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Late Night Snacks: Cal Poly, Tennessee advance in NCAA tournament

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Towson 63, USC Upstate 60

It isn’t often that a game ends on a half-court shot as time expires, but that was the case in Spartanburg as Four McGlynn’s shot gave Towson the win in the CIT first round matchup. Jerrelle Benimon led the way offensively for the Tigers with 20 points to go along with nine rebounds and three assists, helping Towson come back from a 13-point halftime deficit. USC Upstate’s Torrey Craig, who accounted for 14 points and 12 rebounds in the defeat, leaves the school ranked in the top five in Atlantic Sun history in both points (2,128) and rebounds (944).

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) Midwest No. 11 Tennessee 78, Midwest No. 11 Iowa 65

Cuonzo Martin’s Volunteers took control of this one in the extra session, outscoring the Hawkeyes 14-1 in overtime to advance into the 64-team bracket where they’ll play six-seed UMass on Friday. Jarnell Stokes finished the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but the key in the second half was the play of Josh Richardson. Richardson gave the Volunteers a needed spark in the second half, and his 17 points helped supplement the efforts of Stokes and Jordan McRae (20 points). As for Iowa what’s been a very tough week for the program came to a difficult ending in Dayton, and they end the season having lost seven of their final eight games.

2) Midwest No. 16 Cal Poly 81, Midwest No. 16 Texas Southern 69

Make it four in a row for a team that just a week ago was 10-19, having lost nine of their last 11 regular season games. Chris Eversley scored 19 points and David Nwaba added 17 for the Mustangs, who will play one-seed Wichita State in St. Louis on Friday. As a team Cal Poly shot 56.9% from the field, making 64% of their shots inside of the arc against a Texas Southern team that struggled mightily defensively. Aaric Murray led the Tigers with 38 points.

3) SMU 68, UC Irvine 54 

For teams who fall short of their goal to reach the NCAA tournament, the question before they begin postseason play in another event is what their motivation will be. For SMU, it took awhile to get going against Big West regular season champion UC Irvine. But after sleepwalking through much of the first half Larry Brown’s team got going in the second, putting together a 23-7 run to take control of the game. Cannen Cunningham scored 17 points and Ben Moore added 11 for SMU, which will host LSU in the second round.

STARRED

1) Rayvonte Rice (Illinois) 

Rice accounted for 28 points, eight rebounds and two assists in Illinois’ 66-62 win over Boston University in the first round of the Postseason NIT.

2) Charles Mann (Georgia) 

29 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field, five rebounds and three assists in the Bulldogs’ 63-56 win over Vermont in the Postseason NIT.

3) Aaric Murray (Texas Southern) 

Murray shot 14-for-23 from the field, scoring 38 points in the Tigers’ 81-69 loss to Cal Poly.

STRUGGLED

1) Texas Southern’s other four starters

While Murray proved to be a handful for Cal Poly, the Mustangs were able to keep his fellow starters under wraps. Those four players combined to score nine points on 3-for-13 shooting.

2) Aaron White and Roy Devyn Marble (Iowa)

Marble’s jumper with 18 seconds remaining forced overtime, but overall it was a rough night for Iowa’s leading scorers. Marble and White combined to shoot 4-for-20 from the field, with the former going 3-for-15.

3) Jonathan Williams (Toledo) 

Shot 0-for-8 from the field in the Rockets’ 66-59 loss at Southern Miss in a Postseason NIT first round matchup.

NOTABLES

  • Kenneth “Speedy” Smith’s basket with 2.2 seconds remaining gave Louisiana Tech an 89-88 win over Iona in the Postseason NIT. Jaron Johnson and Kenyon McNeail scored 15 points apiece to lead five Bulldogs in double figures.
  • Playing without Richard Solomon, who was forced to sit due to a concussion, California advanced in the Postseason NIT with a 77-64 win over Utah Valley. David Kravish finished with 14 points, ten rebounds and five blocks.
  • Ya Ya Anderson scored 23 points and Javonte Green and R.J. Price added 20 apiece to lead Radford to a 96-92 win at Oregon State in the CBI. The Highlanders scored 57 points in the first half, and their win ends the college career of Roberto Nelson (26 points).
  • Kourtney Roberson scored 14 points and grabbed ten rebounds in Texas A&M’s 59-43 win over Wyoming, with the Aggies limiting the Cowboys to 16 first-half points.
  • D.J. Newbill scored 19 points and Brandon Taylor added 14 as Penn State moved one game closer to the .500 mark with a 69-65 win over Hampton in the CBI.
  • Evan Conti scored 17 points to help lead Quinnipiac to a tight 69-68 win over in-state rival Yale in a CIT matchup. Ousmane Drame added 12 points and 17 rebounds for the winners.
  • Jarvis Williams scored 20 points and grabbed ten rebounds in Murray State’s 66-63 win at Missouri State in a CIT matchup. Steve Prohm’s Racers are now 19-11 on the season.

Kansas forward arrested on suspicion of battery

Douglas County Sheriff
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Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. was charged today with one count of battery.

According to a press release sent out by the Douglas County district attorney’s office, police received a call around 1 a.m. from a woman who said that “her boyfriend had struck her and pushed her down stairs during an argument.”

The DA also included a note in the statement that, essentially, said the only reason Bragg wasn’t charged with domestic violence – he was initially arrested on suspicion of domestic battery – was due to a technicality. Since the couple is only dating and not married, under Kansas law, the assault does not constitute domestic violence.

Battery is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison.

Bragg, who was still in custody until an appearance in court on Friday afternoon, was held on bond of $500. Bragg plead not guilty.

