Western Kentucky v Kansas

Kansas survives first half and late-game scares from Western Kentucky

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Kansas entered halftime trailing by one, 31-30, to Western Kentucky, a team that finished fourth in the Sun Belt East standings. Hours after Florida Golf Coast knocked off two-seeded Georgetown, WKU flirted with becoming the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed.

Then Kevin Young corralled his own miss and did a reverse dunk to put Kansas up 32-31 and all was right with the world. However, Kansas did not make it easy when it regained the lead, as the Jayhawks sneaked out a 64- 57 win in a the South Region.

The Hilltoppers continued to float around, but Withey took over the second half, especially when George Fant picked up his fourth foul with 10:41 to go and when he fouled out with 5:37 to go. When Fant went out with his fourth foul he had 10 points and by the time he checked back in three minutes later, Kansas was finally starting to wear down WKU and had created some separation with a 47-42 lead.

T.J. Price hit a free throw with under seven minutes to go and it was the Hilltoppers last point for five minutes. During that time Kansas stretched the lead to 11, but bad decisions and costly turnovers helped WKU stay around until the end, as the Hilltoppers cut the lead to five twice with under two minutes to go and then cut the lead to four, 59-55 with 25 seconds to go off a Brandon Harrison three.

This isn’t a good sign for Kansas. The Jayhawks coughed the ball up 17 times. Luckily for Kansas, WKU could do nothing with the miscues, only scoring eight points off turnovers. It was a dismal night shooting for the Hilltoppers, shooting 7-for-37 in the second half and 3-for-20 from deep — WKU went over 35 minutes without hitting a three.

Kansas’ region features some dangerous teams, starting with Sunday’s matchup against Roy Williams and North Carolina. The Tar Heels shot 11-for-21 from three in their win over Villanova. Michigan is also in the South Region and could put on points in a hurry. It will be hard to expect both those teams will struggle offensively like Western Kentucky did. And then there is defenses like VCU and Florida.

You have to imagine VCU, a team they could meet in the Sweet 16, would take full advantage of 17 Jayhawk turnovers. Then if the top two seeds remaining in the South meet in the Elite Eight, Kansas is matched against one of the best scoring defenses in the country, Florida.

Kansas avoided being on the wrong side of history, but didn’t make it look easy. And it only gets tougher from here.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Auburn continues to stockpile talent, adds top 50 prospect in 2017

Bruce Pearl
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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Auburn’s hire of Bruce Pearl was almost universally lauded as the first step towards the return of relevance for the Tiger basketball program.

And while the results have yet to shine through on the floor, Pearl is unequivocally stockpiling the kind of talent that will allow him to push for trips to the NCAA tournament and maybe one day contend for a league crown with Kentucky.

The latest step came on Sunday, when Pearl landed a commitment from Chuma Okeke, a top 50 wing prospect out of Georgia.

“He is a versatile wing who can handle and score,” said NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “Coming off of a big July, Okeke could move up the national rankings and Auburn pounced on him right away.”

Okeke joins big man Austin Wiley, a top ten player in the class, and Davion Mitchell, who is likely one of the five best point guards in the country, in what is currently the nation’s best recruiting class in 2017. That’s before you consider that Pearl already has Mustapha Heron, a top 25 prospect, joining the mix this season.

“This group has the makings of a monster recruiting class for Auburn,” Phillips said.

Okeke picked the Tigers over Florida State, Georgia and a number of other programs across the southeast.

VIDEO: Watch Virginia freshman Jay Huff dunk from the free throw line

Tony Bennett
AP Photo/Nell Redmond
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Jay Huff is a member of Tony Bennett’s best recruiting class to date, a 6-foot-11 top 50 recruit from North Carolina.

He also happens to be pretty athletic.

Don’t believe me?

Check out this video that McDonald’s All-American Kyle Guy tweeted out on Sunday night:

Yup, that’s Huff taking off from the foul line to dunk.

Not bad, young fella.

Seton Hall’s Derrick Gordon won’t pursue pro basketball to become a firefighter

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12:  Derrick Gordon #32 of the Seton Hall Pirates celebrates after hitting a basket against the Villanova Wildcats during the Big East Basketball Tournament Championship at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2016 in New York City. Seton Hall Pirates defeated Villanova Wildcats 69-67.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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After a successful career that included stops at Western Kentucky, UMass and Seton Hall, Derrick Gordon, Division I college basketball’s first openly gay player, will not pursue professional opportunities and will instead become a firefighter.

The 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a senior for the Pirates, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament during his graduate transfer year. By making the NCAA tournament with Seton Hall this past season, Gordon became the first college basketball player to reach the event with three different teams.

A tenacious perimeter defender who could have earned a pro contract if he stuck with basketball, Gordon will instead pursue a career as a firefighter in San Francisco.

“I’ve had an amazing basketball career and want to thank everybody who has always been there supporting me every step on the way,” Gordon said via his Instagram. “But I’m making a change in my career…I will now be working towards becoming a San Francisco Firefighter!! I’m excited about this and looking forward to having a long career!!”

While Gordon likely would have never made the NBA on talent alone, his defensive prowess would have likely given him a shot overseas or in the D League. It’s hard to say why Gordon is making this decision, but given what we saw with all of the attention surrounding Michael Sam when he tried to play in the NFL, Gordon was probably going to face a lot of scrutiny wherever he decided to play.

Hopefully Gordon finds his calling as a firefighter and brings the same energy and leadership that he brought on the floor to helping other people outside of basketball.

Washington guard Markelle Fultz pulls off sick spin and dunk at FIBA U18 Americas

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armour
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Washington incoming freshman guard Markelle Fultz is going to be one of the premier players in the country next season as his unique game is going to be fascinating to watch.

The 6-foot-5 Fultz is currently playing with the USA U18 team in Chile for the FIBA U18 Americas as he’s second on the team in scoring and first in assists as the Americans play Canada for the title on Saturday.

Against the host country, Fultz had an electric spin move in the paint and finished with an easy dunk. If you’re not willing to stay up late to watch this dude play this year, then set your DVRs, because Fultz is going to have some fun moments during the season.

(H/t: Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report)

POSTERIZED: Class of 2016 forward Chris Seeley has a massive dunk on defender

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The Las Vegas AAU events are all going on this week and it’s the final event for rising seniors.

At the Las Vegas Fab 48, forward Chris Seeley of the Splash City 17U team put down one of the best poster dunks of the summer as he skied over a defender for an emphatic finish.

The Class of 2016 forward attends Central High School in Fresno, California as he’s receiving plenty of buzz for his recent play.