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December 31, 2007

Injuries mean unhappy holidays for some

The fortunes of a handful of teams took a turn for the worse this weekend. Others hang in balance. Injuries to key players perhaps the theme to the holiday season are the reason for both.

Sixth-ranked Pittsburgh will be without one of the nation's top point guards for the next 8-12 weeks. Levance Fields suffered a broken foot in the Panthers' 80-55 loss to Dayton on Saturday. Fields, who had hit the game-winning 3-pointer in a signature victory over Duke a week earlier, was averaging 11.8 points and a team-high 5.8 assists a game.

Arizona isn't sure how long it will be without star freshman Jerryd Bayless, who missed the Wildcats' 76-63 loss at No. 2 Memphis on Saturday with a knee injury. The extent of the injury, which was suffered in Friday's practice, is not yet known. Bayless leads the Wildcats in scoring (18.5 ppg) and assists (4.2 apg).

The same goes for Wisconsin point guard Trevon Hughes, who sat on the bench with crutches and a boot over his right foot while the Badgers pulled off a shocking 67-66 upset at No. 9 Texas on Saturday. Hughes injured his ankle in practice and the team is not sure when he will return.

Auburn will be without Korvotney Barber for the next four weeks after the big man suffered a broken hand in the Tigers' 79-59 win over Towson. Barber is the nation's field-goal percentage leader at 72.0 percent.

Team of the Weekend: Wisconsin

Senior guard Michael Flowers was the hero in Wisconsin's stunning upset of Texas, hitting a game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds to go and then stealing the Longhorns' inbounds pass. But, Flowers' late-game theatrics overshadowed a stellar performance from classmate Brian Butch, who carried the team for most of the game. Butch scored 21 points, pulled down 11 rebounds (six on offense) and added three assists. The Badgers actually set up their last play for Butch, but he was double-teamed, which freed up Flowers for a wide-open shot behind the arc.

What you might have missed
Team doctors cleared Texas freshman power forward Gary Johnson, who has been held out due to a heart condition, to play for the first time this season. Johnson, who has been practicing with the team, will play his first game against Texas Christian on Wednesday.
North Carolina reserve guard Bobby Frasor will miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. Frasor suffered the injury in the Tar Heels' 106-70 win over Nevada last week. The junior was averaging 3.0 points a game.
New Mexico State freshman Herb Pope has been indefinitely suspended after being arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol near his hometown of Pittsburgh on Friday. Police found Pope, 18, asleep inside a car that was stopped in traffic with the engine on and the doors locked at 2:27 a.m. When the police woke up Pope, the car moved forward and struck a police car. Police broke the driver's side window, shut the engine off and then took Pope to a hospital for tests. He was also charged with reckless endangerment, underage drinking and a traffic offense. Pope, a four-star recruit and the most heralded prospect in school history, has yet to play this season because the NCAA has been reviewing his academic records.
Florida State's frontcourt has become extremely thin due to a pair of injuries to freshman post players. Power forward Julian Vaughn will be out indefinitely while he undergoes medical testing, and freshman center Solomon Alabi will undergo surgery for a stress fracture in his leg and will miss the rest of the season. Vaughn was averaging 4.1 points a game and Alabi was averaging 3.9. With both big men out, walk-on senior Matt Zitani started his first career game and helped the Seminoles beat Georgia Tech 66-64 on Saturday.

Breakouts & Breakdowns

Breakout: Texas sophomore Damion James played the best game of his career against the Badgers, scoring 21 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. If James plays anywhere close to that level the rest of the season, the Longhorns will be making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Breakout: Oklahoma senior guard David Godbold was the difference in the Sooners' 88-82 win over West Virginia in double overtime. A career role player, Godbold played all 50 minutes. He scored a career-high 18 points, grabbed seven boards and dished out four assists. It was just the second time this season that Godbold had scored in double figures.

Breakdown: Illinois' nonconference resume will include an ugly blemish due to a shocking 60-58 loss to Tennessee State. The Tigers were 3-7 entering the game. Illinois guard Trent Meacham scored 24 points, but the rest of the starters combined for just 15 points. Senior forward Brian Randle bumped heads with a Tennessee State player late in the first half and never returned.

Breakout: A veteran guard carried Western Kentucky to a win in its Sun Belt opener, but it wasn't star Courtney Lee. Senior Tyrone Brazelton hit nine of 12 3-pointers and scored a career-high 29 points as the Hilltoppers beat Troy 94-90.

Breakdown: St. John's offense. The Red Storm shot just 28.3 percent (15 of 53) from the field in a 54-48 loss to Virginia Tech.

Breakout: South Carolina guard Devan Downey is quickly becoming one of the top clutch players in college basketball. The sophomore transfer from Cincinnati scored nine consecutive points - a 3-pointer and six free throws - in the final 1:14 to give the Gamecocks a 67-65 win over UC-Irvine. A week earlier, Downey hit a dramatic 3-pointer with two seconds to go to give the Gamecocks an 85-82 win over the College of Charleston.

Breakout: Kansas guard Russell Robinson's defense. The senior racked up eight steals in the Jayhawks' 86-53 win over Yale. That was just one short of the school record set by Aaron Miles against Iowa State in 2003.

Breakdown: Pittsburgh guard Ronald Ramon's shooting touch. Ramon missed all eight of his shots from the field in Pitt's 80-55 loss to Dayton. Ramon has now made just one of his last 15 field-goal attempts. It's an uncharacteristic slump for a player who led the Big East in 3-point field goal percentage last season.

Top Performers
Jamar Butler, Ohio State
22 points, 12 assists in the Buckeyes' 92-83 win over Maryland-Baltimore County
Butler went 9-for-9 from the free-throw line as the Buckeyes won their fifth consecutive game.
Lester Hudson, Tennessee-Martin
36 points, nine rebounds, six assists in 92-85 loss at Vanderbilt
This junior college transfer is now averaging 27.4 ppg, which ranks second in the nation.
J.J. Hickson, N.C. State
33 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks in Wolfpack's 74-62 win over Western Carolina
This freshman went 10 of 11 from the field and broke the 30-point barrier for the second time this season.
Jack McClinton, Miami
30 points, four assists, two steals in Miami's 76-70 loss to Winthrop.
The Hurricanes suffered their first loss, but McClinton set a career high in points.
Pat Calathes, St. Joseph's
14 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, three steals in Hawks' 74-68 win over Siena.
The versatile Calathes played his most well-rounded game of the season.
Jermaine Taylor, Central Florida
30 points, seven rebounds in 85-82 loss to Connecticut.
The Huskies had plenty of problems guarding this talented senior.
Tyrone Brazelton, Western Kentucky
29 points in Hilltoppers' 94-90 win over Troy.
Brazelton went 9-for-12 (75 percent) from 3-point range.
Paul Harris, Syracuse
19 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, four steals in the Orange's 95-74 win Northeastern.
Harris put together his fifth double-double of the season.
Brian Roberts, Dayton
31 points, five assists in Dayton's 80-55 win over Pitt.
Roberts put together another dominating offensive performance and committed just one turnover.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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