Paul Lusk

Pregame Shootaround 1.11.13: Can Missouri State continue its improbable turnaround?

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Game of the Day: No. 13 Creighton at Missouri State (8:00 p.m.; ESPN3) 

After going 2-10 in non-conference play Paul Lusk’s team has proven to be a headache for their Missouri Valley foes, as the Bears are off to a 3-1 start. But tonight brings on an incredibly difficult task: slowing down Doug McDermott and a Creighton team that’s averaging 80.2 points per game. On the season Creighton is shooting 51.9% from the field and 44.9% from beyond the arc, and the many quality looks that the Bluejays find offensively make them one of the tougher matchups in the country. Guards Anthony Downing and Marcus Marshall lead the way offensively for Missouri State but it would be unrealistic for them to have any thoughts of winning a shootout with Creighton. Can they slow down the Bluejays? Doubtful, but few had them getting off to a 3-1 start either.

Who’s Getting Upset? Utah State (vs. San Jose State; 9:05 p.m. ESPN3) 

The Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum is one of the toughest environments for a road team to deal with, thanks not only to the fans but also the fact that Stew Morrill’s program is 219-19 during his tenure. Led by shooting guard Preston Medlin the Aggies have won 12 games in a row, but with San Jose State having a perimeter marksman of its own there’s a chance the Spartans can pull the upset. His name: James Kinney. Kinney, who casual fans may not have seen since he scored 30 in a loss at Kansas in late November, is averaging 20.6 points per game and has scored 20 points or more in eight of the 14 games in which he has played. If he can get hot don’t be surprised if San Jose State hangs around.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Fairfield at Loyola (MD) (7:00 p.m.; ESPNU) 

With wins over Rider and Saint Peter’s last week more than a few pundits were quick to make Loyola (MD) the clear favorite to win the MAAC. But the conference race is a wide-open affair and that’s something the visiting Stags hope to prove tonight. Fairfield (2-2) trails Loyola (3-1) by a game in the standings but they’ve won three of their last four games on the road, which includes wins at Saint Joseph’s and Canisius. The perimeter matchup between Fairfield’s Derek Needham and Loyola’s Dylon Cormier should be fun to watch, but the key for the Stags will be whether or not their front court can neutralize Loyola forward Erik Etherly (15.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg).

Five Things to Watch For 

1) Siena has lost 11 straight games entering tonight’s game against Canisius and at first glance it would be safe to assume that Billy Baron and company will make short work of the Saints. But Siena has won 13 of the last 14 games in the series and they own a 13-2 record against the Golden Griffins at the Times Union Center. Is this weekend a “last stand” of sorts for forward O.D. Anosike and company? It just might be.

2) Wright St. looks to move to 4-0 in Horizon League play tonight with a win at Loyola (IL). Billy Donlon’s Raiders are off to the program’s best start since the 1989-90 season and they’ve done so thanks in large part to their work on the defensive end. Opponents are shooting 39.7% from the field and 29.5% from beyond the arc, and junior forward Cole Darling leads the way offensively with an average of 10.6 points per game.

3) Northern Kentucky and Lipscomb meet for the first time since the 1971-72 season, and strangely enough all three prior meetings in the series took place during that season (Lipscomb winning two). Both teams are 1-3 in Atlantic Sun play, and if they’re to defend their home floor the Norse have to hold their own on the boards (minus-4.2 rebounding margin).

4) Niagara swept the season series with Saint Peter’s last season and have won eight of the last 12 meetings entering tonight’s game in Jersey City. With high-scoring guards Antoine Mason and Juan’ya Green at his disposal Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich will look to crack the Peacocks’ tough half-court defense.

5) San Jose State’s James Kinney is averaging 20.6 points per game on the season but he’s coming off of a 3-of-18 outing in the Spartans’ 71-64 win over New Orleans on Tuesday night. It’s safe to say that San Jose State can’t afford a similar performance if they’re to win at Utah State.

Other Notable Games 

7:00 p.m. Lipscomb at Northern Kentucky

7:00 p.m. Canisius at Siena

7:00 p.m. Niagara at Saint Peter’s

9:00 p.m. Wright St. at Loyola (IL) (ESPNU)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Cody Riley cuts list to five schools

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Cody Riley has cut his list to five schools, according to Scout.com.

