. The Frogs never led in the second half against a bad Vanderbilt team, as they allowed the Dores to light it up from deep, dug themselves a big hole early, and never seemed to commit to defense - like, at all. The Frogs had their chances despite their abhorrent play on the defensive end - even a chance to tie it at the buzzer - thanks to a dominant performance on the offensive glass and a good shooting night overall. Something called a “Riley LaChance” somehow had 24 points for Vandy, who got big days from Jeff Roberson and Saben Lee as well. TCU, playing with just seven scholarship athletes, had five players in double figures, but did not shoot a single free throw in one of the most oddly officiated games I have seen - and that comes from someone who watches the Big 12. TCU has to win two games this week, starting with a roadie at Oklahoma State and ending with a home matchup with Texas Tech, if they want to keep their slimming tournament hopes alive.
Oklahoma State 65, Arkansas 66
This one was right there for the Cowboys’ taking, but they couldn’t finish the job, as Arkansas’ late tip in bucket with 16.2 ticks remaining did Okie State in. The Cowboys were in control until about the ten minute mark of the second half, when the Hogs kicked things into an extra gear and made the final few moments an entertaining, back and forth affair. Arky had just one player in double digits, and he came off the bench, but a great defensive effort nullified the uneven scoring. OSU shot under 40% from the field and under 30% from three, and didn’t get much from their star - Jeffrey Carroll had just eight points on 2-10 shooting and six rebounds. They’re Hogs are a tough matchup at home, but this was a tough loss for a team that has a couple of big time skins on the wall and needs to win the ones they’re supposed to the rest of the way if they want to make the Dance.