Kevin Ollie

Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Connecticut goes on the road for first time vs. Washington

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 10 Connecticut at Washington (3:30 p.m., ESPNU) — all times eastern

The Huskies are coming off their first loss of the season as they lost to Stanford at home this past Wednesday, 53-51. Now, in their first true road game of the season, Connecticut will face another Pac-12 team in Washington. Against Stanford, the Huskies’ ability to win close games in the final minute came to an end; they were 4-0 in games decided by one possession. Washington has really struggled this season, limping out to a 6-4 start with their best win against Montana, but a cross-country trip for UConn and playing against an ostensibly hungry team makes this a tough game.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: California at Creighton (7:00 p.m., FOX Sports 1)

If you’re looking for something to watch in between the 4:00 p.m. NFL games and Sunday night football, check this one out. While both California and Creighton have one non-conference game remaining on their respective slates following this one (California vs. Furman, Creighton vs. Chicago State), the game today is the final opportunity to pick up a quality non-conference win. The Blue Jay offense is clicking again, following a season-low 53 point output against George Washington where Doug McDermott was held to just seven points. Meanwhile, Cal has rebounded after losing at UC Santa Barbara by winning their following two games against Nevada and Fresno State.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? Brown at Northwestern (2:00 p.m.)

Chris Collins and Northwestern need to approach today’s game against Brown very seriously. If not, the Bears are good enough to upset them in Evanston, IL. Not a whole lot was expected of Northwestern in Collins’ first season at the helm, but the Wildcats have struggled perhaps more than some expected. Their best win has come against Western Michigan, and currently stand at 6-5 on the year. Brown senior guard Sean McGonagill shoots the ball as well as anyone in the country (32-76 3PT), and if JerShonn Cobb is unable to play due to an ankle injury that will make slowing McGonagill that much more difficult.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Boise State at Hawaii (1:00 a.m., ESPNU)

After beginning the season 8-0, Boise State has lost two straight against Kentucky and St. Mary’s. The Broncos look to rebound against Hawaii, but winning against the Warriors in Hawaii is never an easy task. This is the final game of Boise State’s non-conference schedule before Mountain West play begins. While they have a nice win against Utah, winning on the road at Hawaii would boost their resume, even if only marginally.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Connecticut probably isn’t as good as their No. 10 ranking suggests, and Shabazz Napier wasn’t going to continually hit game-winning shots in the final minute to propel the Huskies to close victories — to that end, UConn’s flaws were exposed by Stanford. UConn scored a mere 13 points in the second half against the Cardinal. Heading out west to play Washington, I will go as far to say that UConn needs to win this game.

2) A big opportunity at the end of the non-conference for Purdue and West Virginia today. Each team doesn’t figure to seriously factor into their respective conference races — Purdue in the Big Ten and West Virginia in the Big 12 — as neither has performed well to date. The team who walks away from today’s game with a win today, however, will at least have some good feelings and something to build upon moving into 2014.

3) I think Northwestern should be on upset alert more than Mississippi, but don’t be surprised if Mercer gives the Rebels everything they can handle. Mercer is a solid team. They nearly beat Texas in their season-opener, and own solid overtime victories against Seton Hall and Denver. At this point, Mercer has to be considered the team to beat in the Atlantic Sun. If Mississippi leaves this game victorious, it may be against a Top 100 RPI team come March — critical, considering that Mississippi may find themselves sitting on the bubble.

4) Akron has a good opportunity to pick up a victory over a BCS team for the MAC as they travel to Hawaii to face Oregon State. The Zips have won four straight with three of the wins coming against solid teams in Cleveland State, Oral Roberts, and Detroit. While Oregon State is 6-2, don’t let that record fool you. Sure, the Beavers have a road win against Maryland, but they have played one of the weakest schedules in the country. On a neutral court, Akron has a good shot at winning this game.

5) There are ten undefeated teams remaining, and three are in action today: Iowa State, St. Mary’s, and Wichita State. The team most in danger of losing today is Iowa State as they play George Mason in Hawaii.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

No 11 Wichita State vs. North Carolina Central, 8:00 p.m.

No. 12 Baylor vs. Southern University, 5:00 p.m.

