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Another missed opportunity makes Big East play even more important for Marquette

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. — While the matchup between Marquette and New Mexico didn’t receive the same billing as No. 7 Oklahoma State/No. 20 Colorado, viewed as the undercard for the main event by many. But there was no debating the importance of the meeting if taking the long-term view. Both teams entered the game in need of a resume-building victory, as both the Golden Eagles and Lobos have more “misses” than “makes” when it comes to that.

Cullen Neal snapped out of his five-game shooting slump and Cameron Bairstow went for 20 points, ten rebounds and five assists to lead New Mexico to the 75-68 victory, and as a result Buzz Williams’ team heads back to Milwaukee with a fifth loss on the season. And the defeat also makes Big East play even more important for the preseason favorites to win the conference, with their best win to date coming at the expense of George Washington.

On Saturday night Marquette did a good job of finding quality offensive looks after a slow start, shooting 58.3% from the field in the first half. But in the final 20 minutes the Golden Eagles shot 36.4% from the field and made just two of their nine shots from beyond the arc after shooting 5-for-10 in the first half. New Mexico was able to limit Marquette’s second chance opportunities, something the Golden Eagles have been able to make good use of this season, and doing so helped to negate Marquette’s 24-4 edge in bench points.

Now with just one game ahead of the start of Big East play, the Golden Eagles will have some work to do beginning with a New Year’s Eve matchup at Creighton. Marquette’s certainly taken on challenging competition thus far, with New Mexico joining a list that includes Ohio State, Wisconsin, Arizona State and San Diego State. The problem: they didn’t win any of those games.

With that being the case the Golden Eagles will need to rack up wins in conference play, with the hope that they’ll be able to pick up enough of those to balance out the non-conference defeats. By no means is the sky falling, but the path back to the NCAA tournament will be a little tougher for Marquette.

USC athletic director Pat Haden to step down in June

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LOS ANGELES (AP) University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says he will retire on June 30.

USC President Max Nikias made the announcement Friday.

Haden has run the athletic department for 5 1/2 years, leading the Trojans through a multiyear stretch of NCAA sanctions against its vaunted football program. He created a large NCAA compliance program and improved graduation rates and grade point averages across the athletic department.

The former USC quarterback also received criticism for the football program’s relative underachievement and for his handling of coach Steve Sarkisian, who has sued the school over his termination last year.

Nikias says Haden’s department also raised over $400 million during his tenure.

Nikias says Haden will start a one-year job guiding the renovation of the Coliseum after he retires.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ivy League’s best meet in New Haven

Columbia guard Maodo Lo, right, steals the ball from Northwestern forward Aaron Falzon, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Evanston, Ill.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.

The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.

They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
  • Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
  • Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.