It should come as a surprise to no one, but the WAC still runs through New Mexico State.
The Aggies got a big road win at Cal Baptist (86-71) to open conference play on Saturday night, which had a little extra oomph given that the Lancers had stunned NMSU in Riverside last January.
NMSU broke open a close game midway through the second half, particularly on the back of big second half efforts from Trevelin Queen (14 points, 5-5 FG) and Johnny McCants (13 points, 5-10 FG).
Even though the Lancers aren’t yet eligible for the WAC Tournament, they seemed the closest challenger to the NMSU steamroller as league play began. While the final score may not indicate how close the game was for the bulk of the night, it was still a shot across the bow to the rest of the conference. In total, the Aggies have won five out of six games, and should get another challenge — albeit at home — from a surging Kansas City team next weekend.
- Greg Mitchell
The dust has settled on the first day of MEAC play. Here’s the final scores from across the league.
Morgan State 81, Delaware State 68
South Carolina State 79, Coppin State 75
North Carolina Central 61, Florida A&M 56
Maryland Eastern Shore 78, Howard 66
Norfolk State 85, Bethune-Cookman 72
Morgan State had five players score in double-figures in a win on the road, marking Kevin Broadus’s first MEAC win. Senior forward David Syfax, and sophomore guards Isaiah Burke and Sherwyn Devonish-Prince scored 15 points each.
Damani Applewhite recorded 24 points and 11 rebounds while Ian Kinard added 19 points for the Bulldogs as they defeated Coppin State. The Eagles shot 50 percent from the floor but could not close the deal at home.
Florida A&M could not ride its momentum from its historic win against Iowa State. North Carolina Central held the Rattlers scoreless for the final 8:37 of the contest. With that, they rolled to a 61-45 win at home. NC Central has only lost one home game in MEAC play since 2017.
Maryland Eastern Shore got its first D-I win of the season by beating Howard. The Bison’s Kyle Foster got ejected from the game in the second half, sparking a 13-0 run from UMES. Ty Gibson led the Hawks with 14 points.
Norfolk State dominated Bethune-Cookman to be straight to the point. They led by 25 points during one portion of the game. Three different players scored at least 17 points for the Spartans, with Joe Bryant scoring 21.
- Stephen Thompson
Sometimes when it’s working, it’s just working.
We wrote about Jahshire Hardnett’s absurdly clutch streak on Thursday...and wouldn’t you know it, it rolled into Saturday. The Kansas City senior point guard drilled yet another game winner — his third in three games — by hitting a three with 36 seconds to give the Roos a 64-63 lead over a Utah Valley team that had been surging in the second half.
The BYU transfer would then go 4-4 from the free throw line from then on to score the final seven points in a Kansas City win. It’s been an especially impressive streak from a player who has been battling injuries, and missed the two games prior to hitting his first game winner against South Dakota on Dec. 21.
Flash back to what Kansas City coach Billy Donlon said on Thursday.
“In practices, we pride ourselves on our defense and when the shot clock comes down and he makes these shots, I tell guys just go shake his hand,” he said. “He’s just one of those players that has a high amount of confidence and belief in his ability to make critical shots.”
The Roos — admittedly a constant on this site given a certain editor’s proximity to the Pouch of Ouch — are off to a 2-0 WAC start in Donlon’s first season.
- Greg Mitchell
Anarchy? No. Just the SoCon.
UNC Greensboro went to Wofford on Saturday winners of nine of their last 10 games and pulled off a furious comeback at the end of regulation against the Terriers to force overtime. But after two extra periods, Wofford emerged with a 98-92 win, giving Jay McAuley his first conference victory.
The Terriers led by 13 with under four minutes left before the Spartans came roaring back, highlighted by a couple of threes from Angelo Allegri. Then, with 48 seconds left, Keyshaun Langley sent it to OT:
A huge offensive rebound for Dickey, and Keyshaun Langley is taking us to overtime on his 3rd three-pointer of the evening! pic.twitter.com/gqIE5Dh3Jx— UNCG Basketball (@UNCGBasketball) January 5, 2020
Not to be out-done, Isaiah Miller DID THE EXACT SAME DAMN THING with 23 seconds left in the extra period.