A four-star four man, Riley is now considering just UConn, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC.

Ranked the No. 29 player in the Class of 2017 by Rivals, Riley is an undersized-but-powerful forward. His bread and butter is on the block, where his strength and low center of gravity make him a nightmare to deal with, but he’s also skilled enough to do damage as a face-up four.

Riley is from California and will be playing his senior season alongside Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018, at Sierra Canyon.

Auburn continues to stockpile talent, adds top 50 prospect in 2017

Bruce Pearl
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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Auburn’s hire of Bruce Pearl was almost universally lauded as the first step towards the return of relevance for the Tiger basketball program.

And while the results have yet to shine through on the floor, Pearl is unequivocally stockpiling the kind of talent that will allow him to push for trips to the NCAA tournament and maybe one day contend for a league crown with Kentucky.

The latest step came on Sunday, when Pearl landed a commitment from Chuma Okeke, a top 50 wing prospect out of Georgia.

“He is a versatile wing who can handle and score,” said NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “Coming off of a big July, Okeke could move up the national rankings and Auburn pounced on him right away.”

Okeke joins big man Austin Wiley, a top ten player in the class, and Davion Mitchell, who is likely one of the five best point guards in the country, in what is currently the nation’s best recruiting class in 2017. That’s before you consider that Pearl already has Mustapha Heron, a top 25 prospect, joining the mix this season.

“This group has the makings of a monster recruiting class for Auburn,” Phillips said.

Okeke picked the Tigers over Florida State, Georgia and a number of other programs across the southeast.

VIDEO: Watch Virginia freshman Jay Huff dunk from the free throw line

Tony Bennett
AP Photo/Nell Redmond
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Jay Huff is a member of Tony Bennett’s best recruiting class to date, a 6-foot-11 top 50 recruit from North Carolina.

He also happens to be pretty athletic.

Don’t believe me?

Check out this video that McDonald’s All-American Kyle Guy tweeted out on Sunday night:

Yup, that’s Huff taking off from the foul line to dunk.

Not bad, young fella.

Seton Hall’s Derrick Gordon won’t pursue pro basketball to become a firefighter

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12:  Derrick Gordon #32 of the Seton Hall Pirates celebrates after hitting a basket against the Villanova Wildcats during the Big East Basketball Tournament Championship at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2016 in New York City. Seton Hall Pirates defeated Villanova Wildcats 69-67.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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After a successful career that included stops at Western Kentucky, UMass and Seton Hall, Derrick Gordon, Division I college basketball’s first openly gay player, will not pursue professional opportunities and will instead become a firefighter.

The 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a senior for the Pirates, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament during his graduate transfer year. By making the NCAA tournament with Seton Hall this past season, Gordon became the first college basketball player to reach the event with three different teams.

A tenacious perimeter defender who could have earned a pro contract if he stuck with basketball, Gordon will instead pursue a career as a firefighter in San Francisco.

“I’ve had an amazing basketball career and want to thank everybody who has always been there supporting me every step on the way,” Gordon said via his Instagram. “But I’m making a change in my career…I will now be working towards becoming a San Francisco Firefighter!! I’m excited about this and looking forward to having a long career!!”

While Gordon likely would have never made the NBA on talent alone, his defensive prowess would have likely given him a shot overseas or in the D League. It’s hard to say why Gordon is making this decision, but given what we saw with all of the attention surrounding Michael Sam when he tried to play in the NFL, Gordon was probably going to face a lot of scrutiny wherever he decided to play.

Hopefully Gordon finds his calling as a firefighter and brings the same energy and leadership that he brought on the floor to helping other people outside of basketball.

Washington guard Markelle Fultz pulls off sick spin and dunk at FIBA U18 Americas

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armour
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Washington incoming freshman guard Markelle Fultz is going to be one of the premier players in the country next season as his unique game is going to be fascinating to watch.

The 6-foot-5 Fultz is currently playing with the USA U18 team in Chile for the FIBA U18 Americas as he’s second on the team in scoring and first in assists as the Americans play Canada for the title on Saturday.

Against the host country, Fultz had an electric spin move in the paint and finished with an easy dunk. If you’re not willing to stay up late to watch this dude play this year, then set your DVRs, because Fultz is going to have some fun moments during the season.

(H/t: Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report)