Late Night Snacks: First Saturday of the season produces no upsets

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GAME OF THE DAY: Manhattan 99, La Salle 90 (2OT)

The Jaspers and Explorers played an outstanding game at Tom Gola Arena, with Manhattan coming back from four points down with 23 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. Guard George Beamon scored 24 points in his return to the court, and Mike Alvarado put together a solid all-around game (16 points, eight rebounds and six assists) to help push the Jaspers past La Salle.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: Dayton 81, IPFW 80

IPFW’s answer to the “foul or defend” question when up three in the final seconds was to foul, and it nearly worked. But they threw away the inbounds pass, leading to Jordan Sibert’s game-winning three pointer. Dyshawn Pierre was excellent for the Flyers, finishing with 24 points and eight rebounds.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 3 Louisville 70, College of Charleston 48: The Cardinals weren’t at their best, with the absence of both Chane Behanan (suspension) and Luke Hancock (Achilles) playing a role in that. With the eventual return of those key players and the continued development of Montrezl Harrell, Louisville will improve.

2) USC Upstate 64, Virginia Tech 63: All-Atlantic Sun forward Torrey Craig shot just 5-for-20 from the field but the Spartans still managed to win in Blacksburg in a result that wasn’t all that stunning. The Hokies shot 9-for-18 from the foul line.

3) Ohio 75, Northern Iowa 64: The Bobcats have some big holes to fill but their win over UNI is a good start. Junior college transfer Maurice Ndour led four starters in double figures with 20 points and five rebounds.

STARRED:

1) Richard Carter (Drake): In the Bulldogs’ 61-59 win at UIC, Carter “put the team on his back” to the tune of 38 points (12-for-17 FG, 12-for-12 FT), four steals and three rebounds.

2) F Marvin Dominique (Saint Peter’s): The Peacocks didn’t get the win in their game against LIU Brooklyn but Dominique was outstanding, finishing with 31 points (12-for-19 FG), 14 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

3) Aaric Murray (Texas Southern): Murray is the most talented player in the SWAC, and if he’s focused the well-traveled big man can lead the Tigers to the NCAA tournament. Murray tallied 33 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and three assists in TSU’s 95-83 win over Norfolk State.

STRUGGLED:

1) Everyone involved with the Niagara/Seton Hall game: The Pirates won 83-72 with Sterling Gibbs scoring 23 points, but the issue was the inability to adjust to the new rules regarding contact. The teams struggled (73 total fouls) and so did the officials, resulting in a game that lacked rhythm.

2) Grambling State: The Tigers were (as expected) outclassed on Saturday, falling 96-58 at DePaul. Grambling State’s now lost 29 games in a row, and they visit Big East preseason favorite Marquette on Tuesday.

3) South Dakota: The Coyotes took one on the chin, falling at St. Bonaventure (68-46) and finishing with more turnovers (17) than made field goals (15).

NOTABLES

  • No. 15 Gonzaga made short work of Bryant in the season opener for both, winning 100-76. While Przemek Karnowki struggled with foul trouble Sam Dowe had no such issues, finishing with 21 points and 17 rebounds.
  • No. 23 New Mexico’s Craig Neal won his first game as head coach, as the Lobos coasted past Alabama A&M by a final score of 88-52. One of the standouts for the Lobos was forward Cameron Bairstow, who put up 22 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Ohio State’s balanced effort in their 89-50 win over Morgan State is something people should get used to seeing this year. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 18 to lead five Buckeyes in double figures, with Shannon Scott adding 16.
  • Cleanthony Early picked up where he left off last season, scoring a game-high 21 points in No. 16 Wichita State’s 93-50 win over Emporia State. Ron Baker (17 points) and Fred Van Vleet (12) also reached double figures for the Shockers.
  • USF scored 70 points or more in just five games last season, with only one of those occasions coming in the 2013 portion of the slate. The Bulls scored 72 on Saturday night, doing so without the services of injured point guard Anthony Collins.
  • Three starters scored at least 20 points for Loyola Marymount, which moved to 2-0 with a 98-89 win over South Dakota State. While Anthony Ireland (20 points, 12 assists) is a known commodity, keep an eye on newcomers Ben Dickinson (22 points; transfer from Binghamton) and Gabe Levin (20).
  • VMI handed Air Force their first-ever loss in the three-year history of the All Military Classic, beating the Falcons 71-63 with D.J. Covington (20 points, seven rebounds) and O.J. Peterson (19) leading the way.
  • First-year head coach Dedrique Taylor enjoyed quite the debut, as his Cal-State Fullerton squad won at Montana State by the final score of 84-55. Guard Alex Harris (20 points) led four starters in double figures.
  • Temple held off Penn 78-73 at the Palestra to move to 1-0 in Big 5 play, with Dalton Pepper accounting for 19 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Four Owls scored in double figures.
  • Players returning from season-ending injuries included Penn State’s Tim Frazier, Northwestern’s Drew Crawford and Cleveland State’s Anton Grady, who finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in the Vikings’ 73-69 comeback win over Iona.
  • Kameron Belin’s shot with four seconds remaining proved to be the difference as Youngstown State beat FIU 74-72 in overtime. Belin, who finished with 17 points, scored all nine of the Penguins’ points in the extra session.
  • Butler’s Brandon Miller picked up a win in his regular season head coaching debut, as the Bulldogs put together a very good second half performance on the way to an 89-58 win over Lamar.
  • One night after losing by 84 points at Utah, NAIA Division II school Evergreen State was back on the floor at Idaho State. The Geoducks put up a better fight against the Bengals, losing 99-62.

