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Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Arizona survives, Sean Kilpatrick thrives

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Belmont 99, Murray State 96

Belmont hasn’t been in the OVC very long, but their three games against Murray State have all been good. Thursday’s meeting was the latest chapter in this series, with the Bruins hanging on to beat the Racers with Blake Jenkins and J.J. Mann scoring 25 points apiece to lead the way. As a team Belmont shot 56% from the field, with Murray State shooting 48% and hitting 12 three-pointers to remain close. Cameron Payne scored 29 points and Jarvis Williams added 21 and 13 rebounds to lead Murray State offensively. The two teams remain atop their respective divisions, with Belmont maintaining a one-game lead in the loss column on Eastern Kentucky in the OVC’s East Division.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES 

1) No. 2 Arizona 67, Oregon 65

In their first full game without the injured Brandon Ashley the Wildcats struggled for much of the night, and some suspect foul shooting helped keep Oregon in the game. But the Ducks also missed some key free throws late, falling by two points with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (14 points, ten rebounds) giving Arizona a much-needed spark.

2) No. 7 Cincinnati 63, No. 22 UConn 58

Senior guard Sean Kilpatrick added more evidence to the argument that he’s one of the nation’s best players, accounting for 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in the Bearcats’ 15th consecutive victory. UConn shot just 32% from the field in the second half, and their offensive struggles in the final 20 minutes contributed to the outcome as well.

3) No. 9 Michigan State 82, Penn State 67

Keith Appling didn’t play due to an injured write but Adreian Payne returned to the court, scoring 12 points and grabbing three rebounds in his first action since January 7. The stars for Michigan State in their win over the Nittany Lions were Kenny Kaminski and Denzel Valentine, with Kaminski scoring a career-high 19 points and Valentine adding 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

STARRED

1) Tyler Stone (Southeast Missouri State)

In the Redhawks’ 93-88 overtime loss at SIU-Edwardsville, Stone tallied 37 points (15-for-19 FG), eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

2) Charlie Lee (Cleveland State) and Travis Bader (Oakland) 

In the Vikings’ 92-85 win at Oakland both Lee and Bader stood out for their respective teams. Lee accounted for 31 points, six assists and three rebounds to lead Cleveland State to the win, with Bader hitting ten of his 13 three-pointers and scoring 35 points. Bader set the NCAA record for made three-pointers in a career on Sunday.

3) Brett Comer (FGCU) 

30 points on 11-for-17 shooting from the field, eight assists and four rebounds in the Eagles’ 100-71 win over Jacksonville.

STRUGGLED

1) Andrew Andrews (Washington) 

Made just one of his 12 field goal attempts in Washington’s 78-69 loss at Utah.

2) Shabazz Napier (UConn) 

UConn’s leading scorer shot 5-for-19 from the field (2-for-12 in the second half) in the Huskies’ 63-58 loss at No. 7 Cincinnati.

3) Xavier Munford (Rhode Island)

Munford shot 4-for-15 from the field in Rhode Island’s 68-52 loss at VCU. As a team URI shot 34.6% from the field and committed 20 turnovers.

NOTABLES

  • LSU suffered a defeat that won’t look good on its resume, falling 91-78 at Georgia. The Bulldogs shot 60% from the field.
  • Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski put together one of the best games of his career, finishing with 17 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks in the Sun Devils’ 86-82 overtime win over Oregon State. In the win Bachynski also became the Pac-12’s all-time leader in blocked shots (279).
  • Karvel Anderson scored 16 points to lead Robert Morris to a 65-56 win at LIU Brooklyn, maintaining their one-game lead atop the NEC. In the loss LIU’s Jason Brickman moved into 11th on the NCAA’s all-time assist list (941), passing Gary Payton.
  • Juvonte Reddic accounted for 14 points and 11 rebounds as VCU beat Rhode Island 68-52, staying within a game of Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10.
  • Markus Kennedy and Shawn Williams scored 14 points apiece to lead five players in double figures as SMU beat Temple 75-52.
  • Georgia State moved to 10-0 in Sun Belt play with a 68-57 win at UALR, putting the game away with a 16-6 second half run.
  • Davidson shot 16-for-22 from three in its 109-88 win at Samford, with Brian Sullivan making seven of his ten attempts from beyond the arc.
  • Weber State maintained its two-game lead in the Big Sky with an 84-72 win at North Dakota. After the Wildcats and Northern Colorado (7-4) there are eight teams with either five or six conference losses. Only the top seven qualify for the Big Sky tournament.
  • Luke Nelson scored 28 points to lead UC Irvine to a 61-58 win over Long Beach State in a battle of teams tied for first place in the Big West.

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

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AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File
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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
AP Photo/Nati Harnik
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.