Just because LeBron James wrecked Bill Walker on Friday and jumped over John Lucas III on Sunday, don’t forget there was a solid weekend of college basketball being played, too. There were two days of action, but only five teams won the weekend. Here they are:
The Tigers won for the first time in a Division I record 41 games, so their inclusion on the list should be self-explanatory. The victory brought tears to the eyes of some alumni and ended the hand-wringing around the Maryland campus about when it would all end. Despite having only one player back from last year’s team, Erique Gumbs, the Tigers finally found a heartbeat against UNC-Wilmington on Saturday. The win gives Pat Skerry his first victory as a head coach and passes the ignominious winless distinction to the last team left: Binghamton (0-21), which is on a 22-game losing streak. After winning 66-61 in front of just more than 800 fans at home, Towson’s subdued locker-room celebration showed a team just glad it was over.
Terrence Jones, Kentucky
The Portland product went all 1-on-5 against LSU on the road on Saturday, producing a personal 13-0 run that led to a season-high 27 points for him and a road win for the No. 1 Wildcats. At one point he made 9-of-11 shots in the first half. Jones, whom Dime profiled with friend Terrence Ross of Washington in Dime #67, had scored only five points in his last game on Jan. 24 after lingering effects from an injured finger. Jones was an AP All-American in the preseason but has been overtaken by freshman post and block machine Anthony Davis as the face of the team. After Jones was famously called out last year by coach John Calipari in an SEC loss against Alabama, Cal dropped this after Saturday’s win in Baton Rouge: “My point to (Jones) is … if this is who you are, then you should be this every game.” Will this be the start of a dominating run by a more assertive Jones?
Tiffany Hayes, Connecticut
A dominant UConn isn’t necessarily a new development, but setting a school record at a program like Storrs is reason to pay attention. Hayes, the team’s only senior, set a school record with 68 points in consecutive games by going for 35 (on just 15 attempts) on Thursday against Syracuse, and 33 (with 10 rebounds) against South Florida on Saturday. It seems like the only record Maya Moore didn’t set for the Huskies, right? Hayes, for her part, says she’s inspired by slain friend and former UConn football player Jasper Howard: “One my friends that has passed used to say, ‘Play every play like it’s the last play you will ever play.’ It was his birthday today. I’ve been living with those words in my head and I use it to give me a lot of motivation.”
Ohio State’s men
Beating No. 22 Michigan (Big Blue’s losing streak is now at six to its rival) will always go over well in Columbus, but Sunday’s 64-49 win is doubly satisfying. It knocked the Wolverines out of a tie for first place in the Big Ten while keeping the No. 3 Buckeyes firmly in place at 7-2 in arguably the nation’s best conference this season. A third reason for Bucks fans to like what they saw? With mainstays Jared Sullinger saddled with foul trouble (13 points, 5 rebounds) and Aaron Craft (7 points, 4 assists, 2 turnover) efficient but unspectacular, Lenzelle Smith Jr. went for 17 points and 12 rebounds, without a turnover. On a team as good and veteran (see: William Buford) as the Buckeyes, Smith Jr. isn’t necessarily called on to be much more than a role player. That he can step in in spots and take over is a security blanket for Coach Thad Matta.
Saint Mary’s men
The No. 20 Gaels wouldn’t find much opposition in a discussion of who’s best in the West this season. While the Pac-12 self-implodes toward possibly just two NCAA Tournament bids, Randy Bennett’s team is 10-0 in the West Coast Conference after beating up on BYU, 80-66, on Saturday — in Provo. Jimmer’s magic might be gone, but it’s still no small accomplishment to win in the Marriott Center, where calling the crowd of 22,700 hostile isn’t just a cliche. Bennett’s team wins as it always has with players unafraid to shoot from deep and push pace; the Gaels were 7-of-18 from three against the Cougars and forward Clint Steindl dropped four threes in just 21 minutes off the bench. To top it off, Bennett was coaching hurt. He broke his left thumb on Thursday after a whiteboard fell off the wall onto it after beating Loyola Marymount. He had surgery Friday, but we like to think he’d still give his team’s performance a figurative thumbs up.
Who’d we leave out from this weekend of college games?
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