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Give Duke credit for its big comeback vs. NC State

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Duke wasn’t going to let bad things come in threes.

Florida State had already come to Cameron Indoor and snapped the Blue Devils’ 45-game home win streak on January 21st. Reggie Cameron used his 27 points to power Miami past Duke on that same floor on Feb. 5.

So, staring a 16-point halftime deficit in the face on Thursday night against NC State, 26 points from guard Seth Curry led a dominant second half attack that paralyzed the Wolfpack and let Duke storm back and escape with a 78-73 victory in Durham, N.C.

Curry sprained his ankle early in the game, but returned to lead the Blue Devils.

“It took me a while to get back into the game,” he said. “We have been in this situation before. My team did a great job of not quitting.”

NC State was on the offensive in the first half, using their high-powered transition game to capitalize on a poor shooting effort from Duke.

Through the first 20 minutes, Duke’s backcourt had combined to shoot 4-of-19 from the floor and 1-of-13 from three-point range, while NC State was shooting at a 55% clip and held a +7 rebounding margin.

Then came the storm that the Wolfpack could not weather.

Already having had three players rack up at least two fouls in the first half, NC State registered another four fouls in the first 3 minutes of the second, which fundamentally changed the way coach Mark Gottfried’s team played at both ends of the floor.

In all, three players fouled out, including forward CJ Leslie, who was the athletic engine behind much of the Wolfpack attack in the first half. He finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, and six blocks.

Which brings about the real question: Did Duke win this game or did NC State lose it?

Dave Ommen has NC State as a 12 seed in NBC’s latest NCAA Tournament projections. The one glaring hole in their resume, though, is a signature win. It seemed they were in line for that on Thursday night at Cameron Indoor, before their second half collapse.

The hot shooting they enjoyed in the first half was neutralized by Duke’s pressure defense. Combine that with a better shooting effort from the Blue Devils, which struck at the heart of the Wolfpack’s transition game, and the unfavorable foul situation.

Put that in the momentum-strangling environment of Cameron Indoor, and it looks like Duke won this basketball game.

Credit goes to coach Mike Krzyzewski for adjusting his team’s defense and turning up the pressure for the final 10 minutes of the game, which gave the Blue Devils a crucial +10 turnover margin.

“Our big guys did a great job in the second half rebounding and playing defense,” said Curry after the game. “I could tell early in the game that they were trying to take us off the three point line. We just kept attacking.”

Austin Rivers finished with 16 points on 4-of-13 shooting. He was more of the problem than the solution in the first half, going 0-of-4 and settling for shots on the perimeter.

In the second, he showed why he was Duke’s best dribble penetrator and took better shots, while opening up the lane for kick-outs and 7-of-15 team shooting from beyond the arc in the second half.

The Blue Devils ripped off a 20-3 run to put them up by five with one minute to play. But, it really didn’t get to that point before you could feel the grip of Cameron Indoor tightening around NC State.

The contrast between the first and second halves show the concerns and the praises surrounding Duke, headed into March.

Take a look at the first half: poor rebounding, cold shooting, a perimeter defense full of holes.

And transition to the second: better shooting, defense that can force turnovers, and better shooting from the perimeter.

Which Duke will we see down the stretch?

“We put ourselves in a good position to win this conference,” said Curry. “Now we have to go on the road and get two road wins.”

One of those road games? A rematch with early-season spoiler Florida State on February 23rd.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Xavier adds to class with three-star center

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Xavier added a fourth piece to its 2017 recruiting class on Sunday morning.

Kentravious Jones, a 6-foot-11, three-star recruit, committed to the Musketeers. He announced the decision via Twitter.

Chris Mack’s current recruiting class is headlined by four-star swingman Naji Marshall. The incoming quartet also includes guard Elias Harden and forward Jared Ridder. But Jones’ commitment fits an area that needs to be addressed for the Musketeers moving forward. Xavier isn’t particularly deep when it comes to big men. That frontcourt only gets thinner once RaShid Gaston, a graduate transfer from Norfolk State, exhausts his eligibility after this season.

Jones, along with current freshman forward Tyrique Jones, gives Xavier a young foundation for the future. Jones is an old-school, big-bodied center. He’s got a nice back-to-the-basket game, and had his best stretch of the summer during the UAA Finals. In three games with the Atlanta Xpress, he averaged 15.3 points, shot 59 percent from the field, and grabbed nine boards per game.

Conditioning will be the emphasis for him over the course of the next year. However, we have seen Xavier work well with a big, skilled centers in the past (see: Stainbrook, Matt). According to Shannon Russell of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Jones has dropped 30 pounds.

Sunday morning’s news may not even be Xavier’s last score on the recruiting trail. The Musketeers have one scholarship remaining (two, or three if Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett enter the NBA Draft this spring), and are in play for several coveted prospects like point guards Paul Scruggs, Quade Green and Matt Coleman, as well as forward Kris Wilkes.

