Wednesday was full of action across the college basketball landscape. It was easy to get caught up in the power conference openers, but there was plenty of drama in the mid-major ranks as well.
Road teams prevail in Missouri Valley play
Two potential contenders in the Missouri Valley kicked off conference play with key wins on the road.
Wichita State enters conference play as favorites to win the MVC. However, they faced a tough test traveling to play an Indiana State squad that knocked off Butler earlier in the month. The Sycamores did not go down easily, but it was the Shockers who pulled out the 80-72 win.
The two leading scorers for the Shockers set career highs and helped their team pull away from a tied score at the half. Darral Willis Jr. led all scorers and recorded a double-double, going for 25 points and 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, teammate Markis McDuffie chipped in 22 points on 9-11 shooting as well. The Shockers return home to host Bradley on Sunday.
Elsewhere in MVC play, Missouri State hung on for a 68-64 road win at Northern Iowa. Despite the close final score, the Bears never actually trailed in the game.
Missouri State charged out to a 20-point lead just 10 minutes into the game and maintained a 17-point lead at halftime. However, the Panthers chipped away and were able to pull within two on a Jeremy Morgan layup in the final seconds of the game. Missouri State’s Ryan Kreklow was able to ice the game with free throws and seal the win for the Bears.
The Bears were led by 17 points from Dequon Miller and now have a solid road win to hang its hat on to open conference play. They host Indiana State on Saturday.
A rivalry game win to open conference play
North Dakota State took down South Dakota State in a battle of Summit League heavyweights from recent seasons. While neither team enters conference play as the favorite this year, the win will go a long way toward keeping the Bison in contention.
It appeared as if the Jackrabbits would control things at home early on. SDSU opened up a first-half lead and was on top by 15 at halftime. But the Bison scored at a torrid pace in the second half, putting up 58 points to turn the tide of the game completely. When the final buzzer sounded, NDSU had opened up a double-digit lead of their own and won 80-69.
The Bison were led by junior Paul Miller, who scored 21 points. Miller also grabbed 10 rebounds and set a career high in assists with six.
On the other end, Mike Daum continued to drive the Jackrabbits’ offense. Daum recorded 24 points to lead all scorers, but it was not enough to lift his team to victory. The loss snaps what was an impressive home winning streak for SDSU:
The Bison just snapped South Dakota State's 34-game home win streak, which was the 2nd-longest streak in the nation. pic.twitter.com/1vVHnK4f4B— NDSU Basketball (@NDSUmbb) December 29, 2016
Massachusetts wins in matinee action
It could have been easy to forget about UMass given the rare afternoon game on a weekday. But don’t sleep on the Minutemen who have now won five of their last six and four in a row.
A balanced scoring attack and solid defense led the way for UMass in a 74-65 win at Georgia State. The Minutemen ended with five players scoring in double figures, but none scoring more than 13. They also held Georgia State to just 38 percent shooting and 27 percent from three.
UMass will enter Atlantic 10 play with a 10-3 record. The Minutemen are often left out of the conversation when discussing A-10 contenders and do still have a rough road ahead in conference play. But a solid record, including a nice win over Temple, should garner some attention. UMass opens A-10 play at home against St. Bonaventure on Friday.
The ACC was not kind
Eight mid-majors took on ACC opponents on Wednesday. Not a single one came out a winner.
Marshall put up the best performance of the mid-major bunch, putting up triple digits on Pittsburgh. A second-half surge turned a 20-point deficit into a respectable 112-106 final. The Thundering Herd head into Conference USA play feeling good. Despite losing their last two games, they put up impressive performances at Cincinnati and now Pittsburgh.
UNC Wilmington was probably the best chance the mid-major group had of defeating an ACC opponent going in. However, the Seahawks were never able to get a threat going against Clemson, losing 87-73. UNC Wilmington was out-rebounded and forced to settle for outside shots, where they struggled, going just 8-31. The loss is only the second of the year for the Seahawks, but it was a missed opportunity for a quality win on a potential at-large resume.
The other six games weren’t pretty either, but at least St. Peter’s and North Carolina A&T were able to keep their deficits to single digits:
- Monmouth lost to North Carolina 102-74
- St. Peter’s lost to Notre Dame, 63-55
- Columbia lost to Miami, 78-67
- Rider lost to NC State, 99-71
- UMBC lost to Virginia Tech, 87-70
- North Carolina A&T lost to Georgia Tech, 59-52
Other finals of note
- Princeton 77 Hampton 49
- UNC Greensboro 95 The Citadel 87
- Delaware 63 Iona 54
- Davidson 105 Hartford 75
- Valparaiso 80 Chicago State 61
- Florida Gulf Coast 75 Florida Atlantic 62