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.

Missouri lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

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Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.

Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.

The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.

When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.

Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.

Oklahoma State promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

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Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.

The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.

 

Rhode Island junior E.C. Matthews will return to school

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Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.

Cal promotes assistant Wyking Jones to head coach

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Cal will promote interim head coach and former assistant coach Wyking Jones to head coach, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The story was first reported by Jon Rothstein of FanRagSports.com

A native of Inglewood, California, Jones has been an assistant coach for the Golden Bears for the past two seasons as he replaces former head coach Cuonzo Martin, who departed to take the Missouri job. This promotion comes as a bit of a surprise for some since Jones has never been a head coach at the Division I level.

Jones has spent 15 years as an assistant coach at the Division I level at places like Cal, Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount — where Jones spent his playing career.

Helping Louisville to the Final Four in 2013, Jones is a respected coach and recruiter who gets a great opportunity for his first head coaching job at the Division I level with Cal.

The Golden Bears made the NCAA tournament last year but finished 21-13 this season as they missed making the field of 68. Sophomore big man Ivan Rabb has already declared for the NBA Draft and it will be interesting to see what kind of roster Jones gets to work with right away.

One of the reasons Jones might have been retained is to help Cal keep its solid five-man recruiting class from bolting. While the Golden Bears don’t have any five-star talents coming in, it is a solid foundation for the program’s future led by a four-star guard in Jemarl Baker.

Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac declares for 2017 NBA Draft

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Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac has declared for the 2017 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-10 Isaac was a five-star prospect out of high school as he averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. One of the most versatile defenders in the country, Isaac could protect the rim (1.5 blocks per game) and also switch out to the perimeter and cover smaller wings as well (1.2 steals per game). Also showing a solid skill level, Isaac shot 50 percent from the field, 34 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line.

That kind of versatility is what Isaac is banking on in the NBA Draft as he’s expected to be a top-15 pick. If Isaac can prove that he’s a reliable perimeter shooter then teams could be intrigued by him as a matchup nightmare in the front court.