Late Night Snacks: Arizona State earns big home win

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GAME OF THE DAY: Arizona State 79, Marquette 77

The Sun Devils earned a nice home win over a top-25 opponent as the No. 25 Golden Eagles lost a tough one after a second-half comeback. Jordan Bachynski had 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks, as he swatted Derrick Walton’s runner at the end of the game to secure the victory for undefeated Arizona State (6-0).

The Sun Devils had 23 points from Jahii Carson and 21 points from Jermaine Marshall as well in the win.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 75, Minnesota 67

The Orange only led in this one by two points, 67-65 before pulling away at the end. Syracuse led most of this game despite a so-so effort from Tyler Ennis, who was 1-for-9 from the field, but 10-of-11 from the free throw line and had five assists and no turnovers and five steals.

C.J. Fair had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead Syracuse while Trevor Cooney contributed 15. The No. 8 Orange advance to the semifinals of the Maui Invitational, where they’ll face California.

THE UPSET?: Dayton 84, No. 11 Gonzaga 79

The Flyers scored 56 second half points to erase a Gonzaga lead and advance in the Maui Invitational. They will play Baylor on Tuesday. More importantly, this was a potentially disastrous loss for Gonzaga. Read why here.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) In the opening battle of undefeated teams in the Maui Invitational, Cal outlasted Arkansas 81-72 as the Bears showed that they have multiple scorers from multiple places on the floor. Senior guard Justin Cobbs is developed in the mid-range and in the post, senior Richard Soloman and junior David Kravish can both add some scoring punch. Kravish had 19 points and 15 rebounds for Cal and Bird was 3-for-4 behind the three-point for 15 points to lead five Golden Bears in double figures.

2) The No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats held on for a 68-61 win over Cleveland State despite not shooting the ball very well from deep. The Wildcats were only 21 percent from three and the Harrison twins struggled until the final minutes of the game. 

3) BYU held off Texas 86-82 and are off to a 5-1 start an advance to face Wichita State in the championship game of the CBE in Kansas City thanks to a 23-point second-half performance by Tyler Haws. Haws had 25 for the game and scored the go-ahead bucket with under two minutes remaining to give BYU a solid neutral site win against Texas. BYU will likely be the road team against a very pro Shockers crowd in the championship game.

STARRED

1) The N0. 17 Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the young season with a 110-51 thrashing of UMKC at home. Twelve different players scored for Iowa State and they all played at least six minutes in the balanced scoring attacking for the Cyclones.

2) No. 5 Oklahoma State cruised to a 93-67 road win over South Florida as Marcus Smart and Markel Brown each had 25 points.

3) The No. 7 Buckeyes pulled away from Wyoming for a 65-50 home win. Lenzelle Smith had 20 points and eight rebounds while Amir Williams had 12 points and 16 rebounds.

STRUGGLED

1) Elon, one of the preseason favorites for the Southern Conference, lost 75-74 at home to Division II Metro State. Metro State nearly beat Rhode Island earlier this season.

2) DePaul allowed No. 12 Wichita State to shoot 59 percent from the field and only had four assists total in a 90-72 loss in the CBE semifinals in Kansas City.

3) Providence shot 27 percent from the field and only 18 percent from three-point range as they struggled to score in their 56-52 loss to Maryland in the opening round of the Paradise Jam. The loss was the first for the Friars on the season.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  •  The No. 15 Gators had 27 points from Casey Prather as Florida cruised to an 86-60 win over Jacksonville.
  • In the Maui Invitational, the No. 18 Baylor Bears defeated Division II host Chaminade 93-77.

NOTABLES

  • Xavier cruised past Abilene Christian 93-65 as Semaj Christon had 17 points and six assists.
  • Missouri outlasted IUPUI 78-64 as Jabari Brown finished with 24 points for the 5-0 Tigers.
  • Kyle Fuller pumped in 20 points to lead Vanderbilt to a 77-68 win over St. Mary’s at the Paradise Jam.

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.