Colorado 75, (6) Kansas 72
When Colorado visited Allen Fieldhouse last December to take on then-No. 9 Kansas, the Jayhawks crushed the Buffaloes, 90-54. This year’s matchup at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, Co., was far more competitive. Junior guard Askia Booker hit a running three-point shot at the buzzer to knock off Kansas and end the Buffaloes’ 19-game losing streak against the Jayhawks.
Since losing its season-opener against then-no. 25 Baylor, Colorado has won nine consecutive games. Saturday’s triumph over the Jayhawks was easily the most impressive. Colorado had four players in double figures – including Booker and Dinwiddie, both of whom scored 15 points – to overcome an impressive 22-point performance from Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins.
This is a great win for Tad Boyle and the Buffaloes, the sort of marquee victory that could carry major seeding implications come March. While no. 2 Arizona and no. 13 Oregon appear to be the two best teams in the Pac-12, Colorado served notice Saturday that it can not only compete, but beat elite teams. The Buffaloes survived the toughest test on their non-conference schedule, but face a tough game against no. 9 Oklahoma State on December 21. As the Buffaloes showed Saturday, however, they are more than capable of beating top-tier opponents.
Kansas took an early 7-0 lead thanks to a pair of jumpers from freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden and a layup from forward Perry Ellis. The Buffaloes pulled within one at the 5:40 mark after reserve center Ben Mills hit a jump shot. Colorado took a three-point lead at the first-half buzzer when guard Booker drained a three.
The Buffaloes pulled ahead in the second half, opening a seven-point lead after forward Xavier Johnson stole the ball and knocked down a three at the 15:30 mark. A pair of Ellis field goals, a three from freshman point guard Frank Mason – who replaced junior Naadir Tharpe in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game – and a Wiggins layup tied the game at 53 with just under nine minutes remaining. Johnson hit two free throws near the six-minute mark to put the Buffaloes ahead by five. With under 15 seconds remaining, Booker committed a bad foul on Wiggins behind the three-point line. Wiggins hit two-of-three shots, and Ellis drove through the lane to convert a lay-up, tying the game at 72 and setting up Booker’s game-winner.
There’s no shame in losing at Colorado; the Coors Events Center was rocking on Saturday. Kansas is a young team that should improve in the coming months. Still, the Jayhawks have now struggled over their last three games: a four-point loss to no. 14 Villanova in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, a four-point win over Texas-El Paso in the third-place game and Saturday’s loss at Colorado. The latest result is probably the least concerning of the three. Wiggins was arguably the best player on the court; the Jayhawks shot 53 percent from the field; and Colorado, while not a likely national championship contender, is a tough team emboldened by its raucous home-court environment.
It’s easy to forget because of the veteran teams Bill Self typically coaches, but Kansas is a young team. It started three freshmen on Saturday. By the time the Jayhawks enter conference play, they should be much improved. In the meantime, however, Kansas must navigate one of the most challenging non-conference slates in the country. Kansas faces games against no. 15 Florida, New Mexico, Georgetown, Toledo and no. 24 San Diego State before opening its Big-12 schedule at Oklahoma on January 8.
Missouri 80, (18) UCLA 71
Perhaps it’s time to ask whether a new contender has emerged in the SEC championship race. Before the season, the notion that anyone other than Kentucky, Florida or Tennessee could win the league’s regular season championship would have seemed absurd. On Saturday, Missouri proved it also deserves to be considered. Three Tiger guards (Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross and Jordan Clarkson) scored at least 20 points in dealing the Bruins their first loss of the season.
All three are transfers – Brown from Oregon, Ross from Auburn and Clarkson from Tulsa – and together they warrant recognition among the nation’s best backcourts. The Bruins seemed flummoxed at times by the variety of ways – including drives to the basket and perimeter spot-ups -- Missouri’s guards were able to score. Ross knocked down four threes for 15 second-half points to help keep the Bruins at bay. The Tigers are now 9-0 and should remain undefeated heading into SEC conference play, which begins January 8 with a home matchup with Georgia.
UCLA may have lost, but Bruins freshman Zach LaVine produced one of the best highlights of the day:
(2) Arizona 63, UNLV 58
The Associated Press poll could have a new No. 1 team when the latest edition is released on Monday and the leading candidate, following its five-point escape against UNLV on Saturday, is Arizona. Transfer T.J. McConnell continued his steady point guard play against the Rebels, scoring 13 points, grabbing seven rebounds and notching six assists. With the Wildcats up 60-58 inside the final minute, McConnell dribbled around the baseline and dished to a cutting Brandon Ashley, who converted a layup to seal the game.
