Late Night Snacks: No. 17 Ohio State snaps four-game skid

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Portland 114, BYU 110 (3OT)

Portland has now beaten both Gonzaga and BYU at home this season, and their win over the Cougars may stand as one of the best games of the season when we reach early April. Tyler Haws, whose 48 points were the most scored in a WCC game since Loyola Marymount great Bo Kimble scored 50 in a game against San Francisco on February 4, 1990 (interestingly, the late Hank Gathers scored 49 in a game against LSU the day prior), tied the game at 80 with 30 seconds remaining in regulation. And his three-pointer with 12 seconds remaining in the first overtime would force a second extra session, only to have Portland’s Bobby Sharp return the favor and force a third extra session.

Sharp scored 27 points off the bench for the Pilots, who also received a 27-point, 18-rebound performance from Thomas van der Mars. In total nine players reached double figures (five for Portland, four for BYU), and if the Cougars are to look at any aspect of this game it would likely be their 9-for-24 night from beyond the arc. Portland outscored them by 15 points from deep, dropping BYU two games behind Gonzaga two days ahead of their meeting in Spokane.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 17 Ohio State 62, Illinois 55

Both teams entered the game with four-game losing streaks but it was Ohio State who made enough shots in the end. LaQuinton Ross scored 14 of his 18 points after halftime and Lenzelle Smith Jr. snapped out of his six-game slump by hitting four of his eight three-point attempts. As for Illinois they need to get Rayvonte Rice, who missed all eight of his shot attempts and went scoreless, back on track.

2) Washington 80, Oregon 76

A C.J. Wilcox three-pointer in the game’s final minute sealed the deal for Washington, who handed the Ducks their fifth consecutive loss. Wilcox hit five of his six three-point attempts and scored 23 points to lead the Huskies, who shot 57.8% from the field. Joseph Young scored 18 to lead Oregon but the struggles of the other starters combined with more defensive woes resulted in yet another defeat.

3) Mercer 68, FGCU 55

In a matchup of the top two teams in the Atlantic Sun the home standing Bears gained a small measure of revenge for last season’s A-Sun tournament final with a 13-point victory in Macon. Langston Hall led the way with 18 points and 11 assists for Mercer, which limited FGCU to 35% shooting from the field and 1-for-17 from beyond the arc. Bernard Thompson scored 21 to lead the way for the Eagles but needed 18 attempts to do so.

STARRED

1) Tyler Haws (BYU) and Thomas van der Mars (Portland) 

Haws scored 48 points (17-for-34 FG, 10-for-13 FT) for the Cougars, only to fall at Portland in triple overtime with van der Mars putting up 27 points (9-for-14 FG) and 18 rebounds (ten offensive).

2) Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington)

Harvey set a new Big Sky record by going 20-for-20 from the foul line in the Eagles’ 90-83 win over Southern Utah. Harvey finished the game with 36 points and eight rebounds.

3) R.J. Hunter (Georgia State)

Hunter scored 33 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the Panthers’ 77-70 win at Louisiana.

STRUGGLED

1) Rayvonte Rice (Illinois)

Rice went scoreless in Illinois’ 62-55 loss at No. 17 Ohio State, shooting 0-for-8 from the field.

2) UCF

In their 69-51 loss at No. 15 Cincinnati the Knights managed to shoot 6-for-17 from the foul line.  

3) Chasson Randle (Stanford) 

While he did finish with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists Randle shot 3-for-16 from the field in the Cardinal’s 91-74 loss at UCLA.

NOTABLES

  • No. 1 Arizona scored 18 of the first 22 points in their 69-57 win over Colorado, with the final margin not being an indication of the difference between the two teams.
  • Also in Pac-12 play Arizona State ended its four-game skid with a 79-75 win over Utah, giving older brother Jordan Bachynski temporary bragging rights over younger brother Dallin. Jahii Carson led the Sun Devils with 23 points and eight rebounds.
  • Neil Watson scored 28 points to lead Southern Miss to a 75-60 win at Old Dominion, handing the Monarchs their first Conference USA defeat.
  • Sir’Dominic Pointer’s defense in the final seconds preserved a 77-76 win over Seton Hall for St. John’s, the Red Storm’s first Big East win this season.
  • First-year head coach Will Wade has Chattanooga rolling right now, as the Mocs moved to 7-0 in SoCon play with an 84-63 win over preseason favorite Elon.
  • Craig Bradshaw scored 24 points in Belmont’s 80-66 win over Morehead State, moving to 6-1 in OVC play as a result.
  • Despite 28 points and 11 rebounds from Javon McCrea, Buffalo was upset 71-68 at Bowling Green with their three-point shooting (1-for-14) being one of the reasons why.
  • Northern Colorado made 11 of its 16 three-pointers in an 87-72 win over Northern Arizona, moving to 6-1 in Big Sky play.
  • Tony Parker scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds to help lead UCLA to their 91-74 win over Stanford.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.