Most were glued to the Crossroads Classic on Saturday, and with good reason, but there was plenty more to enjoy as a day full of upsets, buzzer-beaters, and more unfolded.
In the event that you spent the day wrapped up in such nonsense as “having a social life,” here’s what you missed:
Belmont wins the Battle of the Bruins
In part one of Saturday’s two-part “upsets we all figured would happen,” Rick Byrd marched his team into Pauley Pavilion and came out with a victory.
Belmont trailed by 12 in the first half but hung tough and eventually took the lead on a Grayson Murphy three with 2:45 to go. The teams traded baskets from there before Jaylen Hands put UCLA on top with 33 seconds to go.
That’s when Kevin McClain gave us the Backdoor Cut Heard Around the World:
Belmont > UCLA in the battle of Bruins. Belmont with the go ahead bucket on a possession that didn’t quite seem like it was going anywhere...until it turned into a layup. pic.twitter.com/8f2PuZfbPh— Matt Eisenberg (@matteise) December 15, 2018
FINAL: Belmont 73 UCLA 72
Monarchs win sixth straight
The other not-at-all-surprising upset came in Syracuse, where Old Dominion overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to knock off the Orange in the Carrier Dome.
B.J. Stith had 18 points and 10 rebounds, but after a shaky first half actually felt the need to apologize to his teammates in the locker room.
He told reporters after the game that he said:
“Look, I apologize for how I played in the first half. I’m going to step it up in the second half. Let’s do it.’ That’s exactly what we did and didn’t look back.”
The Monarchs came out of the locker room strong and refused to let Syracuse pull away. A 7-0 spurt midway through the half put them on the brink of the upset, then they finally took the lead on an Ahmad Caver three with 5:32 left. After Syracuse went back in front courtesy of three free throws, Stith hit three of his own and Old Dominion never trailed again.
The Monarchs have now won six in a row and own two wins over KenPom top 100 opponents (VCU is the other). It doesn’t get much easier from here as they travel to Richmond next.
FINAL: Old Dominion 68 Syracuse 62
UNLV wins at the buzzer
BYU did the thing it always does.
The Cougars fell behind early, reminding us how dumb we were for having faith in them in the first place. Then they came back and gave us hope. Then they lost in the worst way possible.
Behold, the final seconds of overtime with BYU up by a point.
Credit Noah Robotham for hitting the game-winner there. The win snapped a three-game skid for the Rebels...and a three-game winning streak for the Cougars.
FINAL: UNLV 82 BYU 80 (OT)
Gonzaga’s defense falters in Chapel Hill
North Carolina only beat Gonzaga by 13, but the numbers look worse than that. The Bulldogs allowed the Tar Heels to shoot 55 percent from the field and 52 percent from three. UNC out-rebounded Gonzaga 42-21 (I know rebound margin isn’t cool anymore but, like, that’s bad) and out-scored the Bulldogs 27-0 on second-chance opportunities. It all added up to 103 North Carolina points on 84 possessions.
Reinforcements are coming soon for the Zags, who have lost two straight, but Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall can’t provide all the answers. Gonzaga has had a few sub-par defensive performances this year and it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.
FINAL: North Carolina 103 Gonzaga 90
Nevada stays unbeaten
What if I told you South Dakota State would play at the No. 6 team in the country and All-World player Mike Daum would score just five points?
You’d probably expect a blowout, right?
Well, the Jackrabbits proved they are much more than just their star forward as Skyler Flatten scored 20 points and Owen King had 13 off the bench to give Nevada everything it could handle.
In fact, the game was still in doubt right up until Daum fouled out in the final minutes to end a frustrating night. He went just 1-10 from the field and 0-5 from three.
Jordan Caroline (21 points) and Caleb Martin (20 points) led the Wolf Pack, who continue to play with fire. This was their second straight game decided in the final minutes and their third in four tries in which they have trailed at the half. Nevada is still unbeaten, but has looked far from invincible.
Oh, and here’s an interesting note on the Mountain West:
In conference ratings news... pic.twitter.com/jImcImHuZd— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) December 16, 2018
FINAL: Nevada 72 South Dakota State 68
Charleston with a statement win
Earl Grant’s group already owned wins over Rhode Island, Memphis, and UAB (more on the Blazers in a second). Their efforts brought them all the way up to No. 17 in The Other Top 25, and their win today over VCU should push Charleston up further.
Winning at the Siegel Center is no small feat, but it helps when a guy like Grant Riller can score 30 points or Jarrell Brantley can grab 17 rebounds.
Charleston led for the final 12 minutes of the game to knock off a VCU team that has already beaten Texas and Temple.
FINAL: Charleston 83 VCU 79
UAB CAME SO CLOSE! The Blazers pushed No. 8 Auburn to overtime but just missed the biggest upset of the day, falling by four. Jalen Perry played 42 minutes and scored 18 points on 4-8 shooting from three. This was his fifth straight game in double figures as the sophomore hopes to find consistency.
The Blazers are not supposed to be a real factor in Conference USA, so it remains to be seen whether this was an aberration or a sign that UAB is capable of more than we thought.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl summed it up best:
Bruce Pearl on the postgame radio broadcast: "UAB should play like that all the time. They might win more."— Benjamin Wolk (@benjaminwolk) December 16, 2018
FINAL: Auburn 75 UAB 71 (OT)
Other scores of note:
No. 14 Buffalo 73 Southern Illinois 65
No. 15 Ohio State 73 Bucknell 71
No. 23 Furman 93 UNC Wilmington 50
Marshall 75 Akron 74
Oral Roberts 59 Richmond 52
Temple 77 Davidson 75 (OT)
UNCG 53 North Alabama 48
Toledo 84 Middle Tennessee 62
Cal 67 Cal Poly 66