Kentucky quiets Marshall Henderson, beats No. 16 Ole Miss

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We all bought a ticket to the Marshall Henderson Show, but instead, what we got on Tuesday night was a feature on just what Kentucky is capable of being when it all comes together.

They went into the Tad Pad and knocked off No. 16 Ole Miss 87-74 thanks to 26 points from Kyle Wiltjer, 24 points from Archie Goodwin and a scintillating defensive performance from Nerlens Noel, who blocked a school-record 12 shots.

And while I singled out some impressive stat-lines for three of Kentucky’s biggest stars, the fact of the matter is that this was a team victory for the Wildcats in every sense of the word.

In the first half, as UK was battling a shortened bench — Willie Cauley-Stein missed yet another game — and a quick whistle that led to massive foul trouble, John Calipari was forced to use a lineup that included Jarrod Polson, Jon Hood and Kyle Wiltjer for an extended period of time. Despite that, Kentucky managed to head into the break trailing Ole Miss by just a single point.

In the second half, Wiltjer continued his hot shooting, reaching his career-high of 26 points with 17 minutes left on the game. When the Rebels started to focus in on him, Alex Poythress took over, helping push Kentucky’s lead to 73-56 with 12 points and four boards during the surge.

And when foul trouble once again destroyed Kentucky’s momentum, aiding a 16-0 run that cut the Wildcat lead to just a single point, it was Noel that took control of the game.

Ole Miss was able to cut their deficit in large part because they used Henderson as a decoy to spread the floor and create mismatches before pounding the ball into the paint, where Noel couldn’t afford to foul out. But the flip-switched for Noel when he took an elbow and got into a bit of a shoving match with Reginald Buckner on a free throw block out at the six minute mark.

From that point on, Noel blocked five of the six shots that Ole Miss took in the paint, including a pair of incredible blocks on dunk attempts. The only shot he didn’t block was a driving dunk attempt by Murphy Holloway that he changed into a missed lay-up.

What makes the win all the more impressive is that Kentucky did all this on the road in a game that they just about had to win.

Beating teams in the top 50 in the RPI on the road is not an easy thing to do, and it’s an opportunity that’s not going to come along that often in the SEC this season. Kentucky did that.

But this win does more than simply bolster a resume that was is desperate need of work.

It builds their confidence. Poythress and Wiltjer have both been inconsistent, but they dominated for stretches during this game. Goodwin has had issues with shot selection and decision-making, and he scored 24 points on 11 shots while getting to the line 14 times and finishing with a 4:3 assist-to-turnover ration. Kentucky went deep into their bench and got contributions from everyone that contributed.

And, most importantly, they withstood a run by a good team on their home floor.

Ole Miss may be overrated at No. 16 in the country, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is the kind of win that can change the course of Kentucky’s season.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.