Ben McLemore, No. 9 Kansas trump No. 7 Ohio St.
Kansas’ Ben McLemore, a redshirt freshman surrounded in the starting lineup by seniors, didn’t let the raucous crowd, the travel or sleeping in a strange bed bother him.
McLemore scored 22 points and No. 9 Kansas proved it was more than just a bully at home by beating seventh-ranked Ohio State 74-66 on Saturday.
“This was great. It was my first time playing in an away game,” McLemore said with a slight smile. “You go up and down the court a little bit, and you get into the game. I kept my intensity, I just played my game.”
For that matter, none of the Jayhawks had yet played a true road game this season. Kansas, which has won nine in a row since losing to Michigan State 67-64 on Nov. 13 in Atlanta, came in 7-0 at home, with two other games played before friendly fans in nearby Kansas City.
They had barely heard a boo all season.
No wonder coach Bill Self was a little worried.
“I had concerns, for sure,” Self said. “Our seniors are good and quality and they’ve been through some things, but against a team that pressures man-to-man and you’re playing with one primarily (ball) handler? That was my biggest concern.”
But the Jayhawks (10-1) weathered a 14-0 run by the Buckeyes (9-2) in the first half that turned the volume up in Value City Arena to 11 on a scale of 10. Then, down in the second half, they held cold-shooting Ohio State without a field goal for more than 10 minutes to take control.
The Buckeyes, who were led by Deshaun Thomas’ 16 points and a career-best 15 by Shannon Scott, hit just 9 of 36 shots from the field in the final 20 minutes. For the game, they ended up making only 31 percent of their shots from the field.
No wonder coach Thad Matta looked so stunned when he spoke after the game.
“There was one point in the second half where I turned to the bench and I said, ‘Hey, let’s call a play where we score,’” he said, heavy on the irony. “A lot of it just comes down to you’ve got to put the ball in the basket in a game like this and we couldn’t do it. It became contagious.”
Kansas St. 67, No. 8 Florida 61
Will Spradling had 16 points and five assists, including one that set up Shane Southwell’s 3-pointer in the closing minutes, and Kansas State beat No. 8 Florida 67-61 on Saturday night.
Rodney McGruder added 13 points and Jordan Henriquez had nine points and five blocks for the Wildcats (9-2), who watched a 10-point halftime lead evaporate before clamping down against one of the nation’s top defensive teams and then pulling away in the final minutes.
Patric Young had 19 points for the Gators (8-2), including two with just over 2 minutes left that got them within 58-55. But that’s when Southwell knocked down his 3 from the corner, and McGruder made two free throws with 1:05 left to create some breathing room.
Kansas State held on from the foul line for its first regular-season, non-conference win over a top 10 team since defeating No. 8 Minnesota on Dec. 21, 1981.
Derrick Nix scores 25 to help No. 20 Michigan State beat Texas
For Derrick Nix, who hasn’t always had it easy at Michigan State, it was a good time to have a great day.
The senior who lost 70 pounds and overcame an arrest to become one of the Spartans’ captains had 25 points and 11 rebounds to help No. 20 Michigan State surge past Texas 67-56 on Saturday.
“Nix and I have a love-hate relationship; I love to hate him sometimes,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “He gets frustrated with himself sometimes, too. One of the hardest things to do is take criticism. But he has grown up a lot.”
Nix was 7 for 10 from the field and 11 for 13 at the line, a major improvement for a 64.9 percent foul shooter.
Keith Appling had 14 points and Adreian Payne added 13 for the Spartans (11-2), who stayed perfect in six December games.
“I didn’t get a scholarship here because they wanted to give it to me,” Nix said. “I had to be doing something right. Today, they didn’t double-team. I hit my first shot and tried to dominate the rest of the day.
Julien Lewis scored 16 points and Sheldon McClellan had 13 for the Longhorns (7-5), who couldn’t match the efficiency of their 85-67 win over North Carolina on Wednesday night.
Texas trailed 41-40 and had a chance to take a lead but McClellan missed two free throws after a technical on Nix. The Spartans promptly grabbed a three-point lead on a jumper by Payne. They later made it 49-40 on two free throws by Nix and Appling’s 3-pointer.
