/College basketball scores, winners and losers: Alabama keeps rolling; Bob Huggins has issues in West Virginia
College basketball scores, winners and losers: Alabama keeps rolling; Bob Huggins has issues in West Virginia

College basketball scores, winners and losers: Alabama keeps rolling; Bob Huggins has issues in West Virginia

Saturday in college hoops gave us last-second game-winners, buzzer-beaters, a suddenly-eligible freshman fully freed, and some seriously bad beats in between it all.

As always, there were some big winners and some big losers, so let’s sort out the noise by recapping the day that was.

Winner: the upcoming Kentucky-Alabama game

Alabama fans looking for another competitive fix after Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game won’t have to wait long to see a Crimson Tide back in action on a big stage. Alabama will head to Lexington on Tuesday¬† after improving to 4-0 in the SEC with a win over Auburn on Saturday. Kentucky’s authoritative 76-58 win at Florida improved the Wildcats to 3-0 in conference play. After a 1-6 start, Kentucky look like it could be a legitimate conference title contender. But a win against Alabama would go a long way toward actually proving that.

Winner: Texas’ Andrew Jones hits big shot

Roll your sleeves all the way down and throw that blanket over you, because this next sentence is sure to give you chills. Andrew Jones is the big winner of the day not just because he hit the game-winning 3-pointer to lift No. 4 Texas over West Virginia 72-70 – which he did – but because he did so the same weekend three years after he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Loser: Huggins has issues at WVU

When Oscar Tshiebwe and West Virginia parted ways earlier this month, Bob Huggins’ response was that West Virginia would respond by winning more games. The result has been quite the opposite. After taking a 72-70 loss to Texas, the Mountaineers are 1-2 since Tshiebwe’s departure. This team will wind up being fine – its guards remain stellar and Derek Culver is having a career year – but it’s possible Huggins miscalculated how important Tshiebwe was to this team as a defender and rebounder, and we’re seeing that play out in real time over the last week.

Winner: Auburn’s Cooper is super in debut

One would expect that after missing Auburn’s first 11 games of the season, Sharife Cooper, the Tigers’ five-star freshman who the NCAA finally deemed eligible for competition, might come out a tad rusty. And boy, one would be sadly, sadly mistaken. Instead, against rival Alabama, Cooper had a game-high 26 points and nine assists, flashing his talents as a legitimate one-and-done candidate because of his craftiness as an offensive weapon both as a scorer and distributor. Auburn lost 94-90, but it’s about as perfect a debut you could expect from someone who, up until two weeks ago, wasn’t even cleared to be practicing with the team.

Winner: Bama’s basketball team is winning too

Auburn’s Cooper¬† Cooper put on a show, but he alone couldn’t outduel Alabama’s starting lineup, which went hamburger against the Tigers. Freshman Josh Primo had 22 points, Herbert Jones had 19, Jordan Bruner had 20, Jaden Shackelford had 11 and John Petty Jr. had 10. Combined, they went 9-of-26 from 3-point range and accounted for all but 12 of the team’s 94 points. The Tide have now won five straight and are pacing quickly towards becoming the SEC frontrunner.

Loser: Washington heading in wrong direction

An historically dreadful season for Washington got worse Saturday as the Huskies – again – took a loss, this time to Cal in 84-78 fashion. The loss drops them to 1-9 on the season – the program’s worst start in nearly seven decades – and to 0-5 in Pac-12 play. KenPom.com currently projects Cal and Washington to finish at the bottom of the league standings, and in that order. It’s entirely feasible they won’t win again for weeks with USC, UCLA, Colorado and Utah on deck. Their last, and only, win came on Dec. 9 against Seattle.

Loser: Marek Dolezaj’s dental health

Syracuse big man Marek Dolezaj paid a steep price for his tenacity on the boards late in a 74-69 victory for the Orange over Georgetown. Dolezaj caught an elbow to the face while battling for a rebound with Jamorko Pickett, and it cost him a front tooth. Dolezaj is from Slovakia, where hockey is prominent, and he appeared unfazed by the bloody mess. After receiving some attention from the Syracuse medical staff on the sideline, he returned to the floor with a smile after missing no game time and helped close things out. The 6-10 senior is having his most productive season yet and finished with 11 points and nine rebounds against the Hoyas.

Winner: Duke transfer sparks Creighton

Alex O’Connell was an underutilized marksman at Duke whose scoring punch never quite matched expectations, flashing brilliance while, on the whole, never putting it all together. And while he’s yet to do that at Creighton as a transfer – he’s averaging career-lows in minutes, points and 3-point percentage – Saturday was indeed a big one. He popped off for 16 points off the bench to spark No. 7 Creighton’s 97-79 win over St. John’s, with nine of those coming in the first half as the Bluejays built a big halftime lead the Johnnies couldn’t overcome.

Loser: Iowa State stays winless in Big 12

There is just one team in the Big 12 that has not yet won a game in league play, and the honor – er, shame – belongs to none other than Iowa State. The Cyclones dropped their third consecutive game Saturday to Texas Tech in embarrassing fashion, too: 91-64. Their only wins on the season are against Jackson State (1-5) and Arkansas Pine Bluff (2-8). The schedule hasn’t been particularly kind, with three of its last outings coming against ranked foes, but its showing Saturday was a dreadful cherry on top of a pretty brutal season thus far.

Winners: Vanderbilt backers cash in

After Mississippi State’s Abdul Ado slammed home a score to put the Bulldogs up 79-73 with 48 seconds left against Vandy, it looked as if Vanderbilt +3.5 backers were absolutely, positively toast. Alas, they were not. Vandy ripped off eight points over the next 40 seconds to cut it to within the margin. It then sent Mississippi State to the free throw line twice in the final 10 seconds, and Jalen Johnson and Cameron Matthews both made 1-of-2 in their respective trips just before the final horn. The 84-81 loss for the Commodores narrowly stayed within the 3.5-point margin, saving Vanderbilt bettors but causing a late-game sweat down to the final horn.

Loser: Drexel drops CAA opener in heartbreaking fashion

Drexel’s lead was four over Charleston as it entered the final minute of the second half. Then it shrunk to two with 46 seconds left. Then, in a ghastly and costly gaffe, it dwindled to zilch. After turning the ball over with 16 seconds left, Drexel made the critical mistake of fouling Charleston on a 3-point attempt with one second left, and Charleston’s Zep Jasper made all three to lift the Cougars to a 61-60 win.