College basketball scores, winners and losers: Bubble teams Kentucky, Wisconsin go down, but UNC snaps skid

We are just one month away from Selection Sunday for the 2023 NCAA Tournament and Saturday’s full slate of action brought some February madness as an appetizer of what’s ahead. The Big Dance bubble picture looked chaotic entering the day, and the on-court results only reinforced the idea that we’re in for a mad dash to the finish line as teams try and salvage their postseason credentials.

Kentucky and Wisconsin entered the day among the “Last Four In” of Jerry Palm’s Bracketology and did nothing to help their cases as both suffered Quadrant 2 road losses. But it wasn’t all bad news for the “Last Four In” as North Carolina emerged from a funk with an emphatic 91-71 win against Clemson. The outcome carried Bracketology implications for both sides as it continued a slide for the Tigers, who entered as one of Palm’s “First Four Out” of the projected 68-team field.

Outside the bubble realm, conference races are coming down to the wire around the country, and Saturday’s action impacted the title picture in several leagues. No. 5 Texas maintained its edge in the Big 12, No. 3 Alabama reached 12-0 in SEC play and No. 20 Providence take a loss that dropped it out of the Big East’s leading pack while No. 8 Virginia and Pitt emerged from the fray tied atop the ACC.

Now that the scene is set, let’s go further in-depth and look at the winners and losers from another big Saturday of college hoops.

Loser: Wisconsin blows 17-point lead on bubble

After an 11-2 (3-0 Big Ten) start, Wisconsin entered Saturday’s game at Nebraska having lost eight of its last 11 games but still clinging to one of the final projected NCAA Tournament bids in Palm’s Bracketology. The Badgers lost to the Huskers 73-63 in overtime, but looked great for the first 24 minutes as they took a 45-28 lead early in the second half. Then disaster struck. Nebraska roared back, outscoring Wisconsin 33-16 over the rest of regulation to force overtime. The Cornhuskers won the bonus period 12-2 to drop Wisconsin to 14-10  and 6-8 in the Big Ten. The difference in the game was Nebraska guard Keisei Tominaga, who scored 17 of his 22 points after halftime as he surpassed the 20-point mark for a third straight game.

Winner: Alabama is STILL unbeaten in SEC

After improving to 22-3 (12-0 SEC) with a 77-69 win at rival Auburn, No. 3 Alabama is closing in on its second regular-season title of the past three seasons. The Crimson Tide are also tracking for the program’s first No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament in program history after erasing an early 8-point deficit to pull away late against the Tigers. Alabama made an absurd 23 of 28 attempts inside the arc as they dominated in the paint with a 44-20 edge. The Crimson Tide’s best player, freshman wing Brandon Miller, went 0 for 7 from beyond the arc and Alabama still beat a quality opponent on the road by double digits. That’s scary.

Loser: Kentucky loses ‘must-win’ game

Remember when Kentucky won six of seven games and appeared to have put its struggles in the past? Well, the Wildcats are officially back on the ropes after losing 75-68 at Georgia. CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm described the game as a “must-win” for UK. Instead, it became the Wildcats’ second straight loss, leaving them fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives with just a month to go until Selection Sunday. To be fair, CJ Fredrick and Sahvir Wheeler missed the game due to injury. Even still, UK lost with a starting lineup that included the reigning national player of the year and two five-star freshmen. There is little excuse for a talented UK team to be taking Quad 2 losses this late in the season. Just six regular-season games remain for the Wildcats and they need another run to avoid a disastrous ending to a maddening season.

Winner: Texas refuses to stay down

You just can’t keep this Texas team down. West Virginia certainly failed in its attempt as the Mountaineers’ recent run of quality play came to a screeching halt in a 94-60 loss to the No. 5 Longhorns. By eviscerating WVU – the Mountaineers committed 20 turnovers leading to 32 Texas points – the Longhorns avoided losing consecutive games for the first time and remained the only Big 12 team that has not lost two games in a row at any point. Between the dismissal of coach Chris Beard and the gauntlet of Big 12 play, you would think that cracks in Texas’ foundation might have shown at some point. They have not, and the Longhorns remain in solo possession of first in the nation’s toughest league.

