No. 15 SMU's (14-0, 3-0) perfect season is still alive, barely, as the Mustangs took down tormentor Cincinnati (11-5, 1-2), 59-57. The Bearcats' typically tenacious defense didn't really faze the hosts, who shot 51% on the night. Ben Moore led the Ponies with 15, while Nic Moore added 15, while Cincy's Farad Cobb led all scorers with 18.
Chalk this one up as a lost opportunity for Mick Cronin's squad, whose record against the RPI Top 50 fell to 1-4 with the defeat.
No. 16 Louisville (13-2, 2-0) got more than it bargained for in Raleigh, where the Cardinals needed to hold off a late North Carolina State (10-4, 0-1) rally to prevail, 77-72. Quentin Snyder scored 21 for the Cards, who must have enjoyed the shooting environment in PNC Arena, as they managed to shoot 51% from the floor and just a hair better from beyond the arc.
As anticipated, Notre Dame (10-4, 1-1) had an easy time at Boston College (7-8, 0-2), leaving the Conte Forum with an 82-54 triumph. The Irish were scorching hot, making nearly two-thirds of both their field goals and three-point attempts. Naturally, five Irish players scored at least 10, led by Demetrius Jackson's 17.
Michigan (12-4, 2-1) took a step up in class in their third conference game, and it showed. No. 20 Purdue (14-2, 2-1) rebounded from a disappointing home loss to Iowa by toppling the Wolverines, 87-70. The Maize and Blue's Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led all scorers with an impressive 25, but A.J. Hammons led the Boilermakers with 17.
While Denzel Valentine sat out another game for No. 5 Michigan State (15-1, 2-1), his absence didn't matter, as the Spartans flat out embarrassed overmatched Illinois (8-8, 0-3), 79-54 at the Breslin Center. While the Illini were without Kendrick Nunn, who missed the game to witness the birth of his first child, his presence might not have mattered with the hosts' hot shooting. Bryn Forbes scored 17 to lead Sparty on the night.
Once again, inconsistent UCLA (10-6, 1-2) rose to the occasion, defeating No. 7 Arizona (13-2, 1-1), 87-84, but for the final moments of the game, it look liked the Bruins had gacked up what at one point was a 14-point lead, and that overtime beckoned. That was until Bryce Alford did this with 1.8 ticks left.
Big Shot Bryce Alford wins it for UCLA. https://t.co/7lxIpyW2mF— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) January 8, 2016
The game winner was the final three of Alford's 25 points on the night, while Ryan Anderson led the Wildcats with 15 points and an equal number of boards.
That's the type of win that will get the Bruins into the field of 68, even if they end up as one of the last teams in.
Arizona's Saturday opponent, USC (13-3, 2-1) got itself back on track after a disappointing split in Washington, with a 75-65 win over Arizona State (10-5, 0-2), who has now dropped its first two conference games. Julian Jacobs returned from the twisted ankle he suffered at Washington on Sunday afternoon to lead the Trojans with 15 points and five assists. Andy Enfield team can pick up the biggest win of his tenure if they can top the Wildcats tomorrow, while the Sun Devils had better hope UCLA has an off night.
Ole Miss (11-3, 1-1) used a second half surge to open its new Pavilion, with a 74-66 win over Alabama (9-4, 0-1). Stefan Moody and Sebastian Saiz scored 21 apiece for the Rebels, who picked up a vital win for later bubble jockeying. They'll next welcome Georgia to their new home, while the Crimson Tide will look to rebound when they host Kentucky. Both of those games are Saturday.
Hofstra (10-4, 2-1) was another squad to fall from the (still plentiful) ranks of conference unbeatens, as the Pride dropped a 72-61 CAA decision at the College of Charleston (9-4, 1-1). Northeastern (11-5, 3-0) now holds first place alone after defeating Delaware (5-9, 0-3), 88-55.
UTEP (10-6, 2-1) is no longer perfect in Conference USA, as the Miners fell at Middle Tennessee (9-5, 1-1), 78-72
Later, Old Dominion (9-6, 1-1) grabbed a seismic win, 56-53 at Louisiana Tech (12-3, 1-1). The Bulldogs had won 39 in a row at home—the nation's longest such streak—and had never lost a C-USA home game.
South Dakota State (13-4, 2-1) dropped a bad one at IUPUI (6-12, 2-1), 74-67, to fall out of a first-place tie in the Summit. North Dakota State (11-5, 1-1) also fell on Thursday, by a 91-82 score at home to the Omaha Mavericks (11-6, 3-0) who now—in their first season as an NCAA-eligible team—are a half-game up on IPFW for the league lead. The loss snapped the Bison's 31-game home win streak, which was the nation's second longest going into the night.
UT Arlington Mavericks (12-2, 3-0) and Little Rock (13-1, 3-0) both remained perfect in Sun Belt play, but they did so in different ways. The Mavericks fought tooth and nail to win at Appalachian State (2-12, 0-3), 71-67, while the Trojans handled UL Lafayette (5-7, 1-2), at home by a 77-57 score.