A Very Wise Man. Arizona 76, NC State 74. Why is this our lead game tonight? Because it’s not often that you see two difficult length-of-the-court layups within the last ten seconds of a game, and it’s even less often that the player who hits the game-winner does so for the second game in a row. Nic Wise must have been a very good boy this year because Santa is treating him right this holiday season. Just two nights after making a ridiculously difficult touch/push three from about 25 feet to win a game against Lipscomb (we’ll overlook the fact that it probably shouldn’t have counted), Wise (17/3) did it again tonight. NC State’s Javier Gonzalez (18/3/6 assts) had tied the game at 74-all with a part-the-waters layin with around seven seconds to go. Wise immediately grabbed the inbounds pass and pushed downcourt. After a couple of hesitation/crossovers at three-quarter speed, he found a seam to his left and beat the trailing defenders to get the shot up off the glass with the wrong hand and won the game with a mere tick left on the clock (when we get the vid, we’ll post it below). Wise is like the anti-Jamelle Horne for Arizona. Awesome finish, and gives Arizona two more wins that they’ll need en route to putting together a resume for inclusion to their 26th straight NCAA Tournament later this season. UA shouldn’t have put themselves in this position, but they managed to blow a late eight-point lead by allowing NCSU to hit several threes down the stretch — the Wildcats’ Derrick Williams had 24/6 in the win.
Upset of the Night. Oral Roberts 75, #12 New Mexico 66. Unbeaten no more. We’re now down to just six undefeated teams left this season, and all six of those are currently ranked as the top six teams in America after Missouri State and now New Mexico dropped games this week. ORU has already beaten Stanford and Missouri thus far this season, so this shouldn’t be a huge shock (especially in Tulsa), but the Golden Eagles have also had some blowout losses (most notably, by 37 to Louisville, 21 to Virginia and 20 to Wake Forest). Tonight was a different story, though, as Scott Sutton’s team built a first-half lead and was able to hold on when UNM made its expected run late in the game. Michael Craion had a great game, going for 18/13/7 assts/2 blks, and Dominique Morrison had 17/4/4 assts/3 stls, but more importantly, the ORU defense forced the Lobo stars into tough nights — Darington Hobson shot 5-14 for 11 points and Roman Martinez was even worse at 1-9 for 4 points, and their 15 total points tonight was nineteen points off their combined average this year.
Braggadocio. Missouri 81, Illinois 68. Here’s the thing about naysayers who thought that Missouri would take a hard fall after losing DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons from last year’s team. So long as Mike Anderson has a stable of ten or so athletic players to run his modified 40MoH system, his teams will always be successful. Now, will this year’s version be as good as last year’s E8, thirty-win team? No way. But they’re still pretty darn good, and we’d expect to see the Tigers back in the Dance again, especially after a performance like tonight. For the first time in a decade, Mizzou won this rivalry game, and they did it behind their standard MO of forcing turnovers (21), hitting threes (10) and causing a faster-than-normal pace for their opponent. Kim English led the way with 24/6, but he got help from freshman Michael Dixon, Jr., (16/5 assts/3 stls) and JT Tiller (12/5/5 assts). As for the Illini, other than their amazing comeback win at Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, we haven’t been impressed with this team yet this year.