Thad Matta,  LaQuinton Ross, Evan Ravenel

Christmas Wish List: OSU needs production from Ross, Smith

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Lenzelle Smith and LaQuinton Ross to keep playing well

The key to Ohio State’s season hinges almost entirely on the play of Smith and Ross. Let me explain. We all know how good of a scorer Deshaun Thomas is. He shoots a ton, he’d be a miserable guy to play pickup ball with, but there’s not denying the fact that he’s one of the most potent scorers in the country. Aaron Craft is an all-american. I love his game. He’s one of the best leaders and on-ball defenders in the country. He’s a throw-back point guard, and he does it better than anyone else in the country. But he struggles when he’s forced to be a primary scorer, a guy that needs to hunt shots and get 13-15 points for the Buckeyes to have success.

That’s where Smith and Ross come into the picture. Both players are currently averaging double-figures on the season, and while Smith is showing more promise as a spot-up shooter and Ross is better is more of a slashing role, the bottom-line is that they can score. And if Ohio State is going to contend with Michigan and Indiana at the top of the Big Ten this season, they need those two to take pressure off of Thomas and Craft.

Stocking stuffer: More minutes for Shannon Scott

Believe it or not, Scott has actually been better than Craft this season. Granted, it’s come in some limited minutes and he’s done some damage in garbage time against bad teams, but Scott’s raw numbers (5.0 assists, 2.6 steals, 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) and efficiency stats (he’s got a better offensive rating, assist rate and steal percentage than Craft) are phenomenal. Maybe, one day, the Ohio State staff won’t regret taking him over Columbus native Trey Burke.

Planning on re-gifting: Opponents outside the Kenpom top 100

Frankly, it’s difficult to truly form an opinion on this Ohio State team as is. They’ve only played one team in the Kenpom top 100 this year — Duke — and they put up a performance with two extremes. For about 28 minutes, they dominated the Blue Devils and looked like a legitimate top five team. For the final 12 minutes, they looked like they might finish sixth in the conference. Now, their weak schedule is entirely their fault. Rhode Island is way down because of a coaching change, Washington is usually better than they are this year, Long Beach State didn’t have their transfers eligible yet and Kansas comes to town on Saturday. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Buckeyes have played an extremely weak schedule thus far this season.

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

No. 20 Arizona’s Jackson-Cartwright out up to 2 months

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 25:  Parker Jackson-Cartwright #0 of the Arizona Wildcats drives against the Butler Bulldogs during the championship game of the 2016 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on November 25, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Butler won 69-65.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Arizona point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright will miss about eight weeks with a high-ankle sprain, Wildcats coach Sean Miller said on Monday.

Jackson-Cartwright was injured last Wednesday in No. 20 Arizona’s home win over Texas Southern and did not play in the Wildcats’ loss to No. 8 Gonzaga in Los Angeles on Saturday.

The loss of Jackson leaves Arizona with its top distributor – 5.3 assists per game – and its roster even thinner.

The Wildcats lost forward Ray Smith to a season-ending knee injury during an exhibition game and Allonzo Trier has yet to play this season due to unspecified reasons.

North Carolina to be without star point guard vs. Davidson

North Carolina's Joel Berry II (2) drives to the basket against Long Beach State's Gabe Levin (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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North Carolina announced that Joel Berry II, the team’s star point guard, will be out for Wednesday night’s game against Davidson.

Berry suffered the injury in the second half of Sunday’s win over Radford. The school listed him as questionable for Sunday’s game against Tennessee.

Berry is averaged 14.8 points, 4.7 assists and 3.8 boards on the season while shooting 41.9 percent from three. His absence puts the Tar Heels on upset alert, as they’ll be starting true freshman Seventh Woods at the point against a good Davidson team that features Jack Gibbs, one of the nation’s most lethal scorers.

No. 25 Iowa State pounds Omaha 91-47

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 10:  Deonte Burton #30 of the Iowa State Cyclones defends against the Oklahoma Sooners during the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Basketball Tournament at Sprint Center on March 10, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State moved the ball and yet again played strong defense.