The Spartans just didn’t have enough juice down the stretch, exacerbated by losing James Dickey and Malik Massey with five fouls each.
As usual, Nathan Hoover led the way for Wofford with 17 points (Storm Murphy, the Good Name Haver, had 17 as well). Six players scored in double figures for the Terriers, who shot 53 percent from the field overall.
Wofford was supposed to be down this year, its first of the post-Fletcher Era. It still isn’t quite as good as it was in 2018-19, but this is a huge win. UNC Greensboro, ETSU and Furman are the favorites in the SoCon and Wofford just defended its home court against one of them. The Spartans visit the Bucs on Wednesday for what could be another instant classic.
- Russell Steinberg
I’m not here to tell you that Desure Buie is the best guard Hofstra has had in recent memory. However, I am here to tell you that he had one of the best games a Hofstra player has had in recent memory.
In the Pride’s eye-popping 102-75 win over Elon — a conference game, mind you — Buie threw in 44 points on 15-19 shooting, including 6-8 from three. It was a career high scoring night for the senior guard, and in the process he ran past 1,000 career points.
The Pride have gone 7-2 since the calendar flipped to December, and are off to a 3-1 CAA start. With Buie playing the best basketball of his career, they are all the more dangerous in a league that seems ripe for the taking.
- Greg Mitchell
This is a Jazz Johnson appreciation post.
For a moment, it looked like Nevada’s offense was sputtering. Trailing 19-11 midway through the first half, Justinian Jessup and the Boise State Broncos took all the air out of Lawlor Events Center. Jessup tied the Broncos’ program record with his 275th career three, Lindsey Drew was saddled with early foul trouble and the Wolf Pack’s offense alternated between effective possessions and a slew of bizarre turnovers (shots bouncing over the backboard, a completely preventable backcourt violation call). Nevada’s 13-game MWC home winning streak was in jeopardy.
Then this sequence happened: Johncarlos Reyes met Alex Hobbs at the rim, Robby Robinson gathered the rebound, found Jazz Johnson, who did the rest with a crafty spin-move in transition:
That layup sparked 13 straight points from Johnson, who singlehandedly got the Wolf Pack back into the game. On the very next possession, Johnson found his spot in the corner and hit the first of two transition corner threes:
Lest he be mistaken for a one-trick pony, Johnson doesn’t just stand in the corner and wait for players like Cody Martin, Caleb Martin or Jordan Caroline dance around on isos anymore. Johnson’s fourth three was in a half court set, in which he curled around a screen and let his quick release do the rest.
He finished the half with 21 points on 8-13 shooting, including 5-9 from three. His career high of 27 set against Air Force last year is definitely in range — well, nearly anything is for a guy who shoots 43% from three this season, but you get the point.
— Kyle Cajero
Appalachian State won three conference games last year. The Mountaineers are halfway to that mark already in 2020, thanks to a long three from Justin Forrest with less than a second to go on Saturday against Georgia Southern.
Look at this gosh darn thing of beauty:
Justin Forrest for the WIN! pic.twitter.com/wFoQIkEENc— App State Basketball (@AppStateMBB) January 4, 2020
That step back. Those onions. 74-72 is your final and the Eagles have taken their first loss of the #FunBelt season.
- Russell Steinberg
There’s nothing little about Little Rock’s start in the Sun Belt.
In a league that has somewhat unbelievably already had four league dates, the Trojans stand alone at 4-0 after a 92-89 win over UT Arlington. Sophomore forward Kamani Johnson scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, none more important than the one below as the Mavericks tried to come back in the final seconds.
Little Rock was picked second to last in the league’s preseason poll which, at the moment, looks very silly.
- Greg Mitchell
Furman had a 35-28 lead over ETSU at half. Things evaporated and evened quickly, with Patrick Good tossing in two threes for the Bucs, followed by a slew of frenetic possessions, with missed lay-ups, steals, and sloppy mistakes.
At the first media timeout of the second half the Paladins held a tenuous three point lead, 39-36, yet had their first half momentum slip into a comatose state of which it seemed unlikely to awake from.
