Elijah Johnson

Late Night Snacks: Johnson drops 39 for Kansas, Seton Hall shocks ‘Nova

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Everyone say it with me: ELIJAH JOHNSON! The Kansas guard highlighted the night by going off in a tough road environment at Iowa State and did so in the game of the night between the Cyclones and Jayhawks. A few good games in the Big 12 and Big East made for an interesting evening on the hardwood. It’s Late Night Snacks.

Game of the Night

No. 6 Kansas 108, Iowa State 96 (OT) – Game of the night by a wide margin. Iowa State hung in with the Jayhawks thanks to great three-point shooting (hit 17-of-35 through regulation), hitting 29-of-34 free throws and limiting turnovers (committed just seven). Unfortunately, they couldn’t stop Elijah Johnson (see below) and a crucial late-game foul went against them on Georges Niang. As a result, Kansas earns the regular-season sweep of the Cyclones. In the process, Bill Self picked up his 500th win. That’s how big the game was, Self’s 500th was a sidebar.

Games of Note

Seton Hall 66, Villanova 65 – Fuquan Edwin hit a three with 10 seconds left and Ryan Arcidiacono missed a three at the buzzer to allow the Pirates to earn one of the most surprising wins in a few days. Aaron Cosby scored 21 points for Seton Hall. The loss is a major hit to the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament hopes, even with wins over Marquette, Syracuse and Louisville.

No. 13 Kansas State 75, Texas Tech 55 – K-State got to 23 wins on the season with a win over the Red Raiders. Thomas Gipson scored 20 in the win for the Wildcats, who are having a more-than impressive season in their first year under Bruce Weber.

Central Connecticut State 67, Quinnipiac 65 – The best mid-major game of the night, with Kyle Vinales hitting a three with six seconds left to give the Blue Devils the win and get them back to .500 in Northeast Conference play and drop the Bobcats to 10-6 in the NEC.

Starred

Elijah Johnson, Kansas – This section was made for performances like Johnson’s. The senior point guard, who has be much maligned all season by coach Bill Self, had arguably his best game as a Jayhawk at Iowa State. He averages 9.1 points per game, but dropped 39 points on 13-of-22 shooting, hit 6-of-10 three-pointers, all seven of his free throws and a bonkers three in overtime from 26 feet with the shot clock running out to seal the win. Bravo.

Davante Gardner, Marquette – Poured in a season-high 26 points and hit 12-of-13 free throws in the Golden Eagles’ win over Syracuse at home. For more on why Gardner is so essential to Marquette’s success, click here.

Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut State – He scored 17 points, but Vinales hit a three with six seconds left to push the Blue Devils past Quinnipiac.

Dyami Starks, Bryant/Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart – The duo squared off against each other in Bryant’s 84-68 win, but they combined for 55 points. Gibson, who averages 20.8 points on the year, scored 30 on 12-of-19 shooting, including 5-of-10 from three. Starks, who has helped lead possibly the greatest mid-major turnaround besides Towson’s rise this season, had 25 on 10-of-14 shooting, hitting 4-of-6 threes himself.

Struggled

Brandon Triche, Syracuse – Scored eight points on 4-of-10 shooting and committed three turnovers in the loss to Marquette. He’s averaging 14.7 points on the season.

Stuffing the Stat Sheet

Angel Rodriguez, Kansas State – The sophomore guard helped the Wildcats out away Texas Tech late and had a complete game in doing so, finishing with a line of 16 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

Arkansas hoping for more backcourt depth and stronger press in 2016-17

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Dusty Hannahs #3 of the Arkansas Razorbacks drives to the basket against Michael Humphrey #10 of the Stanford Cardinal  at Barclays Center on November 27, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Arkansas is coming off of a disappointing 16-16 season in which they missed the postseason.

The Razorbacks lost two key guards in Anthlon Bell and Jabril Durham — who both exhausted their eligibility — but they’re hoping a couple of additions will bolster the depth of their backcourt and make their trademark press stronger.

In a story from Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Razorbacks are excited about the possibilities of their new backcourt.

Although Arkansas lost two talented seniors and a transfer in Jimmy Whitt, they return Dusty Hannahs, Manny Watkins and Anton Beard while also getting two of the best junior college guards in the country. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon come in highly touted for next season and both junior college guards garnered a lot of praise from their play last season.

With Arkansas also bringing in some freshman guards like C.J. Jones and RJ Glasper, head coach Mike Anderson is hoping to have enough bodies to play fast and use his press. The team appears to be optimistic as well.

“I think we’ll have a lot more toughness at the guard position, and depth,” Watkins said to Murphy. “We’ve got a lot of guys. When we’re pressing and stuff, we’ve got bodies we can bring in.”

Arkansas also returns an SEC Player of the Year candidate in big man Moses Kingsley and they could be an intriguing team to track this season if Barford and Macon are as good as advertised. They’ll certainly have more bodies to throw at opposing guards and that should help Arkansas play faster than they did last season.