Loser: Tennessee loses on another buzzer beater

Think your team had a bad week? Go check out what happened to No. 6 Tennessee, because it could make you feel better. The Volunteers lost on a buzzer beater at Vanderbilt on Wednesday night and did it again Saturday in an 86-85 loss to Missouri. Vols’ guard Santiago Vescovi missed two free throws with 4.2 seconds left with his team ahead 85-83. Because a lane violation was called on Tennessee during the second attempt, it allowed Missouri to take the ball out of bounds. DeAndre Gholston took a few dribbles and let a deep 3-pointer fly. It hit nothing but net, sending Mizzou’s bench flooding on the floor to celebrate a signature win for the program under first-year coach Dennis Gates. The Vols battled back from a 17-point deficit to take command late, making it all they more painful that they couldn’t hold on. Tennessee has now dropped three of its last four with two of them coming in the most excruciating fashion imaginable. 

Winner: North Carolina gets right

Few teams needed a victory Saturday more than North Carolina, and the Tar Heels made a statement in their 91-71 win over Clemson. UNC led by as much as 25 in the second half as its starring trio of Armando Bacot, Caleb Love and RJ Davis combined for 59 points. The Tar Heels entered averaging just 6.6 made 3-pointers, which was 272nd nationally. But they tied a season-high with 15 against the Tigers as Love and Davis combined to shoot 10 of 19 from behind the arc. The chemistry of the two guards was been called into question as the Tar Heels slid to the last team in the NCAA Tournament in Palm’s Bracketology in recent days. But they posted a message of harmony putting rumors to rest on Thursday and delivered with a dominant outing in a must-win situation against Clemson.

Loser: Clemson is fading

Clemson started 18-4 (10-1 ACC) and held a commanding edge in the league standings. But after Saturday’s blowout loss, the Tigers have dropped three straight and are now looking up at Pittsburgh and Virginia in the league standings. Clemson will be fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid down the stretch after entering the day as one of the “First Four Out” in Palm’s Bracketology. Thankfully, games against lowly Florida State and Louisville are up next for coach Brad Brownell’s struggling squad.

Portland State’s Isaiah Johnson hit one of the most ridiculous game-winning buzzer beaters you will ever see to lift the Vikings to an 88-87 win over Northern Arizona. Johnson redirected the ball off the backboard and through the hoop following a full-court inbound pass from Hunter Woods with 0.4 seconds left. Making matters even nuttier, the shot came after a go-ahead 3-pointer from NAU’s Liam Lloyd that seemed like it would be the game’s decisive shot. Johnson had other plans.

Winner: Size emerges for Kansas

The Achilles’ heel of this reigning champion Kansas team all season has been its propensity to turn the ball over and its size – or lack thereof – in the frontcourt. But with Dajuan Harris playing his best ball as KU’s lead guard of late and seemingly answering the first question mark, KU appears to have settled its second problem spot with the emergence of true freshman Ernest Udeh Jr. Udeh played a season-high 17 minutes on the road at Oklahoma in KU’s 78-55 win Saturday and was a difference-maker down low, adding eight points on a perfect 4 for 4 shooting, four boards and a pair of blocks. KU has played through its guards and wings all season and rode KJ Adams as its primary big in small-ball lineups, but the emergence of Udeh into a legitimate inside presence opens up the potential for this Jayhawks team to be more complete – and more lethal – at just the right time. 

Loser: Rutgers offense gets stuck

No. 24 Rutgers led for the majority of the first half on the road at Illinois but its offense got bogged down in the muck for a huge chunk of time in the second half that precipitated its eventual demise vs. the Fighting Illini in a 69-60 loss. The Scarlet Knights had a drought that spanned more than 10 minutes in the second half in which they not only did not hit a field goal or free throw, but did not score at all, giving up in that span a 19-0 Illini run that wound up deciding the game.

