parker

Jabari Parker’s best all-around game give Duke a win over Syracuse

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Jabari Parker didn’t get off to a great start against No. 1 Syracuse on Saturday night.

Midway through the first half, No. 5 Duke’s star freshman had four turnovers, a handful of missed shots and a 17-8 deficit to overcome.

But the end of the night, Parker would have 19 points on 6-for-9 shooting, 10 boards and a 66-60 referee-aided win while putting on arguably the best performance of his young career.

Here’s the thing about Parker: He’s as polished, as talented and as well-rounded of a scorer as you will find out of a freshman. He bullies people in the post, he hits threes, he crosses up bigger defender, he dunks on people.

Most importantly, he’s 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds.

But he doesn’t always play like it.

Parker can have a tendency to settle for perimeter jumpers. Instead of overpowering smaller guards or out-quicking bigger forwards, he’ll settle for what the defense is giving him: threes. Parker can hit that shot, there’s no question about it, but he’s not Andre Dawkins or Trevor Cooney. He’s not a guy whose offense is tied to his ability to shoot the ball. He’s a guy that’s just that much more dangerous because he can make that shot.

There’s a difference.

Against Syracuse, what you saw out of Parker was the full array of what he’s capable of doing, and it was the difference in the game. He hit all three of the threes that he took. He got the and-one in transition. His tip-dunk over what seemed like 17 outstretched arms put Duke up six. His driving, left-handed lay-up with 1:31 left might have been the biggest shot of the game, as it put Duke up 59-56. Rakeem Christmas would score on the ensuing possession to cut the lead to one, but the Orange never got closer than that.

Why?

Because Parker corralled a defensive rebound in-between four Syracuse players after Trevor Cooney missed a driving layup attempt with less than a minute remaining.

Duke didn’t win this game because of one play or one player. The struggles of Tyler Ennis and a couple of close calls going Duke’s way might have been more important than Parker’s play.

But what we saw on Saturday was everything that Parker is capable of doing.

When he’s more than just a jump-shooter, Duke is a much more dangerous team.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: