In a surprising turn of events, the college basketball scene witnessed major upsets as unranked teams Nebraska and Iowa State took down the No. 1 and No. 2 teams, Purdue and Houston, respectively. These unexpected losses have not only shaken up the current rankings but have also set the stage for an intriguing season ahead.
The Purdue Upset
A Historic Feat:
On a remarkable night for Nebraska basketball, the Cornhuskers secured an 88-72 victory over top-ranked Purdue. This marked the first time since February 6, 2016, that the top two teams in the AP men’s college basketball poll suffered defeats at the hands of unranked opponents on the same day. It’s an event that has occurred only eight times in the history of the poll.
Nebraska’s Shooting Prowess:
Purdue entered the game with a seven-game winning streak, showcasing dominance over teams like Arizona, Illinois, and Alabama. However, Nebraska matched Purdue shot for shot in the first half and sealed their lead with a 13-0 run, finishing the opening period 11 points ahead. The Cornhuskers’ exceptional 3-point shooting (14-for-23 as a team) proved to be a game-changer, with seven players contributing from behind the arc. Keisei Tominaga led the charge with 19 points, while Rienk Mast added 18.
Despite Purdue’s efforts to close the gap in the second half, Nebraska’s resilience prevailed. Coach Matt Painter acknowledged the pivotal role of Nebraska’s halftime lead, emphasizing the challenge his team faced. This loss adds to Purdue’s recent struggles against unranked opponents, making them the second team in AP poll history to lose multiple games as No. 1 to unranked opponents in consecutive seasons.
The victory holds historical significance for Nebraska, marking their first win over an AP No. 1 team since 1982. This achievement resonates with the program’s rich history, with the last such triumph occurring in 1958 under coach Jerry Bush, the grandfather of current coach Fred Hoiberg.
The Houston Upset
Introduction to “Hilton Magic”:
Meanwhile, over in Iowa, the Houston Cougars faced their first loss of the season against Iowa State in a closely contested battle. The Cyclones, fueled by the legendary “Hilton Magic,” jumped out to a 14-0 lead, forcing 12 first-half turnovers and leaving the Cougars struggling to find their rhythm.
Houston’s Comeback Effort:
Despite the early setbacks, Houston mounted a comeback with a 7-0 run, tying the game at 41-41 with 10:48 remaining. The game remained closely contested until the final minute, with Houston briefly taking the lead. However, Iowa State’s Milan Momcilovic sealed the victory with a contested fadeaway, securing a two-point lead and hitting two crucial free throws in the final seconds.
Coach Sampson’s Reflection:
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson attributed the loss to his team’s performance, acknowledging that they were not at their best. The defeat marked the end of Houston’s undefeated streak, leaving them at 14-1 for the season.
Implications for Rankings:
1 Spot Up for Grabs:
With both Purdue and Houston suffering losses, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is now open for a new contender. The door is wide open for No. 3 Kansas, currently standing at 13-1, to potentially reclaim the top position. Bill Self’s team has a chance to make their mark with upcoming games against UCF and No. 9 Oklahoma.
The recent upsets in college basketball have added a layer of unpredictability to the ongoing season. Nebraska’s historic win over Purdue and Iowa State’s triumph against Houston has not only shifted the rankings but also set the stage for an exciting and competitive period in college basketball. As teams regroup and strategize, fans can expect more thrilling matchups and surprising outcomes in the games to come. Stay tuned for the latest updates in the world of college basketball!