Night Court: Ohio State smashes Maryland; Kentucky halfway to 40-0

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Ohio State’s won four of its last five and is 6-3 in the Big Ten. (USATSI)

Everything you ought to know from college basketball’s Thursday …

Hey, that’s a good win: Ohio State smears Maryland.

The Buckeyes needed another prove-it game in part because it feels like a lot of people are still doubting this team’s top-20 worthiness, if you will. Last year’s group was so sad on offense, it soured a bunch of people on the program’s reputation as a whole.

But hopefully D’Angelo Russell’s emergence and Shannon Scott’s point guard play have put most of that negative thought in the drawer. OSU isn’t a national title contender (yet) but it’s certainly capable of a solid seed and a deep March run.

Russell is now starting to really challenge Jahlil Okafor for Freshman of the Year, something few thought possible as recently as two weeks ago. Okafor’s still in the lead, but Russell gained more ground Thursday night in OSU’s 80-56 devouring of Maryland. More on Russell a few sections below.

His freshman counterpart — and arguably a top-five frosh as well — Melo Trimble had just three points, one rebound and one assists. Very unproductive game, and Trimble’s going to have to channel some of that early January play to keep Maryland from slipping. Terps (18-4) have dropped two of three.

Marc Loving, someone above glue-guy status but still unknown outside of the Big Ten, had a career-best 19 points on Thursday for the Bucks. Ohio State was as active in the paint as I’ve seen them all season. Not sure many teams would have taken them out tonight.

Oh, that’s a bad loss: UConn looks sloppy in road slip-up at Cincy.

Probably gotta start talking about UConn as a surefire NIT team. The Huskies are 11-8 overall and now 4-3 in the average AAC after falling 70-58 at Cincinnati on Thursday night. And it felt like a 20-point deficit. The Bearcats (15-5) are doing well without Mick Cronin (the Cincy coach has to sit the rest of the season for health issues related to blood pressure and stress).

UConn’s not doing OK without Shabazz Napier. This is becoming a lost senior season for Ryan Boatright, who’s had injuries affect his leadership campaign. On Thursday night Cincy forced UConn to shoot 33 percent from the field and turn the ball over 17 times. Boatright committed four of those TOs in addition to 22 points on 17 shots.

Huskies cannot drop a road game Sunday at Houston.

Kentucky gets to 20-0.

Ugly game in Columbia, but UK wins 69-53 over a Missouri team that’s in year one of a three-year rebuild, basically.

Andrew Harrison had one of the strongest games of his sophomore season. The UK point guard scored 15 points, nine of them off free throws, and tallied three apiece in the rebounds, steals and assists categories.

Next up for Kentucky: home to Alabama on Saturday and home to Georgia on Tuesday.

UCLA goes out, wins at home. Utah hasn’t won at UCLA since 1961.

This one’s a good one for Steve Alford, considered his team got poleaxed by Utah in SLC earlier this month.

But UCLA has become Arkansas, basically. Reliable at home and miserable away from it. To wit:

The Bruins won 69-59 and kept Delon Wright in check all night. Actually, Norman Powell did. The UCLA senior guard, who I think makes an NBA roster within the next two seasons, held Wright to 15 points and six rebounds, but a lot of that damage was done in the closing minutes, when UCLA had the game in hand. Powell finished with 23 points.

Eleventh-ranked Utah is now 16-4. UCLA is 12-9 and basically needs to finished third or better in the Pac-12 to have a shot at an at-large berth.

UMass holds serve at home and gets a win over Dayton. That’s a boost.

The Minutemen have had a hangover season after reaching last year’s NCAA Tournament, getting that far for the first time in ages.

But barring an A-10 tourney title, UMass won’t be making consecutive trips. But at least Derek Kellogg’s team got a nice home win over 16-4 Dayton on Thursday night.

The Minutemen won 66-64 and got 18 points from Cady Lalanne.

For Dayton to have won 80 percent of its games to this point is pretty solid. Can’t fault a short and shorthanded team for getting picked off in a few road games in league play. The Flyers still have some slack in regard to NCAAs inclusion.

TODAY’S TOP PLAYERS

1. Kris Dunn leads off tonight’s list because the powerful Providence point guard put up a trip-dub against DePaul. Dunn had 27 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in PC’s 83-72 win over DePaul, which was an afternoon tip. Dunn also had three steals. He’s skyrocketed up draft boards; might this five-star recruit wind up as a top-20 pick come June?

2. A near-triple double from D’Angelo Russell. The OSU phenom had 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. It’s OSU’s only game of the week, which means he’s ineligible for Freshman of the Week honors here on the site come next Tuesday morning.

3. Askia Booker had three overtimes to get it done, but the man finished with 43 points for Colorado in its win over USC. More on that below.

4. Belmont’s Evan Bradds had one more point (19) than rebounds. The Bruins rocked out. More below.

5. Nineteen points, 14 rebounds, three blocks. We haven’t had much reason to praise George Mason, but Shevon Thompson got the Patriots a 68-60 victory over Saint Louis.

6. Speedy Smith: 12 assists, 11 points, five rebounds, two steals. He’s a gem, and he plays for Louisiana Tech.

7. Give it up for Cameron Payne. The Murray State sophomore had 21 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and five assists. Now let’s get to his game …

Numbers to figure

61: The number of days it has been since Murray State lost a game. With its 85-78 win against Eastern Kentucky, the Racers are 18-4 and competing with Belmont for the Ohio Valley title. This was the best game of the night, really. EKU had two 2-foot bunnies to win it at the end of regulation but missed both. The Racers are a force, and this is the best run the team’s had since that group that started out so strong in 2011-12, the 31-2 team that earned a No. 6 seed. It’s already been longer than you realized since Isaiah Canaan played college hoops.

54: The number of times a team has scored 100 points or more against a Division I opponent this season.

103: The number of points Belmont put up tonight on Jacksonville State. The Bruins sank 17 3s.

Other outcomes blipping the radar:

  • Gonzaga gets a ho-hum 64-46 win over Portland. Damontas Sabonis came off the bench to finish with a double-double (13 and 11).
  • Colorado and USC went out and played way more basketball than anyone asked them to. The game needed three overtimes before Colorado got out with the 98-84 win. Kaitin Reinhardt had 35 points, a career-high, but it came in the loss and was overshadowed by Booker’s huge night.
  • Brandon Dawson went for 17 points and 11 rebounds in Michigan State’s 71-51 win over Rutgers.
  • With a 69-56 win over Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech improved to 7-1 in Conference USA and 16-5 overall. They will be a darling pick to win a game in the NCAAs if indeed La. Tech makes the Big Dance.
  • And if La. Tech doesn’t rep C-USA, maybe Old Dominion will. Now at 16-4, the Monarchs beat FIU 71-56.
  • UTEp and UAB played a fun one on CBS Sports Network. The Miners, who have stumbled as of late, got the 71-69 home win. UAB missed a 3-pointer as time expired.

Miscellanea, etc. …

Obviously the major headline from Thursday is the dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon from Duke. The Blue Devils will not be winning the national title this season.

Kinda wild: Dan Dakich’s criticisms of Iowa have been so strong that the schoo is opting to have him surrounded by security when he calls the Hawkeyes’ game this weekend.

From SB Nation: “Why Kansas is No. 1 in RPI, and why that doesn’t (and RPI shouldn’t) matter.”

Even within the broader world of general sports consumption, I don’t think Virginia’s under the radar anymore.

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