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January 28, 2008

Goaltending or not, block felt in standings

Even if you're only a mild college basketball fan, chances are you heard this question at some point this past weekend: Was it goaltending?

Patrick Ewing Jr.'s controversial block at the final buzzer sealed Georgetown's 58-57 win over West Virginia on Saturday and sparked heated discussions that undoubtedly are continuing today across the country.

After Jessie Sapp hit a clutch 3-pointer to put the Hoyas up 58-57 with 6.2 seconds left, West Virginia's Darris Nichols drove upcourt and fired a pass to Da'Sean Butler in the left corner. Butler drove to the basket and laid the ball up toward the hoop, but Ewing leapt high above the rim and swatted it away as time expired.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins was so irate with the no-call that he followed the officials off the court, screaming incessantly for a goaltending call.

"I'm not allowed to comment (on the officiating)," Huggins told The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette. "But I think it was obvious. Everybody can watch it and make their own decision."

Butler didn't need to see the replays which didn't show conclusively that the ball was descending when Ewing touched it to make up his mind.

"I just left it on the rim and he came and swatted it away," Butler said. "It had to be going down."

It's easy to understand Huggins' and Butler's frustrations. The play had deep ramifications when it comes to the Big East standings. If goaltending had been called, the Mountaineers would have moved into a three-way tie for first place in the league with Georgetown and Louisville. Instead, they are bunched together with five other teams in fourth place.

If the Mountaineers are wondering how things can get any worse, they can look toward Vanderbilt.

Florida led 34-6 over the visiting Commodores one of the most shocking sights of the season with 8:14 left in the first half Sunday. The young Gators cruised to an 86-64 victory.

The Commodores, who started 15-0, have lost three of their past four games (all on the road) and plummeted to fifth place in the SEC East standings.

Team of the Weekend: Connecticut

Maybe Jim Calhoun should suspend players more often. Less than 24 hours before going on the road to face Indiana, Connecticut found out it would be without guards Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins. The duo, who combine to average 20.9 points per game, were suspended for violating team rules. They also will miss Monday's home game against Louisville.

The shorthanded Huskies proceeded to put together their best performance in two seasons, pulling off a 68-63 upset. Five players scored in double figures, including Craig Austrie, Dyson's replacement in the starting lineup. Austrie finished with 15 points. Austrie also played terrific defense on Indiana star guard Eric Gordon, who went 5-for-16 (31.2 percent) from the field and scored 14 points. The Huskies were dominant on the glass, outrebounding the Hoosiers 41-26.

Breakouts & Breakdowns

Breakout: A young Florida team is starting to display the kind of chemistry that carried its predecessors to the past two national titles. All five Gators starters scored in double figures against Vanderbilt. The Gators also had 26 assists and 10 turnovers.

Breakout: It looks like the Charles Rhodes of old is back for Mississippi State. Rhodes, a senior power forward, didn't show any ill-effects from a severely sprained ankle in the Bulldogs' surprisingly easy win over rival Ole Miss. Rhodes scored a game-high 26 points more than he scored in his past three games combined in the Bulldogs' 88-68 victory. Rhodes finished nearly every scoring chance he had around the basket, going 12 of 14 (85.7 percent) from the field.

Breakdown: No team may have been hit harder by injuries than Pittsburgh, but the Panthers still don't have any excuse for losing at home to lowly Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights upset the Panthers 77-64, thanks to a 2-3 zone defense that gave the Panthers plenty of problems. Pitt leading scorer Sam Young played his worst game of the season, going 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) from the field.

Breakout: The worst fears of SEC coaches are coming to fruition. Tennessee's Chris Lofton looks to have finally broken out of his shooting slump. Lofton went 7-for-13 (53.8 percent) from 3-point range in the Vols' 85-69 win over Georgia on Saturday. He finished with 27 points in 30 minutes of game action. Lofton is 16 of 33 (48.4 percent) from beyond the arc in his past three games.

