Texas continues to tumble, Alabama leaves the door open in SEC

A chaotic week in college basketball culminated Saturday with — you guessed it! — yet another chaotic slate of games. Two top-10 teams bit the dust and a total of four ranked teams took losses on a day where surprising results and stunning outcomes were again the theme, fittingly capping a week where five of the top-10 teams in the sport had already taken spills.

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Oklahoma State defeating No. 6 Texas in a double-overtime thriller took the cake as the biggest stunner of the day. Though Texas had lost its last two, the Cowboys, who were underdogs on their home court, overcame a mediocre performance from potential No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham to claim their biggest win of the season and establish themselves again as a legitimate tourney team.

No. 18 Missouri also laid claim to a top-10 win, defeating No. 10 Alabama 68-65. The Tigers did their damage in regulation, but not before nearly blowing a 22-point second-half deficit. Their lead shrunk to one in the final minute, but Alabama could not quite get over the hump. It puts Mizzou just three games off Alabama’s lead in the SEC with seven left on the slate and, for now, keeps the Tide from completely sweeping away the rest of the league.

That wasn’t all the action we had from Saturday’s loaded schedule. So, as we do every week, the day’s biggest winners and losers are highlighted below.

Loser: Alabama takes first loss in SEC play

One of the biggest rollercoaster events of the afternoon took place in the SEC on Saturday when No. 18 Missouri throttled No. 10 Alabama for the better part of 35 minutes of game time … and still nearly lost.

The Tigers held on to win 68-65 but not without almost completely blowing their 22-point second-half lead. In fact, they were up 20 with 6:02 to play before Alabama reeled off a remarkable 21-4 run to close the game, eventually cutting the lead to one.

Had the Tide not started so slow, they could’ve easily came away with another Quad 1 win to bolster their resume and extended their lead in league play. Instead, a fantastic finish couldn’t overshadow the dismal start for Alabama, coughing up a big opportunity to potentially boost itself onto the 1 line for the tourney and giving the Tigers a fighting chance to stay alive in the race to catch Bama.

“I didn’t think we played like we needed to in the first half,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “We gotta get these guys ready to go a little bit better in these Saturday morning games. But I give our guys a ton of credit. We were down 22 with 13 minutes to go in the game and had multiple opportunities to take the lead in the last minute, minute-and-a-half in the game. Couldn’t have asked for much better effort in the last 13 minutes. If we get that effort for 40 minutes, we win the game.”

The key to beating Alabama this season, as Oats alluded to, might be catching them early. Literally. Two of its five losses this season came when the tip time was at noon ET and it is now 1-3 on the year in games that tipped before 2 p.m. ET.

Winner: Drake stays undefeated

Less than a week after jumping into the AP Top 25 poll for the first time all season, No. 25 Drake looked as if it was on the verge of taking its first loss of the season on the road against a scrappy Valpo team. But Drake did what Drake does best, assembling a second-half surge to survive, 80-77. The Bulldogs are a perfect 18-0 and tied for the second-most wins in college basketball right now with No. 1 Gonzaga.

Loser: Texas troubles continue

Just 11 days ago, Texas was ranked in the top 10, 11-2 overall, 5-1 in the Big 12 and on the brink of pushing No. 2 Baylor in the Big 12 race. My, oh my, what 11 days can do to a resume. The Longhorns fell while shorthanded to Oklahoma by a single point on Jan. 26, then by 14 to No. 2 Baylor on Feb. 2, then by eight to unranked Oklahoma State on Saturday (albeit in double OT). They’ve now lost three straight for the first time all season and all but formally bowed out of the conference title race after falling to four games off Baylor’s pace with their loss to the Pokes.

Winner: Seton Hall grinds out close one vs. UConn

After trailing by as many as 18, UConn made a spirited push in the second half to overcome the deficit against Seton Hall at home — including an impressive 18-2 second-half run. But the Pirates showed some serious mettle down the stretch as Sandro Mamukelashvili came alive with 14 second-half points to keep the Huskies on the leash in an 80-73 win. Mamukelashvili finished with 22 in the game and, with his team’s backs against the wall, managed to come up enormously in crunch time to avoid a complete collapse.

“We’ve got a lot of experienced guys on this team,” he told John Fanta after the game. “I feel like we understand what it takes to be against the wall.”

Loser: Miami catches bad break in OT loss

Miami fell 80-76 to No. 16 Virginia Tech in overtime — a gut-wrenching defeat for a performance full of guts. And to exacerbate the pain, it’s quite possible Miami should’ve won in regulation. The Hurricanes were up by three points in the final seconds when Hokies guard Hunter Cattoor drilled a 3 in the final second, but it appeared as if Cattoor may have stepped out of bounds before the shot, which would’ve nullified the bucket. However, officials not only did not call out of bounds, but also chose not to review it.

Winner: St. John’s stays hot with huge road win

Is there any team as hot right now as St. John’s? In the Big East, that answer is unequivocally: No. The Red Storm ousted Providence as their latest victim Saturday, 92-81. It was arguably their most impressive road win of the season, and it comes amid a six-game winning streak that includes wins over Villanova, Marquette and UConn. This team is messing around and dancing squarely into the tourney picture. A truly remarkable turnaround for a team that three weeks ago was 6-6 overall and 2-6 in league play.

Winner: Saint Louis topples A10 leader St. Bonaventure

Saint Louis was picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 this season, but nothing has seemingly gone its way to this point. It missed more than a month because of COVID-19 interruptions. Then when the Billikens returned to play in late January, they lost two straight and slid out of the rankings. Saint Louis entered Saturday as one of two teams in its league yet to win a league game. 

The Billikens got back on track in a big way Saturday, though, ousting Atlantic 10 leader St. Bonaventure 70-59. They’ve got a ways to go to build their resume — and it looks like the way into the Big Dance may need to come by clinching the postseason tourney auto-bid — but the win showed this team still has the goods to go with any team on any given day. This is one that could wind up as an inflection point as the moment Saint Louis finally turned its season around.

Loser: Shorthanded Boston College draws short straw

Boston College played for the first time Saturday in three weeks after an extended COVID-19 hiatus. So no one expected the Eagles to really do much against NC State at home. But adding to that difficult dynamic, they did so with only five healthy scholarship players, and subsequently got drilled, 81-65. It was all but over early, too, after NC State went on an improbable 37-3 run over a 12-minute span in the first half.

“I didn’t even know they had five [healthy scholarship players] but you can definitely tell there were points in the game where they didn’t want to get back and they wanted to conserve energy,” NC State senior DJ Funderburk said after the game.

Winner: Illinois gets the best of Wisconsin

Illinois’ win last season over Wisconsin snapped a 15-game streak for the Badgers in the series. Now it’s the No. 12 Illini who’ve got their own streak going after defeating No. 19 Wisconsin 75-60 at home, bucking a years’ long trend of struggling against their conference foe with a dominant, decisive decision.

“We got off to a pretty solid start and I thought our defensive presence was really good,” Illini coach Brad Underwood said. “We challenged everything, had a hand in their face. I thought our stunts and rotations were really good.”

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