Winner: Creighton riding record wave

No. 23 Creighton won its eighth straight game on Saturday with a 56-53 victory over No. 21 UConn. It’s the longest Big East winning streak for the Bluejays since they joined the conference for the 2013-14 season, and it only reinforces how dangerous this team could be in March. A six-game losing streak over late November and the first half of December coincided with an illness for star center Ryan Kalkbrenner. That losing streak drove down the stock price on the Bluejays. But since Kalkbrenner’s return, Creighton is 11-2. The team’s only losses in that span came in the two games in which the opponent made more free throws. The Bluejays are obsessed with avoiding fouls, and the philosophy paid off again Saturday as UConn attempted just one free throw in the second half.

Loser: Providence takes rough loss

No. 20 Providence entered the day among the group of four Big East title contenders with just three league losses and was favored by 4.5 points at Madison Square Garden against a St. John’s team that had lost five of its last six games. But it was the Red Storm who came to play inside the Mecca of Basketball as the Friars shot a season-low 33.3% in a 73-68 loss. Providence closes with four of its final six games at home and will have a chance to play its way back into the league title conversation. But after a poor performance Saturday, the Friars will be playing catch up in the Big East race.

Loser: Duke gets jobbed vs. Virginia

As time expired in regulation between Duke and No. 8 Virginia, the score tied at 58-all, officials in Charlottesville, Virginia, called Reece Beekman for an illegal contact foul that would send Duke freshman Kyle Filipowski to the line to potentially win the game for the Blue Devils in regulation. But after a review of the play, officials overturned the foul call and instead ruled that the illegal contact – despite Filipowski getting the shot off before the horn – came after the final buzzer sounded.

You be the judge.

Filipowski up to that point was 0 of 1 from the free throw line and he finished 0 of 2 for the game after missing another in OT, so it’s no lock he’d have won the game for Duke. But entering the game he was hitting 77% from the charity stripe, third-highest among those on Duke’s team who have taken at least 20 attempts on the season.

The reversal may very well have been the difference in the game for Duke as it went on to lose in OT 69-62. For Duke and Filipowski, it’s another painful controversy that comes just weeks after a lengthy review led to a no-call after a Virginia Tech player inadvertently punched Filipowski in the throat. 

Duke also lost that game. 

Winner: Baylor squeaks it out

No. 14 Baylor kept itself firmly in the Big 12 title race with a 72-68 win at No. 17 TCU. The Horned Frogs were without star guard Mike Miles, who is on the mend from a knee injury, and the Bears nearly blew it late. But Baylor survived even after a potentially catastrophic turnover with eight seconds. So, yeah, this win wasn’t a thing of beauty for the Bears. Ultimately, though, any road win in the Big 12 is a precious commodity, regardless of how it is obtained. Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer combined for 51 points to pace Baylor as coach Scott Drew’s team continues to get elite guard play.

Loser: Michigan misses critical chance

Michigan and Indiana combined to go scoreless for the final 2:58 as the No. 18 Hoosiers squeaked out a 62-61 victory in a game the Wolverines sorely needed. Michigan led No. 18 Indiana by 11 in the first half and by seven with under 11 minutes while trying to add some meat to its weak NCAA Tournament resume. But when the game was on the line, the Wolverines went cold. IU held Michigan scoreless for the final 5:12, and it was a good thing since the Hoosiers couldn’t score either. Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino combined for 49, and no one else had more than four for the Hoosiers.

Winner: Cowboys make magic vanish at Hilton

Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum is known for “Hilton Magic” and the No. 11 Cyclones were undefeated in the venue until Saturday. Then Oklahoma State conquered the magic with a 64-56 victory to bolster its NCAA Tournament hopes. OK State entered as one of the “Last Four In” in Palm’s Bracketology and left with its fifth straight victory. This team was largely written off after a 1-4 start to Big 12 play, but the Pokes are now 7-5 against conference foes and clearly trending in the right direction at the right time.

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