VIDEO: Presbyterian’s Toss for Tots night earns technical foul for charity

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Presbyterian College held an cool and unique fundraiser this week.

In a game against Toccoa Falls, the Blue Hose held what will now be an annual Toss for Tots event. It was simple: after the first basket of their game on Thursday night, fans in attendance were asked to throw a stuffed animal onto the court, with every stuffed animal earmarked for a local elementary school.

Presbyterian ate the technical foul for the cause:

In total, 108 stuffed animals were “donated”.

The program had partnered with Bailey Elementary School, where there are 103 students. On Friday, the team delivered every student at the school one of the stuffed animals for Christmas. Head coach Dustin Kerns told NBC Sports that the team spent some times with the kids today as well, reading to the team and putting a smile on their face.

“Proud of our team,” Kerns, who is in his first year with the program, said. The win against Toccoa Falls was the fifth in a row for the Blue Hose, the first time the program has accomplished that since going to the Division I level. They are not 6-5 on the season after winning five games a year ago. “It was fun seeing out program give back.”

Presbyterian Sports Information Dept
Presbyterian Sports Information Dept

Rape charges will not be filed after last year’s incident in Kansas basketball dorm

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The Douglas County District Attorney’s office will not file sexual assault charges stemming from a report that a 16-year old girl was raped nearly a year ago in the Kansas basketball dorm.

“After an exhaustive review of all available reports, evidence and testimony, our office has determined there is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a sexual assault occurred,” District Attorney Charles Branson told the Lawrence Journal-World. “Unless additional evidence or reports come to light there is insufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed.”

What’s more, a suspect in the investigation was never actually identified, the paper reported. All five witnesses in the rape report were members of the men’s basketball team. The incident allegedly occurred in McCarthy Hall, which is a dorm where 40 Kansas students live, including all members of the men’s basketball team.

No. 8 Kentucky maturing, more challenges ahead for freshmen

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coach John Calipari hasn’t hidden his frustration about the learning curve of his latest group of talented freshmen.

And while the No. 8 Wildcats are starting play better, they’re bracing for more challenges ahead.

Kentucky has struggled to put away opponents such as Utah Valley, Vermont, Troy and Harvard, efforts that players and Calipari acknowledge have contributed to a perceived lack of national respect. On the other hand, their lone loss — a 65-61 setback to Kansas — showed their ability to compete with college basketball’s heavyweights.

“It was one of the big games they got to see,” sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel said. “The feeling and high intensity of the game, people watching, the fight in a big game like that, it really started to hit. Some players really started to get rolling off of that.

“We’re starting to get better as a team, individuals are getting better and we’re trending upward and trying to stay on that path.”

Kentucky (8-1) has begun running away from opponents, a promising trend it hopes to continue against upcoming Power Five conference foes.

Saturday’s home game against Virginia Tech (9-1) opens a daunting year-ending stretch for the Wildcats that includes next weekend’s matchup against UCLA in New Orleans; their annual in-state rivalry showdown against Louisville on Dec. 29; and their Southeastern Conference opener against Georgia on New Year’s Eve.

Though Calipari still hopes February will reveal Kentucky’s true strengths, he’s eager to see how the Wildcats stack up against the Atlantic Coast Conference Hokies, who lead the nation in scoring at 96.2 points per game and rank second in 3-point shooting at 47 percent.

“They have three or four guys that can absolutely make 3s,” Calipari said Friday while listing other Tech strengths. “They’re looking for layups and kicking it out for 3s and they’re getting to the line because of it.

“They’re not afraid. They go on the road in big games. Their home games are craziness. This is plugged into our schedule at a time where we need to learn about us, and we will.”

After a busy November without much practice time, Kentucky has welcomed a lighter December schedule that has allowed the Wildcats more time for workouts and to build chemistry.

The Wildcats have a long way to go, but games such as last week’s 93-76 win over Monmouth are encouraging for Kentucky fans.

Besides continuing their solid shooting — the Wildcats rank 22nd at nearly 51 percent — redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo (23 points) and forward PJ Washington (20) posted career scoring highs against Monmouth. Kentucky also succeeded with a smaller lineup and has been effective playing a zone defense, which Calipari disdains but has used because of his team’s length.

“They’re as long as anybody in the country,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said of Kentucky. “We’ll have to work really hard to get the same shots we’ve been getting.”

Kentucky remains short-handed with freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) and guard Jemarl Baker (knee) sidelined by injuries. But the Wildcats appear to be developing depth.

