Late Night Snacks: Court-storming students own the night

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Game of the Day: Wake Forest 86, No. 18 NC State 84

There haven’t been many things to get truly excited about at Wake Forest in the two-plus seasons coach Jeff Bzdelik has been at the school, but Tuesday’s win over a ranked team gave Demon Deacon fans a reason to storm the floor.

Devin Thomas was the catalyst of it all, posting a career night of 25 points and 14 rebounds. Three other players were in double figures and helped Wake Forest erase a 12-point halftime deficit.

For NC State, it has been an eventful 10-day stretch. On Jan. 12, the Wolfpack stormed the floor to celebrate its win over No. 1 Duke. After losing to Maryland on Jan. 16, Terrapin fans stormed the floor. Now on Tuesday, Wake Forest fans rushed the court. Ten days, one court storm in celebration, two by opposing fan bases.

Important Outcomes 

1. Villanova 73, No. 5 Louisville 64

Louisville was sloppy in its loss to Villanova Tuesday. It turned the ball over 17 times and shot 12-of-24 (50 percent) from the free throw line. The Wildcats are, mind you, a team that lost to Columbia by 18 points back in November. JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Arcidiacono led the way for Villanova, two of five players in double figures.

Louisville has now lost two in a row and face a road matchup with Georgetown on Saturday.

2. No. 22 Missouri 71, South Carolina 65 

South Carolina did a good job of using a zone defense to force Missouri into half-court sets in the first half. This all but eliminated the Phil Pressey-driven transition offense and had the Gamecocks in control going into the second half. At one point, though, it clicked. Missouri ripped off an 18-2 run to take the lead and fought off a tough South Carolina comeback to hold on for the win. Credit also goes to Earnest Ross, who had 21 points in his effort to compensate for the absence of Laurence Bowers and Keion Bell.

3. No. 3 Kansas 59, No. 11 Kansas State 55

Travis Releford had 12 points on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting performance to lead Kansas to a tough road win over the Wildcats. The Jayhawks have now won 16 straight games.

Starred

1. Devin Thomas, Wake Forest (25 points, 10-of-13 FG, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists, 3 steals)

A lot of things had to be working in Wake Forest’s favor to get an upset win over NC State on Tuesday night. One of those variables had to be a dominant performer, and Devin Thomas delivered. He made an impact in nearly every part of the box score, going for an impressive double-double and adding four blocks.

2. Earnest Ross, Missouri (21 points, 10 rebounds)

Without Laurence Bowers and Keion Bell, Missouri needed someone to step up to avoid an upset loss to South Carolina at home. Earnest Ross was that man for Missouri on Tuesday. Something that doesn’t show up in the box score: Ross made a great pass to Jabari Brown with seconds remaining that set him up for the three-pointer that put Missouri ahead for good.

3. D.J. Richardson, Illinois (30 points, 9-of-14 FG, 6-of-9 3pt FG)

Illinois needed a bounce-back win after losing three straight. Richardson was the offensive engine behind the Illini attack Tuesday. His 30 points accounted for 42 percent of Illinois’ scoring in a win over Nebraska.

Struggled 

1. Russ Smith, Louisville (8 points, 2-of-13 FG, 4 TO)

Smith and backcourt mate Peyton Siva both underperformed in Louisville’s upset loss to Villanova, but Smith’s likely hurt more. The Cardinals depend on Smith for just over 19 points per game but did not get that kind of production Tuesday.

2. Will Spradling, Kansas State (0 points, 0-of-5 FG)

Spradling is an offensive piece that Kansas State could have enjoyed against Kansas on Tuesday. He struggled to find his shooting touch, though, going 0-of-5 from the floor.

3. Damien Leonard (2 points, 1-of-11 FG, 3 TOs)

Le0nard struggled to find his stroke against Missouri on Tuesday, including going 0-of-5 from three-point range.

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

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.