Momo Jones

Late Night Snacks: Mid-major matchups dominate Friday night

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Game of the Day: Florida Gulf Coast 96, Stetson 65

FGCU made a statement on Friday night, beating Stetson by 31 points and pulling within a half game of the lead in the Atlantic Sun. The Eagles forced 19 Stetson turnovers, which helped all five starters reach double figures. Remember, this is a Florida Gulf Coast team that beat now-surging Miami early in the season.

Important Outcomes 

1. Iona 90, St. Peter’s 71

The high-scoring Iona attack struck again on Friday night. Lamont “Momo” Jones led the way with 24 points, but all five starters scored in double figures in this dominating offensive performance.

2. Loyola (Md.) 51, Manhattan 41

The win keeps the defensive-minded Greyhounds in stride with Iona and right in the race with Niagara at the top of the MAAC standings. Loyola gets the win while only shooting 39 percent from the floor.

3. Niagara 78, Siena 69

Keeping with the MAAC theme, Niagara stays at the top of the league standings with a win over Siena. Juan’ya Green tallied a double-double of 19 points and 11 assists. Three players scored in double figures for Niagara.

Starred

1. Evan Hymes, Siena (30 points, 6 assists)

Despite the loss, Hymes had a big outing. Not only did he shoot 7-of-11 from the field, but he got to the free throw line and converted, as well. His 12-of-13 mark from the line rounded out his efficient 30-point night.

2. Lamont Jones, Iona (24 points, 4 assists)

The Arizona transfer was once again at the center of the high-powered Iona scoring attack. His 24 points paced the Gaels in a win over St. Peter’s.

3. Jordan Heath, Canisius (17 points, 13 rebounds) 

Canisius first jumped onto the national radar when it beat Temple earlier in the year. Tonight, in a win over Rider, Heath’s double-double led the way.

Struggled 

1. Nurideen Lindsey, Rider (4 points, fouled out)

Returning from a concussion, Lindsey was unable to find his stride Friday. He is strongest when he attacks the basket, but had just four points in a loss to Canisius.

2. Stetson handling the ball (19 turnovers)

In the night’s most one-sided game, Stetson fell to Florida Gulf Coast, 96-65. Part of the reason was Stetson’s inability to hold onto the basketball, turning it over 19 times.

3. Austin Arians, Milwaukee (0 points, 0-of-6 FG)

The struggling Panthers lost by 20 points to Green Bay and Arians struggled off the bench. He was 0-of-6 from the floor Friday.

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

Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson scored 19 points to lead a dominating offensive performance that helped No. 9 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday.

Marcus Paige added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 59 percent to stay atop the league ahead of the next renewal of their fierce rivalry with Duke.

UNC had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition in arguably their best performance in weeks, using a 13-0 second-half burst to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points after managing a combined five in the past two games.

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points to lead Pitt (17-7, 6-6). But the Panthers shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers, and a strong effort on the glass did little to offset their troubles.

The Tar Heels were playing their first home game in two weeks after a difficult three-game road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame. Then came Tuesday’s game at Boston College, where the Tar Heels struggled against a winless league team then had a scare when Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and had to leave the sideline for the rest of the game.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday’s off day, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine and even cracked jokes about a two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home certainly helped everyone feel better. After wrestling with shooting struggles for much of the past month, UNC’s offense kicked back into an efficient and balanced gear, while Paige – the player the Tar Heels are practically begging to jolt free from a prolonged shooting slump – looked more like his old self against the Panthers.

That included one second-half play in which he caught a crosscourt pass from Theo Pinson in transition and made sure to step back behind the arc before burying a 3-pointer.

The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start coming in, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. And Pitt again had trouble getting their offense going, failing to crack 70 points for the third straight game.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. … Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage. … Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. … UNC made 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range and 13 of 15 free throws. … Jackson and Pinson had six assists each. … UNC managed just one offensive rebound.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
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Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.