They faced Monmouth without sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones (sprained ankle) before starting guard Quade Green left in the second half after being poked in the eye. Both will be available against the Hokies and return knowing that the bench can fill the void after it combined for a season-high 27 points.

Granted, Monmouth is not a barometer for success against the likes of Tech, UCLA or Louisville. But considering Kentucky’s early struggles, any growth is welcome.

“We think highly of ourselves as a team,” Gabriel added. “I think we deserve more credit than we’re getting, so we’re going to go out there and try to earn it.”

Arizona State rising fast beyond the desert

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State has taken college basketball by devilish hurricane, running and gunning its way into the national consciousness while igniting an often-blase local fan base.

Even the Sun Devils’ rivals down south have taken notice.

“Bobby Hurley, he’s en route right now to be one of the coaches talked about for national coach of the year because of what he’s done with their program,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said of the coach of his biggest rival. “He’s played a tough nonconference schedule. It shows some guts to play who they play. Their results speak really clearly. They might be underrated where they’re at right now.”

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, at least not yet.

The Sun Devils were expected to be better in Hurley’s third season in the desert. They returned three senior guards and finally got them some front-court help with the addition of Romello White and De’Quon Lake.

Kodi Justice, ASU’s 6-foot-5 guard, would no longer have to guard 7-footers. Arizona State would be better defensively and on the glass. The guards would not have to carry the entire load.

Even so, the Sun Devils were projected to be at the middle of the Pac-12, picked to finish sixth.

The big jump was supposed to be next season, when a trio of transfers will be eligible and could possibly lead the Sun Devils to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014.

This breakneck band of Devils spun the narrative forward a year early.

Playing with a confidence bordering on cocky and with an offensive freedom afforded them by their coach, the Sun Devils have pushed their way into the national spotlight.

They made a blip by beating Xavier, No. 15 at the time but now No. 10 in the AP Top 25 . Blew the Musketeers away, actually, turning a 15-point first-half deficit into a 102-86 rout with an onslaught of fast breaks and 3-pointers.

Arizona State next moved into the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2008-09, coming in at No. 20 after the win over Xavier. The Sun Devils climbed four spots the next week.

The catapult launched last Sunday: Arizona State 95, No. 2 Kansas 85. At Allen Fieldhouse.

One of the biggest wins in program history led to another bit of history: A No. 5 ranking this week, ASU’s highest since reaching No. 3 in 1980-81. The Sun Devils even garnered the first No. 1 votes as a program. Five of ’em, actually.

Now Arizona State is 9-0 and being mentioned as a possible national-title contender. Yeah, really.

“I knew the success was going to be better, but you don’t expect necessarily when you look at a schedule to run the table up to this point, and beat the type of teams we’ve beaten,” Hurley said. “So you just appreciate it and then you kind of move on and get ready for the next battle.”

Arizona State’s success starts with its quartet of fearless guards, turning Arizona State into “Guard U.”

With carte blanche from Hurley to shoot from anywhere at almost any time, they’ve gone from carrying the load last season to ferrying the Sun Devils closer to college basketball’s upper echelon.

Tra Holder has transformed himself from steady freshman to unquestioned, sometimes nasty senior floor leader. He scored 40 points against Xavier and leads Arizona State with 21.2 points per game. He also grabs 5.6 rebounds, dishes out 5.2 assists and won consecutive Pac-12 player of the week honors, a first by a Sun Devil since James Harden in 2008.

Shannon Evans II followed Hurley from Buffalo, had to sit out a season as a transfer and was solid as a junior, averaging 15 points per game. The 6-1 guard had become go-to guy 1-A this season, second on the team with 19 points while matching Holder in assists. Big shots? He’s go those, too, including a clutch 3 to kill a Kansas rally in one of the loudest atmospheres in the game.

Justice plays with Pete Maravichian flair, has a range that seems to extend to the opposing team’s free-throw line.

Then there’s Remy Martin. The freshman guard is more spiced rum than cognac, playing with a confidence and intensity well beyond his years.

Martin treats irritation by the opposing team’s point guard as the highest honor, often nodding his bouncy hair in approval when he officially finds his way under their skin. He was the spark off the bench against Kansas, finishing with 21 points and five steals.

“They are now freed up to be who they are more,” Hurley said. “I think they would have shown that on a more regular basis last year if I had done my job a little better and sooner and gotten them some help.”

That help is here and the Sun Devils are running and gunning with it.

Follow John Marshall on Twitter @jmarshallap

Oklahoma State dismisses two players

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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State has dismissed junior Davon Dillard and freshman Zack Dawson from the team for failing to meet unspecified standards set by the program.

Coach Mike Boynton says he could not “make compromises in our core values when it comes to individual players.” Dillard and Dawson were suspended before the season for reasons the school has not disclosed. Dawson missed one game and Dillard missed the first five.

Oklahoma State (7-2) faces No. 19 Florida State (9-0) in Sunrise, Florida, on Saturday.