As the month of December continues to fly by, non-conference play is starting to dwindle down. With many schools having exams this past week, college basketball action took a bit of a back seat. Those exams still did not keep some mid-major schools and players from making headlines. This week featured some explosive scoring, including a notable performance from outside the NCAA.
Mid-Major Week Six Takeaways
The Missouri Valley Conference followed up Loyola-Chicago’s Final Four run with a dud of a season last year. That is starting to look like an anomaly, as the Northern Iowa Panthers look like a mid-major team to be reckoned with. The Panthers picked up a signature win this past week, defeating 23rd ranked Colorado 79-76 on Tuesday. Northern Iowa used the three-point line to pull the upset, shooting 53.8 percent from behind the arc. They also outrebounded Colorado 31-29 and used 15 offensive rebounds to generate 15 second-chance points. A.J. Green and Trae Berhow each scored 20 points for the Panthers, with each also making five three-point baskets.
With the win, Northern Iowa now sits at 10-1, with their only loss coming by five to West Virginia in the Cancun Challenge. The win over Colorado will carry weight for the rest of the year, as the Buffaloes should compete at the top of the Pac 12. Colorado head coach Tad Boyle described this matchup as “the biggest trap game of the year,” and his prediction came true. It was just the Buffaloes’ fifth home non-conference loss under Boyle. Northern Iowa is now the clear cut favorite in the Missouri Valley, and while they may not be Final Four material, they will make someone sweat come tournament time.
Big Sky Scoring Machine
The scoreboard in Cheyney, Washington may still be recovering after the offense Eastern Washington put up this week. The Eagles had a pair of scorers that helped them put up 244 points in their two victories this week.
In a 98-82 win over fellow mid-major North Dakota last Sunday, Eagles’ guard Jacob Davison put up 39 points. Davison had a balanced effort, scoring 19 points in the first half and 20 points in the second half. He shot 17-27 from the field, doing most of his damage from the paint. After the game, head coach Shantay Legans called Davison “a talented scorer who does so many things on offense that makes him hard to guard.”
Davison’s big night was short-lived, as teammate Mason Peatling had a record-setting night in Eastern Washington’s 146-89 victory over NAIA member Multnomah. Peatling exploded for 54 points, which was not only a career-high but also broke both the school and conference record for points in a game as well. The previous Big Sky record was 53 points set by Willie Humes of Idaho State in 1971. 34 of Peatling’s points came in the first half, and his 24 made field goals were also a new school and conference record.
Quite a night for Eastern Washington's Mason Peatling.
– 54 points (most by any D-I player this season)
– 23 minutes (fewest in a 50-point game over past 20 seasons)
– 80% FG pct; best in a 50-point game over past 20 seasons
EWU's opponent Multnomah hit 21 threes and lost by 57. https://t.co/tja0k440s4
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 14, 2019
Davison and Peatling are leading an Eastern Washington program that are the favorites in the Big Sky this year. The Eagles played Washington tight and should be a tough out in March.
Duke It Out
The Duquesne Dukes defeated Radford 71-49 on Saturday, extending their record to 9-0. That is the Dukes’ best start since 1968-69. Duquesne has not made the NCAA Tournament since 1977, but this team is looking to change that. For the first time since 2011, the Dukes received a vote in the AP poll, which means the nation is starting to take notice. Still, there’s a lot to be said about the overall strength of their schedule thus far.
Keith Dambrot is a combined 44-29 in his three years at Duquesne.
Dukes are 9-0 for the first time since the 1968-68 season.
Have not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1977.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 15, 2019
The remaining games left in their non-conference slate should be victories, though none of them will provide a signature win. Luckily, the Atlantic 10 appears to be a quality league once again, which will give the Dukes plenty of opportunities to boost their résumé. We may even be lucky enough to get ranked matchup between Duquesne and Dayton in late January.
Mid-majors can make noise outside of the confines of the NCAA. This past week, J.J. Culver of NAIA member Wayland Baptist scored 100 points in his team’s victory over Southwest Adventist. It’s the second-highest single-game point total in NAIA history. Culver scored Wayland Baptist’s first 42 points, and entered halftime with 51 points, already breaking the school record. His final stat line included going 34-62 from the field and 12-33 from behind the arc. Culver is the older brother of Minnesota Timberwolves’ rookie Jarrett Culver.
JJ Culver scored 100! pic.twitter.com/FzxJURHEnO
— WBU Basketball (@WBUBasketball) December 11, 2019
Mid-Major Top Performers
There were two other notable scoring performances this past week, both coming from UNC-Asheville players. In the Bulldogs’ overtime loss to South Carolina State on Wednesday, Lavar Batts Jr. dropped 40 points. That performance was a new career-high, and the first 40-plus point game by a Bulldog since Andrew Rowsey scored 41 in 2014. Batts shot an efficient 14-17 in field goals and went a perfect 9-9 from the free-throw line.
Three days later, Devon Baker scored 37 points during Asheville’s 91-72 victory over Tennessee-Martin. Baker was also efficient, shooting 15-21 from the floor. That included going 6-7 from the three-point stripe. Both the point total and field goals made total were new career-highs for him. For UNC-Asheville, that win was their fifth on the season, surpassing their win total from all of last season.
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