DAILY DISH: UConn upsets Syracuse, Oklahoma State is dangerous

By: Kels Dayton

Ryan Boatright led UConn to its biggest win of the season in knocking off No. 6 Syracuse. (

Ryan Boatright led UConn to its biggest win of the season in knocking off No. 6 Syracuse. (

“They’re leaving the Big East with a bad taste of UConn in their mouth.”

That’s what Ryan Boatright declared after the Huskies outclassed Syracuse, 66-58 on Wednesday night in the final Big East game between the longtime rivals. UConn-Syracuse never got as much hype as Duke-North Carolina, Louisville-Kentucky, or even Indiana-Michigan, but it has been just as intense and important a game over the past 25 years in college hoops. It’s going to be AWFUL to see this game go away on a regular basis, and even if it returns in some stupid, non-conference November matchup, it’s not going to be the same. Shame on everybody who had a hand in making that a reality.

UConn can’t reach the NCAA or Big East tournaments, so beating the arch rival Orange is the biggest win that the Huskies (17-6, 7-4 Big East) will get this season. And they knew it, too. Boatright was the best player on the floor on Wednesday night, finishing with 17 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. Omar Calhoun scored 15 points and grabbed 6 rebounds for the Huskies, who shot 8-for-14 from three-point range against the ‘Cuse’s vaunted zone. The smaller Huskies also outrebounded the Orange, 35-34 and held Syracuse to 35 % shooting from the floor.

And despite a rash of court-stormings that have across America like the Bird Flu, Huskies fans held themselves together in the stands. Why? Because schools with multiple national titles under their belts don’t storm courts. You hear that, NC State?

Marcus Smart is one of the best players nobody's talking about. (Sue Ogrocki/The Statesman)

Marcus Smart is one of the best players nobody’s talking about. (Sue Ogrocki/The Statesman)

Oklahoma State is on fire. The Cowboys have won six in a row and seven of eight after dump-trucking Texas Tech, 91-67 on Wednesday. Freshman point guard Marcus Smart might be the most underrated player in the nation. He’s averaging 14.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, and should be in the running for first team All-America status. Smart is even being touted as a top-five pick in next year’s NBA Draft, but there’s still not much buzz surrounding him. There’s not much buzz surrounding leading scorer Markel Brown (15.4 ppg) either. Brown hit seven threes and finished with 25 points in the Cowboys’ win over Tech. With those two going well, Oklahoma State could be one of the most dangerous teams in the country. You don’t just waltz into Allen Fieldhouse and beat Kansas if you’re not a solid threat. They’ve got incredible talent, with the high-flying Le’Bryan Nash (13.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and steady freshman Phil Forte (11.2 ppg) also finding their groove. You heard it here first: you do not want to play Oklahoma State come March.

Colorado State has now won 27 consecutive games at home after outlasting San Diego State, 66-60 on Wednesday. The Rams are now 20-4, and nationally ranked for the first time since 1954. This team has a truckload of talent, with big men Colton Iverson (13.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg) and Greg Smith (11.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) leading the way. They also rank No. 1 in the nation in rebounding. Guard Dorian Green is one of the best players no one has ever heard about. After the game, head coach Larry Eustachy walked over to the student section and let out several two-fisted screams. Eustachy has had his issues in the past, but he’s always been a terrific coach with a knack for turning around programs with little tradition of success. He’s doing it again at Colorado State. This team, like Oklahoma State, has a chance at making a legitimate run in the NCAAs.

Creighton has now lost three straight after falling to Northern Iowa, 61-54 on Wednesday night in Cedar Falls. The Bluejays are 3-5 since January 19, and have fallen all the way out of the Top 25. Creighton now finds itself in third place in the Valley at 9-5. Two of the losses (at 5-9 Drake and at home against Illinois State) are hard to figure, especially given the fact that Creighton raced out to a 17-1 start. Despite the slump, there’s still plenty of time for the Bluejays to break free and accomplish all of their preseason goals. But it’s going to take more help from stud forward Doug McDermott’s teammates to accomplish that.

UNLV also finds itself in a downward spiral after losing three of four, all on the road. It’s not like their losses have come to the cream of the Mountain West crop, either. The Rebels were handled by Boise State, Fresno State and Air Force, whose combined league record is 12-16. UNLV is way too talented to be middling at 5-5 in league play (18-7 overall). Sure, the Mountain West is a gauntlet and Air Force (15-8, 6-4) has now announced itself as a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender. But UNLV has the league’s best player and potential Top-3 pick in the NBA Draft in Anthony Bennett and reigning conference Player of the Year Mike Moser, who has completely disappeared this season. They should be better than this.



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