For 3: What happened to Virginia, and are Buckeyes’ Big Ten’s Best?

Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire

The Big Ten won the Big Ten/ACC Challenge by two games, with blowout wins on Wednesday by Ohio State, Purdue, Maryland and Penn State clinching it for the league. Outside of the Challenge, we had Georgetown handing Oklahoma State its first loss, as the Hoyas got 33 points from Mac McClung in their first game without James Akinjo and Josh LeBlanc. San Diego State and Duquesne remained unbeaten.

And Chicago State broke two streaks with its win over SIU-Edwardsville on Wednesday. It was the Cougars’ first Division I win since Dec. 1 of last season. And it was their first win away from home since Jan. 12, 2017.

As for the big takeaways …

Three things from Wednesday

Virginia can’t score, and it finally caught up to them

Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire

The whole “Virginia can’t score” thing has gotten pretty tiresome over the last few years. The Cavaliers ranked No. 2 nationally last season in offensive efficiency and haven’t ranked outside the top 50 in that category since 2013. Well, this season it might be real: The Cavaliers are anemic on the offensive end.

Purdue hammered Virginia in West Lafayette on Wednesday, 69-40. It was the Cavaliers’ biggest loss since Tennessee beat them by 35 back in December 2013 and their first loss by 20-plus since the infamous defeat to UMBC in the 2018 NCAA tournament. But here’s some eye-opening numbers from ESPN Stats & Info: Virginia is the first ranked team in the shot clock era to score fewer than 50 points in three straight games, and 40 points matches the fewest points scored by a top-five team in the shot clock era. In other words, Wednesday night was a historically bad offensive night for Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers.

Purdue took Kihei Clark out of rhythm early on, Virginia couldn’t make shots from the perimeter and the Cavaliers had twice as many turnovers as assists. Now, Virginia’s defense wasn’t very good either; Purdue shot 52% from 3-point range and the Cavaliers looked a step slow for most of the game. The defense should be allowed to have an off-night once in a while, but it can’t be when Virginia is as poor offensively as it’s been this season.

The Cavaliers don’t get to the free-throw line, they’re one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country — but by volume and percentage — and they simply don’t have a lot of guys who can go and get their own shot. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter could bail them out last season. All three are gone, and there isn’t anyone left who can create their own shot.

Virginia is still going to be a factor in the ACC because of its defense, and Purdue deserves plenty of credit for what happened on Wednesday. Sasha Stefanovic hit six 3s, Jahaad Proctor had 16 points, Matt Haarms and Trevion Williams had some timely buckets in the second half when Virginia looked like it might make a run.

But the story of the game will be Virginia’s offense and how it hit a historic low on Wednesday night.

Ohio State is for real — and North Carolina has issues

Michigan State entered the season as the preseason No. 1 team in the country; Michigan skyrocketed up the rankings after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis; and Maryland has plenty of hype after blowing out Marquette.

But Ohio State might be the best team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes went into Chapel Hill and throttled North Carolina by 25, leading the Tar Heels for the final 35 minutes. They now have home wins over Cincinnati and Villanova and a road win over North Carolina, with the latter two coming by 25 points apiece. Chris Holtmann has two good point guards in CJ Walker and D.J. Carton; he’s got versatility on the wings and up front; he’s got a nice blend of experience and youth; and he has plenty of depth. That showdown against Kentucky in Las Vegas later this month is looking better every week.

As for North Carolina, it’s still Cole Anthony and everyone else. And that was highlighted Wednesday, when Armando Bacot left the game after seven minutes with an ankle injury and was ruled out for the game fairly quickly. Bacot has been a consistent option inside throughout the season, providing some balance for Anthony. Without him down low, Anthony just didn’t have enough help. Brandon Robinson has provided a boost since returning from injury, but Anthony was the only Carolina player in double figures and it took him 15 shots to get 15 points. The Tar Heels just don’t have the offensive weapons they’ve had in the past, and it showed on Wednesday.

DePaul beats Texas Tech in overtime, remains unbeaten

DePaul was down two with 17 seconds left, and Texas Tech had Davide Moretti — who hadn’t missed a free throw all season — going to the line. It appeared DePaul’s unbeaten season was coming to an end. Right?

Not with this DePaul team!

It’s all happening for Dave Leitao and the Blue Demons. Moretti missed his second shot, Jalen Coleman-Lands hit a game-tying 3-pointer and DePaul ended up knocking off the Red Raiders in overtime. DePaul is now 9-0 with a win over last year’s national runners-up, as well as road victories over Iowa and Minnesota.

Charlie Moore is playing with a ton of freedom after being buried on the bench at Kansas last season; he struggled to score on Wednesday, but he dished out 10 assists. Coleman-Lands is shooting as well as he has since leaving high school in 2015; he’s now 13-for-27 from 3-point range in his last three games, averaging 16.7 points in that span. And forward Paul Reed is a future pro. Not to get ahead of myself, but there’s a chance this team is 13-0 heading into a home date with Seton Hall on Dec. 30.

By the way, Texas Tech is now 5-3 with three straight losses and a matchup with Louisville coming up on Tuesday. Chris Beard has a tough task ahead of him.

Three things for Thursday

Auburn begins five-game in-state stretch

Bruce Pearl and Auburn will enjoy some home cooking in the coming weeks. Ray Carlin/USA TODAY Sports

Four of Auburn’s first seven games came away from home, with three games on neutral courts and one game at South Alabama. The Tigers passed every test thus far, winning all seven games. Now Bruce Pearl’s team returns home until the new year. Their next five games are all within the state’s borders, including four games at home and a matchup against Saint Louis in Birmingham. Thursday’s game is against Furman, which isn’t as good as last year’s group that beat Villanova and won 25 games but is still capable of making it a game.

Auburn has been better than expected this season, but the Tigers have simply overwhelmed opponents with athleticism and defense. That’s unlikely to change on Thursday — but Furman does do a good job of taking care of the ball and making shots from the perimeter, so we’ll see if Auburn can continue to take teams out of rhythm.

Oklahoma heads back on the road

Lon Kruger hasn’t shied away from bringing his Sooners away from home in the first month of the season. They played Minnesota in South Dakota, Oregon State in Portland and Stanford and Missouri in Kansas City. And they’re not going home anytime soon, with Thursday’s game at North Texas starting a three-game stretch that also includes trips to Wichita State and Creighton. How will Oklahoma look when it finally gets back to Norman later this month?

The Sooners are 6-1 thus far, with the lone loss coming to Stanford. Wichita State transfer Austin Reaves has been a big-time addition for Oklahoma, while Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek have produced up front. The consistency of former ESPN 100 recruit De’Vion Harmon at point guard will be the key for the Sooners moving forward.

Jordan Ford lighting up the scoreboard

Saint Mary’s senior guard Jordan Ford isn’t a national secret; he averaged 21.1 points last season and helped lead the Gaels to the NCAA tournament. But he’s taken his game to a higher level this season, scoring 27 points in a win over Utah State and 26 in a win over Wisconsin. He shot 9-for-17 from 3-point range in those two games, an area in which he struggled against better competition last season.

Moreover, Ford has played at least 40 minutes in six of nine games, only taking a seat in the Gaels’ three blowout wins. He played every minute in 13 games last season and played more than 95% of the available minutes during conference play; chances are he breaks those marks this season. Saint Mary’s has a massive test on Sunday against Dayton, but the Gaels host Northern Illinois on Thursday.

Author: Jeff Borzello

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