Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Syracuse, No. 18 Kentucky win Saturday’s showdowns

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 18 Kentucky 73, No. 6 Louisville 66

The home team won both of Saturday’s games matching ranked teams, with the young Wildcats beating their in-state rival despite not having Julius Randle for much of the second half. The Harrison twins and James Young grew up in the second half, and that certainly bodes well for the Wildcats down the line. As for Louisville, they need to get more from guys other than Chris Jones and Russ Smith

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 2 Syracuse 78, No. 8 Villanova 62

After a hot start by the visiting Wildcats the Orange found their groove, winning the matchup of former Big East rivals behind the point guard play of Tyler Ennis. Villanova attempted 31 three-pointers, allowing themselves to be seduced into taking those shots by the Syracuse zone. And while those shots fell early, they didn’t fall with the same regularity as the game progressed. 

2) No. 25 Missouri 68, N.C. State 64

Jordan Clarkson scored 21 points and Jabari Brown added 17 as the Tigers beat the Wolfpack in their first true road game of the season. Another important development for the Tigers moving forward was the play of freshman Johnathan Williams III, who accounted for ten points and seven rebounds. T.J. Warren led N.C. State with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but he didn’t score in the game’s final 11 minutes. 

3) No. 23 UMass 69, Providence 67

A Derrick Gordon putback with just over a second remaining proved to be the difference as the Minutemen beat the Friars by two points for the second consecutive season. UMass was able to win despite the fact that starting point guard Chaz Williams fouled out late in regulation. 

STARRED: 

1) J.J. Avila (Colorado State) 

33 points (14-for-17 FG), eight rebounds and four assists in the Rams’ 86-71 win over Lamar. 

2) Rayvonte Rice (Illinois) 

28 points (10-for-16 FG), seven rebounds and three assists in the Fighting Illini’s 74-60 win over UIC. 

3) Trevor Releford (Alabama) 

34 points (11-for-15 FG) and five steals in the Crimson Tide’s 75-67 loss at UCLA

STRUGGLED: 

1) Akron

The Zips’ road trip came to an end at South Carolina and it’s a good thing it did, as they shot 32.5% and committed 21 turnovers in a 78-45 loss to the Gamecocks.

2) Tulane

The Green Wave scored ten points in the first half and shot 28.6% from the field in a 72-41 loss to Kansas State.

3) Boston College

The Eagles shot 3-for-18 from beyond the arc and committed 23 turnovers in their 69-50 loss to VCU. 

NOTABLES: 

  • BYU is in trouble when it comes to the NCAA tournament. The Cougars lost their WCC opener 87-76 at Loyola Marymount, with Evan Payne leading the victors with 27 points. 
  • In its first game without Mitch McGary, Michigan beat Holy Cross 88-66. Glenn Robinson III led the way offensively with 23 points.
  • No. 24 Gonzaga was also without a starting big man, as Sam Dower missed the Bulldogs’ 74-60 win over Santa Clara. David Stockton accounted for 21 points and four steals. 
  • Chris Perry (18 points) led USF to a 61-57 win at Bradley, with the game being the eighth straight contest decided by five points or less for the Bulls (h/t Ray Curren).
  • Justin Jackson tallied 15 points, ten rebounds and four blocks in Cincinnati’s 74-59 win over Nebraska. 
  • Kyle Cain scored 18 points and grabbed ten rebounds to help lead UNCG to a 55-52 win at Virginia Tech. 
  • Jake Odum finished with 25 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals to lead Indiana State to an 86-73 win over Belmont. The Bruins won the first meeting of the season between the two teams last month in Nashville. 
  • Jabari Parker tallied 23 points and eight rebounds and Andre Dawkins hit six three-pointers in No. 9 Duke’s 82-59 win over Eastern Michigan. Also of note: Amir Jefferson grabbing 14 rebounds in the win. 
  • Kareem Jamar (26 points, eight rebounds) hit four free throws in the final 13 seconds to give Montana a 72-71 win at Idaho. 

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 4 Wisconsin 80, Prairie View A&M 43
  • No. 5 Michigan State 101, New Orleans 48
  • No. 15 UConn 82, Eastern Washington 65
  • No. 17 Memphis 75, Jackson State 61
  • No. 21 Colorado 84, Georgia 70

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.