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Nike Global Challenge Recap: James Young earns MVP

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Michigan native James Young was terrific during Nike’s EYBL season.

A 6-foot-6 left-hander, Young proved himself an athletic slasher that could really shoot the ball from beyond the arc. But through three games at Nike’s Global Challenge, Young had struggled for the USA’s Midwest team. He was averaging 15.0 points, but shooting just 42% from the floor and 2-17 from three while committing 13 turnovers. The Midwest went 3-0 in pool play, but it wasn’t the result of a sterling performance from Young.

That changed in the title game, however.

Young finished with 29 points — including a flurry that saw him score 16 points in a six-minute stretch in the fourth quarter — on 12-23 shooting (5-10 from three) to lead the Midwest to a 100-86 win over Andrew Wiggins and Team Canada.

For observers (ahem, like me) that were questioning how a gunner that couldn’t shoot was so highly-regarded, Young did a fine job providing an answer. Everyone is allowed a couple off-nights in a row, and a glimpse of the kind of show that he can put on when he gets it going was enough to earn American MVP honors.

Some other top performers:

Troy Williams (19.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5-13 3PT’s): Williams had a tough spring, but he showed off why every coach in the country wanted him back in March. He’s an incredible athlete, and standing 6-foot-6 with impressive lengths, he’s always been a highlight waiting to happen. The 38.5% shooting from beyond the arc was nice, though.

Wes Clark (11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg): Young’s AAU teammate, Clark is currently one of the most underrated point guard prospects. He isn’t nationally ranked (which will change very soon), but with his athleticism, quickness, ability to penetrate and finish at the rim, and range on his jump shot, Clark should have a much higher-profile come August.

Nigel Williams-Goss (17.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 apg): Washington got a good one in Williams-Goss. He’s a solid facilitator that is one of the few kids that communicates well on the court. He didn’t shoot all that well, but he was able to penetrate. Had 24 points in his first game and went for 18 points, six assists, five boards and no turnovers in a dominating win over Brazil in the third-place game.

Andrew Wiggins (19.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg): Wiggins was clearly the best prospect at the event, but he didn’t play his best at this tournament. That’s what happens when defenses face-guard you.

Trey Lyles (21.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg): Lyles put on one of the most impressive performances, with 27 points and 11 boards in a win over USA East. The focus on Wiggins allowed Lyles to have space to shine.

Theo Pinson (15.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg): Pinson showed off a well-rounded game. He hit some threes, he threw down a couple of dunks, he made plays defensively, he penetrated and dished. What I liked the most was that Pinson made some big plays in the final minutes.

Nick King (18.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg): King is a Memphis native and another lefty that consistently was able to score around the paint. A 6-foot-7 slasher, King also showed off the ability to step out and knock down a three.

Bobby Portis (12.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg): Portis didn’t do much damage with his back to the basket, but he was active on the glass and ran the floor well.

Marcus Lee (12.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.0 bpg): Lee was very impressive. He showed off a soft touch around the basket, impressive athleticism and an ability to dominate around the rim. He blocked seven shots in one game.

Internationals:

Gao Shang (27.3 ppg, 42.5% 3PT’s): China was never competitive, but Shang was a guy that caught the eye of a lot of NBA scouts. He gave Troy Williams 26 points in a half and went for 35 twice.

Janus Tamulis (18.5 ppg): Tamulis was a good defender that was a streaky shooter. Scouts liked him, and the rumor was that he was considering coming to the States to play in college.

– Deryk Evandro Ramos (16.3 ppg, 3.5 apg, 50% 3PT’s): Ramos was a tough point guard that didn’t turn the ball over, defended well and proved a competent playmaker. One high major head coach said he thought Ramos could be the best point guard in the event as he watched him give Cat Barber 16 points and nine assists in Brazil’s win over USA East.

Derek Reese (20.0 ppg, 11.3 rpg): The Puerto Rican Tennessee-commit was one of the most productive players at the event.

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

Wisconsin ends No. 2 Maryland’s 27-game home win streak

Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown (30) shoots during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Maryland, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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Just over a month ago Wisconsin lost at Northwestern, dropping to 9-9 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten and had the look of a team that would have to fight simply to get into the NIT. Since then, Greg Gard’s Badgers have won seven straight games with the most recent triumph being a 70-57 victory at No. 2 Maryland. Not only did Wisconsin become the first Big Ten team to beat the Terrapins at the Xfinity Center since Maryland joined the Big Ten, but they also ended Maryland’s 27-game home win streak.

And it was Wisconsin’s offensive balance that stood out, as four starters scored in double figures led by forward Vitto Brown.

Brown, who accounted for 18 points and five rebounds in Wisconsin’s win over Nebraska Wednesday night, was even better against Maryland as he scored a career-high 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. While Bronson Koenig (16 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Nigel Hayes (14 and six rebounds) are the ones expected to shoulder much of the load, players such as Brown, Ethan Happ and Zak Showalter (11 points) will also be key as Wisconsin makes its push for an NCAA tournament bid.

In Wisconsin’s first five conference games Brown averaged 4.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest. Since then he’s averaging 11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, scoring in double figures in each of Wisconsin’s last three games.

Overall Wisconsin’s looked far more fluid offensively during this win streak, and over the last three games the Badgers have shot very well from the perimeter as they made nearly 51 percent of their attempts (12-for-26 against Maryland). Add in Wisconsin’s ability to take advantage of Maryland’s defensive rebounding issues, converting 13 offensive boards into 20 second-chance points, and it was easy to see why Wisconsin was able to grab control of the game in the first half during a 20-0 run that gave them the separation they needed.

Maryland’s issues throughout conference play remain the same, as they struggled to end defensive possessions while also turning the ball over far too often (seven times) during the aforementioned Wisconsin run. With Melo Trimble not playing at the level he’s capable of reaching (he may not be completely healthy), Maryland has some things to address during this stretch run.

But more than anything, Saturday was the product of a Wisconsin team that’s starting to click at the right time. And as crazy as it may seem, given how Wisconsin began Big Ten play, the Badgers only two games out of first place.

No. 5 Xavier finds shooting touch in 74-57 blowout at Butler

Xavier head coach Chris Mack talks with James Farr (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Indianapolis. Xavier won 74-57. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) No. 5 Xavier learned its lesson.

To keep winning, it must continue do the dirty work.

Four days after stumbling at Creighton, the Musketeers got back to basics and used a balanced offense and a smothering defense to run away from Butler 74-57 on Saturday.

“We played much better today and after about the first four or five minutes, we defended,” coach Chris Mack said. “Our shots were, in my opinion, really good ones because we got in the lane, we made the extra pass and I thought that was the difference.”

Whatever the explanation, the Musketeers (22-3, 10-3 Big East) certainly looked worthy of the highest ranking in school history.

After making a season-low 30 percent from the field and just 1 of 21 3-point attempts in Tuesday’s loss, Xavier rebounded by shooting 56.9 percent and going 9 of 18 beyond the arc. J.P. Macura led the way with 13 points while Edmond Sumner and Remy Abell each had 12.

But the biggest improvements showed up in other areas – defense, rebounding and effort. They allowed 36 points over the final 31 1/2 minutes.

“Everybody was boxing out and rebounding, and on the offensive end we have so much talent we could get whatever we wanted,” said Abell, who started his college career playing for the Indiana Hoosiers.

The difference was obvious.

Butler (17-8, 6-7) was held almost 25 points below its season average.

Kelan Martin, with 15 points, and Andrew Chrabascz, with 12, were the only players to score more than 10. And the top three scorers – Martin, Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones – were a combined 11 of 39 from the field as the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak came to an end.

Xavier crushed the Bulldogs so thoroughly that chants of “Let’s Go X” resounded throughout sold out Hinkle Fieldhouse over the final minutes.

“We didn’t have near the effort, the juice, the purpose defensively and we didn’t move the ball offensively and that was actually the case from the opening minute,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We mentioned that in the four-minute media and said that had to improve and when it doesn’t these things happen.”

Butler used a 9-0 first-half run to take a 21-13 lead midway through the first half.

Xavier answered with a 27-6 run that included four 3s and a three-point play in a 27-6 run to make it 40-27. The Bulldogs got as close as 47-39 early in the second half, which later became a seven-point deficit after a replay review gave Dunham a 3.

But the Bulldogs couldn’t get closer.

“You can go 1 for 21 one game, and then the next game it’s – I’m sure it was better,” Macura said. “That’s basketball.”

POINTERS

Xavier’s dominance showed up in two key stats on the box score. The Musketeers outscored Butler 36-14 in points off the bench and 36-18 in the paint despite having only two offensive rebounds. Xavier has won six of its last seven.

ON THE ROAD

Even the road has been kind to the Musketeers this season. They have won seven times in true road games, their highest season total since 2010-11. They have also won five Big East games on the road – more than they won in either of their first two seasons in the league and they have won 10 of the last 13 at Hinkle.

MOVING UP

Dunham continues his ascent on the Bulldogs’ career scoring list. After moving from 14th to sixth on the list in the first 23 games this season, Dunham moved passed Lynn Mitchem (1,798) for fifth and within one point of A.J. Graves (1,807) for fourth. Matt Howard is third (1,939) and the only 2,000-point scorers in school history are Chad Tucker (2,321) and Darrin Fitzgerald (2,019).

TIP-INS

Xavier: Former Indiana prep star Trevon Bluiett had 11 points and four rebounds and James Farr had 12 rebounds. … Each of Xavier’s 22 wins has come by at least seven points. … The Musketeers were the highest-ranked team to play at Hinkle Fieldhouse since No. 3 DePaul visited Feb. 23, 1981.

Butler: Shot 33.3 percent overall and was 8 of 22 on 3s. …. The Bulldogs only have three wins at home against Top 10 teams – No. 8 Gonzaga in January 2013, No. 3 Michigan in 1965-66 and No. 5 Tennessee in 1958-59. … Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence attended the game.

UP NEXT

Xavier hosts No. 20 Providence on Wednesday.

Butler hosts Creighton on Tuesday.