Late Night Snacks: Notre Dame beats Pitt, K-State spoils Huggins’ homecoming

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It was a relatively light night on the action front. A few Top 25 teams in action, two playing each other in the Big East, and some mid-major games that, while looking good on paper, were missing a few things. It’s Late Night Snacks.

Game of the Night

No. 25 Notre Dame 51, No. 20 Pittsburgh 42 – The teams essentially switched jerseys at the half on Monday night. In the first 20 minutes, the Fighting Irish scored 19 points and missed 18 of their first 19 shots. In the second half, the Panthers scored 20 points and finished shooting just 34.8-percent overall and going 0-for-8 from three.

Games of Note

No. 13 Kansas State 71, West Virginia 61 – The score didn’t really reflect how one-sided this game was. The Wildcats never trailed after 2-0 in the opening moments and got out to as large as a 21-point second half lead and were never threatened by the Mountaineers. Will Spradling had a night with 19 points and a 7-for-7 performance at the free throw line as K-State shot 50-percent from the field (23-of-46). Only Deniz Kilicli scored in double figures for West Virginia with 16.

Bucknell 61, Lehigh 55 – This game lost a bit of its luster long ago when C.J. McCollum broke his foot. It still lived up to the Patriot League hype. Mike Muscala went for 12 points and nine rebounds and teammate Bryson Johnson scored a game-high 19 in the win. The Mountain Hawks were 1-for-15 from three-point range in the loss.

Fairfield 66, Iona 64 – Derek Needham’s three pointer with five seconds left lifted the Stags over the Gaels at home. Lamont ‘Momo’ Jones carried Iona in the loss (see below) and Fairfield got 30 points from their bench, including 12 from Justin Jenkins and 10 from Maurice Barrow.

Villanova 71, Rutgers 63 – All five starters scored in double figures for the Wildcats, who needed it because they only got eight points from their bench. JayVaughn Pinkston, Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono all had 14 in the victory. Myles Macks poured in a game-high 24 in the loss for the Scarlet Knights.

Starred

Fred Sturdivant, Texas Southern – A monster night for a player who is sure to garner first-team All-SWAC honors. The forward went for 21 points and 17 rebounds in a 73-57 victory over Mississippi Valley State.

Lamont ‘Momo’ Jones, Iona – The Gaels lost to Fairfield, but the former Arizona transfer dropped in 29 points in the loss. He was 9-of-17 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free throw line.

Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova – The Wildcats big man went for 10 points and 12 rebounds in the win at Rutgers. They needed every point and every rebound from him on Monday night.

Struggled

Eron Harris, West Virginia – The Mountaineer guard averages 9.2 points per game, but finished a rough night against Kansas State with zero points and fouled out in just eight minutes. He spent a majority of the night on the bench and put the bow on his performance by getting a technical foul for his fifth to send him to the bench.

Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh – The forward averages 10.5 points per game. He finished a bad offensive night for both teams with two points on 1-of-5 shooting, five rebounds and four fouls in 26 minutes in the loss.

Stuffing the Stat Sheet

Rarlensee Nelson, New Orleans – I preface this with the fact that the Privateers played Central Baptist College, a school in Conway, Ark. that plays in the NCCAA. But Nelson had a night with 11 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for UNO in the 100-65 win.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.