TOP 25 REWIND: Michigan State, Villanova earn big road wins
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — In a season marked by parity, No. 2 Michigan State and No. 3 Villanova turned in big road performances as reminders of their title potential in March.
The Spartans (26-3) completed one of the biggest comebacks in NCAA history to win at Northwestern. And the Wildcats (24-3) beat No. 4 Xavier in the week’s biggest matchup on the AP Top 25 schedule ahead of Monday’s latest poll release.
Michigan State rallied from 27 down to win 65-60 and earn a 10th straight win.
“We needed the win, don’t get me wrong, but they deserved the win,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “They outplayed us for two-thirds of that game in every fashion. ... For us, you’ve got to win a game like this once in a while.”
Then there was Villanova, which was coming off a loss to bubble team Providence. The Wildcats secured a season sweep of Xavier (24-4) to seize control of the Big East race, while extending a streak of avoiding consecutive losses dating to the 2012-13 season.
“We say, ‘We’ve been here, this is what we’ve come to experience, this is what we want’ and just get on to the next play,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “A coach can’t do that. The players either do that for each other or they don’t.”
No. 12 Duke won at No. 11 Clemson on Sunday despite playing a third straight game without freshman Marvin Bagley III, the ACC’s leading scorer and rebounder. Bagley has been recovering from what the school has described as a “mild” right knee sprain, though he hasn’t played since the Feb. 8 loss at rival North Carolina.
WEST COAST ROLL
When Saint Mary’s won at Gonzaga on Jan. 18, it looked like the Gaels might be wrestling control of the West Coast Conference away from the Bulldogs.
But ninth-ranked Gonzaga (25-4, 15-1) hasn’t lost since, beating Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine this week to push its win streak to nine games. And with last week’s win at Saint Mary’s , the Zags are in control of the WCC regular-season race.
No. 10 Auburn took a big injury hit in its loss to South Carolina .
Starting forward Anfernee McLemore was lost for the season after being taken from the court on a stretcher with a dislocated left ankle. McLemore had started 21 of 27 games and entered Saturday’s game averaging 7.7 points and 5.3 rebounds.
No. 7 Texas Tech also lost leading scorer Keenan Evans to a foot injury during a loss to Baylor . The extent of the injury has not been disclosed.
Top-ranked Virginia (24-2, 13-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) bounced back from an overtime home loss to Virginia Tech by winning at Miami . And the Cavaliers remain at least three games up in the loss column on the rest of the league, which means they’re one win away from clinching at least a share of the regular-season title and two wins away from claiming it outright.
No. 23 Oklahoma (16-10) is likely heading out of the AP Top 25 as its February slide morphs into a collapse. The Sooners fell at home to Texas on Saturday for their fifth straight loss. Oklahoma and freshman star Trae Young stood at fourth nationally last month but haven’t won since beating Baylor on Jan. 30.
Fifth-ranked Cincinnati, No. 6 Purdue and No. 8 Ohio State were the other members of a list of seven top-10 teams to lose last week. Both of the Buckeyes’ losses — at Penn State and at No. 22 Michigan — came by double-digit margins.
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