The result was a surprisingly satisfying win on the heels of two tough losses.

Deonte Burton scored 20 points and the 25th-ranked Cyclones pummeled Nebraska-Omaha 91-47 on Monday night, snapping a two-game losing streak.

Donovan Jackson had 15 for the Cyclones (6-2), who hit 15 of 29 3-pointers and rolled to their third win of 40 or more points this season.

“I thought we did some things better,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “Pace of play. Sharing the basketball, moving the basketball, the ball moving side to side. And defensively, for the majority of the game, I thought we competed.”

Iowa State knew it had to take the Mavericks (4-5) seriously after they stunned Iowa on Saturday. The Cyclones never let Omaha think it had a chance, storming ahead 36-9 after just 12 minutes – with Burton scoring their first 13 points.

“I just took what they were giving me, and it was falling,” Burton said.

Iowa State, which fell six spots in Monday’s AP Top 25 poll but remained ranked for the 61st week in a row, held the Mavs to 28 percent shooting.

The Cyclones, not typically known for their defense, have held three of their last four opponents to 56 points or less.

“We play in a really good league,” Prohm said, looking ahead to Big 12 play. “You better guard, and you better play the right way.”

Tra-Deon Hollins had 13 points to lead the Mavs.

THE BIG PICTURE

Iowa State: One of the big issues for Iowa State this season was inconsistent ball movement. That was clearly a focus for coach Steve Prohm in practice after last week’s 55-54 home loss to Cincinnati, and the Cyclones had the ball flying around the perimeter from the opening tip. Iowa State had 10 assists on its first 16 baskets.

Omaha: The Mavericks crossed the Missouri River for a road trip against Iowa and Iowa State. They split, having beaten the Hawkeyes 98-89 on Saturday. That’s a result any Summit League program would take.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Ranked teams are supposed to beat low-major teams handily at home. How the Cyclones look in Iowa City will determine if their streak reaches 62 weeks.

THE NUMBERS

Darrell Bowie scored 12 points, including a pair of 3s, for Iowa State. Naz Mitrou-Long had 11 points, five rebounds and three assists and Monte Morris had seven points and nine assists. … Omaha hit just 5 of 22 from 3-point range. … Solomon Young returned from a hand injury and scored six points and five rebounds off the bench. His size will be crucial against Iowa, which has depth along its frontline.

ACTION JACKSON

Jackson, a junior college transfer, was expected to be Iowa State’s starting point guard this season – but Morris somewhat unexpectedly returned for his senior season. Jackson was spotty at times as a rotation guard, averaging just 3.9 points in his first seven games. Jackson got 23 minutes and made the most of them Monday, adding three assists, three rebounds and a steal without a turnover. “I don’t care who we were playing…he made open shots. He made right decisions,” Prohm said. “He bounced back, but that’s what good players do.”

HE SAID IT

“I think I’m gaining more confidence by the day,” Jackson said.

UP NEXT

The Cyclones hit the road to face Iowa on Thursday. The Hawkeyes haven’t looked as bad as they’ve looked this season in years, but those rivalry games tend to be close and intense.

Omaha hosts Montana State on Saturday.

More college basketball at http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

UConn-Syracuse rivalry game brings back memories of the best of the Big East

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Rodney Purvis #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a three pointer against the Syracuse Orange during the Tire Pros Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 5, 2016 in New York City. Connecticut defeated Syracuse 52-50  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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The cliché ‘here, it just means more’ has never rang more true than it did on Monday night in Madison Square Garden.

A bad Syracuse team and a worse UConn team got together in New York City to play an awful basketball game, one where the two teams didn’t crack 100 points combined until there were 2.2 seconds left; where UConn won 52-50 despite shooting 31.4 percent from the floor because the Orange made just 25.9 percent of their field goals; where UConn did everything they could in the final minute to give the game to the Orange, including missing five free throws.

In a game between two teams that entered with a combined 8-6 record, Syracuse and UConn fans packed the Garden and created an environment that was just as rowdy, raucous and bi-partisan as a Big East tournament quarterfinal game that goes to six overtimes.

