Alabama Missouri

Alabama lets chance for signature win slip away, Laurence Bowers injured in Missouri victory

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Alabama had its chance to be the bully Monday night when it dominated Notre Dame on the football field, 42-14, to win the BCS National Championship Game.

Tuesday night on the basketball court, it was the Crimson Tide playing the role of Notre Dame football, falling to No. 10 Missouri, 84-68, at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.

Alabama, fighting for a quality win in the comparably weak SEC, started the game 2-of-11 from the floor and fell behind by 10 points.

But coach Anthony Grant dialed up the pressure on Missouri’s catalyst, point guard Phil Pressey, and slowed the Tigers’ transition game. By attacking Pressey with double teams defensively, the Crimson Tide forced turnovers and used those stops to rip off a 12-0 and take the lead by three points with 7:08 remaining in the first.

Where Pressey has been Missouri’s distributor, Alabama point guard Trevor Releford led the scoring charge Tuesday night.

His 19 first-half points carried the Alabama attack, but his backcourt counterpart Trevor Lacey went scoreless in the first half.

Lacey was hot in the second half by scoring nine points, but Missouri used a 9-3 run in the middle of the half to extend the lead to double digits.

Pressey found his usual comfort zone after a shaky spell for part of the first half, getting into the lane and finishing with 11 points and 13 assists.

Jabari Brown was hot from three-point range. He finished with a career-high 22 points on 5-of-7 shooting from three. Laurence Bowers was another major beneficiary of Pressey’s dribble penetration, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-8 from the field.

On the injury front, Bowers left the game limping in the second half and coach Frank Haith reportedly announced postgame that the senior would undergo an MRI tomorrow. Haith expressed concern that Bowers could have an MCL sprain in his right knee. The senior has had a strong 2012-13 so far after recovering from major surgery on his left knee that kept him out for the entire 2011-12 season.

Looking at Alabama’s schedule, the Tide really only have two more marquee matchups in the regular season: Jan. 22 against Kentucky and March 2 against No. 11 Florida.

By missing out on a chance to notch a big road win Tuesday, any NCAA tournament hopes get dimmer for Alabama. An 8-5 non-conference schedule with losses to Tulane and Mercer, combined with a conference slate devoid of a signature win typically doesn’t translate into an NCAA tournament bid.

It’s not out of the question that only three SEC teams make the NCAA tournament. Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri should be in the field of 68, if all goes as planned, but it drops off noticeably after that.

Ole Miss could be in the mix, though their two losses came to Indiana State and Middle Tennessee. Arkansas lost all four non-conference games that could have been quality wins (Syracuse, Michigan, Arizona State, Wisconsin). LSU, Tennessee, Texas A&M.

Who else could emerge and punch a ticket to the tournament?

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

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

rp_primary_Linder_Jeff_Action_vs_Dayton_031815_2_
Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.

Duke’s Azura Stevens transfers to UConn

Duke's Azura Stevens (11) steals the ball from North Carolina A&T's Kenya Hailey, right, as Duke's Ka'lia Johnson watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Ellen Ozier)
(AP Photo/Ellen Ozier)
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STORRS, Conn. (AP) Azura Stevens, the leading scorer and rebounder for Duke, has decided to transfer to UConn.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore center from Raleigh, North Carolina will sit out next season and will have two years of eligibility remaining when the 2017-18 season begins the school announced Saturday.

Stevens averaged 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds a game and was named to the ACC’s all-conference first team.

She was second in the league both scoring and rebounding.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Saturday that he normally doesn’t get involved in transfer situations, but Stevens convinced him that Storrs would be the right place for her going forward.

Beachem says he’ll be back at Notre Dame for senior season

Notre Dame's V.J. Beachem reacts during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin in the regional semifinals of the men's NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Forward V.J. Beachem has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will return to Notre Dame for his senior season.

Beachem made the announcement Sunday night on Twitter, writing that he was thankful for the opportunity to experience the NBA draft process and invitations to work out for teams, “but now I’m ready to lead [Notre Dame]. #IMBACK.”

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.0 points and 3.9 rebounds as the Irish finished 24-12. He was at his best in the NCAA Tournament, when he averaged 17.5 points as the Irish advanced to the Elite Eight for a second straight year.

Coach Mike Brey sent a Tweet saying he was thrilled Beachem will return.