Tuesday’s Three Things to Know: Xavier wins a classic, Tennessee and Michigan State win on the road
1. NO. 5 XAVIER BEAT BUTLER IN ONE OF THE BEST GAMES OF THE SEASON
Despite the fact that the two programs shared a season in the Atlantic 10, with the move to the Big East the series between Xavier and Butler has really taken off. Tuesday night the two teams combined to produce on of the best games of the season to date, with the Musketeers winning 98-93 in overtime. Trevon Bluiett, who hit some huge shots in the second half and overtime, led the Musketeers with 26 points and Kerem Kanter added 22 for the Musketeers.
Xavier, which at one point in the first half led 29-11, survived despite Butler receiving a big second-half performance from Kelan Martin. Martin scored 25 of his 34 points in the second half and overtime, and the Bulldogs were able to force overtime thanks to huge three-pointers hit by Sean McDermott and Kamar Baldwin. But LaVall Jordan’s team missed out on what would have been a big win for their NCAA tournament profile, as Bluiett and the Musketeers regained their poise in overtime and closed out the game.
2. TENNESSEE COMPLETES FIRST SWEEP OF KENTUCKY SINCE 1999
Picked to finish 13th in the SEC’s preseason poll, No. 15 Tennessee has exceeded those expectations in a big way. Tuesday night Rick Barnes’ team made big plays on both ends of the court late as they knocked off No. 24 Kentucky 61-59 in Lexington. Lamonte Turner, who hit a big three with 26 seconds remaining that gave the Vols a one-point lead, led four double-digit scorers with 16 points.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Quade Green scored 15 apiece to lead Kentucky, with the former also responsible for six of the team’s seven assists. Ball and player movement remains an issue for John Calipari’s young Wildcats, and those issues combined with Tennessee’s late-game execution proved to be too much to overcome. As a result of Tennessee’s win, the SEC’s two best teams are squads people did not expect much from back in October.
3. NO. 4 MICHIGAN STATE SURVIVES IN IOWA CITY
For 38-plus minutes Iowa looked nothing like the group that was just 3-9 in Big Ten play, going blow for blow with a Michigan State team that rates among the nation’s best. Tom Izzo’s team looked lost defensively for significant stretches, but in “winning time” the differences between the teams was quite clear. Michigan State was able to string together a few stops late while continuing to execute offensively, going on to win 96-93 as Jordan Bohannon’s heave as time expired bounced off the rim.
The Spartans putting up 96 points, with Miles Bridges and Nick Ward leading the way with 25 and 17 respectively, and shooting 56.1 percent from the field comes as no surprise. But the defensive breakdowns, for which Iowa certainly deserves some credit for, were startling for a team that’s one of the best when it comes to defensive efficiency. And with No. 2 Purdue next on the schedule, Michigan State will need to tighten things up in the coming days.