Davante Gardner

Marquette gets 26 from Gardner in victory over Syracuse

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Marquette’s Davante Gardner must’ve taken something from Otto Porter’s performance on Saturday.

Two days after Georgetown’s leading man hung 33 on Syracuse in a win, Gardner put up his own big game with 26 points and eight rebounds in a 74-71 home win over the Orange.

Gardner mixed in few mid-range jumpers — he hit all seven of his attempts on the night — along with his work around the basket and got to the free throw line often, hitting 12-of-13 from there.

He paced the Golden Eagles, who hit 29-of-35 free throws (82.9 percent) on the night. On the other side of the free throw spectrum, Syracuse was only 5-of-7 from the free throw line on the night.

Jamil Wilson and Junior Cadougan chipped in 12 points each as no. 22 Marquette (20-7, 11-4 Big East Conference) had 16 assists on 20 baskets and shot 42.6-percent from the field. C.J. Fair led no. 12 Syracuse (22-6, 10-5) with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Michael Carter-Williams scored 14 with five assists and committed four turnovers. James Southerland dropped in 15 points, including 4-of-11 threes.

With the win, Marquette moves into sole-possession of second place behind Georgetown in the Big East. The loss drops the Orange into a tie with Notre Dame for fourth place.

It was a breakout game for Gardner, a 6-8, 290-pound junior, who is averaging 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds this season.

The game was also indicative of the type of season Gardner has had and how Marquette’s run almost parallel with his performance. Gardner has failed to score in double-figures in seven games this season. The Golden Eagles have lost five of those games. The two Marquette did win? Both wins over South Florida (eight in one game, four in the other), with a two-point effort in a loss to Louisville sandwiched in-between.

Gardner is also coming off a two-point, 1-for-4 effort in 11 minutes in a 60-56 loss at Villanova on Saturday.

An equally impressive stat is that with all of his consistency in scoring this season, Monday night’s effort was his first outing of 20+ points. It’s also his fourth game of 10+ free throws on the year and his second perfect shooting night, adding on to a 6-for-6 night in a 74-67 overtime win at Pittsburgh.

The big man is a necessary cog for Buzz Williams’ team, which virtually locked up an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament with the win on Monday night, if it hadn’t already. Marquette had an RPI of 16 headed into the game.

Gardner’s scoring numbers essentially pacing Marquette’s outcomes is staggering. And it’s something to watch as we get closer to conference tournament time. Gardner is the Golden Eagles’ primary low-post threat and has proven to have the type of game that allows him to the go-to guy they need. That could carry Marquette to an extent in the Big East Tournament, when the seeding fate will be decided.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.