Colorado State

Late Night Snacks: UConn brings the energy, Mountain West brings the excitement

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Game of the Day: No. 24 Colorado State 66, San Diego State 60

The key to beating San Diego State is often shutting down the heart of that team’s offensive attack, Jamaal Franklin. Colorado State was able to do that in the second half. Dorian Green had 16 points, including a big but controversial layup, plus the foul, that proved to be the dagger Wednesday night.

The Mountain West is a crowded conference race, yes, but Colorado State showed that it has the firepower to make a run for the top.

Important Outcomes

1. No. 2 Duke 73, North Carolina 68

It wasn’t pretty, but No. 2 Duke was able to clean up its act in the second half by sharing the ball and locking down on defense to seal a win over rival North Carolina. Mason Plumlee overcame early offensive struggles to finish with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He imposed his will in the paint once he found his comfort zone, despite playing in foul trouble down the stretch.

2. Connecticut 66, No. 6 Syracuse 58

The Huskies might be banned from the Big East and NCAA tournaments, but don’t tell Kevin Ollie’s team. UConn continues to play with the fire of an NCAA tournament-bound team. The backcourt trio of Omar Calhoun, Ryan Boatright, and Shabazz Napier combined for 42 of Connecticut’s 66 points in the win.

3. Charlotte 71, No. 11 Butler 67

It’s crowded at the top of the Atlantic 10. With the loss, Butler falls into a tie with La Salle and Xavier for third place, but still just a half game behind Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Louis for the conference lead. Charlotte pounded Butler in the paint, which the Bulldogs had no answer for without center Andrew Smith, who was sitting with injury. Guard Rotnei Clarke almost single-handedly brought Butler back in the final minutes, scoring 15 points in just over three minutes, but came up short.

Starred

1. Elston Turner, Texas A&M (37 points, 13-of-20 FG, 7-of-10 3pt FG)

Texas A&M needed every last one of Turner’s points Wednesday to score a two-point win over Ole Miss. He carried the Aggies, including a basket with 0:16 to play that pushed the game to two possessions. It is the second major win in which he has exploded for 35 or more points, having put down 40 in a road win over Kentucky earlier in the year.

2. Joe Jackson, Memphis (21 points, 10-of-12 FG, 10 assists)

The Memphis offense was firing on all cylinders Wednesday and Jackson was at the center of it. He was efficient and a threat both scoring and distributing the basketball. The Tigers have climbed back into the Top 25 and are looking regain the respect that they had prior to their early season slump.

3. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State (25 points, 7-of-8 3pt FG)

The Cowboys remain tied for the top of the Big 12 after their blowout win over Texas Tech Wednesday. Part of the reason Oklahoma State was able to jump out to such a lead was Brown’s hot shooting from beyond the arc.

Also of Note: Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State (27 points, 13 rebounds)

Struggled

1. Brandon Triche, Syracuse (9 points, 3-of-15 FG, 0-of-7 3pt FG)

Triche was part of a Syracuse offense that couldn’t find its mark on Wednesday night. As a team, the Orange shot just 35 percent which was a major factor, especially considering that the defense was able to amass a +8 turnover margin.

2. Winston Shepard, San Diego State (2 points, 0-of-5 FG, 2 TOs)

Shepard could not find his groove, but continued to look for a shot when it wasn’t there. In the second half, he missed a close layup, got his own rebound, and missed the putback, which Colorado State ultimately grabbed and got out in transition. This game comes on the heels of a solid 10-point outing he had against Fresno State on Saturday.

3. Josh Benson, Dayton (6 points, 1-of-6 FG, 3 TOs, 5 Fouls)

Benson was well off his season average of 10 points per game and was only able to log 16 minutes due to foul trouble. It was in part why the Flyers fell to a Rhode Island team that was previously 1-8 in A-10 play.

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

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.