Big 12 Outlasts SEC in Final Challenge

Ken Cross

January 31, 2023 at 10:01 am.

The SEC/Big-12 Challenge is now just a memory as the Big 12 took a 7-3 margin in wins this season in games played on Saturday. The Big 12 won by a 5-3-2 margin since the matchup was started in the 2013-14 season. Overall, the Big 12 has achieved a 55-44 overall record in what has featured key matchups and quality challenges throughout those 10 years.

Next season, the SEC and ACC will set forth a new challenge as, in all likelihood, all SEC teams will all be involved in each season and the 16 teams will have to likely subtract by one when Texas and Oklahoma enter the SEC in 2024-25.

Hopefully, the SEC and ACC will schedule these matchups about a month away from the actual game day. The matchups would then be more congruent than as done now scheduling during the summer before the events take place.

Now, as the SEC has continued to grow even bigger in basketball, the potential of having a group of 14, 15 or 16 teams that can win challenges with the ACC is more than likely.

One way to showcase this challenge would be to schedule a series of double-headers or even triple-headers on the same Saturday in January. For example, use the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, and the Amway Center in Orlando.


Sooners Surprisingly Knock Out Alabama

With the Big 12 taking that 7-3 victory in the Challenge, the most surprising game was in Norman, Okla., where the Sooners blasted No. 2 Alabama, 93-69.

OU came into the matchup tied for eighth place in a challenging Big-12, but they shot 57.6 percent from the floor as Grant Sherfield had 30 points, while Jalen Hill canned 26.

Oklahoma rolled to a 50-33 halftime lead as the Sooners forced 13 Alabama turnovers and scored on 22 of 37 first half possessions.

The Sooners held Alabama guard and SEC leading scorer Brandon Miller to only 11 points as he made just 4-of-14 field goals.


Challenges in These Four Matchups

The challenges in these matchups were solid as we saw West Virginia and Baylor slide by Auburn and Arkansas by three points each and Mississippi State took overtime to defeat TCU, 81-74.

The Mountaineers rode to a 45-29 halftime lead over Auburn where they scored seven points in the last 1:52 of the first half with five of those on the free throw line by Erik Stevenson and James Okonkwo.

Auburn had more energy in the second half and upped its game immeasurably by shooting 56.3 percent from the floor, while defensively holding WVU to 10-of-27 (37%).

The Tigers cut the Mountaineers’ lead to one on two occasions where they missed game-tying free throws and Jaylin Williams and Wendell Green, Jr., missed potential game-tying three-pointers in the last 21 seconds of the game.

Stevenson set a career-high as he led all scorers with 31 points and Auburn’s Williams made 7-of-11 field goals for 18 points.

Meanwhile, in Waco, Texas, Arkansas forward Ricky Council IV, and Devo Davis combined for Arkansas’ last nine points, but LJ Cryer and Devonte George each hit a pair of free throws in the final 10 seconds to allow the Bears to pass the Razorbacks, 67-64.

Arkansas shot 51 percent from the field as the Razorbacks’ defense held Baylor to only 34 percent. The Bears were 21-of-24 at the line and scored 13 points off of five Hogs turnovers.

Up in Starkville, Mississippi State led the solid TCU Horned Frogs for most of the game, but Dashawn Davis had to give the Bulldogs a 66-64 lead with 55 seconds to play. TCU’s Emmanuel Miller, then, made a layup with 32 seconds remaining to tie the game and force overtime.

In the additional five minutes, Shakeel Moore made a pair of threes and Cameron Matthews made four free throws as Mississippi State survived.

The Bulldogs have become a top defense and they held TCU to 3-of-10 from the field in overtime and 39.7 percent for the game.

Forward Tolu Smith led five Bulldogs in double figures with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Damion Baugh paced five Horned Frogs with 19 points.

TCU lost scorer Mike Miles with an apparent knee injury late in the game, while center Eddie Lampkin and guard Rondell Walker were unable to play in the game due to injuries.


Volunteers’ Depth, Inside-Outside Game Give Signature Win over Texas

Tennessee took an impressive 82-71 win from Texas when Olivier Nkamhoua and Zakai Ziegler scored 27 and 22 points, respectively, to allow the Volunteers to shoot 55.6 percent from the field.

The Vols broke open a 40-28 halftime margin by outscoring the Longhorns, 21-11, over the first 6:10 of the second half.

Ziegler scored on a pair of layups, while Santiago Vescovi hit a three to give Tennessee a 61-39 margin with 13:50 to play.

Texas cut the lead back to 11 on several occasions, but could never get the Volunteers’ lead under 10.

Tennessee outrebounded Texas, 38-23, as the Vols scored 15 points off of 11 offensive rebounds.


Two Wins from the Sunflower State

No. 6 Kansas knocked off Kentucky, 77-68, in Lexington as the Jayhawks ended their three-game losing streak. They are tied for fourth in the conference and they are now just a game back of Kansas State, Iowa State and Texas.

The Jayhawks grabbed the lead for good on a conventional goal-and-one when KJ Adams, Jr., scored on a layup and free throw to give Kansas a 26-24 lead with 9:17 remaining in the first half. Kevin McCullar did the same with 2:17 remaining before halftime as he gave Kansas a 39-30 advantage.

Kentucky cut the lead back to two on several occasions in the second half before Wilson, McCullar and Gradey Dick scored on late threes to allow the Jayhawks to ward off the Wildcats.

Wilson led KU with 22 points, while Oscar Tshiebwe scored 18 points for Kentucky.

In Manhattan, No. 5 Kansas State has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises in Coach Jerome Tang’s opening season and the Wildcats took a 64-50 win over Florida.

This was an ironic matchup. K-State forward Keyontae Johnson hosted his former team as he became a Wildcat after he collapsed as a Florida Gator two seasons ago.

Johnson had 13 points and 11 boards, as he and guard Marquis Nowell joined Johnson as the leading scorer with 13, as well.

Kansas State outrebounded Florida, 49-36, as neither team shot over 40 percent.


Red Raiders Snap Eight-Game Skid

Kevin Obanor scored 22 points and Texas Tech held LSU to 37 percent from the floor as the Red Raiders posted a 76-68 win in Baton Rouge.

Derek Fountain netted a pair of free throws with 7:33 remaining to give LSU a 58-57 advantage, but Kerwin Walton scored five points in a 12-2 Texas Tech run that gave the Red Raiders a 69-60 lead with 2:48 remaining.

The win allowed Texas Tech to end its losing streak at eight games as it has been a tough scenario to stop the three inside the Big 12.

LSU started the season at 12-1, but ironically has lost eight in a row now as well.


Missouri, Oklahoma State Record Resounding Victories

The Missouri Tigers rolled to a 78-61 win over Iowa State, while Oklahoma State defeated Ole Miss, 82-60, in a pair of dominating wins.

Kobe Brown scored 20 points and D’Moi Hodge added 18 as Missouri shot 49 percent from the floor while scoring 20 points off of 19 Cyclones turnovers.

Jaren Holmes led Iowa State with 19 points, as they couldn’t stop the Tigers’ three-point game where Missouri was 14-of-30 from behind the arc.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State never trailed in posting their 82-60 victory over Ole Miss. The Cowboys outscored the Rebels, 15-5, out of the locker room for the second half behind nine points for Avery Anderson, III.

Kalib Boone led the Pokes with 18 points; Anderson posted 17. The Rebels shot only 35.9 percent as Jaemyn Brakefield and TJ Caldwell scored 12 points apiece.







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