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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.

Report: CBE Hall of Fame Classic headliners set

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The headliners for the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic have been set.

UCLA, Baylor, Wisconsin and Creighton will highlight the bill for the annual event in Kansas City, according to a report from CBS Sports.

The CBE Hall of Fame Classic historically has included on-campus games and a flagship four-team championship round at the Sprint Center. This year’s headliners include Kansas, Georgia, George Washington and UAB.

Certainly securing four high-majors is a significant get for the event, which will also likely coincide with the induction of the 2017 class of the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The 2016 class is highlighted by Mark Aguirre, Doug Collins, Dominique Wilson, Jamal Wilkes and Mike Montgomery.

Coach Cal softball game raises $300K for La. flood relief

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John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.

The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.

“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”

Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.

“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”

The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.

‘Noles add legacy guard to 2017 class

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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Florida State has added another solid member to its 2017 recruiting class.

Anthony Polite, a 6-foot-6 guard from Florida, pledged to the Seminoles on Tuesday morning.

“Officially committed to Florida State University #Nole Nation,” Polite wrote on Twitter.

Polite chose Leonard Hamilton’s program out of a final top-five that also included Pitt, Memphis, Texas Tech and Miami. He also sported offers from TCU, Boston College, Kansas State and Utah, among others.

“It was a really tough decision,” Polite said according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Miami had a great coaching staff. I just thought FSU would be the best fit for me and I had more of an opportunity to talk to the players at Florida State.”

Polite, whose father played for the Seminoles during his college career, averaged 21.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year as a junior playing for St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton, Fla.

“Anthony Polite is a skilled wing who can handle the ball and distribute a bit,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “Florida State still needs to help Polite improve his perimeter jumper, but his commitment gives them another talented playmaker from the wing who can handle and attack the rim.”

Regarded as a three-star prospect, Polite join power forward RaiQuan Gray and fellow guard Bryan Trimble in the Seminoles’ 2017 class. It doesn’t have the star power of Hamilton’s group last year, which included five-star Jonathan Isaac and four-star Trent Forrest, but they can be important pieces for a Florida State team that has just one senior on the 2016-17 roster.

Kansas players make weight room gains – and losses – this summer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JUNE 18: Udoka Azubuike #105 in red runs back for defense the NBPA Top 100 Camp on June 18, 2015 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
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Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.

Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.

“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.

“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”

Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.

Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.

Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.

 

Texas bolsters 2017 frontcourt

Texas head coach Shaka Smart calls a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.

Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.

Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.

“Jericho Sims is a late-blooming big man who has a lot of room to grow in terms of upside,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “A good athlete with a good frame to work with, Sims should help immediately on the glass and defensively but his offense will be a work in progress.

“Texas has a large recruiting class and targeted Sims later than many, so this is a nice commitment for the Longhorns.”

The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.

Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.