Minnesota center to miss a month

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 7: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Illinois State Redbirds and Fred VanVleet #23 of the Wichita State Shockers fight for control of a loose ball during the MVC Basketball Tournament Semifinals at the Scottrade Center on March 7, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Minnesota’s projected starting center is sidelined, but is expected to be ready for the season opener.

Reggie Lynch, the Illinois State transfer, had surgery on his left knee, the program announced on Friday night. According to Marcus R. Fuller of the Star-Tribune, the Golden Gophers are anticipating that Lynch is available for the season opener on Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The 6-foot-10 Lynch has been in the news this offseason prior to his impending debut with Minnesota. In May, he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. On August 1, the Hennepin County attorney’s office was announced he would not face charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Lynch spent two seasons at Illinois State, averaging 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Redbirds as a sophomore. He sat out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Minnesota is coming off a second-to-last place finish in the Big Ten with an 8-23 (2-16 Big Ten) record.

Women’s hoops coaches boycotting recruiting events

DENVER, CO - MARCH 31:  Head coach Muffet McGraw of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish directs her team during practice prior to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four at Pepsi Center on March 31, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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For some high-major women’s basketball programs, the final evaluation period of 2016 is being used as a vacation from the recruiting trail.

According to a report from Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated, are not attending events during this weekend’s recruiting period for a host of reasons.

First, many are fed up with the price of tournament packets, booklets of rosters that college coaches receive upon paying their entry fee. Packets are supposed to be chock-full of contact information for the prospects, but sometimes aren’t accurate or up-to-date. (This has become a well-documented issue on the men’s side of college hoops. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish wrote on it this summer.) Furthermore, there are so many events now that college coaches are often forced to pay obscene amounts of money to watch just one player at a single event, and play recruiting hopscotch around the country, criss-crossing the nation to see so many events and spend thousands of dollars. One Power Five coach said her staff crunched the numbers, and found that in just two years, they’ve spent more than $4,000 more than they did in 2014 on packets alone. Another coach told a story of sending an assistant across the country for one day, to one event, to watch one team. When the assistant arrived, the team had left early for its next event. No refund was available for the college that had paid what turned out to be a useless entry fee. The head coach called it “exasperating.”

Jeff Borzello of ESPN, who spoke to Notre Dame head coach and eventual Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw for his report, estimated that the cost for one of the coaches packets — the ones that include player contact information, rosters, etc. — can cost each school an average of $600 per event.

This era of grassroots basketball has taken off in recent years with Nike, Under Armour and adidas all creating their own sponsored leagues. All three run exceptional events from the staff to the facilities, all the way to the three, free meals a day for coaches. Organizers of these events will argue that there’s a cost to running such high-end events. These packets, some of which are so in-depth they include players’ GPAs, help fund these tournaments (events, paying a staff, etc.).

Coaches, mostly mid to low-major coaches, will argue that these packets aren’t worth the cost, considering that every coach (head and assistant) must purchase them in order to gain entrance. And you will find packets where the information inside is either inaccurate, or missing or both. For elite programs, this isn’t an issue. You show up, you’re seen, you leave, you go to the next event, repeat. For mid to low-major coaches, this really puts a dent in their budget, especially when they have to travel to multiple events (buying packets at each one) because you have to land that “steal,” you have to find that player who is overlooked.

This protest, or boycott (or whatever you want to call it) will hurt those these events are intended to help the most: the players. If coaches continue to avoid these tournaments, that late-bloomer may miss out on a scholarship, or that player with mid-major offers won’t get the chance to play in front of high-major coaches.

According to Schnell, there is a proposal, voted on in April, to eliminate a live recruiting period in April and September. But many coaches in women’s basketball have made it clear this weekend how they feel about the issue.

USC lands commitment from three-star center

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USC added to its 2017 recruiting class with a commitment from a 7-foot big man.

Andy Enfield and the Trojans beat out Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee for the services of Calvary Christian Academy (Florida) center Victor Uyaelunmo. He announced his college decision on Friday afternoon.

“It was the best fit for me academically and athletically,” Uyaelunmo said according to David Furones of the Sun Sentinel. “The basketball coaches really wanted me to come, and I thought it was the best place for me.

“They told me how they were going to use me, and they have a couple of guys leaving this year, so I just fit in right.”

Uyaelunmo is regarded as a three-star prospect by Rivals, however, ESPN rates him a four-star recruit. He joins a two-man class which includes four-star forward Jordan Usher.

The departure of Nikola Jovanovic, the Trojans’ leading rebounder during the 2015-16, was a surprising one, and one that left USC with a hole in the middle. While Uyaelunmo still has one more year before arriving on the Los Angeles campus, the Trojans have a promising piece in the paint for the future; a long, athletic big man who has the potential, in time, to become one of the nation’s top shot blockers.

Uyaelunmo played for Nike South Beach in the EYBL this spring and summer. In 12 appearances, he averaged 5.0 points. 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 block in 17.6 minutes per game.

VIDEO: Rupp Arena’s new video board arrives

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Rupp Arena is getting a makeover. Take a peak as the new video board arrives and is put together: