Villanova Wildcats v Purdue Boilermakers

Two OT threes from James Bell sparks a Villanova win over Purdue


NEW YORK – James Bell shot just 5-17 from the floor on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, but he hit arguably the two biggest shots of the night.

Bell hit a pair of threes in overtime to spark a 14-4 Villanova run and give the Wildcats an 89-81 win over Purdue in the second semifinal of the 2KSports Classic. Villanova advances to face Alabama, while Purdue will take on Oregon State in the consolation game.

“Coach has a saying, ‘shoot ’em up, sleep in the streets,” Bell said.

“It means some nights, you’re gonna shoot ’em up and be a star, and other nights you’re gonna shoot ’em up and they’re not gonna let you in the house and you have to sleep in the streets,” Wright said.

The game wasn’t without controversy, however.

Down 73-66 with just over a minute left, Villanova used a 9-2 run to force overtime, and while it started with a three pointer from Darrun Hilliard, it ended with free throws that may or may not have been deserved.

Purdue senior DJ Byrd was called for a questionable offensive foul, his fifth, when he elbowed a Villanova defender in the back court, a call that looked even worse when the referees went to the monitors and ruled it a Flagrant 1. That meant that not only would Villanova get two free throws, they would also get the ball back.

“I think it was the right call,” Bell said with a smile after the game.

After Hilliard hit the first two free throws, Purdue’s Terone Johnson fouled Villanova freshman Ryan Arcidiacono. He would knock down both free throws, tying the game and, eventually sending it to overtime.

Purdue made a big run just to get back into the game. Down 45-35 after a Tony Chennault layup with 16 minutes left in the game, Byrd sparked the Boilermaker comeback. He had eight points and two assists, accounting for 12 of the first 14 points of a 24-8 surge that game the Boilermakers a 59-53 lead.

Villanova was led by a career-high 22 points from sophomore Darrun Hilliard, who scored 16 of those 22 in the second half and overtime. Arcidiacono added 18 points and five assists (as well as seven turnovers).

Byrd finished with 16 points, five boards and five assists while the Johnson brothers — Ronnie and Terone — combined for 25 points and 13 assists, but shot just 8-26 from the floor.

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

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.