While the Pac-12 Conference has gotten off to quite the hot start for a majority of teams at the beginning of this season, Wednesday night was a bit troublesome. All five teams in action were susceptible to a loss at some point during the night.
Only two would fall, but #Pac12AfterDark was can't miss action, as it usually is.
#13 Utah 65, BYU 61: The Holy War was exactly that--a war. With BYU rocking the gorgeous, powder blue throwback jerseys, the fans in Provo were hopping. The Cougars would last have the lead early in the second half, but with less than 30 seconds left, they would still get a good look at a tying basket.
The Utes aren't a three-point shooting team per se, but they would go only 2-for-14 from deep on Wednesday, with both Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker making their only basket of the day from long range. Yet the highlight of the night wouldn't come on a three-point basket, but a steal and slam from Delon Wright that ranked as high as #3 on SportsCenter's Top 10, where Wright got the steal, and as he approached the basket, twirled the ball behind his back to himself to avoid a defender before slamming in home in one motion. Wright would finish with 18 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
It was nearly impossible for anyone outside of Tyler Haws, Kyle Collinsworth and Anson Winder to score for the Cougars. The trio would combine for 50 of the team's 61 points, and no other player would score more than three points individually. In fact, frontcourt members for BYU scored just four points all night long. Call that the Poeltl effect, shall we?
Colorado State 62, Colorado 60: While the loss may demoralizing to some Buffs fans, it's important to keep in mind that their rival Rams are actually quite solid. So much so in fact, that they haven't lost yet this year. They have won each of their last four games by less than 10 points, which means they also know how to win.
This was a battle of the balanced scoring Rams against the star-driven Buffs. J.J. Avila was the leading scorer for State with 19 points, but after that, six different players fell in the category of six to nine points. For Colorado, it was all about Xavier Johnson and Askia Booker. Johnson would pour in 20, while Booker got 18, but Josh Scott was nowhere to be found scoring the ball, going 0-for-7 from the field and scoring only two points.
With the Rams shooting poorly from the free throw stripe (just 14-for-26) and being outrebounded 40-to-26, those in Boulder can definitely say they let a tough rivalry game slip through their fingers.
#9 Gonzaga 81, Washington State 66: This game began and ended with Przemek Karnowski. The junior center from Poland who is somewhere in the vicinity of seven-feet tall and 300 pounds, obliterated whomever tried to guard him on the block from the first possession on. Karnowski would finish with 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and countless other possession affected by his massive size, which Wazzu had no way of combating.
For a team that has looked so ornery early on this season, the Cougars actually played competitively for 40 minutes with a team that many believe is destined to make the Final Four.
They struck gold in defending Kevin Pangos, the ‘Zags' pre-season All-America selection, who would go scoreless in just 23 minutes played. Yet the sweet shooting of Kyle Wiltjer and Byron Wesley combined for the two going 19-for-28 from the field with 41 points scored.
The Wazzu offense was once again led by their three-headed monster of Josh Hawkinson (18 points and 11 rebounds), DaVonte Lacy (14 points and three assists) and Ike Iroegbu (14 points and three assists). They will manage to be competitive inside the Pac-12, but unless they start getting contributions from players outside those three, they'll have a tough time winning.
California 45, Wyoming 42: Still no Jabari Bird, still no reason for me to take Cal too seriously. Yet, they keep on winning. These wins may not seem like much now, but when Cal is sitting on the fringe of a NCAA Tournament bid with 19, 20, 21 wins, winning these games against schools like Wyoming is going to matter.
Tyrone Wallace was the best thing about this game. He would finish with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but he was so obviously the best player on the court that it was fun to see what he would do next. Christian Behrens also chipped in with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Also interesting: three Cowboys starters were juniors. Not in the sense of eligibility, but juniors of their fathers. You had Larry Nance Jr., Derek Cooke Jr., and Charles Hankerson Jr. That's how interesting this game was; I'll leave it at that.
UCLA 77, UC Riverside 66: I feel as if I can pen a draft for when UCLA plays. Just copy and paste what was written last time: they trailed early, took over late, all five starters scored in double figures, Kevon Looney had a double-double.
While all of the above is true, this was a close game due to the gunslinging from the Highlanders. They would make 11 threes, which is exactly half the number of shots they would make for the entire game. Jaylen Bland was anything but, going 3-for-13 from long range himself.
Getting all of two points off the bench from Thomas Welsh, the other 75 points were left to the starters, who were led by Norman Powell, who poured in 20. Yet it was the leading rebounder, Tony Parker, who had the biggest game, grabbing 16 boards in addition to his 16 points.
Next up for the Bruins is an epic clash with Gonzaga on Saturday night from Pauley Pavillion.