Matthew Dellavedova, Randy Bennett

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.

White decides to return to Nebraska

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Nebraska’s second-leading scorer from last season will return for his senior season as Andrew White III announced Wednesday he will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft.

“I felt good about the pre-draft process, White said in a statement released by Nebraska. “It was encouraging, and I gained as much ground as anyone throughout the process. I wanted one more year to fine tune my game and put myself in better position for the NBA next summer.  

“I want to thank the teams who invited me their in-house workouts, and Nebraska for supporting me during this process.  It has been very helpful in gathering information in preparation for my future Thank you to everyone who has been following my progress throughout the spring and being understanding and supportive, as I evaluated whether to turn pro or return for my senior year.”

White, a Kansas transfer, tallied 16.6 points per game last season while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. He also pulled down 5.9 rebounds per game.

“We are excited to have Andrew remain with our program,” coach Tim Miles said. “This has been a valuable time for him, as he has tested his skills against some of the best competition and received very important insight from key NBA personnel.  

“We look forward to continuing to help Andrew’s development to improve his NBA profile even more than he already has done through this process.  I believe next year could be our most complete team with a great opportunity for success in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament, I’m happy Andrew will be with us to go out and prove it.”

The news is certainly welcome for the Cornhuskers and Miles, who will be under pressure to show improvement after back-to-back disappointing seasons following an NCAA tournament appearance in 2014. Shavon Shields, last year’s leading scorer, has exhausted his eligibility and the Huskers will need White to help fill the void.

Trimble coming back to Terps

Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)
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Melo Trimble is returning to Maryland.

The Terrapin guard will be back to for his junior season in College Park, according to multiple reports.

Trimble went from freshman first-rounder to question mark after a rough end to his sophomore season for Maryland in which his points per game, shooting percentage (both overall and from 3-point range) and rebounding dipped from his first season. Only his assists per game showed any sort of improvement. He waited until the last possible day to announce his intentions to return to school, but really his options were limited after seeing his production drop.

His decision to come back to school gives him a shot to restore his draft stock while Maryland gets its floor general back to help ease the transition from last year’s Sweet 16 squad that lost Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman. The Terps might not be a sure-fire top-25 team with Trimble back, but their NCAA tournament chances are now significantly higher.

Nevada lands Martin twins

Caleb Martin, Jordan Roper
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Eric Musselman keeps adding reinforcements to his roster. For the 2017-18 season.

Musselman and Nevada received commitments from N.C. State transfers and twin brothers Caleb and Cody Martin, according to multiple reports.

That brings Nevada’s sit-out transfer count for this upcoming season to four with Hallice Cooke (Iowa State) and Kendall Stephens (Purdue) already in the fold. Under NCAA transfer rules, the quartet will have to sit out the upcoming season before being eligible in 2017-18.

Caleb averaged 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 36 percent from deep while Cody put up 6.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists, shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc.

The timing of having four sit-out transfers works well for the Wolf Pack given that two of the team’s three leading scorers from last year, D.J. Fenner (a senior) and Cameron Oliver (a sophomore), return while senior transfers Marcus Marshall (Missouri State) becomes eligible. Having those four experienced transfers begin playing in 2017-18 while all but two players from this upcoming team slated to return makes Nevada an interesting team, a year from now.

Louisville big man heading to NBA Draft

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After a day of mixed messages, Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku finally made it official.

He’s staying in the NBA Draft.

“After talking to my family and going through the NBA process,” Onuaku wrote in an Instagram post, “me and my family have decided that it would be best for me to keep my name in the draft.”

The day started out with Cardinals coach Rick Pitino telling multiple media outlets that the 6-foot-10 sophomore would remain in the draft after he declared last month without an agent and attended the draft combine. Onuaku, though, appeared to at least mildly refute that with an Instagram post that said his decision wouldn’t come until later Wednesday evening. Which it did, confirming Pitino’s words.

The confusion may have been frustrating for observers, but Onuaku’s social media presence no doubt has benefited from the bizarre day.

Onuaku averaged 9.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.6 assists in 24.6 minutes per game last season, making his per-40 numbers, a metric NBA teams like to take into consideration, nothing short of fantastic. He also shot a not-so-shabby 62.0 percent from the floor. His size, athleticism and ability to score around the basket (he’s taken one 3-pointer in two seasons) make him a potential first-round selection in next month’s draft.

The 19-year-old Onuaku underwent a procedure on his heart last week due to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. It has been described as a minor procedure that will not affect his ability to play long-term or work out with teams leading up to the draft.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, should be able to absorb Onuaku’s loss seemlessly as they return the bulk of last year’s team that went 23-8 and was ranked 10th in KenPom, but was banned from the postseason as a result of the Katina Powell bombshell. Newcomers Tony Hicks (Penn transfer) and V.J. King (consensus top-30 recruit) will also make for solid additions.

Swanigan staying for sophomore season

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12), Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (50) and Purdue's A.J. Hammons (20) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Purdue won 89-58. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.

Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.

The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”

Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.

“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”

Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.