Bad Santas. Portland St. 77, Gonzaga 70. Santa Claus made an early visit to the environs of Cincinnati, OH, and Spokane, WA, tonight, but instead of leaving toys and treats for the tots of Xavier and Gonzaga Universities, respectively, he left a couple of lumps of coal and another undisclosed brownish substance in their stockings. AP #7 Gonzaga and AP # 14 Xavier, both coming off of devastating Saturday losses (in different ways), were unable to shake off their hangovers from losses to UConn and Duke and instead dropped home games tonight that sent shocks throughout mid-major America. The more surprising upset of the two took place out west, where Gonzaga was thoroughly outplayed by the scrappier, guttier Portland St. Vikings. PSU was led by 5’6 Jeremiah Dominguez, who hit seven threes for a sick line of 25/6/5 assts. Yes, a guy shorter than you outrebounded all but Gonzaga’s 6’11 Austin Daye (9 boards) and 6’10 Josh Heytvelt (8) in this game. Portland St., who has losses to Hampton and Cal Poly on its resume, never wavered in the face of the superior athleticism and size of Gonzaga. GU, should have come out ready to eat glass in this one, but instead they allowed their heartbreaking loss to UConn over the weekend to mentally affect their play tonight. Would that have happened to UNC? Pitt? Duke? UCLA? Gonzaga needs to get tougher mentally. Butler 74, Xavier 65. Wasn’t Butler supposed to be rebuilding this year? Amazingly, eight of Brad Stevens’ top nine Bulldogs are freshmen and sophomores, whereas XU starts two juniors and one senior. So how is it that Butler was able to come into the Cintas Center and earn a victory in a location where Xavier had won its last fifteen games? Standard Butler-issue hardnosed defense and poise. Butler was able to keep Xavier under control from three (7-24) while also winning the battle of ball control (-7 turnovers) in a tough game that Xavier will regret losing come March. Matt Howard (19/14) and Gordon Hayward (19/10) both provided double-doubles, but the key stat of the game may have been Xavier’s 12-22 from the line. The 198th best FT-shooting team in America didn’t help their cause tonight, several times failing to convert both FT opportunities down the stretch. If Gonzaga and Xavier want to be taken seriously as “high mids” vying for the Final Four, they cannot afford to lose home games like these.
Tough Night in the Big 12.
- UMBC 66, Nebraska 64. Ouch. UMBC took a sixteen-point lead into the half and then had just enough to hold on from the line (9-11 in the closing minutes) to give NU an embarrassing loss right before the holiday break. The Retrievers shot 57% from the field, outrebounded the Huskers by 15, and only played six players in pulling off the upset.
- South Dakota St. 65, Iowa St. 58. Double Ouch. This was the bigger upset of the two Big 12 losses at the hands of mid-majors tonight simply because SDSU is in its first full year as a member of D1 and came into this game in Ames having lost seventeen straight contests on the road. ISU – we don’t want to hear from you next March about being “on the bubble” after this terrible loss, got it?
- Arizona 84, Kansas 67. Arizona used a blistering 29-6 run in the mid-second half to erase a 9-pt lead and essentially put the game away, behind Jordan Hill’s 23/11. Jamelle Horne came off the bench for 19/13, but Chase Budinger laid another confounding egg with 5/4 on 1-9 shooting. KU will still be heard from this season, but they need to get more production from players other than Sherron Collins (16/3/4 assts) and Cole Aldrich (10/4).
- Texas 74, Wisconsin 69. Ok, it wasn’t all bad news for the Big 12 tonight, as Texas went to the Kohl Center and got a win where almost nobody gets a win. AJ Abrams (21 pts) and Damion James (18/15) led the way, but it was Gary Johnson’s bank-three with 23.5 seconds remaining that gave Texas a four-point cushion and effecdtively won the game. Dexter Pittman only had 4 pts in 8 minutes of play, but we have a sneaky feeling that this Texas team is going to be a lot better than most people are giving them credit for.
Games You Missed While Finishing Your Xmas Shopping.
- Arizona St. 90, Idaho St. 55. ASU hit a school-record 17 threes (17-32) in a blowout win, led by Rihards Kuksis’ five triples.
- West Virginia 89, Radford 54. Not much to see here, other than the fact that WVU’s Alex Ruoff dropped 38/8/5 stls in the victory.
- Georgetown 76, Florida Intl. 38. Georgetown doubles up FIU in a destruction.
- Illinois 75, Missouri 59. Illinois played a near-perfect game (57%) in destroying Mizzou in their annual border war.
- Minnesota 80, SE Louisiana 71. Minny improves to 11-0 in its first game as a ranked team.
- St. Mary’s 74, Pacific 65. Led by super-rebounding duo Diamon Simpson and Omar Samhan (21.8 rpg combined), SMC used a strong road second half to outlast Pacific.
- UCLA 113, Wyoming 62. Thanks to nearly thirty turnovers, Wyoming shot 54% and still lost by a thousand points.
- Creighton 83, Depaul 75. Remember this name for March – CU’s Booker Woodfox. He’s only hitting 54.8% of this threes this year.
- Stanford 77, Santa Clara 69. Stanford improved to 8-0 despite John Bryant’s 27/22 performance.
On Tap Wednesday and Thurday. Nada. No D1 games on either Xmas Eve or Xmas Day. Have a tremendous holiday, everyone.