by Rob Joyce
College basketball has turned Thanksgiving weekend into an event over the last decade. While at one point there was the Maui Invitational and that’s it, now there is a proliferation of tournaments of varying degrees. From the Advocare Invitational to the Wooden Legacy, there’s almost literally an A-to-Z list of tourneys.
With so many games, especially between higher-profile opponents, there’s an influx of memorable moments. And this year’s Thanksgiving motif was the “Week of the Comeback”, as no second half lead, no matter how big, was safe. Here are the five biggest:
The Crimson Tide didn’t actually complete a comeback, but they might have had the most remarkable achievement. A near-fight against Minnesota led to the entire Bama bench going onto the court. By rule, they all got ejected, leaving Alabama with five players for the final 12 minutes. Then at the 11:37 mark a player fouled out. Then with 10:41 to go freshman John Petty got hurt. That meant the Tide was forced to finish the game playing 3-on-5… and they did well!
Trailing by 15 at one point, the Alabama trio cut the lead down to three with just over a minute to play and had the ball, before a missed jumper ended their storybook ending. Overall the trio outscored Minnesota 30-22.
4) Washington State:
The Cougars blinked and trailed St. Joseph’s by 20 points in the first half of the Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, after the Hawks went on a 26-0 run. But WSU cut the deficit to 14 by halftime, had it down to single digits with 10 minutes to play and tied the game on a Robert Franks dunk with 4:17 left. Malachi Flynn topped a back-and-forth finish with a go-ahead three-pointer with five seconds left, helping lift the Cougs to a 75-71 win that would be followed by an upset of No. 21 Saint Mary’s, and a Sunday win against San Diego State to win the tournament.
3) Wichita State:
The Shockers started Comeback Week with their effort last Monday against Cal in the Maui Invitational when they trailed Cal by 18 early in the second half. By the halfway point of the half the deficit was down to nine, and an 8-0 run would eventually tie the game at 76 with 5:19 to play. After swapping baskets with the Bears, another 8-0 run would put the game out of reach, as Wichita State not only won the game, but did it by double-digits, 92-82.
2) West Virginia:
The Mountaineers had no business winning the Advocare Invitational final against Missouri. WVU shot 36 percent, got outrebounded 47-31 and gave up a dozen threes, leaving Bob Huggins’ crew trailing by 16 with 7:58 to play. But a Jevon Carter steal and layup helped fuel a 19-2 run as “Press Virginia” went into full effect, capped by a Carter go-ahead three with under a minute to go. Carter and fellow senior Daxter Miles, Jr. put the team on their collective shoulders, as the two combined for 55 points, including 22-of-23 from the free throw line, for an 83-79 West Virginia win.
The PK80 Tournament in Oregon to celebrate Phil Knight’s 80th birthday brought a phenomenal collection of talent to Portland, and it lived up to the hype, especially involving the nation’s top-ranked team. On Friday, Duke trailed Texas 64-48 with 10:40 to play before going on a 22-6 run to tie things up, eventually forcing overtime and winning.
Then they did it again on Sunday against No. 7 Florida. Five minutes into the game it was 18-4 Gators, but the Blue Devils would come back and actually take the lead for a short while. Another Florida run in the second half made it 74-57 Gators with 10:17 left. Duke chipped into the lead a little, but they were still down by eight heading to the under-4 timeout. Fueled by a 6-for-6 finish from the free throw line, Duke ended the game on a 13-2 run and stayed perfect, 87-84. Twice they played with fire, and twice they came away unscathed.