Late Night Snacks: Working overtime in the Mountain West

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Game of the Night

No. 16 San Diego State 79, Colorado State 72 (OT): Wonderful, classic game. In the first half, SDSU’s speedy, athletic offense had its way, staking the home team to a 41-23 halftime lead. In the second, Colorado State ramped up their formidable defense and clawed back into it, tying things up 63-all on a Colton Iverson layup shortly before time expired on regulation. In OT, it was the Chase Tapley show. The senior guard scored 12 of his team’s 16 points in the extra period, and managed to keep his head when tempers got hot in waning seconds of added time. Jamaal Franklin led all scorers with 23 points, and Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson had a beastly 18 point, 11 rebound effort for the visiting Rams. After the game, SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said he thought these two teams would contend for the MWC crown. We tend to agree.

Meaningful Results

No. 24 UNLV 76, Air Force 71 (OT): No easy outs in the Mountain West, obviously. The Falcons got a huge game from forward Mike Fitzgerald. The 6’6″ senior poured in 22 points to match UNLV’s Anthony Bennett for the game high. Foul trouble eventually did Air Force in, but not until an overtime period was played, and not until Bryce DeJean-Jones scored eight of his 18 in OT. Shades of Chase Tapley.

No. 4 Arizona 80, Oregon State 70: Having already snapped their unbeaten streak against the Ducks earlier this week, the Wildcats weren’t taking any chances with the Beavers. Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill each had 16 points to lead four Arizona starters in double figures, but it took a little defense to survive 18 points from OSU’s Ahmad Starks and a man-style 13/15 double-double from Devon Collier to move to 3-1 in the rejuvenated Pac-12.

Ole Miss 64, No. 10 Missouri 49: Murphy Holloway’s 22 points happened in 31 minutes of relatively early play. As the clock ran down, it became obvious that the Tigers were not even thinking of coming back, and he got to take it easy and watch the backups play a bit. Ole Miss used a fierce perimeter defense to harass Mizzou’s four-guard lineup into a miserable 2-18 night from behind the arc.

Starred

Elston Turner, Texas A&M: 40 points all by his lonesome, in Rupp Arena, over the defending national champs. Not a bad night’s work.

Keith Clanton, Central Florida: Clanton earned 36 points the hard way, because he really doesn’t shoot threes much. Clanton was 1-1 from behind the arc, but most of his work was done inside, where he was 14-18 to go with 5-7 from the stripe. Despite all that, Eastern Carolina won the game, 88-85 in OT.

Struggled

South Florida: No. 3 Louisville more than doubled USF’s rebounding efforts, grabbing 48 against the Bulls’ 22. They also had 12 steals in a defensive clinic that led to a 64-38 win at the KFC Yum! Center.

Phil Pressey, Missouri: Ten points, five assists and five turnovers. 0-4 from deep, and no free throws. An utterly forgettable night for an All-America candidate. If only he could forget it.

Fan Bases that have earned the right to Take a Breath and Take a Seat

Miami (OH) and Buffalo: MACtion isn’t limited to the football field, it seems. I got exhausted just reading the tweet:

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.