Ethan Wragge, college basketball’s best shooter, shot his first three … in 10th grade?

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PHILADELPHIA — Ethan Wragge is the best shooter in college basketball.

Yeah, I know, that’s about as subjective a statement as a writer can make, one that can be debated and argued and nitpicked until no one actually cares who the best shooter in the country is anymore.

But as of tonight, it’s not a discussion. As of Monday, January 20th, no one can touch Ethan Wragge, because no one else single-handedly buried the No. 4 team in the country, on the road, in all of 6:03 of game-time that took a little more than ten minutes of real time.

Seven straight threes.

By the time Villanova realized what had happened to them, Wragge had hit seven straight threes and Creighton had jumped out to a 27-8 lead at the Wells Fargo Center. That lead would grow as large as 27 in the first half and 40 in the second half, with the Wildcats failing to get closer than 13 after Wragge’s fourth three of the first four minutes put Creighton up 18-5. The Bluejays coasted for the final 12 minutes, eventually winning 96-68.

He finished with 27 points, which simple long-division will tell you is nine three-pointers. What it doesn’t tell you, and what those of you unfamiliar with Creighton might not know, is that the nation’s top marksman is Creighton’s 6-foot-7 center.

That’s only part of what makes Wragge the most unique player in the country.

Because he’s not simply taking threes. Known as WraggeBombs, the native Minnesotan unabashedly fires away from a distance that would make Stephen Curry blush, the irony being that Creighton’s center is much more effective shooting from 30 feet than he is from three feet. In a career that’s spanned five years — he played nine games as a sophomore but was given a medical redshirt for the season — Wragge has taken a grand total of 53 two-point field goals. Of the 154 shots that he’s taken this year, 148 have come from three-point range.

He’s shooting 50% from three.

And he didn’t shoot his first three until 10th grade.

Wragge gets it from his mother.

Kari Wragge, who was Kari Kramme back then, spent four years in the ’80s lighting up NAIA opponents for Midland Lutheran in Nebraska. A two-time second-team all-american, she finished here career scoring 1,779 points while developing a reputation for having as pure of a stroke as you’ll find at any level of the game.

“One of my regrets is that I didn’t make a teaching video of her shooting the basketball,” her former coach, Joanne Bracker, once told the Omaha World-Herald.

Ethan, the oldest of three brothers, didn’t need a shooting video. He was getting all the coaching he could handle for mom and dad, who was the quarterback at Midland Lutheran when Kari was lighting up scoreboards. They were sticklers about form. Elbow under the ball, use your legs, follow through, backspin. “The biggest thing they taught me is don’t shoot too far out,” Wragge said while plowing through a slice of pepperoni pizza in the bowels of the Wells Fargo Center. “My dad would always say, ‘the range will come when you’re ready for it.'”

Where most kids that age would be stepping behind the three-point line, using every ounce of strength in their body to try to get the basketball up to the rim, Wragge settled into the 15-foot range. He was lethal, using his height as a weapon to allow him to get his shot off. It wasn’t until his sophomore year in high school that he started stepping out beyond the three-point line.

It wasn’t too long before it became obvious that the slow-footed, burly big man had a skill that very few people in basketball have. He was the biggest guy on his high school team, but still managed to earn all-area, all-conference and all-state accolades while setting school records for three-pointers — most made in a game, most consecutive threes made, career three-pointers. He was a specialist, and while a couple of impressive performances on the AAU circuit prior to his senior season drew interest from the likes of Marquette, Michigan and Minnesota, Wragge settled on Creighton, following in the footsteps of another large sharpshooter, Kyle Korver.

As a freshman, Wragge eventually worked his way into the starting lineup by the end of the season, but he would lose that spot to Doug McDermott the following season, a year he ended up receiving a medical redshirt as he battled through plantar fasciitis. The next two seasons, Wragge won awards for his play coming off the bench, but he wasn’t much more than a role player giving McDermott’s legs some rest of providing opponents with a different look while spelling Gregory Echenique.

It wasn’t until this season that he moved back into the starting lineup, and his presence has turned the Bluejays into arguably the most difficult team in the country to matchup with.

Wragge is Creighton’s five-man. That means that teams in the Big East are forced to guard him with a center.

“It’s hard for them to adjust,” Wragge said. Can you blame them? Daniel Ochefu, Villanova’s 6-foot-11 center, was the guy that was victimized by Wragge’s first three threes on Monday night. How many times has he had to guard someone that had that quick of a release from 25 feet out? How many times has a center has to locate his man in transition at half court just to make sure he doesn’t step into an open three from five feet beyond the NBA line?

The answer’s never.

I don’t mean to pick on Ochefu, either. He’s not alone. He’s just the latest victim.

“They’ll be close, but I know how close they need to be to effect it,” Wragge said. “Sometimes it might look like a bad shot, but I have confidence in it.”

“Some of our guys still have a tough time with it in practice,” senior guard Grant Gibbs said with a laugh, which is less an indictment of his teammates than it is a measure of just how unique Wragge’s skill set is.

Think about it.

