Wednesday night had major implications in conference races across the country. Here’s a look at what you might have missed:
VCU controls the A-10...for now
Wednesday presented a pair of opportunities for VCU: a chance to take down cross-town rival Richmond and takeover first place in the A-10. They took advantage both, beating the Spiders 81-74.
Justin Tillman led the charge for the Rams, leading VCU in both scoring and rebounding. Tillman finished with 18 points for the second consecutive game and posted nine rebounds for the third-straight game.
Following a tough road loss to Fordham that dropped the Rams to 4-2 in the A-10, VCU has ripped off three wins in a row against some of the best the A10 has to offer: LaSalle, Dayton, and now Richmond. Wednesday’s win improves their record in conference play to 7-2, pulling them even with Dayton. The Rams still have road games at Richmond, Rhode Island, and Dayton on the schedule. But, they currently have the inside track to the A-10 title by virtue of their win over the Flyers last week.
ShawnDre’ Jones and T.J. Cline did their best to will Richmond to the victory. Jones had a game high 30 points (including several big shots down the stretch), while Cline stuffed the stat sheet as he normally does, recording 15 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. In the end, the Spiders came up short on the road and will have to look forward to their chance at revenge when VCU makes the trip across town on Feb. 17.
The MVC is still a two team race
Illinois State and Wichita State have separated themselves from the rest of the field in the Missouri Valley and Wednesday was no exception.
League-leader Illinois State hosted a resurgent Northern Iowa squad and clawed its way to a 57-51 win. The Redbirds were without MiKyle McIntosh, but received an outstanding performance from sophomore Phil Fayne in his place. Fayne finished with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. The win keeps Illinois State perfect (11-0) in the Missouri Valley.
Wichita State was able to keep within striking distance of first place with a 77-69 win at Drake. Landry Shamet led the Shockers in scoring with 17 points and helped Wichita State improve to 10-1 in conference play. The win was also a milestone for head coach Gregg Marshall:
The wins propel the two schools further ahead in the conference standings. Wichita State is four games clear of third place. Illinois State and Wichita State face each other one last time in the regular season on Saturday. The Shockers will host the Redbirds and look to negate their only conference loss, which they suffered at Illinois State.
Conference leaders upset on the road
Both Nevada and North Dakota State suffered unexpected losses on the road Wednesday night.
A cold shooting performance led to Nevada’s upset at the hands of Utah State by a final of 74-57. Cameron Oliver recorded a double-double for the Wolfpack, but it was not enough to make up for 32 percent shooting from the floor including just 15 percent from three. To compound its shooting woes, Nevada only managed to go 9-of-20 from the free throw line. Utah State got a double-double of its own from Jalen Moore (13 points, 15 rebounds) while Koby McEwen led the Aggies in scoring with 26 points. The loss drops Nevada to 7-3 in Mountain West play, tied with Boise State atop the standings.
In the Summit League, conference leader North Dakota State fell 86-81 to IUPUI in overtime. A three point barrage led the Jaguars to the victory, as they shot 58 precent from distance. Matt O’Leary had an excellent night, making six of his eight three-point attempts en route to a game-high 24 points. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of IUPUI’s victory was that the Jaguars did not make a free throw until the overtime period. North Dakota State played a fairly clean game, but ran into a hot opponent on the road.
The silver lining for the Bison is that they still retain their conference lead despite the loss. South Dakota fell at Omaha last night, dropping the Coyotes into a second-place tie with Denver at 6-4, while Fort Wayne sits tied in the loss column (5-4) with both teams.
Other finals of note:
- UNC Asheville 91 - Charleston Southern 73
- Winthrop 81 - Radford 65
UNC Asheville and Winthrop stay tied for first in the Big South with Liberty at 9-2.
- Vermont 74 - Maine 53
Vermont stays perfect in America East play at 9-0.
- Bucknell 80 - American 60
Bucknell’s Patriot League lead expands to 2.5 games as their record improves to 10-1.
- Abilene Christian 70 - New Orleans 69
The loss drops New Orleans into second place behind Sam Houston State in the Southland.