Jordan Taylor leads Wisconsin’s comeback

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The No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes lost their first game of the season to No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon, losing 71-67 after blowing a 15 point lead at the Kohl Center.

That shouldn’t exactly be a surprise.

Wisconsin might just be the best team in the country on their home court. Already sitting in the top 15 in both of the rankings and tied for second in the Big Ten with Purdue, its tough to define this game as an upset. Vegas certainly wouldn’t; Wisconsin was a one point favorite.

What was a surprise, however, was how Wisconsin won this game.

Its no secret that the Badgers are the slowest team in the country in terms of possessions. They are deliberate in what they want to do offensively, they don’t force a ton of turnovers, and they play solid enough defense that they force their opponents to chew up clock as they work for a good shot. Bo Ryan’s system is built on efficiency, and efficiency is rarely pretty.

In other words, the Badgers don’t score a ton of points, and they generally don’t score all that quickly.

Which is why I was getting ready to map out a column on how Ohio State was the nation’s one truly great team when a 21-6 run that spanned both halves gave the Buckeyes a 47-32 lead with 13:16 left in the game.

But Jordan Taylor had other plans.

Taylor, it should be noted, has been robbed twice this week. He wasn’t a finalist for the Cousy Award, which is a list of the nation’s 10 best point guards, and he wasn’t on the list of the 30 Naismith Award finalists. Taylor’s averaging 17.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, and 4.5 apg with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.9:1 as the Badger’s primary ball-handler playing almost 36 mpg. Considering that he is putting those numbers up with the fewest number of opportunities (possessions) in the country, it’s a travesty he wasn’t a finalist for those awards, but thats another post for another day.

In the second half today, Taylor proved to country why he was robbed.

He took the game over in the final 13:16. He scored on a tough drive. Two possessions later, he knocked down a three to get the lead to ten. On Wisconsin’s next possession, he buried another three to cut Ohio State’s lead to seven. After two Mike Bruesewitz free throws and another jumper from Taylor, the Badger’s point guard found freshman John Gasser for a three that tied the game with 9:46 left.

It took Wisconsin, the nation’s slowest team, just 3:30 to erase a 15 point deficit against the No. 1 and last remaining undefeated team in the country, and it was Taylor — with 10 points and an assist in the run — that was the hero.

He was far from done.

Wisconsin’s surge would continue for the next five minutes, and when it was all said and done, the Badgers had put a 30-8 run on the Buckeyes, turning a 47-32 deficit into a 62-55 lead. Taylor had 15 points and three assists in the run.

Ohio State didn’t quit, as they were able to get the lead down to 65-63 with under a minute left, but Taylor found Bruesewitz for a wide open three at the top of the key with 29 seconds left. A couple of free throws down the stretch was all the Badgers needed to allow all hell to break loose on the Kohl Center floor.

All told, Taylor had 21 of his 27 points and four of his seven assists in the final 13:16 against Ohio State.

Despite the win, Wisconsin probably doesn’t have a chance to win the Big Ten regular season title. They are still a full two games behind the Buckeyes, and if it takes a 15 point comeback by Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in the last 13 minutes for Ohio State to lose, its tough to envision the Buckeyes losing two more games this season.

In fact, I’m not sure I would even take Ohio State out of the No. 1 spot in Monday’s poll.

There is no shame in losing to Wisconsin at Wisconsin.

And while he won’t be named the nation’s best point guard or best player, the nation now knows who Jordan Taylor is.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.