No. 11 Cincy outlasts Xavier in the renewal of the Crosstown Classic

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Sean Kilpatrick scored 25 points and Cashmere Wright chipped in with 15 as No. 11 Cincinnati jumped all over Xavier in the second half, winning the sanitized Crosstown Shootout, err Crosstown Classic, 60-45.

Xavier held a 24-19 lead in the final minutes of the 1st half, but the Bearcats cut that lead to 24-22 by the half and used a 17-4 run to open the second half as they built a double-digit lead. Cincinnati is the biggest, more athletic team, and they threw a press on Xavier that the Musketeers weren’t ready to handle.

Xavier never threatened again, but the biggest reason for that had less to do with what they were doing on the court as who they had on the bench. Semaj Christon, Chris Mack’s talented freshman point guard, was cramping so severely that he could barely walk off the court after the game. Dee Davis, Xavier’s other back court starter, had some of the same issues. He tried to play through them, but it was clear to anyone watching that he was running at about 50%.

And it’s a shame, really.

Because Xavier looked really good for the first 20 minutes. Granted, much of their early success was a result of Cincinnati’s lack of patience offensively, and the initial run Xavier made in the second half came with Davis and Christon on the floor. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Musketeers were the better team in the first half. They may not have erased that 11 point deficit, but it sure would have been a lot more interesting down the stretch if they were at full strength.

(A 3-14 performance from the charity stripe certainly didn’t help matter, either.)

As far as Cincinnati is concerned, they are who we thought they were. They’ve got athleticism to spare, they can be downright scary defensively, and when Kilpatrick and Wright are playing well, they can put a run on any team in the country.

This is a dangerous group. They have size, they have depth, they defend, they have star power in the back court, they have role players that buy-in to what Mick Cronin is selling, and they have a couple of talented bench players — Titus Rubles, for example — that can provide a scoring spark. That’s a good combination.

But the story of this game was the fact that it was the renewal of the Xavier-Cincinnati rivalry, the one that ended in fisticuffs and a bloodied Kenny Frease last year. This year, with a new name and a new venue — they played at an arena in downtown Cincinnati — the two schools were trying to prevent that kind of fight from ever happening again.

And it turned out well.

The great part about moving the game off campus is that now both fan bases can pack into the arena. And while that increases the risk of a fight breaking out in the stands, it makes for a super-charged atmosphere, one that came through for those of us watching the game couchside.

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

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.