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Saturday, February 2, 2013
A few observations from Saturday afternoon

By Myron Medcalf

I know we’re all waiting for No. 1 Michigan at No. 3 Indiana tonight. But here are a few observations from Saturday afternoon’s matchups.
  1. Markel Brown
    Markel Brown (game-high 28 points) celebrates Oklahoma State's upset at Kansas.
    Kansas falls at Allen Fieldhouse and I’m not that surprised. First, the numbers. Oklahoma State’s 85-80 victory at No. 2 Kansas snapped the Jayhawks 33-game winning streak at the Phog. KU had won 101 out of 102 previous games there. There’s obviously a certain mystique within that venue. But this season's Jayhawks had struggled there multiple times. Temple gave them trouble at the Phog. They nearly lost to Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse, too. Just seemed as though the Jayhawks were going to fall at some point. And on Saturday, it happened. Best moment of the loss? Travis Ford jumping up and down on the sideline as he grabbed his assistants and screamed “Oh my God!” Kudos to the Pokes. This win was surprising. But it was also an example of a talented team finally -- finally -- playing up to its potential. Too often, the Cowboys compete like an athletic playground squad with little rhyme or reason on either end of the floor. But they were seamless against the Jayhawks. Marcus Smart was brilliant (25 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals). Markel Brown scored 28 points. And when Kansas turned a 77-69 deficit with 1 minute, 1 second to play into an 81-80 deficit with 19 seconds to go, Oklahoma State remained calm. Phil Forte made a pair of crucial free throws and Oklahoma State forced an Elijah Johnson turnover in the final seconds to seal the win. It was a thrilling finish. And the Jayhawks were simply outplayed. Ben McLemore (23 points) was a star but too much of KU’’s late-game offense was limited to whatever the first-year standout pulled out of his hat. And to be honest, we’d witnessed this before. Happened against Iowa State a few weeks ago. Kansas had survived in the past. Not on Saturday.
  2. Don’t call Pitt-Cuse an upset. After Pitt’s depth and relentlessness fueled the program’s 13th win in 14 matchups against a top-10 squad at the Petersen Events Center, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said this: “They're the best team we've played, without any question. It’s not even close.” Perhaps that’s true, although Cincinnati and Louisville played No. 4 Cuse tough, too. But I think it’s accurate to say that no team has baffled the 2-3 zone the way Pitt did on Saturday during its 65-55 victory. The Panthers were fluid and patient. They attacked the middle of the zone and relied of effective screens to get shots when the 3-ball wasn’t falling for them (Pitt missed its first six 3-pointers and finished 3-for-15 from the 3-point line). The Panthers also overcame 19 turnovers. After a rough start, however, they never looked rattled by anything that Cuse threw at them. Their bench outscored Cuse’s reserves 31-3. Freshman Steven Adams (8 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks) is growing. Tray Woodall (13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals) is attacking. They’re key pieces of a Pitt team that’s one of America’s best (15th in ESPN.com’s BPI). And let’s remember that the Panthers were favored in this one. Then there’s the history at the Pete and the history against Syracuse (Pitt has won nine of 11 and five in a row at the Pete). This was a matchup between a pair of Big East contenders. The “upset” tag should not be attached to this game. Pitt earned it because it's a top-tier squad in this conference, too.
  3. Duke buries Miami loss. Remember when Duke lost to Miami by a million points Jan. 23? Remember how easy it was to call the Blue Devils “pretenders” or “overrated” after that game? Well, since that loss against a Miami program that was clearly underrated at the time, the Blue Devils have defeated Maryland, Wake Forest and Florida State by an average scoring margin of 14.7 points. On Saturday, they pulled Florida State down the ACC standings with one of the most dominant in-conference road performances that any team in the country has achieved this season. With 14:21 to play in the first half, Duke had amassed an 18-2 lead. That’s exactly what the Blue Devils had failed to do in that lopsided loss at Miami. But they looked like a powerful team again when they bullied the Seminoles in a 79-60 win. Yes, the Seminoles have some major issues that are too numerous to discuss in detail here. I give Duke credit, however, for crushing that flawed team. I mean, a 50-24 lead a few minutes into the second half will always be impressive, regardless of the matchup. I’d say that Duke has proven that the Miami loss was just a really, really bad night. Perhaps nothing more than that. If they get this from Quinn Cook -- 18 points and six assists -- and this from Rasheed “Too Smooth” Sulaimon -- 14 points (6-for-11) -- Duke can continue to outplay the ACC’s best even without Ryan Kelly. Also, just 10 turnovers for a Duke team that turned the ball over on 15.8 percent of its possessions entering Saturday.
  4. Miami is legit … just in case you didn’t know. In its last game, NC State lost point guard Lorenzo Brown in the first half of a defeat to Virginia. The No. 19 Wolfpack couldn’t gather itself against one of the top defensive units in America. Mark Gottfried’s crew faced an equally potent defense when they faced the Hurricanes. But it didn’t panic. In the second half, the Wolfpack amassed a double-digit lead over No. 14 Miami. Miami, however, pressured and restricted NC State’s offense to a pair of field goals in the final six minutes of a 79-78 road win. Yes, Reggie Johnson’s tip-in in the last second gave the Canes the win. But their defensive pressure turned this game. Plus, Durand Scott scored 18 points and Johnson added 15 points, 8 rebounds and a block. NC State shot 53 percent from the field but it didn’t finish hot. Now, Miami is 8-0 in the ACC. And it has defeated both North Carolina and NC State. If the Hurricanes defeat Duke on March 2, they would be the first team to defeat the three Research Triangle schools on the road since the 1995-96 Georgia Tech squad pulled off the feat.
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