Wragge has been in the Creighton program for five seasons. In those five years, he’s played 133 games and scored over 1,000 points. He’s shot the ball from inside the arc just 53 times. The scouting report is out there. Everyone, especially his teammates, knows why he’s on the court, yet those teammates still can have issues preventing him from getting open looks.

If they can’t slow him down, how can you expect Big East opponents playing Wragge for the first time to be able to?

VIDEO: St. Bonaventure beats Vermont on Matt Mobley buzzer-beater

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St. Bonaventure outlasted Vermont in Olean, NY, on Saturday afternoon, winning 81-79 thanks to this buzzer-beating three from Matt Mobley.

It was the only shot that Mobley, who is averaging 19.6 points on the season, made on the day:

Vermont guard Trae Bell-Haynes missed a layup on the previous possession, but Payton Henson was there for a put-back to give Vermont a 79-78 lead with just five seconds on the clock.

Jaylen Adams scored 17 points and had five assists to lead St. Bonaventure. Courtney Stockard added 14 points, and Amadi Ikpeze and Izaiah Brockington each chipped in with 13.

Anthony Lamb led the Catamounts with 27 points.

VIDEO: Arena evacuated during Ohio State-Appalachian State game

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There was a weird scene on Saturday evening as Ohio State hosted Appalachian State.

Early in the second half, a fire alarm went off as the game as being played, which was followed by an announcement played over the PA asking everyone to evacuate the arena.

And it was all captured live on the Big Ten Network:

The game was eventually continued, and it appears that the incident was nothing more than the fire alarm working the way that it is supposed to. From a statement released by Ohio State: “Tonight’s event was interrupted by a failure on an exhaust fan. The fan shut off and allowed the smoke from a concession stand to enter the fresh air return on one of our air handlers and activated one of our smoke detectors. The building systems worked as they were designed and we were able to reset the alarm, repair the exhaust and return to normal operations.”

Clemson rallies past No. 22 Florida 71-69

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SUNRISE, Fla. — Marcquise Reed threw a 75-foot pass to Elijah Thomas for a dunk that put Clemson ahead to stay with 37 seconds left, and the Tigers rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half Saturday to beat No. 22 Florida 71-69 in the Orange Bowl Classic.

With Clemson trailing 68-67, Reed rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by KeVaughn Allen and threw a football-style pass from one free-throw lane to the other, hitting Thomas on the run for an easy score.

Clemson (9-1) beat a ranked team for only the eighth time in school history and continued its best start since 2008. Florida (6-4) lost for the fourth time in the past five games.

The Tigers won despite having a point taken off the scoreboard with 4 seconds left. Thomas’ free throw put Clemson ahead 70-68, but the point was wiped out when the officials realized it was Reed who had been fouled.

Reed then made two free throws to help seal the win. He finished with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Gabe DeVoe added 19 points and six rebounds for the Tigers, who shot 51 percent. Clemson coach Brad Brownell earned his 300th victory.

Jalen Hudson scored the Gators’ first 12 points and finished with 23.

Egor Koulechov sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Gators a 40-33 halftime lead, and they were up 47-35 early in the second half. Clemson took its first lead since 4 minutes into the game when DeVoe sank a 3-pointer to make it 67-66.

The meeting was the first between the teams since 1957.

No. 19 Florida State lost to Oklahoma State 71-70 in the first game of the doubleheader.

BIG PICTURE

Florida coach Mike White has been unhappy with his team’s transition defense. The Gators allowed only seven fast-break points, but that included Thomas’ decisive dunk.

UP NEXT

The Gators play host to James Madison on Wednesday.

Clemson plays host to South Carolina on Tuesday.

Oklahoma State hands No. 19 Florida State 1st loss, 71-70

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — A grinning Mitchell Solomon collapsed on his back under the Florida State basket, looking up toward his celebrating Oklahoma State teammates and the scoreboard above them.

Cowboys 71, Seminoles 70.

Solomon scored on a tip-in with 6 seconds left and then happily fell to the floor at the other end of the court when he took a game-clinching charge, and Oklahoma State knocked No. 19 Florida State from the unbeaten ranks Saturday in the Orange Bowl Classic.

Florida State went ahead on Terance Mann’s follow with 10 seconds remaining, but Oklahoma State needed only four seconds to go the length of the court to score for the 14th and final lead change.

Following a timeout, the Seminoles’ CJ Walker drove into the lane but collided with Solomon and was called for the foul, sealing the Cowboys’ win.

“I just try to pride myself on playing that way all the time,” Solomon said.

Florida State (9-1) missed a chance to match the best start to a season in school history. Oklahoma State (8-2) ended a streak of seven consecutive losses against ranked teams since February.

“To come out and compete for 40 full minutes — we hadn’t done that yet this year,” Cowboys coach Mike Boynton said. “We beat a really good team today. Florida State is going to win a lot of games in the ACC.”

The Seminoles’ loss left only four unbeaten teams in Division I: Villanova, Arizona State, Miami and TCU.

“We’re in a conference where you can’t get caught up in streaks, because nobody in the ACC is going to go undefeated,” coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It doesn’t happen. Tonight we played against a team that played a little better than us.”