Businessmen in $5,000 suits were court side, going just as crazy as the UConn fans that packed their student section. Day-traders showed up in Orange t-shirts over their shirt and ties.

It didn’t matter that the Orange entered the game on a two-game losing streak. It didn’t matter UConn, a young team that has already lost two starters to season-ending injury, looks like a team that will be lucky to earn an invite to the NIT.

It never matters when these two former Big East rivals get together in the Basketball Mecca.

“It may be a slap in the face,” said Larry Avitabile, a Connecticut native that now calls Manhattan home, “but I hope UConn shows up as a bad loss when they show Syracuse’s NCAA tournament résumé.”


The rivalry between UConn and Syracuse is unlike any other rivalry in college basketball because of their proximity to New York City and Madison Square Garden, where the Big East has held their conference tournament since 1983.

Both fanbases claim the Big Apple as their own. Both schools consider themselves New York City’s college basketball team. None of the schools that left the Big East and none of the programs still in the conference traveled to the Garden the way that UConn and Syracuse travel to the Garden.

And the result is what you saw on Monday night.

Half of the Garden was blue.

The other half was Orange.

It simply does not get better than that.

Every season, one of the biggest talking points this time of the year is how neutral site games sterilize what makes college basketball special: the energy that comes with playing a game in front of a home crowd. The product on the court is never going to be as good as the product on the floor of any NBA game. That’s a fact of life when the best players at this level are 19 year olds a couple of years away from being able to impact an NBA game or 22 year olds that weren’t quite good enough to be able to make the jump to the pros.

And basketball at any level is never going to be a more popular than the NFL or college football. Unless you live in places like Lexington or Lawrence, college basketball probably isn’t even as important as the MLB or the NHL.

But those big, on-campus games are unparalleled in any sport at any level in this country. The experience of watching, say, UCLA’s visit to Rupp Arena on Saturday or North Carolina’s trip to Assembly Hall last week comes through on the television broadcasts.

When UConn and Syracuse square off in the Garden, it’s like two teams are playing a home game in the building.

“It’s New York City, it’s one of the best venues to play basketball in, it’s on everybody’s bucket list,” said Syracuse guard Andrew White. “Then, given the teams that were here, and the location, you’re dipping into history. This venue and this game is one of the tops all-time.”

White is a fifth-year senior that spent the last four seasons playing for Kansas in the Big 12 and Nebraska in the Big Ten. He’s seen it all. He’s played in the most electric college gyms. He knows what constitutes a great place to play a basketball game.

“I knew what to expect,” said White, who hails from southern Virginia. “I knew what I was getting into coming into this game. It’s Syracuse and UConn at the Garden. Say no more.”

College basketball needs all the games like this that it can get. It’s why those two programs would be doing a disservice to the sport if they decide to discontinue the series after the 2017 Jimmy V Classic, when they will play in the Garden for the second straight season.

Because UConn has too much talent and Kevin Ollie recruits at too high of a level to be down for that long. The Orange are just a year removed from getting to the Final Four and have plenty of young talent of their own on the roster.

Those programs will return to their rightful spots in the top 25 sooner rather than later.

And if those two fanbases can turn one of the ugliest games of the season into what we experienced in the arena on Monday night, imagine what it will be like in that building when those two teams are actually good.

 

Eastern Kentucky basketball player charged with rape

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RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) Authorities say an Eastern Kentucky basketball player has been arrested on a rape charge.

Records at Kentucky’s Madison County Detention Center show 23-year-old Jaylen Babb-Harrison was arrested Sunday in Richmond and charged with first-degree rape.

A statement from Eastern Kentucky says Babb-Harrison, a redshirt senior guard, has been suspended from the team. It says the school is cooperating with police.

Local media organizations cited an arrest citation in reporting that police were called to a Richmond hospital when a female reported she was at Babb-Harrison’s home and that he had sex with her against her will.

WKYT-TV reports Babb-Harrison declined to be interviewed at a jail. His first court appearance is set for Wednesday.

Online jail records didn’t list an attorney for the player.