UNLV v San Diego State

San Diego State weathers Creighton rally, earns 86-80 win

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Creighton’s defense isn’t particularly strong. That’s common knowledge for any college hoops fan.

But, their offense? Perhaps the best in the game. Doug McDermott is arguably the best pure scorer in college basketball who can score from anywhere on the court, and they have a bevy of three-point shooters that can really fill it up. Between McDermott and his cohorts, Creighton is never out of a game.

At one point, they trailed 51-32 early in the second half, but there was never the feeling that the Blue Jays were out of it. A double-digit deficit for Creighton is like a two-possession game for most other teams.

Rob Dauster put it best:

One would think that a game like that would benefit Creighton every time, but not tonight.

While the porous defense will no doubt come back to bite Creighton at times, the potency of their offense cannot be ignored. Unfortunately tonight for Creighton, they spotted the Aztecs a 19 point second half lead and were unable to recover, losing 86-80. They cut it to a one-possession game on multiple occasions and actually had a chance to tie the game, but shot attempts from McDermott and Gibbs both were turned aside.

Doug McDermott led all scorers with 30 points, but the play of Xavier Thames for San Diego State was tremendous as he scored 26 points on just ten field goal attempts.

This was a big time victory for the Aztecs. They hung tough with Arizona in their second game of the season, but eventually lost 69-60. Their three other games came against a sub-D1 school, UC Riverside, and the College of Charleston — hardly world-beaters. The game against Creighton was a benchmark kind of game against a Top 25 team.

After taking the lead 31-28 late in the first half on a three-pointer from Thames, San Diego State did not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game. Creighton certainly made things very interesting in the latter part of the second half, but to keep them at bay and earn a victory is impressive. The Aztecs reaffirmed they will challenge for the Mountain West title, and may even be the front-runner at this point — although, New Mexico, Utah State, and Boise State would all have something to say about that.

San Diego State will now play Marquette in the championship game of The Wooden Legacy on Sunday.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”