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February 5, 2011

Winners and losers: Hokies fading fast

This was supposed to be the season Virginia Tech finally had reason to celebrate on "Selection Sunday."

Virginia Tech probably would have been included in a 68-team field in 2008 or 2010, so the Hokies figured to benefit as much as anyone with the NCAA tournament expansion. And since they opened the season ranked 21st by The Associated Press and 23rd in the coaches' poll, the Hokies had plenty of cause for hope that they wouldn't have to settle for a fourth consecutive NIT appearance.

But each time Virginia Tech lets a close game slip away, it looks more and more like a team destined to get its bubble burst once again.

Virginia Tech's 58-56 loss at Boston College on Saturday dropped the Hokies to 0-4 this season in games decided by three or fewer points. They lost 58-55 in overtime to Purdue, 57-54 to Virginia and 64-61 at North Carolina.

"It's just disappointing, is the way to put it," Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg told reporters after the game. "We got up one, we couldn't get stops, we couldn't finish possessions."

The Hokies (15-7 overall, 5-4 in the ACC) have a winning record in conference play, but that might not mean that much this season because the ACC isn't nearly as strong as usual. Besides, a 10-6 ACC record wasn't good enough to get Virginia Tech into the NCAA tournament last season.

Virginia Tech learned its lesson and played a significantly tougher non-conference schedule this season. But the Hokies' only wins over teams in the top 50 of the RPI have come against Oklahoma State and Penn State.

The Hokies just missed delivering a third win over a top-50 team Saturday at Boston College (15-8, 5-4).

Virginia Tech got a brilliant performance from Jeff Allen, who scored 25 points and pulled down 19 rebounds, setting a school record for boards in an ACC game. Malcolm Delaney scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half. The Hokies held Boston College star guard Reggie Jackson scoreless for the first 29 minutes of the game.

But they still came up short.

Virginia Tech trailed 58-56 in the final minute when Delaney missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity. Tech then failed to capitalize on two more chances to win the game or force overtime. After Allen got the rebound off the missed free throw, Joe Trapani blocked a potential game-tying shot from Delaney. Erick Green then missed a 3-pointer to seal the Hokies' fate.

"We put ourselves in position to win the game," Delaney told reporters after the game. "We just didn't finish it."

That's become an all-too-common refrain for the Hokies.

BC's narrow escape upgraded the Eagles' NCAA tournament hopes while dealing the Hokies a severe blow. Here's a look at other winners and losers from Saturday's action.


Kansas G Brady Morningstar: He was 5-of-7 from 3-point range and scored a season-high 19 points as Kansas overcame the absence of G Josh Selby to win 86-66 at Nebraska. Selby sat out Saturday's game with an injured right foot, but the Jayhawks made a season-high 13 3-pointers even without their most accurate 3-point shooter.

Xavier's home-court advantage: Xavier's 76-68 victory over Saint Louis extended the Musketeers' Atlantic 10 home winning streak to 37 games. Xavier's 30-game overall home win streak ended Dec. 31 with a 71-67 loss to Florida, but the Musketeers remain unbeatable whenever a conference foe enters the Cintas Center.

UCLA frontcourt: Josh Smith and Reeves Nelson helped UCLA control the paint in a 66-59 victory over St. John's. Smith came off the bench to score 19 points, while Nelson collected a career-high 17 rebounds to go along with 12 points. UCLA's frontcourt dominance was evident in the free-throw disparity. UCLA went 27-of-41 from the line, while St. John's was 5-of-7.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide began the day outside the top 100 in the RPI, but they're making quite an argument that they deserve consideration for an NCAA bid. Alabama's 65-60 overtime victory at Tennessee gave the Tide (15-7 overall, 7-1 in the SEC) the best conference record in the SEC. Alabama's record isn't purely a product of playing in the Western Division, as the Tide are 3-0 against SEC East teams. Alabama lost six of its first 11 games despite playing a soft non-conference schedule, but the Tide has looked like a new team since the start of the 2011 calendar year.

BYU G Jimmer Fredette: The national player of the year candidate scored 29 points in a 78-64 victory over UNLV, making him the Mountain West Conference's leading career scorer. Fredette has 2,194 points to break the mark formerly held by Brandon Heath, who scored 2,189 points at San Diego State from 2003-07.

Villanova Gs Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns: Fisher and Wayns scored a combined 33 points and shot 12-of-19 - including 5-of-8 from 3-point range - in Villanova's 66-50 rout of West Virginia. Wayns shot 6-of-10 and scored a game-high 17 points, while Fisher was 6-of-9 and tallied 16 points.

Memphis' Bartons: Antonio Barton made a tie-breaking 17-foot jumper with 35 seconds left and scored a game-high 17 points in Memphis' 62-58 victory over Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash. Barton's brother, Will, added 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Barton brothers helped Memphis pick up a crucial road win despite going almost 13 minutes without a basket in the second half.

