Foul shooting, turnovers cost Utah shot at marquee victory

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Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah Utes entered Wednesday’s home game against No. 4 Arizona in need of a resume-building victory. With their non-conference slate consisting of a home win over BYU and little else of value, Utah will need a strong finish to Pac-12 play in order to have a shot at reaching the NCAA tournament. And after falling at UCLA last Saturday, a shot at the Wildcats on their home floor represented an opportunity the Utes could not afford to let slip from their grasp.

Unfortunately for Utah that turned out to be the case, and their foul shooting was the biggest reason why. Utah shot just 13-for-22 from the foul line, falling 67-63 in overtime despite grabbing 13 offensive rebounds and scoring 13 second-chance points. If anything the fact that Utah had a chance to win the game was a surprise, considering how poorly Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright played.

Loveridge shot 1-for-12 on the night, losing patience in the second half and forcing up some shots he didn’t need to take. Finishing the game with seven points and five rebounds, the sophomore put forth his worst effort of the season. As for Wright, while he didn’t shoot as poorly as Loveridge (4-for-9 FG) he struggled to have the impact that makes him one of the most versatile players in college basketball.

Wright finished with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and six turnovers, and like Loveridge he ran into trouble against one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Arizona forced 16 turnovers and limited Utah to 43% shooting from the field, and defense will continue to be the key for the Wildcats as they look to make a deep tournament turn sans Brandon Ashley.

Offensively there was a positive development for Sean Miller’s team on Wednesday, and that was the performance of guard Gabe York. York made his first start of the season on Wednesday, replacing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the starting lineup with Arizona looking for an offensive spark. York provided that, scoring ten of his 15 points in the first half and finishing the game shooting 6-for-10 from the field. And Hollis-Jefferson played well in his return to a reserve role, adding 13 points and four minutes.

Already two key players for Arizona, Hollis-Jefferson and York became even more important when Ashley was lost for the remainder of the season. Can both, especially York, build on their performances against Colorado on Saturday night? And can Arizona do a better job rebounding the basketball? If Arizona gets positive answers to those questions they’ll have a good chance of retaining sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, with UCLA currently making a late charge.

But this result, and its impact, is more about Utah than Arizona. Remove BYU and Boise State and just one of Utah’s remaining non-conference opponents didn’t have an RPI of 200 or worse, Texas State. With this being the case the Utes not only needed to get hot down the stretch but they also needed a marquee victory.

Wednesday night represented an opportunity to accomplish that task, but unfortunately for Utah they fell just short.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.