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Marquette shows signs of offensive progress in Monday’s defeat

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TEMPE, Ariz. — On the heels of two poor offensive performances, the way in which No. 25 Marquette began its game on Monday night against Arizona State may have led to many Golden Eagle fans thinking the same thought: here we go again. After a Jamil Wilson jumper 12 seconds into the game Marquette missed eight straight shots, leading to the Sun Devils jumping out to a 14-3 lead just over four minutes into the game.

For the half Marquette shot 37.5% from the field, and that combined with some shoddy defense (Arizona State needs to be credited for their work offensively, as well) resulted in the Golden Eagles trailing by 11 at the intermission. In front of a hostile crowd and once again struggling to consistently find quality looks, this was a point when Marquette could have easily succumbed to the pressure.

However Marquette didn’t fold, executing much better offensively in the second half and having a chance to send the game to overtime before a Jordan Bachynski block as time expired gave Arizona State the 79-77 victory. Marquette didn’t play its best game defensively, as Arizona State shot 53.7% from the field and averaged 1.23 points per possession, but the Golden Eagles’ improved offensive performance is certainly a positive to be taken from the first stop on their trip west.

“Four turnovers and as good as we were on the offensive glass, that’s good,” head coach Buzz Williams said following the defeat. “But it’s not good if on the other end, in both halves, they shot 54%.”

Marquette finished the game with 18 assists on 28 made baskets, and their turnover percentage (6.3%) was a season-low. And from an efficiency standpoint (120.7 efficiency) this was the Golden Eagles’ best offensive performance since their win over Grambling State (140.7), and with all due respect to the Tigers producing at that rate on the road against a team the caliber of Arizona State is an entirely different matter.

Marquette shot just 40.6% from the field, and the field goal percentage likely won’t be all that high this season due to their overall lack of shooters. But the Golden Eagles can make up for that on the boards, and they did so against Arizona State by rebounding nearly 40% of their missed shots. Add in good performances from guards Jajuan Johnson (nine points off the bench), Jake Thomas (16 points, five three-pointers) and Derrick Wilson (14 points, seven assists and no turnovers), and there are positives Marquette can take from this game.

It should also be noted that Marquette was without the services of the injured Todd Mayo (ankle), and when he returns to the lineup that another experienced perimeter option for coach Williams to call upon. Expecting this group to be “lights-out” shooters wouldn’t be the best thing to do, but Marquette has the activity needed to make up for that in other areas.

The next step is to see whether or not the Golden Eagles can string together solid offensive performances, and this weekend’s Wooden Legacy should be a good litmus test in that regard. And while their defense against Arizona State was a major issue, that performance was a departure from what the Golden Eagles do on that end of the floor when comparing it to their loss to Ohio State.

Marquette didn’t defend well on Monday night but they still had a shot at leaving Tempe with a win, and for that they can thank their improvement on the offensive end.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

rp_primary_Linder_Jeff_Action_vs_Dayton_031815_2_
Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.

Duke’s Azura Stevens transfers to UConn

Duke's Azura Stevens (11) steals the ball from North Carolina A&T's Kenya Hailey, right, as Duke's Ka'lia Johnson watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Ellen Ozier)
(AP Photo/Ellen Ozier)
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STORRS, Conn. (AP) Azura Stevens, the leading scorer and rebounder for Duke, has decided to transfer to UConn.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore center from Raleigh, North Carolina will sit out next season and will have two years of eligibility remaining when the 2017-18 season begins the school announced Saturday.

Stevens averaged 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds a game and was named to the ACC’s all-conference first team.

She was second in the league both scoring and rebounding.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Saturday that he normally doesn’t get involved in transfer situations, but Stevens convinced him that Storrs would be the right place for her going forward.

Beachem says he’ll be back at Notre Dame for senior season

Notre Dame's V.J. Beachem reacts during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin in the regional semifinals of the men's NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Forward V.J. Beachem has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will return to Notre Dame for his senior season.

Beachem made the announcement Sunday night on Twitter, writing that he was thankful for the opportunity to experience the NBA draft process and invitations to work out for teams, “but now I’m ready to lead [Notre Dame]. #IMBACK.”

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.0 points and 3.9 rebounds as the Irish finished 24-12. He was at his best in the NCAA Tournament, when he averaged 17.5 points as the Irish advanced to the Elite Eight for a second straight year.

Coach Mike Brey sent a Tweet saying he was thrilled Beachem will return.