Multiple mid-major squads put the heebie-jeebies into their more potent opponents tonight, including a near-upset of a top five ranked program by Illinois State.
What a night it was for those representing the under-represented. Several near upsets - some from expected sources, some not - highlighted a pretty wild night across the college basketball landscape:
We start with the biggest deal - the Redbirds using their strong early season start to nearly take down an injury depleted lineup in a road contest against the Louisville Pitinos. The good news is that Jackie Carmichael and Tyler Brown were excellent, posting 20 and 25 points respectively to pace the ISU attack.
The bad news is that, despite that performance, the rest of the team was only 9-for-19 from the field, and Carmichael and Brown scored a grand total of five points (on 1-of-9 FG's) in the last ten minutes of the game, as Illinois State saw a 55-49 lead disappear into thin air. That said, if this is what a struggling Redbirds squad can do, I feel bad for everyone they play between now and conference play.
Meanwhile, the "other ISU" had a near-upset of their own, taking the No. 25 ranked New Mexico Lobos all the way to overtime before running out of steam. Jake Odum - after being invisible against High Point - put forth a very strong performance, including the last four points for the Sycamores that sent the game into overtime.
Odum cut the deficit to two, then got the benefit of NMU's Kendall Williams missing both free throws, as Manny Arop snagged the rebound and fed it to Odom for a game-tying bucket with three seconds left.
Unfortunately, from the six-minute mark through the end of overtime, players not named Jake Odum or Manny Arop shot a paltry 1-of-6 from the field, while the Lobos shot 4-of-6 from the field and 3-of-4 on free throws in overtime alone to put the game away.
As impressive as this game was for Indiana State, they need to find a consistent secondary scorer behind Odum if they want to keep themselves in the hunt atop the MVC this season.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology is not exactly a basketball powerhouse - more of a basketball outhouse of sorts. This has been a good season for them, and they haven't done much but split a pair of games with South Carolina State, knock off a couple lower level programs, and balance barely beating New Hampshire with barely losing to Providence.
So what did they do? Oh, just scare the crap out of St. Johns for half a basketball game. Thirty seconds into the second half, the Red storm trailed by an amazing 14 points, 37-23. Unfortunately, that is all the Highlanders could manage, as they shot 5-for-27 for the remainder of the game and watched the Red Storm eventually pull away.
Perhaps St. John's was looking ahead to a road trip to San Francisco, but they eventually took care of business. NJIT's other Big East opponents had better beware of Ryan Woods.
As of the first TV timeout of the second half, the UIC Flames had missed 16 of their previous 18 shots from the field. When Northwestern took a timeout with 3:49 left to play, the Flames streak had grown to miss 28 of their previous 35 shots - and yet, when Gary Talton made a layup in the next possession, the Flames went into the TV timeout with 3:16 left to play with the score tied at 42-42.
That was thanks in large part to their defense, which held the Wildcats to 8-for-23 shooting frm the field in the same time frame, and Talton's layup was created by Northwestern's 13th turnover in that time. The Flames weren't much better than Northwestern tonight, but considering this was a road game against a perennial borderline tourney team (for what that's worth), this was a quality win for Josh Crittle and his teammates.
The Boston Terriers might finally be coming alive with their second consecutive victory. They raced out to an early lead and held on for dear life against the Peacocks, thanks in large part to a fairly unexpected freshman contributor Maurice Watson, Jr.
Watson had been up and down this season, providing awful offense against the Georges (Mason and Washington - 3-for-17 from the field) and amazing production against Rutgers and Coastal Carolina (10-for-14). So he kept flip-flopping tonight right? Au contraire, he shot 9-of-14 from the field and added in seven assists and four steals for good measure on top of his 21 points.
It was a good thing, since leading scorer D.J. Irving was almost invisible all night, but if Watson and fellow freshman John Papale can keep contributing more games like they did tonight, the Terriers will be on the rise sooner than later.