A night worthy of March

Yes, it's still February. But with the wild finishes in the SEC, Illinois' collapse, and a game-winner (again!) from Donovan Dent, Wednesday had everything a college hoops fan needed. Plus, we had a Marquette record, a first in George Mason, and much more.

Dan Hurley is in full heel mode. The day after telling a Creighton fan (who was taunting Hurley) “If you reach over (the rope), I’ll knock you out,” the UConn coach tweeted this. Is it a 180 from his preseason stance? Sure. Does it help raise college hoops’ profile? Yep.

Let’s get to the rest of Wednesday’s news.

1. The SEC is not for the faint of heart

What’s better than one exhilarating SEC game? Two, obviously.

First, LSU’s 75-74 win over No. 17 Kentucky, which is pretty well summed up by this tweet.

I don’t know what’s more painful for Kentucky (18-8, 8-5 in SEC) — that it led by 15 early in the second half and watched LSU rally, or that it couldn’t corral the loose ball after Adou Thiero blocked Jordan Wright’s shot. Tyrell Ward’s game-winner will be the focus of conversation for Kentucky today and tomorrow.

“Adou blocks it; I got to watch the tape and say, ‘Who did not grab that ball — the winning ball — who didn’t grab it and why?’” coach John Calipari said. “Why not dive on the floor? Just tie it up and we win the game.”

Antonio Reeves scored 25 points, while Rob Dillingham was sensational in the second half — this layup alone is worth rewatching a dozen times — when he scored 22 of his 24 points. But the Wildcats have lost five of their last nine. Credit LSU (14-12, 6-7), which has beaten ranked opponents in two straight games.

And this all came after No. 13 Alabama outlasted No. 24 Florida, 98-93 in overtime, a game that delivered plenty of offense (Bama scored 1.21 points per possession, while Florida was 1.14), pace (72 possessions) and dramatic moments (and one dirty one).

Florida (18-8, 8-5 in SEC) came out firing, grabbing a 7-point lead in the first half. Any open look resulted in a shot, which was working out well for Walter Clayton Jr. (27 points), Zyon Pullin (17) and Will Richard (17). The Gators led by 10 in the second and were closing in on their second marquee win in two weeks.

But Alabama is the team that never goes away. Not with that offense.

Bama (19-7, 11-2) made just one of its first 17 3-point attempts, but heated up and finished 8-of-32. Mark Sears (17 points) drilled a couple, Aaron Estrada (20) found seams in the Florida defense, and Grant Nelson found a groove with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks.

Overtime was all Bama, which scored the first seven points of the extra period and now lead Tennessee by one game in the league standings. It was by that point that Nate Oats’ team finally seemed comfortable. Maybe it took a bit to adjust to playing without guard Latrell Wrightsell (head injury). Or maybe it’s just the SEC.

“We're figuring out ways to win games,” Oats said. “If you're going to win league championships, which we're obviously in the hunt for with five games left, these are the games that you've got to figure out ways to win when you don't play well.”

2. Oh, Illinois…

No. 12 Illinois spent Wednesday night rolling through the Penn State defense. Terrence Shannon Jr. (35 points) and Marcus Domask (15 points) were doing their thing and the bench (19) contributed. In more good news, the Illini controlled entire second half and were closing in on a win with a seven-point lead with 36 seconds remaining.

The bad news? There was 36 seconds left.

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