College career over for Nevada’s Hallice Cooke due to heart issue

DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Hallice Cooke #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones celebrates after hitting a three pointer in the second half against the Arkansas Little Rock Trojans during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Pepsi Center on March 19, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The college basketball career of Nevada guard Hallice Cooke is over, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-3 native of New Jersey will stay with the program as a volunteer assistant as a heart issue will force Cooke to end his career prematurely.

Cooke started his career at Oregon State before transferring to Iowa State and eventually ending up at Nevada. During the 2015-16 season, Cooke was a role player for the Cyclones as he averaged 10 minutes per game off the bench.

Obviously it’s unfortunate to see someone’s career end early, but it’s also good that Cooke is still going to be involved with the game as an assistant. This could be the type of thing where Cooke eventually ends up coaching in college basketball and it’ll be interesting to see if he tries to stay in the game and get serious about coaching.

N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. fully recovered, ready to go

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Dennis Smith Jr. sure looks ready.

North Carolina State’s prized freshman point guard is pushing through a workout in the practice gym on a hot July afternoon, and there’s no sign of the knee injury that defined his past year.

He’s sprinting along the baseline to bury a catch-and-shoot corner 3-pointer. He’s dribbling between chairs and stutter-stepping his way to a pull-up jumper. He’s launching himself at the rim for a dunk off the dribble.

“I don’t expect to be rusty at all,” Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I was feeling kind of nervous at one point, but I went in and did a workout and then I was thinking, `I’m putting in all this work so all the nervousness should be out of my mind.’ I had no reason to be timid.

“I just have to go out there and perform, no excuses.”

A lot has happened for Smith in 12 months. The Fayetteville native suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in a game during the Adidas Nations event featuring top prospects. He had surgery, picked N.C. State, graduated from high school early and enrolled in college in January to rehab and learn the Wolfpack’s system before his debut later this year.

Tuesday marks one year since the injury for the 6-foot-3 Smith, ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 1 point guard when he signed last fall.

“We’ve tried to be real conservative with him as far as not letting him do too much too fast,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “At his age, he can’t wait. He’s dying to play every day.”

Smith started earning his leadership role as soon as he arrived in Raleigh, pointing out instructions to teammates or calling them to the gym for extra work even though he couldn’t play. He figures that time observing from the sideline has prepared him to replace high-scoring floor leader Anthony “Cat” Barber.

“I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, definitely,” Smith said. “I see the game totally different now. I read pick-and-roll easier. I feel like I’ve gotten more sound on defense because I understand angles better.”

The physical work to get back has been tougher.

Roughly a year ago, Smith was lying in a bed after surgery trying to stay positive. He asked trainer Ja-Rell Bailey to bring him some free weights for upper-body exercises even if he couldn’t do much else, an example of why Bailey described Smith as “a man determined.”

Smith’s father said the rehab emphasized building leg strength to protect and stabilize the injured knee, something his son said he will keep doing in both legs for years to come. Smith’s work has helped him go from 180 pounds to a college-ready 192-pound frame.

“He’s got his bounce back, so he can dunk and everything,” Dennis Smith Sr. said. “But what Junior has got, God gave it to him. . A lot of times you run into kids who are built off of hype because they do a fancy move or have a good game. Junior ain’t hype. He’s the real deal.”

Regardless, Gottfried expects Smith to have “a learning curve.”

“For me,” he said, “I think what you see in November is going to be much different than what you see in January.”

The Wolfpack will look much different, too, after missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. N.C. State welcomes Scout.com’s No. 6-ranked recruiting class that includes five-star Turkish big man Omer Yurtseven. Senior guard Terry Henderson returns from an ankle injury that sidelined him 7 minutes into last season. Charlotte transfer and former Conference USA freshman of the year Torin Dorn Jr. will play after sitting out last year.

Still, Smith is the guy stirring the most buzz for Wolfpack fans – something he has no trouble embracing.

“I really don’t feel that pressure though,” Smith said. “I feel like if you come in and you expect to play well, then you should have those expectations of people talking. It’s just playing basketball to me. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Washington lands commitment from Mamoudou Diarra

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For the second time this summer, Washington has landed a commitment from a forward in the Class of 2017.

On Friday, it was Mamoudou Diarra that pledged his future to Lorenzo Romar. Diarra is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward that is currently unranked by Rivals but was targeted by a number high major program.

Washington landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr. earlier this summer, and given Porter’s standing as the potential No. 1 player in the class, the Huskies will be in the mix for the best crop of freshmen in the country in 2017-18. Romar has also landed commitments from four-star guard Jaylen Nowell and three-star guard Blake Harris.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Diarra played his high school basketball in St. Louis.

Xavier lands second top 100 commitment in 2017

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Xavier landed a key commitment on Friday morning in Naji Marshall, one of the Musketeers’ top targets in the Class of 2017.

Marshall is a la 6-foot-5 wing from Washington D.C. that is currently ranked 62nd in the 2017 class by Rivals. He’s a scorer that has shown off a versatile offensive game, averaging better than three assists on the Under Armour Association circuit.

This is the third commitment from head coach Chris Mack in the class and the second top 100 player to pledge to the Musketeers. Marshall picked Xavier over Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia Tech, among other.