Trying to go undefeated during the course of a college basketball season is tough. It’s much tougher than doing so in college football. Gonzaga and Baylor may be making it look easy so far, but the remaining undefeated teams heading into the week were at the mid-major level. However, that number has shrunk from five to three. Alabama A&M fell to Prairie View A&M on Saturday, and one other team fell from those ranks on Friday. It’s time to recap another fun week of mid-major basketball.
2020-21 Week Ten Mid-Major Takeaways
Undefeated No More
Winthrop has been making light work of their Big South opponents this season. The Eagles rattled of 16 straight wins to start the season, including 13 in league play. However, all that came to an end at the hands of UNC-Asheville on Friday night. The Bulldogs took down the Eagles 57-55 to snap Winthrop’s 21-game winning streak dating back to last season. That streak was tied for the longest in Big South history. The win was Asheville’s first at Winthrop in a little over nine years. It was also their first against the Eagles overall since 2018.
UNCA’s defense came up huge in the upset, holding Winthrop to just 31.9 percent shooting for the game. They also allowed the Eagles to shoot just 15 percent from beyond the arc. Winthrop had multiple chances to tie the game in the final seconds, but went 1-4 from the free-throw line to come up short. The Bulldogs had a balanced scoring effort, led by 13 points from Trent Stephney.
Grand Canyon has done fairly well since rising to the Division I ranks. They have been a consistent contender in the Western Athletic Conference. However, they, like other conference foes, could never overcome New Mexico State. The Aggies had been the league’s bid to the NCAA Tournament for seven of the last eight tournaments, and considered one of the best mid-major programs in the nation. This past weekend may have seen the balance of power finally shift, as Grand Canyon swept the Aggies on Friday and Saturday. Friday’s win was GCU’s first against NMSU in almost four years. It snapped New Mexico State’s 31-game winning streak in WAC play. Saturday’s loss dropped the Aggies to 0-2 in league play for the first time since 2012-13.
The Antelopes achieved their victories on the strength of their defense. They held the Aggies to just 30.8 percent and 36.5 percent shooting in each game, respectively. The adventure that New Mexico State has been on this season has been well-documented. The Aggies have played just six games this season due to COVID issues that resulted in them not playing any games in their home state for most of the season. However, this is still a huge moment in the Grand Canyon program, and the Antelopes have to be considered the new favorites in the WAC.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Hawaii is another west coast team that wasn’t sure how it was going to play games during the 2020-21 season. The Rainbow Warriors had to navigate the differences between its own state’s COVID travel protocols and California’s, where the rest of their conference foes reside. However, after working all of that out, they picked up their biggest win of the season on Saturday, toppling league favorite and mid-major stalwart UC Irvine 62-61 in overtime. This was Hawaii’s first win over UCI in their last eight tries. It’s also just the Anteater’s third conference road loss in their last 23 conference road games.
The Rainbow Warriors pulled off a huge comeback, erasing a 10-point deficit over the game’s final 2:15 in regulation. Both teams struggled to score in the extra frame, but Hawaii did just enough to outscore UC Irvine 5-4 to earn the win. The Rainbow Warriors were led by Junior Madut‘s career-high 22 points. Madut was clutch for Hawaii, hitting the game-tying free-throws in regulation and the game-winning three in overtime. Meanwhile, UC Irvine suffers their first league loss of the season.
Dog Eat Dog World
The Southern Conference has been a fun race to follow thus far this season. It appears that the winner of the regular season title is going to come down to the final weekend. Wofford is one of the teams that has surprised a bit this season, sliding into first place with Furman and UNC Greensboro’s struggles. However, The Citadel put an end to Wofford’s good early-season start by upsetting the Terriers 77-69 last Wednesday. The Bulldogs accomplished their victory with a huge mid-game run.
The Terriers had opened up a 16-point lead with just over seven minutes left in the first half. However, the Bulldogs went on a 23-2 run for an eight-minute stretch between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half. The Citadel wouldn’t relinquish their advantage, with Wofford getting no closer than five the rest of the way. Kaiden Rice led the Bulldogs with 21 points. Hayden Brown continued his dominant campaign with 16 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists. The Citadel held Wofford to just 17.2 percent from three, their worst percentage in a game in over five seasons. The loss also knocked the Terriers down to third place in a tight league race.
Mid-Major Top Performers
A.J. Plitzuweit of South Dakota scored a career-high 37 points in a victory over Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday. He shot 14-23 from the field, including 5-10 from beyond the arc. Plitzuweit also added eight assists to his stat line. His performance helped the Coyotes to their best league start in 21 seasons, and their longest winning streak in 11 seasons.
De’Torrion Ware of Morgan State scored a career-high 36 points in a victory over Delaware State last Sunday. Ware did all of his damage off the bench for the Bears. He went 11-20 from the field, including 6-11 from the three-point stripe. Ware helped the Bears continue their winning streak against the Hornets, dating back to 2018.
Will Carius of Western Illinois scored a season-high 34 points in a close loss to North Dakota on Friday. Carius was especially lethal in the first half, going a perfect 6-6 from deep. With a little under four minutes left in the first half, he had outscored the Fighting Hawks 20-18. He finished 8-12 from the floor and 12-14 from the charity stripe.
Loudon Love of Wright State scored a career-high 34 points in a blowout win over Robert Morris on Saturday. He shot an efficient 15-22 from the field, while also grabbing 11 boards. His rebounding effort made him the school’s all-time rebounding leader in either men’s or women’s competition. This was a nice bounce back effort after being held to single-digit scoring for the first time all season on Friday.