No. 17 Iowa State vs. George Mason, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

No. 25 Iowa vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff , 2:00 p.m., ESPN3

NOTABLES:

Indiana vs. Kennesaw State, 12:00 p.m., Big Ten Network

Richmond vs. Ohio, 1:00 p.m.

Auburn vs. Boston College, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3

Dayton vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.

Central Florida vs. Valparaiso, 2:30 p.m., ESPN3

Miami (FL) vs. La Salle, 3:00 p.m., ESPN3

Illinois State vs. DePaul, 4:35 p.m., ESPN3

UCLA vs. Weber State, 7:00 p.m., Pac-12 Network

South Florida vs. Mississippi State, 8:00 p.m.

St. Mary’s vs. South Carolina, 11:00 p.m., ESPNU

Before he won an Academy Award, Mahershala Ali played at Saint Mary’s

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Actor Mahershala Ali accepts Best Supporting Actor for 'Moonlight' onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Mahershala Ali won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in the film ‘Moonlight’ on Sunday night.

How does that tie into college basketball?

It’s simple: Ali played college basketball for four years at Saint Mary’s, from 1992-1996.

Now, this was before Saint Mary’s turned into the Saint Mary’s that Randy Bennett has built. At the time, Ernie Kent was the program’s head coach, and the teams that Ali — whose used his given last name of Gilmore at the time, although he was already using the shortened version of his first name, Mahershalalhashbaz — played on weren’t really all that good. They finished under .500 in the WCC three of the four season, finding a way to finish in a tie for second place in his junior year.

As a senior, Ali averaged 7.0 points for the Gaels.

This would probably make Ali the most famous player that Kent has ever coached. He’s more famous than Aaron Brooks, who had about two good NBA seasons, and he’s definitely more famous than Luke Ridnour, who is best known either for getting traded four times in a week or being name-dropped in a song by the rapper Wale, who bragged about being able to turn ‘Ducks into Bucks [like] Luke Ridnour.’

 

VIDEO: Tom Izzo’s touching senior day tribute to Eron Harris

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 26: Eron Harris #14 of the Michigan State Spartans kisses the midcourt logo on senior day during the second half of the college basketball game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Breslin Center on February 26, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
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Eron Harris suffered a career-ending knee injury in a game at Purdue earlier this month, meaning that he would not be able to take the floor for his Senior Day.

Tom Izzo made sure to rectify that, as he called a timeout with just 12 seconds left in Michigan State’s win over No. 16 Wisconsin on Sunday, giving Harris a chance to go out to the center of the court, get a standing ovation and give the Spartan logo a smooch.

He was also greeted by the Wisconsin team. All around great moment:

Nick Ward-led Michigan State beats No. 16 Wisconsin 84-74

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 26: Nick Ward #44 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers in the second half at the Breslin Center on February 26, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Nick Ward had 22 points and nine rebounds, Miles Bridges had 17 points and Matt McQuaid added a season-high 15 to help Michigan State beat No. 16 Wisconsin 84-74 on Sunday.

The Spartans (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten) have won six of their last eight games, moving them into a third-place tie in the conference and perhaps sealing their spot in a 20th straight NCAA Tournament.

The Badgers (22-7, 11-5) have lost four of five and lost a chance to pull into a first-place tie with No. 14 Purdue.

Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes scored 22 points, Bronson Koenig had 17 and Zak Showalter added 15. Ethan Happ fouled out with eight points, more than six points below his average for the Badgers.

Michigan State went on an 11-1 run midway through the second half, building a 12-point lead that it was able to maintain unlike a big lead in the first half.

In the first half, the Spartans led 36-23 only to allow the Badgers to come back with a 15-4 run to pull within a point at halftime.

Michigan State’s Cassius Winston had 10 points and eight assists and Joshua Langford had nine points.

In the last game of the season at Breslin Center, senior guard Eron Harris checked in late in the game a little more than a week after he had a season-ending knee injury. Harris, with a brace on his right knee, went to center court and kissed the Spartan logo to follow a senior tradition Shawn Respert started in 1995.

BIG PICTURE

Wisconsin: The Badgers have been shooting poorly and it is catching up with them. They were held to 43.1 percent shooting against Michigan State, a ninth straight game of connecting on 44 percent or fewer of their shots. They made 13 of 25 free throws at Michigan State after shooting 67 and 57 percent from the line the previous two games.