This contest didn’t play out as scripted. Arizona is, by most accounts, the best team in the country right now. UNLV, meanwhile, has performed well below what its talent level suggests, having already suffered losses at home to UC Santa Barbara, Illinois and Arizona State. Arizona was expected to dominate this game. In the end, it used a balanced scoring effort -- Ashley, McConnell, Nick Johnson and Kaleb Tarczewski all notched double-digit points -- to hold off the Rebels. The Wildcats should be rewarded on Monday with the top ranking in the AP poll.
(8) Wisconsin 70, Marquette 64
How many teams are playing better than Wisconsin right now? Powered by 20 points and 10 rebounds from sophomore forward Sam Dekker, the Badgers snapped their two-game losing streak against the Golden Eagles on Saturday at the Kohl Center. Forward Frank Kaminsky buried a three near the end of the half to stem a 10-2 Marquette run and open a 60-54 lead – one Marquette could not make up. Senior guard Ben Brust had 10 points in the second-half.
With the win, Wisconsin moves to 10-0. The Badgers entered Saturday having already established themselves as a legitimate Big Ten championship contender. They solidified that status by handling a tough Marquette squad. Wisconsin has beaten Saint John’s, West Virginia and Saint Louis on neutral courts, Virginia and Green Bay on the road and Marquette and Florida at home. Whether or not Bo Ryan’s team takes a few losses in Big Ten play – it almost definitely will – Wisconsin has given itself plenty of wiggle room, resumé-wise, by compiling one of the best collections of non-conference wins in the country.
- No. 21 UMass added yet another impressive win to what’s shaping up as one of the best non-conference resumés in the country. Guard Chaz Williams shot 9-of-14 from the field, 5-of-7 from three and went 9-of-9 from the free throw line for a game-high 32 points (Williams also had 15 assists) to help the Minutemen outgun (105-96) BYU’s high-octane attack. UMass now count wins over Boston College, Louisiana State, no. 19 New Mexico, Clemson and the Cougars and face upcoming tests against Florida State (Dec. 21) and Providence (Dec. 28) before starting Atlantic 10 play on January 8 against St. Joseph’s.
- No. 17 Iowa State erased an 18-point, second-half deficit to force overtime and beat Northern Iowa, 91-82, on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim scored 22 points apiece and DeAndre Kane notched 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds. The 7-0 Cyclones survived part one of a tough two-game stretch of in-state opponents. Up next is a Dec. 13 date with No. 23 Iowa.
- Guard Javan Felix drilled a three with nine seconds remaining in overtime to give Texas the deciding one-point margin in an 81-80 win on Saturday at Temple. The Longhorns, who were picked in the preseason to finish eighth in the Big 12 by the league’s coaches, are off to an 8-1 start, with wins over DePaul, Vanderbilt and the Owls. Texas’s at UNC on Dec. 18 will be a tough test.
- New Mexico is in the midst of a tough two-week stretch featuring games against New Mexico State, Cincinnati, Kansas and Marquette. After downing the Lobos on the road Wednesday, the Lobos beat the Bearcats, 63-64, Saturday at The Pit. New Mexico Forward Cameron Bairstow scored 24 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked two shots.
- Virginia coach Tony Bennett did not get a warm reception Saturday at his alma mater as Wisconsin-Green Bay upended the Cavaliers, 75-72, in Ashwaubenon, Wis. Preseason All-Horizon First Team member Keifer Sykes scored 21 points to help lead the charge for the Phoenix, while Greg Mays poured in 24. After winning seven of its first eight games, Bennett’s team has dropped two straight. Saturday’s loss follows an ugly 38-point losing effort in an Big Ten/ACC challenge game on Wednesday against Wisconsin. - The Maui Invitational was No. 25 Dayton’s coming-out party. The Flyers upended then-No. 11 Gonzaga and Cal and lost to then-No.18 Baylor -- who beat no. 3 Kentucky Friday night -- by only one point. On Saturday, Archie Miller’s team undid some of its early-season progress by falling, 81-75, at Illinois State. Going forward, the biggest question for the Flyers is whether they will play more like the team that upended the Bulldogs and Golden Bears in Maui or the one that was upset on Saturday by the Redbirds.