Luckily for Furman, Tre Clark exists and proceeded to dunk on everyone on a Jalen Slawson dime, seizing the means of momentum from Steve Forbes’s sweaty palms, and showing everyone that the Paladins were world class again. After back-to-back offensive boards out of a timeout, Mike Bothwell splashed a three, eventually leading to an eight point advantage at the under-12 timeout for Furman.
A dish from Clay Mounce to a back-door cutting Noah Gurley led to an and-one and a double-digit lead. Steve Forbes had no answer, watched Clark dunk on his team and family again, and called a timeout - the coward’s answer to dire circumstances.
With 9:50 left, Furman led 53-40.
Bo Hodges had a saucy and-one dunk that spurred a 7-0 run to get the Bucs right back into the game, getting within eight with five minutes remaining.
Try as he might, Hodges tried to keep the Bucs within striking distance, but Jordan Lyons splashed a three, Slawson rejected another try by Hodges, and then Lyons splashed yet another three.
It was 61-49 ballgame with 2:22 left. ETSU pushed a bit at the end and tried to make something out of the it, but fell short, the final score 65-56. Furman improved to 3-0 in SoCon play and 13-3 overall, the Bucs dropping to 13-3 and 2-1 in conference.
- Alex Sindelar
4:56 PM ET
Quietly, Harvard is riding a wave of momentum into Ivy League play.
The Crimson knocked off UC Irvine at home on Saturday afternoon, which was a nice follow up to a great win at San Francisco last Monday. In all, Harvard has won six straight games, four of those without the injured Bryce Aiken, who did not play against the Anteaters. This has also come amidst the news that Seth Towns will not return this season and has entered the transfer portal.
While Yale has deservedly grabbed plenty of Ivy headlines lately, the Crimson are showing why the dutiful Other Top 25 voters have continued to have faith in them despite plenty of roster uncertainty so far this year.
- Greg Mitchell
3:35 PM ET
The crowd at UMBC just lost it. After falling down four with less than 10 seconds to go, the Retrievers had an inbound with .6 seconds left and KJ Jackson hit a game tying buzzer beater with two men in his face.
UMass Lowell, however, went bonkers in the extra period, outscoring UMBC 20-7 to take home an 86-73 win.
- Nick Lorensen
2:27 PM ET
MEAC conference play starts today! Morgan State and Delaware State kicks off the slate of games today.
Early in the first half, Morgan State is taking advantage of fast breaks and physical post play. They lead the Hornets, 13-6. Despite the lead, the Bears are in early foul trouble. But the Hornets are failing to take advantage on the offensive end. They’ve been scoreless for over five minutes.
- Stephen Thompson
The first Saturday in January means the first full weekend of conference play. Fire up the second (and third) screens, grab some chips, and prepare to make a permanent assprint on your couch. The games start at noon Eastern and will go on until around midnight when San Diego State and Utah State finish up. As of post time, Neemias Queta is a game-time decision, per Jon Rothstein.
But before we get the two best teams in the Mountain West, there’s plenty more on tap, led by a monster day in the Southern Conference.
Jordan Lyons and Clay Mounce have been two of the best players in the SoCon and their Furman Paladins will host East Tennessee State at 4 p.m. ET. It’s a showdown between two 13-2 teams that came into the season with high expectations and have surpassed them.
UNC Greensboro visits Wofford in the other big SoCon matchup of the day. The Terriers’ record isn’t great (8-6), but four of those losses are to top-100 teams and they’ve already beaten North Carolina (though who hasn’t?).
Both of those games can be seen on ESPN+. Here are the other big games to keep an eye on. All times are Eastern:
UC Irvine at Harvard, 2 p.m., ESPN+
UT Arlington at Little Rock, 3 p.m., ESPN+
Liberty at NJIT, 4 p.m., ESPN+
Illinois State at Southern Illinois, 4 p.m., ESPN3
Boise State at Nevada, 6 p.m., CBS Sports
Princeton at Penn, 7 p.m., ESPN+
Missouri State at Loyola University Chicago, 8 p.m., ESPN+
San Diego State at Utah State, 10 p.m., CBS Sports
We’ll be back throughout the day to update the blog with news, highlights, and other weird stuff, so stay tuned. Enjoy the games!