Baylor's Joneses: Anthony Jones got an offensive rebound off a LaceDarius Dunn miss and made a tie-breaking layup with 3.1 seconds left in overtime to give Baylor a 76-74 victory at Texas A&M. Baylor wouldn't have won the game without the performance of freshman Perry Jones (no relation), who scored a career-high 27 points.

Maryland's Williamses: Jordan Williams had 27 points and 15 rebounds in a 91-70 victory over Wake Forest ; it was his NCAA-leading 20th double-double. Gary Williams picked up his 664th career victory to tie John Wooden for 22nd on the career list for coaches who have worked at the Division I level for at least 10 years.

Vanderbilt F Jeffery Taylor's ability to bounce back: Four days after shooting 2-of-12 and fouling out with seven points in a 65-61 loss at Florida, Taylor played one of his best games of the season. Taylor, a junior who is a potential lottery pick in the NBA draft, sank a career-high four 3-pointers, scored 17 points and played solid defense on South Carolina's Bruce Ellington in Vanderbilt's 78-60 triumph over the Gamecocks.

Butler: The Bulldogs already may have played their way out of consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but for at least one day, they played the same brand of basketball that got them to last season's championship game. They allowed just 18 baskets all day and committed only six turnovers to end a three-game losing streak with a 73-61 road victory over Horizon League leader Cleveland State. Butler swept the Vikings this season.

Temple F Scootie Randall: Randall, a 6-foot-6 junior, scored 27 points and shot 10-of-13 overall - including 6-of-9 from 3-point range - in an 80-67 triumph over Rhode Island. It was Temple's 18th consecutive home win.

Georgetown G Chris Wright: Although he scored 16 points and dished out five assists in an 83-81 victory over Providence, his biggest play came on defense, when he stole the ball from Providence swingman Marshon Brooks in the closing seconds.

Providence F/G Marshon Brooks and St. John's G Dwight Hardy: Brooks and Hardy delivered huge individual performances in losing efforts. Brooks scored 43 points - the fifth-highest total in a Big East game - as Providence erased most of an 18-point second-half deficit before losing at Georgetown. Hardy scored a career-high 32 points in the Red Storm's loss at UCLA.

Kansas State G Jacob Pullen: The preseason All-American scored 17 of his 21 points after halftime - including a game-winning layup with 2.6 seconds left - as Kansas State came from behind to win 86-85 at Iowa State.

The balance of the Georgia-Auburn series: This doesn't have a reputation as a great basketball rivalry, but it's hard to find one that's more evenly matched. Georgia's 81-72 overtime victory Saturday gave the Bulldogs an 88-87 edge in the 175-game history of this series.

Tulsa G Justin Hurtt: One week after he made a game-winning jumper with 6.8 seconds remaining in a 69-68 victory over UTEP, Hurtt delivered in the clutch again. Hurtt sank a game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime in Tulsa's 76-71 triumph over Houston.

Arizona G Lamont Jones: Arizona needed someone to pick up the slack after All-America candidate Derrick Williams fouled out near the end of regulation. Jones responded by delivering a memorable 27-point performance in a 107-105 triple-overtime victory at California. Jones made a game-tying 3-pointer with five seconds left in double-overtime and delivered the basket that put Arizona ahead for good with 1:03 remaining in the final overtime session.

California F Harper Kamp: His team lost, but Kamp played a noteworthy game. He played all 55 minutes and had 33 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate Allen Crabbe played 54 minutes and had 27 points and seven rebounds.

Florida: The Gators (18-5, 7-2) took control of the SEC East race by edging Kentucky 70-68 a few hours after Tennessee fell 65-60 to visiting Alabama in overtime. Florida has won five of its past six games and has shown a recent penchant for winning close contests. In the past two weeks, Florida has won at Georgia in double-overtime and has beaten Vanderbilt and Kentucky by a combined total of six points.

Louisville G Kyle Kuric: Kuric, a 6-4 senior, scored 19 points to help injury-riddled Louisville eke out a 61-57 victory over upset-minded DePaul. Kuric's big night helped the Cardinals overcome injuries that prevented their leading scorer Preston Knowles (foot) and starting center Gorgui Dieng (concussion) from playing.

Missouri G Kim English's ability to adapt: Missouri coach Mike Anderson removed English from the starting lineup after he had averaged just 8.9 points and shot 29.3 percent (17-of-58) over his past seven games. English responded to the reserve role by scoring 21 points and shooting 6-of-10 in an 89-73 rout of Colorado.

Miami (Ohio) F Jon Harris: His 3-pointer with just over a second remaining gave Miami (Ohio) its first lead of the day as the RedHawks rallied from a 20-point deficit in a 58-56 victory over Eastern Michigan. Harris was 4-of-5 from 3-point range and scored 14 points in just nine minutes. Before Saturday, he had scored 20 points all season and had been 1-of-15 from beyond the arc.

Princeton: One day after handing Harvard its first Ivy League loss, Princeton grabbed sole possession of the Ivy lead by beating Dartmouth 68-53 while Harvard edged Penn 83-82 in triple overtime. Princeton (16-4, 4-0) and Penn (9-9, 3-1) had begun the day tied for first place. The Ivy League doesn't have a postseason tournament, so the league's regular-season champion earns an automatic NCAA bid.


