Lenzelle Smith Jr. rebounds as No. 17 Ohio State beats Illinois

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After playing well on the offensive end of the floor for much of non-conference play, stringing together seven consecutive double-digit outings at one point, Ohio State senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. struggled in the 17th-ranked Buckeyes’ first six Big Ten games.

Reaching double figures in three of their six games entering Thursday’s matchup with Illinois, Smith shot 4-for-25 from three and 35.1% from the field overall. Given the Buckeyes’ lack of a marquee scoring option they need multiple players to step up offensively, and that includes Smith.

So if there’s anything to be taken from the Buckeyes’ 62-55 win over the Fighting Illini, it may be the fact that Smith snapped out of his slump in helping Ohio State end its four-game losing streak.

Smith scored 16 points on the night, making four of his eight shot attempts from beyond the arc, to supplement the 18 scored by LaQuinton Ross. Ross scored 14 of his 18 in the second half, and as a team Ohio State shot 54.2% from the field and 5-for-9 from three in the game’s final 20 minutes. While Thad Matta’s team did a better job of working the ball around (eight assists on 13 made baskets) in the second half, the fact of the matter is that they made shots after struggling to do so in losses to Minnesota and Nebraska.

With their improved shooting the Buckeyes scored 1.15 points per possession in the second half after scoring just 0.86 points per possession in the first. Add in some solid defense, which included making sure that the slumping Rayvonte Rice (0-for-8, no points) didn’t get untracked, and the Buckeyes were able to end the program’s longest losing streak since the 2007-08 season.

At this point in the season it’s clear that Ohio State doesn’t have a player capable of taking over offensively in the manner that Deshaun Thomas did a season ago. But with that being the case, the consistency of players such as Ross, Smith and Aaron Craft (11 points, six rebounds and five assists) becomes even more important. Thursday’s win wasn’t the prettiest of results, but given the struggles of Ohio State as a team and Lenzelle Smith Jr. individually it was a night the Buckeyes needed.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball highlights

Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images
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It was the most anticipated matchup of the summer.

Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball.

People were turned away at the door – and LeBron James reportedly came and went – as the gym reached capacity for SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory over the Big Ballers. That’s Williamson over Ball (LaMelo and LaVar).

The game was mostly spectacle, and you can see it’s top moments right here.

 

VIDEO: Zion Williamson’s coach is holding a sleeping baby

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LaMelo Ball vs. Zion Williamson was insane, but it wasn’t quite crazy enough to wake up the sleeping toddler that Williamson’s coach is holding in his arms:

This is peak AAU basketball.

It will never be more AAU than that.

PHOTOS: Zion Williamson, LaMelo Ball showdown was, of course, insane

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In a showcase game in the adidas Uprising event in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, LaMelo Ball — the youngest member of the Big Baller Brand — faced off with Zion Williamson, who is a force on youtube and a highlight machine.

The crowd was insane for the game:

According to a report from ESPN, there were even concerns about whether or not the game would actually be allowed to be played; the police and fire marshall considered shutting the event down.

Williamson, of course, put on a show in warmups:

At the time of this posting, there were more than 60,000 people watching a livestream of the game on BallIsLife’s facebook page:

(UPDATE: It’s now over 70,000)

Puerto Rico Tip Off bracket revealed

AP Photo/Sean Rayford
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The bracket of the 2017 Puerto Rico Tip off was revealed Wednesday, setting up a showdown between a 2016 Final Four participant and the 2016 Big 12 tournament champion.

South Carolina and Iowa State headline the event, which will be played Nov. 16-19, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

The Gamecocks are on the top half of the bracket, opening against Illinois State while the Cyclones are on the bottom half, squaring off against Appalachian State.

Boise State vs. UTEP is the other top-half quarterfinal while Tulsa vs. Western Michigan is the other.

The championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip Off on Sunday, Nov. 19.

VIDEO: Michigan State’s Miles Bridges is dunking again

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Just what you wanted to see, a video of former Michigan State star Denzel Valentine throwing an alley-oop off the glass to current Michigan State star Miles Bridges in a Pro-Am in Michigan: