tharpe

Naadir Tharpe is the hero as No. 9 Kansas downs No. 14 Oklahoma State in double OT

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Kansas’ biggest weapon down the stretch Wednesday night against No. 14 Oklahoma State should have been freshman Ben McLemore, a blossoming star who showed earlier in the season against Iowa State that he can take a big shot in the clutch.

But it wasn’t McLemore this time. In fact, McLemore took just three shots in the final 14+ minutes of regulation and two overtimes in the Jayhawks’ 68-67 win on the road in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday. He did not look confident with the ball on a number of possessions and the ball went elsewhere as a result. The question is, was that for the better?

Without McLemore as a go-to option, Naadir Tharpe took four shots in the overtime periods and only hit one. That one, though, was the most important. It was Kansas’ only field goal of the two five-minute extra periods and proved to be the game-winner with 0:20 to play in the second OT.

By the box score standard, Tharpe did not have a good night. He was 2-of-11 from the floor and 0-of-6 from three-point range with four turnovers. But with McLemore not stepping up and fellow guard Elijah Johnson fouling out with 2:34 to play in the first overtime, Tharpe needed to control the ball.

Even on the final possession where Tharpe ultimately hit the game-winner, McLemore fumbled the ball on the wing before handing it off to him.

And that brings up and important point.

McLemore did not assert himself after struggling for most of the night and finished with seven points on 3-of-12 FG. It was only the third time all season that he had failed to score in double figures and the other two times came in early season non-conference blowouts. He has proven that he can be clutch. Feel free to look back at his game against Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse for proof of that.

But the real key will be, on nights when his shot is not falling, can he affect the game in other ways and have the confidence to be an option like Tharpe or Releford was on the final possession? He is young. It should come with time. We know that he can be that clear No. 1 option when he is hot, but it is the nights when he is not that will matter. In the mean time, he is still a sensational talent and a key to Kansas’ Final Four hopes this season.

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

Rick Pitino: ‘We should be penalized … but not this team’

Rick Pitino
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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One of the biggest storylines of Saturday’s college basketball schedule had everything to do with a team that no longer matters in the championship picture.

Less than 24 hours after being informed that the school would be imposing a postseason ban that will leave the Cardinals out of the ACC and NCAA tournaments, No. 19 Louisville tipped off against Boston College, and they did so without leading scorer Damion Lee, who is battling a knee issue.

How would the team respond to the decision — the despicable, shameful decision — that the university’s president made?

Well, it seems.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 19-2 lead in the first eight minutes and cruised to a 79-47 win over an overmatched Boston College team in the Yum! Center.

And head coach Rick Pitino, after the quote, said exactly what everyone is thinking.

“We should be penalized, no question about it,” he said. “But not this team. But the NCAA didn’t make that decision. We made that decision.”

He’s totally right. The school sacrificed the season — and the only shot that a pair of fifth-year seniors would get to play in the NCAA tournament — to protect the school, the brand and the bottom-line moving forward. Like I said earlier, it’s despicable.

But credit the Cardinals for responding.

Because they still have something on the line. They’re just a game out of first place in the ACC, and while an ACC regular season title isn’t a shot to play in the ACC or NCAA tournament, it’s still a banner that would probably mean more to Damion Lee and Trey Lewis than any league title has meant to a Louisville player before.

Oklahoma State without Jawun Evans, questionable moving forward

Oklahoma State guard Jawun Evans (1) goes up for a shot between Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) and forward Perry Ellis (34) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. Oklahoma State won 86-67. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Oklahoma State’s star point guard was not in the lineup on Saturday against No. 13 Iowa State.

Evans injured his shoulder in the Cowboys’ loss at Texas Tech on Wednesday and was ruled out of Saturday’s game.

According to the school, his official status moving forward is questionable. The Pokes are just 11-11 on the season and likely need to earn the Big 12’s at-large bid to get into the NCAA tournament. It makes sense to let him get healthy.

Evans was averaging 12.9 points, 4.9 assists and 4.4 boards this season, but he had been arguably the best point guard in the Big 12 during league play, averaging 15.6 points and 5.6 assists.