Late Night Snacks: Saint Mary’s, California improve respective resumes

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Game of the Night: Saint Mary’s 64, BYU 57

The Gaels, in the first of two games that will have a significant impact on their NCAA tournament hopes, did enough late to hold off the Cougars in Moraga. Matthew Dellavedova scored 20 points and Beau Levesque added 17 for the Gaels, who host Creighton on Saturday evening in an important non-conference battle.

Brandon Davies paced BYU with 25 points but the Cougars are now 0-2 against the Gaels this season, and even if they beat No. 3 Gonzaga next Thursday BYU will most likely need to win the WCC tournament in order to get to the Big Dance.

Important Outcomes 

1. California 48, No. 23 Oregon 46

A Justin Cobbs jumper with seven tenths of a second gave the Golden Bears their sixth win in the last seven games, while also tightening things atop the Pac-12 standings. Cobbs finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and with a sweep of the Ducks and a win over No. 12 Arizona to their credit the Golden Bears have two key tiebreakers in their possession. Oregon was once again without point guard Dominic Artis, and Arsalan Kazemi tallied 11 points and 18 rebounds inside.

2. Temple 82, La Salle 74

La Salle entered the Liacouras Center with hopes of winning their first-ever outright Big 5 title, but left having to share it with the rival Owls. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson was outstanding for Temple, finishing with 23 points, 18 rebounds and five assists to lead four Owls in double figures. Temple picks up another quality win for their resume, and it remains to be seen just how many teams the Atlantic 10 (six?) can get into the field of 68.

3. Illinois 64, Penn State 59 

The Fighting Illini didn’t shoot particularly well (39.5%) but they did enough to hold off a Penn State team that’s now 0-14 in Big Ten play. D.J. Richardson (18 points) and Brandon Paul (16) led the way for Illinois, who avoided what would have been a bad loss from a resume standpoint. The Nittany Lions may still be winless in Big Ten play but Patrick Chambers’ team continues to play hard, and Jermaine Marshall scored a game-high 20 points to pace PSU. Their best shot at a league win: March 7 at Northwestern.

Starred

1. F Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (Temple) 

Hollis-Jefferson was the star of the Owls’ 82-74 win over La Salle, finishing with 23 points, 18 rebounds and five assists. The point and rebound totals are both career-highs for him.

2. G/F Nick Paulos (UNC Greensboro) 

Paulos was hot from beyond the arc in the Spartans’ 94-68 win over Chattanooga, hitting ten of 12 from deep and scoring 30 points. As a team UNCG shot 20-of-36 from three.

3. G Devon Saddler (Delaware) 

Saddler finished with 31 points (9-of-14 FG, 11-of-15 FT), two assists and two steals in the Blue Hens’ 73-71 double overtime win over Drexel.

Struggled

1. Chattanooga’s three-point defense

The Mocs entered Thursday’s home game against UNC Greensboro allowing SoCon opponents to hit 37.7% of their three-pointers, a figure that ranked 11th in the conference. UNCG shot 20-of-36 from three, rolling to the 94-68 victory.

2. F E.J. Singler (Oregon) 

Singler had a rough night offensively, shooting 1-of-12 and scoring seven points in the Ducks’ 48-46 loss to California.

3. Fairleigh Dickinson players not named Kinu Rochford

Rochford shot 10-of-15 from the field in the Knights’ 69-63 loss at Saint Francis (PA), scoring 21 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. His teammates combined to shoot 16-of-50 (32%).

Three Facts 

1. Middle Tennessee wrapped up the Sun Belt regular season title with an 85-50 win over South Alabama, guaranteeing the Blue Raiders of an automatic bid to the postseason NIT should they need it. Kermit Davis’ team has been the class of the Sun Belt, and obviously they hope the distinction translates into a trip to the NCAA tournament after they were upset in last year’s conference tournament.

2. The leaders in the race for Big East Coach of the Year are likely Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Georgetown’s John Thompson III and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, but Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie deserves some recognition as well. The Huskies moved to 8-5 in league play with a 73-66 overtime victory over Cincinnati, with Shabazz Napier scoring 27 points to lead the way.

3. Ryley Beaumont’s layup with eight seconds remaining proved to be the difference in Elon’s 63-62 win over Samford, clinching the North Division title (Southern Conference) for the Phoenix.

Top 25 Scores 

No. 6 Duke 88, Virginia Tech 56

California 48, No. 23 Oregon 46

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

No. 1 North Carolina handles No. 4 Butler en route to Elite Eight

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North Carolina, the top seed in the South Region, led by as many as 20 en route to a 92-80 win over No. 4 Butler in the Sweet 16 matchup on Friday night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.

The Tar Heels were led by 26 points, off 8-of-13 shooting, from junior point guard Joel Berry II. The 6-foot floor general had been hampered by an ankle injury through the first weekend. While he still seemed to favor that same ankle at times, his play was a big improvement on his 3-of-21 shooting through the NCAA Tournament’s first two rounds. Justin Jackson nearly matched Berry’s game-high with 24 points.

Andrew Chrabascz, in the final game of his four-year career at Butler, finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

North Carolina, the last of the ACC’s nine tournament bids, advances to the Elite Eight to face the winner of No. 3 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky. The Wildcats own a win over North Carolina, defeating the Tar Heels, 103-100, on Dec. 17 behind 47 points from Malik Monk.

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.