Michigan State: The Spartans are surging at the right time and are gaining confidence perhaps allowing them to position themselves for better seeding at the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

POLL IMPLICATONS

With Wisconsin’s losses at Michigan State and Ohio State, the Badgers will likely plummet from No. 16 in The Associated Press poll on Monday.

UP NEXT

Wisconsin: The Badgers end the regular season at home, hosting Iowa on Thursday night and Minnesota on Sunday.

Michigan State: The Spartans close on the road, playing Illinois on Wednesday night and No. 24 Maryland on Saturday.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Update: Creighton’s Watson turns himself into police

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31: Injured guard Maurice Watson Jr. of the Creighton Bluejays looks on during the game against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 31, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Creighton defeated Butler 76-67. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Update: Later Sunday, Watson turned himself into the Douglas County Jail, a law enforcement official told the Omaha World-Herald. Watson’s attorney told the paper that Watson was driving back to Omaha from his native Philadelphia and was slowed by the snowstorm that hit parts of the country this week.

Law enforcement has been unable to arrest Creighton guard Maurice Watson since a warrant for his arrest on the charge first-degree sexual assault was issued last week, according to police.

“The U.S. Marshals Service and the Omaha Police Fugitive Unit continue to look for Mr. Watson,” Omaha Police said in a statement Sunday. “At this point in time, Mr. Watson is dodging law enforcement efforts to arrest him.

“Until he is located and arrested by law enforcement, or turns himself in, the entire Douglas County Court system is operating off of Mr. Watson’s time frame.

“Neither OPD nor the Douglas County Attorney’s Office is part of any specific arrangements for Mr. Watson to turn himself in.”

Watson was accused by a 19-year-old acquaintance, who reportedly is also a Creighton student, of sexual assault in the bathroom of an Omaha residence around 3 a.m. on Feb. 4. A report was filed later that day.

The point guard was in the midst of a banner season for the Bluejays before he tore his ACL in January, which ended his collegiate career. Creighton announced on Feb. 13 he was suspended from the team and not allowed to participate in senior night act due to  “alleged actions that are contrary to university policies and core values.”

The warrant for his arrest was issued Thursday.

 

Seventh-ranked Louisville dominates Syracuse

Rick Pitino
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The hint arrived early that Louisville might be no kind of matchup for Syracuse when the Cardinals jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead. The Orange, though, appeared to steady and seemed intent on delivering an interesting Sunday afternoon and a maybe another resume-changing win after beating Duke earlier in the week as the roared back to take a lead.

Everyone should have taken the early hint.

Louisville used a 21-4 first-half run to gain separation and never looked back as the Cardinals dominated Syracuse, 88-68, on Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center.

The win was the fourth in five games for Louisville, which shot 56.9 percent from the floor and held the Orange to 35.7 percent shooting.

Donovan Mitchell was sensational, going for 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting, including 6 of 10 from deep, while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists. It was his third-straight game with at least 20 points.  He also had an absolutely dynamic one-handed alley-oop late that was just fantastic.

The Cardinals showed no ill effects of a hangover stemming from the loss earlier this week at North Carolina, but instead it was as dominant a performance as they’ve had in weeks.

On the losing side of the ledger are the Orange, who looked to be building some momentum after a three-game losing streak by beating Duke on Wednesday. Then, the Blue Devils went and lost to Miami and Syracuse just got smashed by another ACC contender. That doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.

For Syracuse, it looks destined to spend another Selection Sunday sweating, though there’s certainly enough time for it to go either way. The Orange can really only hurt themselves until the ACC tournament with Georgia Tech heading to the Carrier Dome this week. That’s a game Syracuse will need to win, lest they really want the pressure ratcheted up in Brooklyn.

A big part of the issue for Syracuse pinning its hopes on the ACC tournament is its total lack of depth. Tyler Lydon and Andrew White both went at least 40 minutes for the 11- and 10-straight games, respectively. Syracuse played seven and got 28 minutes total from its bench.

With a few days typically between days, that’s pretty sustainable for the regular season, but those minutes are sure to weigh on players going on back-to-back (and maybe longer) days.