“It was disrespectful to step across my face that way,” Nix said of a tumble-and tie-up that led to some words he shouldn’t have said. “That was an Allen Iverson move. I think I deserved a tech. But we responded.”
TCU 65, Rice 63
Garlon Green scored a career-high 31 points to help TCU hold off Rice for a 65-63 victory Saturday night.
Green, a senior, played all 40 minutes, was 10 of 16 from the field and hit three 3-pointers. Oddly, Green’s previous career high also came on Dec. 22 — he scored 24 points a year ago in a win over Grambling State.
TCU led the entire second half, but the Owls (3-8) pulled within 64-63 with 13 seconds left on a layup by Julian DeBose. But TCU’s Kyan Anderson made a free throw before Tamir Jackson, who led Rice with 25 points, missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Adrick McKinney added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Horned Frogs (8-4), and Connell Crossland had nine points and 11 boards.
The loss snapped Rice’s three-game home winning streak against TCU, its former rival from the Southwest and Western Athletic conferences.
Arizona St. 77, Texas Tech 62
Jonathan Gilling and Jahii Carson each scored 18 points to lead Arizona State to a 77-62 win over Texas Tech on Saturday.
Gilling carried the load in the first half, hitting five of his six career-high 3-pointers, and Carson took over after the break with 16 second-half points. Carrick Felix added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Sun Devils (10-2), and Evan Gordon had 12 points.
Jaye Crockett led the Red Raiders (5-4) with 11 points and nine rebounds. Jordan Tolbert and Josh Gray each added 10 points.
Arizona State led by 15 points with a little over nine minutes left in the first half before the Red Raiders fought back within four just minutes into the second half. The Sun Devils extended the lead back to as many as 17 with 2:32 left in the game.
Freshman Phil Forte’s 22 points carry Oklahoma State
Phil Forte’s big day from behind the arc carried Oklahoma State.
The defense did more than its part, too, forcing 20 turnovers in the 24th-ranked Cowboys’ 78-42 victory over Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
“We’re really big on defense,” Forte said. “We know that’s something that is a strength of ours. Going into every game we try to take away what the other team does because there will be nights when, offensively, shots won’t be falling. Your defense will always be there for you.”
Forte hit 6 of 11 from 3-point range and the Cowboys (10-1) hit a season-high 11 3-point field goals. Kamari Murphy scored 12 points, Markel Brown and Marcus Smart each scored 11, and Kirby Gardner added 10 points and seven assists.
Jud Dillard led Tennessee Tech (6-6) with 18 points. Jeremiah Samarrippas added 11 points and Dennis Ogbe grabbed eight rebounds.
Oklahoma State led 38-19 at halftime, the second straight game an opponent failed to reach 20 points in the opening 20 minutes. In a 25-point victory over UT Arlington last Wednesday, the Cowboys allowed 17 first-half points.
“I was very happy with the way we played today,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “The defense has been consistent and that is what we’ve been hanging our hat on. Our guys have embraced it to this point. They understand that you win conference championships with rebounding and defense.”
West Virginia 72, Radford 62
Ever since West Virginia coach Bob Huggins suspended forward Aaric Murray for one game, the Mountaineers junior has dominated consecutive opponents.
The latest was Radford, as Murray scored 23 points, a career high in a West Virginia uniform, and the Mountaineers (6-5) defeated the Highlanders 72-62 Saturday for their second straight nonconference victory.
“We all know he is a talented kid,” Huggins said. “I think he’s learning how to play harder for a longer period of time. Honest to God, he’s been coachable since we got back from (the) Michigan (game). He’s trying to do what we ask him to do.”
The 6-foot-10 junior, who transferred from La Salle, also had eight rebounds, four assists and three steals for his second solid outing in a row since missing West Virginia’s 81-66 loss to No. 3 Michigan on Dec. 15 because of disciplinary reasons.
Since then, Murray has tallied 35 points, 18 rebounds, eight assists and six blocks. The Radford game was his third in double figures out of the last four and sixth overall. The week before his suspension, he was named the Big 12 Rookie of the Week.
“I just played hard and the buckets seemed to fall,” Murray said. “I was looking to play harder in this game. I’m looking to play harder in every game.”