Teams missing suspended players: NC State freshman F C.J. Leslie was suspended Saturday for violating a team rule, which prevented the former five-star prospect from facing defending national champion Duke. The Wolfpack could have used Leslie in a 76-52 loss to the Blue Devils. Southern Illinois G Mykel Cleveland and C Gene Teague - both starters - and reserve G Troy Long received three-game suspensions for violating team rules and the university conduct code in regard to a Thursday on-campus incident. In their first game without that trio, the Salukis lost 69-66 at home to Bradley, the last-place team in the Missouri Valley Conference. Cincinnati lost 71-59 to Pittsburgh while playing without suspended F Yancy Gates, the Bearcats' second-leading scorer and top rebounder. One exception to the rule was Mississippi State, which edged LSU 58-57 without suspended G Ravern Johnson.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs' string of 12 consecutive NCAA bids is in serious danger unless they win the West Coast Conference tournament. Gonzaga was just 70th in the RPI before falling at home to Memphis. The Bulldogs (15-9) are two games behind Saint Mary's in the WCC standings and have dropped four of their past six contests.

Washington: The Huskies looked like the clear-cut favorites in the Pac-10 after winning seven of their first eight conference games, but they have followed that up by losing three in a row away from home. Washington followed up a stunning 68-56 loss at Oregon State by falling 81-76 at Oregon. Oregon State was 220th and Oregon 143rd in the RPI as of Saturday morning.

Virginia's late-game execution: Virginia owned a five-point lead at Miami with 38.9 seconds left in regulation before twice fouling a Hurricane attempting a 3-point shot. Miami went 5-of-6 on the free throws that resulted from those fouls and went on to beat the Cavaliers 70-68 in overtime. Virginia hurt its cause by going 9-of-22 from the foul line.

Old Dominion's marksmanship: ODU hurt its hopes of earning an NCAA at-large bid by shooting 27 percent in a 62-45 loss to Colonial leader George Mason. The Monarchs went 5-of-27 in the second half.

The impact of West Virginia G Casey Mitchell: The return of West Virginia's leading scorer from a three-game suspension didn't provide the Mountaineers much of a boost in their loss at Villanova. Mitchell went scoreless in nine minutes of action.

Providence G Vincent Council's shooting: Although Council collected five assists without a turnover against Georgetown, he also shot 0-of-10 for the field. His inaccurate shooting proved critical - and contagious - in the Friars' three-point loss. While Marshon Brooks and Duke Mondy shot a combined 22-of-39, the rest of the Friars were 7-of-32.

Iowa State's luck in close games: The final seconds of Iowa State's heartbreaking 86-85 loss to Kansas State shouldn't have surprised the home crowd. In six of Iowa State's 10 losses this season, the Cyclones have led or been tied in the final minute of regulation.

Illinois on the road: Illinois would have no problem reaching the NCAA tournament if the season ended today, but the Illini's recent struggles away from home eventually could put them on the bubble. After losing at Indiana last week, Illinois fell 71-70 at Northwestern on Saturday. That's not a good sign for a team that will travel to Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue in four of its next seven games.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons' 91-70 loss at Maryland marked the seventh time this season they have fallen by at least 20 points. Wake Forest (8-15 overall, 1-7 in the ACC) has lost by an average margin of 25.3 points in each of its seven ACC setbacks. None of those games was decided by fewer than 19 points.

Tulane offense: Tulane made just 14 baskets - matching the lowest single-game total in school history - in a 47-39 loss to UTEP. Tulane made just four of its first 33 shots. The Green Wave's 39 points marked their third-lowest output since 1949.

Seton Hall offense: After taking a 54-41 lead over Connecticut with 11:20 left in the game, the Pirates scored just five points the rest of the way and fell 61-59. Two of those points came on a meaningless basket with 1.8 seconds remaining.

Duquesne: Although Duquesne is tied for first place in the Atlantic 10 - a league that typically earns multiple bids - the Dukes seriously hurt their at-large hopes by falling to St. Bonaventure for their first conference loss. Duquesne's 78-66 victory over Temple on Jan. 15 is its only win against a team in the top 50 of the RPI. The Dukes (16-6, 8-1) were just 66th in the RPI before losing to St. Bonaventure.

Centenary: The last remaining winless Division I team fell to 0-25 by losing 102-73 to South Dakota State. Centenary has lost 30 consecutive games over the past two seasons.

Oakland C Keith Benson's foul trouble: Benson's inability to stay on the floor helped end Oakland's 20-game Summit League winning streak. Benson entered the weekend ranked fourth in the league in scoring (17.6), second in rebounds (10.0) and first in blocks (3.8). He had 11 points, six rebounds and only one block in 18 minutes Saturday before fouling out. Benson's foul trouble helped IUPUI shoot 56.5 percent in a 100-88 victory over the Grizzlies. IUPUI was 29-of-34 on free throws, while Oakland was 4-of-7.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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