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Takeaways from a wild Thanksgiving Day

UNI, URI and WKU all had reason to celebrate.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Northern Iowa vs North Carolina State Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Too busy to keep up with the Thanksgiving college basketball action?

We can’t blame you, but we are happy to say that a number of mid-majors had themselves a nice little holiday. Here are several main takeaways from the day:

There’s a bow on the Valley’s hot start

The Missouri Valley is off to a great collective start, but marquee wins had been lacking. Northern Iowa has changed that in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Panthers beat a quality SMU team in their opener, and then downed a North Carolina State team that had just beaten No. 2 Arizona. Freshman wing Tywhon Pickford had an absurd 18 points and 18 rebounds in the win. The Panthers have a Friday date in the title game with No. 5 Villanova based mainly on their defense. In both wins in the Bahamas, they held their non-mid-major opponent to under 0.94 points per possession or less.

Remember why everyone loved Rhode Island?

No E.C. Matthews, no problem? Not exactly, but the Rams overwhelming backcourt depth did shine in a marquee win over Seton Hall. Jared Terrell had a game-winning runner with five seconds left to drop the No. 20 Pirates in the NIT Season Tip-Off. Terrell was spectacular with 32 points, including 10-for-10 from the free throw line. Fellow guard Stanford Robinson also had a great game with 15 points and five rebounds. URI’s ultimate ceiling hinges on Matthews’ healthy return, but the Rams have shown they’ve got the firepower to compete in the meantime.

Western Kentucky was always going to be fine

Lost in the Mitchell Robinson drama was that Rick Stansbury still had a roster capable of contending in C-USA. The Hilltoppers showed that by hanging with Villanova on Wednesday in the Battle 4 Atlantis, and then took it step further on Thursday by knocking off No. 18 Purdue. It was the biggest win of Stansbury’s tenure, and featured a big game from the guy that would’ve been overshadowed most by Robinson: Justin Johnson. The senior center finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, and hit a key basket late right in the teeth of 7’2 Purdue center Isaac Haas. It was a light WKU squad that did this too. Stansbury has just seven scholarship players available as Josh Anderson and Moustapha Diagne deal with clearance issues.

Portland State shouldn’t be taken lightly

Behind 20 first-half points from Deontae North, the Viks stunned Duke by running out to a 49-45 halftime lead in the PK80. They then battled with the Blue Devils for a stretch in the second half before eventually being overwhelmed in an 18-point loss. Still, it was an impressive performance from a PSU offense that should be explosive in the Big Sky.

Odds and Ends

  • Despite being without Charlie Brown and Lamarr Kimble, Saint Joe’s missed an opportunity for a win against a struggling power five team in Washington State. The Redhawks led by 14 at halftime before eventually losing by four.
  • College of Charleston has had an uneven season, including a long-term injury to Jarrell Brantley and a bad loss to Cal Poly in their Great Alaska Shootout opener. The preseason CAA favorite rebounded with a dominant defensive effort in a 10-point win over Sam Houston State.