The Big 12 vs. SEC Challenge featured a ton of great out-of -conference basketball to spice up the regular season. It provided the amount of entertainment and attention to the sport that maybe, just maybe, the NCAA should look into for football. Just saying. This year this challenge ended in a tie, with each conference winning 5 games. Let us take a look at each of the games on this jam-packed Saturday afternoon of College Hoops.
West Virginia vs. Mizzou– The Mountaineers of WVU were defending their home court Saturday against the Missouri Tigers. After a tough, defensive first half with not a ton of offense and a late run by Missouri to close the gap to 1, West Virginia took off in the second half. They put up 50 points in that half, which blew them out of the water. It helped that they also out-rebounded Missouri by 20. Big performances by Jermaine Haley, Oscar Tshiebwe, and emerging from the bench was Miles McBride with 15 points of his own. This loss has Missouri reeling as they are 9-10 overall, losers of 4 straight and have a quick turnaround when Anthony Edwards and Georgia pay them a visit tomorrow night. As for West Virginia, they are looking to carry this momentum into Lubbock, TX on Wednesday night when they take on the defending National Runner-ups Texas Tech.
Oklahoma vs. Mississippi State– This game was a low scoring affair with two tournament bubble teams looking to add a significant out-of-conference W to their resume. Both teams struggled to find their shot throughout the whole game, as each team shot below 40% from the field. Oklahoma took an 8 point lead going into half time. Mississippi St. rallied back with an 8-0 run to start the 2nd half and it was a back and forth battle from there. Oklahoma beared down defensively late in the game to seal the victory 63-62. They were led by their star player Junior forward Brady Manek led the way for them offensively with 18 points and hit a big lay-up down the stretch to get their lead to 4 with 2 minutes remaining. Oklahoma (13-6) will be paying a visit to Kansas St. on Wednesday night in a conference battle. Mississippi St. (12-7) are headed to Gainesville to take on Florida on Wednesday night.
Arkansas vs. TCU– This was a huge game for these bubble teams as well. Arkansas came in with an impressive 14-4 record and were looking for a statement win against a quality opponent in TCU (13-5). They did just that. Junior Guard Mason Jones did just that with a 20 point performance. Although he was 4-11 from the field, he lived at the free throw line in this one shooting 10-15 from the free throw line. Senior Guard Jimmy Whitt Jr. put up 20 points of his own in this huge 78-67 victory over the Horned Frogs. Arkansas improves to 15-4 and 11-1 at home and prepare for South Carolina on Wednesday night. TCU will be hosting Texas on Wednesday looking to bounce back from this road defeat.
LSU vs. Texas– The LSU Tigers went on the road to face off against the Texas Longhorns and looking to repeat what their football team was able to accomplish this season, which was beat Texas on the road. That is exactly what they did. In a tightly contested battle, led by their freshman Trendon Watford’s 22-point performance, they were able to squeak past the longhorns and are now sitting ranked at #22 in the nation. The difference in this game was at the free throw line, Texas went a measly 3-6 from the line, while the Tigers went 16-20 from the stripe. LSU who is currently 15-4 and 4-1 on the road will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Wednesday.
Alabama vs. Kansas State– In Kansas State’s first game after their brawl against the Jayhawks in their in-state conference match-up. Kansas State was looking to right the ship of their season in Tuscaloosa, but it did not work out in their favor. The entire starting 5 for Alabama finished with double digits led by Sophomore Point Guard Kira Lewis Jr. who exploded for 26 points on 8-12 from the field and was a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. Alabama shot nearly 50% from the field and were able to seal the deal in this one. They improve to 12-7 on the season and hope they can carry the momentum from this one to their LSU game this week.
Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M– What was once a Big 12 rivalry before the Texas A&M moved to the SEC, has become an out-of-conference contest between the Oklahoma St. Cowboys and the Texas A&M Aggies. The Cowboys relied on their depth with 3 players from the bench finishing in double-digit points to pull out this victory. OK St. also shot 42% from three which helped tremendously in this road contest. A&M falls to 9-9 and get to look forward to travelling to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. Oklahoma State will be upset-minded hosting Kansas on Wednesday.
Tennessee vs. Kansas– Tennessee brought forth their best effort in Lawrence on Saturday night. They stifled Kansas from three (4-17) and outrebounded Kansas (36-32). They watched Kansas struggle from the free-throw line (20-33) and yet still could not come out victorious. Tennessee had a whopping 15 turnovers and pair that along with great performances from Kansas’s team leaders Devon Dotson, Udoka Azubuike, and Ochai Agbaji, Tennessee was not able to pull off the upset.
Baylor vs. Florida– The Nation’s #1 team the Baylor Bears traveled for a tough road contest with the Florida Gators. Baylor was lights out shooting the basketball going 9-19 from three (47%) as well as an incredible 15-16 from the free-throw line. That efficient shooting followed by a cold night from Florida led to a victory for the Bears. They had 4 players finish with double digits and held Florida to 23.5% shooting from three, which was the difference in this one. Florida hopes to heat back up come game-time against Mississippi St. tomorrow night and Baylor hopes to bring their hot hand to Iowa State on Wednesday.
Auburn vs. Iowa State– The Auburn Tigers got off to a tremendous 15-0 start to the season but then suffered blow out losses to Alabama and Florida. After a too close for comfort victory over South Carolina, they hosted Iowa State in the challenge. Isaac Okoro and Samir Doughty led the way offensively for the Tigers with 19 points and 18 points respectively as they conquered the Cyclones after nearly blowing their 11-point halftime lead. As Auburn continues to regain their footing, they will be travelling to Ole Miss for a conference match-up and Iowa State, who is still winless on the road, looks to play spoiler for the Nation’s #1 team the Baylor Bears.
Kentucky vs. Texas Tech– I had to save the best for last here. This was an amazing game from start to finish. That environment in Lubbock was aboslutely rowdy and this game was a true showdown between a tradition blue-blood program and a rising program in Texas Tech. The National runner-ups were down most of the game, but went on a run in the second half to make this a tight back and forth battle. Shooting played a huge factor in this victory for Kentucky going an efficient 7-15 from three and hitting huge free throws in clutch going 21-25 from the line. Between Nick Richards having an outstanding 25 point and 14 rebound performance, sealing the win for Kentucky at the line an Ashton Hagans stripping the ball from Davide Moretti in the final seconds gave Kentucky a huge out-of-conference win that they needed. 76-74 was the final score as both teams needed overtime to determine a victor. Kentucky will be hosting Vanderbilt on Wednesday night looking to carry over this success back into conference play.
This was a phenomenal Saturday for college basketball. These conference challenges provide great fun for the fans and great competition for the teams. These match-ups will be looked back on in March when there will possibly be rematches of these games in the National Tournament.
Below is the extended highlights from the Kentucky vs. Texas Tech game. It was a MUST SEE event.
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