Breakout: Joey Dorsey showed just how valuable he is to Memphis in the Tigers' 81-73 win over visiting Gonzaga. During one sequence late in the second half, Dorsey blocked a 3-pointer from the top of the key, chased down the loose ball and took off for a breakaway dunk. The big man finished with nine points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.

Breakout: There was no doubt who or what sparked Oklahoma's 77-71 upset of Baylor, the Bears' first loss in Big 12 play. Sooners freshman Blake Griffin, who was supposed to miss two more weeks with a sprained knee, came off the bench early in the first half and immediately started dominating. The Bears had no one who could match Griffin's power or tenacity inside and he finished with 17 points and 15 boards in just 22 minutes.

Breakdown: Dayton's chances of landing a high seed are falling apart. The Flyers don't even look like a lock for the NCAA Tournament anymore after suffering their third loss in a row, 80-63 at Richmond. The Flyers, who started 14-1, have fallen into a tie for eighth in the 14-team Atlantic 10 Conference.

What you might have missed
Missouri's leading scorer, Stefhon Hannah, will miss four to six weeks after suffering a broken jaw in an altercation in a Columbia nightclub Sunday morning. Hannah was averaging 14.7 points and leading the team with 5.1 assists per game.
Washington State coach Tony Bennett said his assistants told him some of his players were hit with debris thrown by fans after the Cougars won at Arizona State on Saturday. Arizona State officials said they will look into the accusations.

Breakout: Virginia Tech didn't miss suspended big man Jeff Allen in its 81-73 overtime triumph at Boston College. That was because freshman forward J.T. Thompson more than tripled his scoring and rebounding averages with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Thompson played a career-high 35 minutes.

Breakout: Missouri's Leo Lyons put together one of the best performances of any reserve in the Tigers' 66-62 win at Colorado. Lyons came off bench to score 22 points in 22 minutes. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists.

Breakout: It may be time for USC to enter the discussion about best backcourt in the nation. Guards Daniel Hackett (26), O.J. Mayo (25) and Dwight Lewis (24) combined for 75 points to power the Trojans to a 96-86 overtime win at Oregon. Hackett and Mayo also combined for 14 rebounds and nine assists.

Breakout: New Mexico State's NCAA Tournament hopes are alive again. The Aggies, who struggled mightily through their non-conference schedule, handed Utah State its first loss in the WAC in convincing fashion, cruising 100-70. New Mexico State is tied for second in the league standings. New Mexico State freshman Herb Pope had 15 points and six boards. It was the third game for Pope, who was held out for the first three months of the season while the NCAA reviewed his academic records.

Breakdown: Oregon's Tajuan Porter, who always has been a streaky shooter, cannot seem to bust out of a horrid shooting funk. After a 3-for-11 performance in the Ducks' loss to USC, Porter is shooting 37.4 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from 3-point range.

Top Performers
Ramel Bradley, Kentucky
26 points, 10 rebounds, four assists in Wildcats' 78-70 win over South Carolina.
This senior hit all five of his attempts from 3-point range.
Jamar Butler, Ohio State
27 points, nine assists, three steals in Buckeyes' 76-60 win over Minnesota.
Butler broke the 20-point barrier for the fifth time this season.
Nick Calathes, Florida
15 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds in the Gators' 86-64 win over Vanderbilt.
The freshman set a career-high in assists.
Darren Collison, UCLA
33 points in Bruins' 85-62 win at Oregon State
Collison made all 13 of his free-throw attempts.
DeMarcus Nelson, Duke
27 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Duke's 93-84 win Maryland.
Nelson led the Blue Devils in scoring, rebounding and assists.
Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame
30 points in the Irish's 90-80 win at Villanova.
McAlarney's drilled five of his eight attempts from beyond the arc.
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
25 points, 10 rebounds in the Irish's 90-80 win at Villanova.
Harangody put together his ninth double-double of the season.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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