Florida State squandered a seven-point lead in the final 8 minutes but still had a chance to go ahead in the final seconds. Oklahoma State forward Jeffrey Carroll said the final sequence starring Solomon at both ends of the court had a cinematic tinge.

“It almost felt like slow motion,” Carroll said, “like a movie almost.”

Boynton said he expected the Seminoles to drive to the lane on their final possession.

“We were just fortunate that Mitch knew the right play,” Boynton said. “He came over and gave up his body, sacrificed for his teammates and got our team a win.”

Solomon had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Carroll, a senior, made his first start of the season and scored 23 points to surpass 1,000 for his career, and was voted the game’s outstanding player

Senior Phil Cofer scored a career-high 22 points for Florida State. Mann, a junior, had 20 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.

The Seminoles committed a season-high 22 turnovers against a variety of Oklahoma State defenses.

“They were extremely prepared,” Hamilton said. “They mixed the defenses up.”

BIG PICTURE

Eight players had two or more turnovers for Florida State. Oklahoma State has forced at least 19 turnovers in each of the past four games.

The Seminoles shot 41 percent and were held well below their scoring average of 87.1 points per game. They were outscored 37-32 in the second half — the first time they’ve been outscored in a half this season.

Florida State also missed three of six free throws in the final 3:20.

BIG HOLE

The Seminoles fell behind 9-4 for their biggest deficit of the season.

NEWCOMER

St. John’s transfer Yankuba Sima made his Cowboys debut and had five points in 16 minutes.

INJURY REPORT

Seminoles center Christ Koumadje (foot) dressed but missed his seventh game in a row.

STAYING LOOSE

Solomon stood at the end of the bench when he was not in the game.

“I just stand up so my knees don’t get tight and stiffen up,” the senior said.

Said Carroll to Solomon: “You’re getting old.”

UP NEXT

Oklahoma State hosts Tulsa on Tuesday.

Florida State hosts Charleston Southern on Monday.

No. 2 Michigan State holds off upset-minded Oakland 86-73

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DETROIT (AP) — Tom Izzo and Michigan State probably needed a game like this.

Little Caesars Arena definitely needed it.

Detroit’s new downtown sports venue — where empty seats at Red Wings and Pistons games have limited the buzz so far — was a pulsating home for a college basketball doubleheader Saturday, and No. 2 Michigan State capped the all-local event with an 86-73 victory over upset-minded Oakland.

Michigan beat Detroit Mercy 90-58 in the opener , but the atmosphere really picked up after Oakland took the lead in the second half against Izzo’s Spartans. Michigan State finally went on a 12-2 run late in the game to pull away.

“We took some punches,” Izzo said. “They hit some shots in a row, guys, and the place started getting into it. That’s where I thank our fans, because we had more of them, and they rose up and we hit a couple of those 3s. It changed.”

Kendrick Nunn scored 32 points for the Golden Grizzlies, who stayed right with the talented Spartans (10-1) until the final minutes. Michigan State improved to 16-0 against Oakland, but only after the type of test the Spartans can expect again from underdogs down the road.

Nick Ward had 15 points and 15 rebounds for Michigan State, which finished with a 45-30 edge on the boards and made enough outside shots to keep Oakland (6-5) at bay. It was tied at 66 before the decisive run by the Spartans, which included two 3-pointers by Winston.

Kenny Goins had eight rebounds and seven assists for Michigan State.

“Nick and Kenny were huge,” Winston said. “They cleaned it up.”

Michigan State led 38-33 at halftime, but it was clear early in the second half that this would be no easy win for the Spartans. Oakland’s Martez Walker had two four-point plays in the first few minutes of the half. The second one put Oakland up 52-49 with just under 15 minutes remaining.

Michigan State kept scoring, however. Winston finished with 19 points, Joshua Langford scored 17 and Miles Bridges had 11. Jaren Jackson Jr. added 10.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe didn’t want to hear about any moral victory for his team.

“I am not happy,” he said. “We should have won the game. Oakland should have won this game.”

BIG PICTURE

Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies did what they needed to do to make a game of it, shooting 7 of 15 from 3-point range in the second half. They struggled around the basket, though. Michigan State had a clear rebounding advantage, and Oakland had a hard time scoring inside.

Michigan State: The Spartans turned the ball over 17 times but were able to close off the perimeter at the very end, finally containing Nunn. It was a win that bodes well for Michigan State’s ability to stave off potential upsets in the future.

RETURN

Nunn’s status was in question leading up to the game because of an ankle issue. Kampe said there was concern that Nunn could be out for the season, but a second opinion indicated it was just tendinitis that can be managed.

“I was pretty relieved just to know that I couldn’t damage it anymore,” Nunn said.

PREVIEW?

Little Caesars Arena is hosting the first two rounds of this season’s NCAA Tournament, and if all goes well for the Spartans, they’ll be playing close to home in the venue.

“This is so cool for Detroit,” Izzo said. “It’s just starting to feel like a city that’s coming back to life, and if we can be a little part of it today and we can be a big part of it in March, no one will be more excited about it than me.”

UP NEXT

Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies host Towson on Wednesday night.

Michigan State: Winners of nine straight, the Spartans probably won’t be challenged too much Monday night when they host Houston Baptist.