Tione Womack

Houston upsets No. 17 UConn 75-71

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The Houston Cougars led by as many as 21 points in the first half before entering the break with 18-point lead. No. 17 Connecticut would storm back, taking its first lead with less than four minutes to play on a DeAndre Daniels three. Despite blowing the game-long lead the Cougars battled back and pulled off a 75-71 upset at home on New Year’s Even in the program’s first league game in the American Athletic Conference.

Houston came off the gates without lot of energy, flat out playing UConn. This was a Cougars team that was playing without L.J. Rose or Danuel House and had lost to both San Jose State and Louisiana-Lafayette earlier this month.

TaShawn Thomas was a monster on the inside. He scored 12 points in the first half and continued to roll in the second half, scoring a team-high 21 points, grabbing eight rebounds as well. Thomas also made two free throws to put Houston ahead, 73-71, drawing a foul — or not a foul as it appeared on the replay — on Tyler Olander, which was his fifth.

UConn’s star, Shabazz Napier went the first 19:56 seconds without a bucket, connecting on two free throws just before halftime. Essentially the entire UConn offense was quiet in the first half, minus Ryan Boatright. Napier, who ended with a game-high 28, tried to pull off another heroic comeback, but missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 45 seconds left. After Thomas’ two free throws, Napier rushed the ball up the floor, but met a pair of defenders at the hoop as Thomas swatted Napier’s shot off the backboard.

Boise State loses guard Harwell to torn ACL

Leon Rice
Associated Press
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Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman¬†that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.

Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.

Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.

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.