Blue Devils play beyond years, rise to No. 2
Duke rose two spots to No. 2 after defeating the then-No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers 80-70 on their home court Wednesday to improve its record to 8-0. The Blue Devils added their eighth double digit victory of the season led by point guard Tyus Jones. The freshman led the team in points and assists with 22 and four, respectively, and tied a team-high with six rebounds.
Despite its loss Wednesday, Wisconsin was able to bounce back three days later and defeat Marquette and former Duke associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski 49-38 on the road, despite shooting just 32 percent. 7-foot center Frank Kaminsky ended the game with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Badgers fell to No. 5 after their loss to Duke despite the strong defensive effort Saturday, though.
Wildcats prevail in top-10 showdowns
After suffering a 66-63 overtime loss in Tucson, Ariz., Gonzaga stayed at No. 9 in this week's poll. Despite another big-time win against a strong West Coast squad, Arizona was jumped by Duke, and is now No. 3 after being ranked second last week. The Wildcats maintained their home winning streak with the victory, increasing it to 26. Their defense once again keyed a statement victory as Arizona held a high-powered Gonzaga offense to 39.7 percent shooting and just 4-of-17 from 3-point range.
The Bulldogs were nearly able to extend the game to double overtime after a foul behind the 3-point line, but their fate was sealed after Byron Wesley air-balled his first free throw and missed the other two. Despite the loss, Gonzaga showed that it can play with anyone in the country, even on the road, in high-pressure games Saturday afternoon.
Just a day before Arizona's win, No. 1 Kentucky continued to win late in games by giving then-No. 6 Texas its first loss of the season. The Longhorns fell two spots to No. 8 and desperately missed star point guard Isaiah Taylor when trying to stay in the game late on the road.
A strong double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds by Willie Cauley-Stein allowed the Wildcats to take advantage of their size and depth to wear Texas down in the second half despite a slow start. Kentucky will close out the month of December with the likes of North Carolina, UCLA and Louisville, which should provide head coach John Calipari several more measuring sticks before SEC play begins.
Shocking upset in Ann Arbor, Wolverines and Spartans both unranked
After being stunned at home 72-70 by the only independent team in Division I college basketball, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Michigan fell out of the poll after being ranked 17th last week. Even a career-high of 32 points by Caris LeVert wasn't enough to keep a win out of the hands of the Highlanders. Although LeVert was efficient from the field, the rest of the squad combined for 38 points on just 33.3 percent shooting. Michigan will not face an easy schedule this upcoming week, as it will face Eastern Michigan at home and Arizona in a tough environment on the road Saturday looking to bounce back.
The Wolverines' rival, Michigan State, also fell out of the top 25 after falling in overtime to Notre Dame, which rose to No. 25 this week. For the first time since the 2010-11 campaign, neither Michigan nor Michigan State is ranked in the AP Poll.
Tar Heels outhustled once again
North Carolina took its second loss of the season and second to an unranked opponent against Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last Tuesday, falling 60-55 despite one of its best defensive performances of the season. The Tar Heels are now No. 21 and fell nine spots after being ranked 12th last week. Although they were able to control East Carolina and dominate in a 108-64 win Sunday. North Carolina will have to show more consistency on boards at top-ranked Kentucky Saturday to have any shot at avoiding a third nonconference loss.
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