Rough week for bot­tom por­tion of top 25

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Sports - By Aaron Beard

RALEIGH, N.C. >> The teams lead­ing the AP Top 25 spent the week pil­ing up vic­to­ries or sur­viv­ing close calls, most no­tably when topranked Duke posted a last­sec­ond win at No. 13 Florida State.

Things didn’t go nearly so well for teams in the sec­ond half of the poll.

In the lat­est sign of what could be an­other un­pre­dictable March, 12 of the 15 teams out­side the top 10 lost at least once and com­bined for 17 losses. That in­cluded five teams los­ing twice: No. 14 Mis­sis­sippi State, No. 16 Ohio State, No. 20 Iowa State, No. 24 St. John’s and No. 25 TCU.

The only ranked teams out­side the top 10 to avoid losses were No. 18 Ken­tucky, No. 19 Buf­falo and No. 21 Mar­quette, set­ting the stage for some sig­nif­i­cant changes in the Jan. 14 poll.

Ranked losses

Some of the losses, at least, came in matchups against higher-ranked league op­po­nents, head­lined by the Semi­noles fall­ing on Cam Red­dish’s 3-pointer with 0.8 sec­onds left de­spite Duke play­ing the sec­ond half without star fresh­man Zion Wil­liamson (poked in the eye).

The oth­ers were No. 15 North Carolina State los­ing to No. 12 North Carolina, No. 23 Ok­la­homa fall­ing to eighth-ranked Texas Tech and the Horned Frogs los­ing to both the Soon­ers and No. 7 Kansas in the Big 12.

Road suc­cess

One rea­son for thir­dranked Ten­nessee’s suc­cess has been its abil­ity to han­dle play­ing on the road.

The Vol­un­teers won at Florida on Jan. 12, earn­ing their first 10-game win­ning streak since the 2007-08 sea­son. It was also the pro­gram’s fifth straight win in true road games dat­ing to last sea­son, with this year’s wins com­ing at Mem­phis and then Mis­souri in South­east­ern Con­fer­ence play.

It was Ten­nessee’s first win at Florida since Fe­bru­ary 2012 after three straight losses there, ac­cord­ing to Sports Ref­er­ence LLC’s col­lege bas­ket­ball site.

Cavs’ out­side reach

Fourth-ranked Vir­ginia had lit­tle trou­ble in At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence wins at Bos­ton Col­lege and Clem­son , giv­ing the Cava­liers a 12-game road win­ning streak in league play.

Among the high­lights: the Cava­liers’ abil­ity to con­nect from 3-point range to go with that tra­di­tion­ally strong de­fense.

Vir­ginia made nearly 43 per­cent of its 3-point­ers in the two games, first by mak­ing 8 of 19 against the Ea­gles fol­lowed by hit­ting 10 of 23 against the Tigers. Vir­ginia is 16th na­tion­ally in 3-point per­cent­age on the sea­son (39.5 per­cent), which has helped the Cava­liers rank sixth in KenPom’s ad­justed of­fen­sive ef­fi­ciency rank­ings (117.5 points per 100 pos­ses­sions).

There could be a lot of 3s in their next game, too. Ninth-ranked Vir­ginia Tech vis­its on Tues­day ranked fourth na­tion­ally in 3-point per­cent­age (.423) and 16th in made 3s per game (10.4).

Rim pro­tec­tion

Kansas coach Bill Self saw signs that his Jay­hawks can pro­tect the rim after los­ing 7-foot ju­nior Udoka Azubuike to a sea­son-end­ing hand in­jury.

The Jay­hawks fin­ished with a sea­son-high 11 blocked shots in a Jan. 12 win at Bay­lor , in­clud­ing five from 6-9 Mem­phis trans­fer Dedric Law­son and two more from 6-5 fresh­man guard Quentin Grimes.

“We did a good job early in the game of get­ting some blocked shots (by) walling up,” Self said, “and that’s what hap­pens when you guard it right.”

Azubuike was av­er­ag­ing 1.6 blocks per game be­fore be­ing lost for the sea­son. He swat­ted a team-high 60 shots dur­ing last year’s run to the Fi­nal Four.

UNC’s clunker

North Carolina sure looked as if it had some mo­men­tum with four straight wins, three com­ing by at least 20 points be­fore win­ning at ri­val N.C. State in the first meet­ing with both schools in the AP poll since Fe­bru­ary 2006. That’s what made the Jan. 12 83-62 loss to Louisville — UNC’s worst home loss un­der Hall of Fame coach Roy Wil­liams — such a head-scratcher.

While the Car­di­nals turned in their best per­for­mance in a while, the Tar Heels shot 35 per­cent, made 3 of 22 3-point­ers and were beaten on the glass (40-31) de­spite rank­ing third na­tion­ally in re­bound­ing mar­gin.

“These (ACC) teams are good and we’ve got to bring it,” swing­man Cameron John­son said. “And if we don’t, this is what’s go­ing to hap­pen. The thing is I feel like we’re way bet­ter than what we showed to­day, and we’ll show that in the fu­ture.”


Mis­sis­sippi State head coach Ben How­land, right, and play­ers break the hud­dle after a time­out against Mis­sis­sippi on Jan. 12 in Starkville, Miss.

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