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Wednesday’s Morning Shootaround: A lot of action on the bubble

No. 3 Ohio State 71, Michigan State 61: See here.

George Mason 71, VCU 51: See here.

No. 14 Villanova 60, Seton Hall 57: The Wildcats were playing without Corey Stokes, who is out with turf toe until at least February 21st, got a huge lift from freshman James Bell off the bench. Bell, who sat out from June until December and had rods inserted into his shins to help combat stress fractures in his tibias, scored a career-high 21 points to lead the Wildcats. Villanova needed the performance badly. They got just 17 points and seven assists (and 12 turnovers) combined from Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns, and the team turned the ball over 22 times.

“James Bell killed us. He hit some tough shots,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said.

As far as the Pirates are concerned, its just another tough loss in a season full of them. SHU is 4-6 since Hazell’s return, but only one of those losses (at Pittsburgh) was a blow out. The other five, the Pirates were in it until the end, unable to pull out a victory.

Virginia Tech 91, Maryland 83: The Terps lost another close game to a quality opponent, further distancing themselves from the bubble picture despite 25 points and six assists from freshman Terrell Stoglin. The Hokies, on the other hand, are playing as well as they have all season long. Malcolm Delaney had 22 points, Jeff Allen scored 16 and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Tech won for the 13th time in their last 16 games. Barring a collapse, Tech should be dancing this season. Maryland? They need a late season push.

St. John’s 80, Marquette 68: See here.

Is there anyone in the country playing better basketball right now than Dwight Hardy? The St. John’s senior scored 28 points and added six boards and five steals. The Johnnies have won five of their last six games (five straight in the Big East) to move to 8-5 in the league and firmly into the NCAA Tournament picture. During those six games, Hardy has averaged 25.3 ppg.

No. 22 Kentucky 85, Mississippi State 79: Doron Lamb got the start over Darius Miller, who was questionable coming in (but scored 13 big points off the bench) and answered Calipari’s call with 20 points on 7-8 shooting, including a couple of big shots during Kentucky’s second half runs. The Wildcats were flat for about the first 25 minutes of the game, allowing an under-manned Mississippi State team playing with Renardo Sidney (who couldn’t make it three minutes without being gassed) to stay in the lead.

At the 15 minutes mark of the second half, Cal turned on the press and his team work up. Brandon Knight finished with 24 points and seven assists while Jones added 17 points.

“We just had no fire, no fight,” Calipari said. “I told them, ‘We’re pressing man to man and if you choose to go back, I’m subbing you.’ ”

No. 19 North Carolina 78, Wake Forest 64: The Tar Heels coasted a little too much for Roy Williams’ liking against the Demon Deacons, allowing Wake to get to within eight points late in the second half. Its not exactly the killer’s demeanor he wanted to see out of his team. Good team win games they are supposed to win. Great teams don’t allow an inferior opponent to believe they have a chance.

Another piece of concern? In their last five halves of basketball (since halftime of the Duke game), the Heels are 7-47 from three.

No. 21 Missouri 92, Texas Tech 84: Missouri was hot offensively, as Marcus Denmon scored 18 of his 20 points before halftime and Kimmie English snapped a slump with a 16 point performance. But 84 points to Texas Tech? The Tigers are a poor defensive team once you break their press, and the jury is still out on whether they are a good defensive team in their press. If the Tigers want to make any kind of noise in March, they need to make some improvements on that end of the floor.

Gardner-Webb 59, Coastal Carolina 57: The Chanticleers lost their first game in the Big South conference, ending any chance they had of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Desmond Holloway at a shot to force overtime at the end of regulation, but he missed it. To make matters worse, the game was at CCU and Gardner-Webb was 3-11 in the league coming in. Luckily for CCU, Liberty lost as well, meaning they still hold a two game lead in the Big South standings.

Wild night in the CAA:

  • George Mason went into Richmond and beat VCU by 20, putting a dagger in the Rams chances of earning an at-large bid while bolstering their own profile.
  • Charles Jenkins had 28 points and hit the game-tying and game-winning shots.
  • Old Dominion kept pace with VCU and Hofstra with a 17 point win over Georgia State. Those three teams trail Mason by two games with two left in the regular season.
  • James Madison’s Denzel Bowles went for 40 points in a win over Towson.

High Point 70, Winthrop 69 2OT: Nick Barbour hit a game-winning runner at the buzzer.

Other Notable Games

  • UNLV 49, Air Force 42
  • Northern Iowa 80, Bradley 70
  • Wichita State 80, Evansville 74
  • Missouri State 60, Drake 51
  • Baylor 64, Wayland Baptist 50
  • Austin Peay 73, Jacksonville 70
  • Butler 64, Green Bay 62

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.