“We are still trying to gather information,” head coach Bill Self told The Star. “But it is a charge which we take very seriously.”

Bragg is a 6-foot-8 sophomore that lost his spot in the starting lineup earlier this year. He is averaging 7.8 points and 5.3 boards in 16 minutes. No. 3 Kansas hosts Nebraska on Saturday.

St. John’s to lose center to transfer

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 13: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats has his shot blocked by Yankuba Sima #35 of the St. John's Red Storm at the Wells Fargo Center on February 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Villanova won 73-63. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
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Yankuba Sima will transfer out of the St. John’s program, the school announced on Friday.

“I want to thank the coaching staff and the administration for all of their support since I arrived at St. John’s,” said Sima. “I enjoyed my experience at St. John’s, but right now I feel it is best for me to explore options that will be a better fit for me as I work toward my goals.”

“We wish Yankuba the best of luck,” said head coach Chris Mullin. “I know this wasn’t an easy decision for him, but we respect and understand it. He’s a good basketball player and a good person with a bright future ahead.”

Sima started 26 of the 34 games he played with the Johnnies, including eight starts this season. He was averaging 6.0 points and 3.5 boards this year.

Frank Martin comments on Sindarius Thornwell suspension

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks drives to the basket defended by Tyler Lydon #20 of the Syracuse Orange in the second half during the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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South Carolina head coach Frank Martin commented on Sindarius Thornwell’s suspension during his call-in show on Thursday.

Thornwell, who was the leading scorer for the 8-0 No. 19 Gamecocks, was suspended indefinitely last Sunday. Martin has yet to provide a reason for the suspension.

“He’s been with us at practice, he’ll travel with us, he’s excited about our team, his role on the team,” he said, according to South Carolina’s 247 site. “Sindarius is one of my favorite guys I’ve ever come across. He messed up and it is what it is. He’s like a son to me. He messed up and he’s owned up to his mess up.”

“Outside of that, I’m not going to get into anything else. He has my full support. Our job is to prepare our team to play, we don’t prepare individual players to play. It’s no different to someone rolling an ankle. We’re down because of a bad decision. We’ll be fine.”

Thornwell is averaging 18.7 points, 6.0 boards and 4.1 assists. The Gamecocks play Seton Hall in New York City on Monday night.

UCF star point guard out indefinitely with thumb injury

STORRS, CT - JANUARY 22: B.J. Taylor #1 of the Central Florida Knights carries the ball up the court in front of Ryan Boatright #11 of the Connecticut Huskies in the first half during the game at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion on January 22, 2015 in Storrs, Connecticut.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Sophomore guard B.J. Taylor is out indefinitely after suffering a hand injury, UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins confirmed at a press conference earlier today.

According to a report from 247 Sports’ UCF site, the injury is a broken thumb, which was suffered in Saturday’s win over UMass.

Taylor is not expected to miss the rest of the season but will be out for an extended amount of time. He missed all of 2015-16 season dealing with a foot injury.

On the season, Taylor, a 6-foot-2 point guard, was having an all-AAC caliber season, averaging 17.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.3 boards.

Weekend Preview: Villanova tested by Notre Dame, bounce-backs for Xavier, Butler

Notre Dame's Steve Vasturia (32), Bonzie Colson (35) and V.J. Beachem (3) talk during the second half of a first-round men's college basketball game against Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 18, 2016, in New York. Notre Dame won 70-63. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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SATURDAY’S SHOWDOWNS

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 23 Notre Dame, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: This is a fascinating matchup for a couple of reasons. For starters, this is the first real test that undefeated Notre Dame is going to be getting this season. We honestly have no idea how good the Irish actually are, and you wouldn’t be alone in needing to see a team starting Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson prove it before buying in.

But we also haven’t see Villanova tested in a while, either. They won at Purdue earlier this season and, since then, have more-or-less coasted to their undefeated mark. This will not only be a nice gauge game for Villanova, but it will also be a chance for them to pad an NCAA tournament résumé that will need to be strong for them to get a No. 1 seed this year.

The other part of this that’s fascinating? Both of these teams play small ball. There are going to be times on Saturday where 6-foot-5 Bonzie Colson is playing center and being guarded by 6-foot-5 Kris Jenkins, who will be at center for the Wildcats.

No. 22 Cincinnati at No. 16 Butler, Sat. 4:30 p.m.: Butler could really use this win. Coming off of a road loss to Indiana State during the week, the Bulldogs will be playing back in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday. But here’s the thing: Cincinnati could really use this win as well, and that Bearcat program already owns a road win over Iowa State.

The matchup here will be intriguing as well. Butler plays a more open, run-and-gun style than they did under Brad Stevens. Tyler Lewis is a show-man in transition, as is Kamar Baldwin, and getting Kelan Martin spotting up or attacking a close out is always a good coaching maneuver. Cincinnati is tough and big and physical. They try to wear you down. They pound the glass. They really, really defend. How does Butler handle it?

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FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH

  • No. 17 Wisconsin at Marquette, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: In one of the more under-appreciated rivalries in college basketball, Marquette will be looking to land a marquee win to bolster the non-conference portion of their NCAA tournament résumé. Will
    Nigel Hayes continue to play like an all-american?
  • Utah at No. 13 Xavier, Sat. 5:30 p.m.: The Musketeers have lost back-to-back games and are really struggling to shoot the ball from the perimeter. Utah has struggled this season as they have a young roster waiting on a pair of transfers to get eligible.
  • Michigan at No. 2 UCLA, Sat. 8:00 p.m.: UCLA is now a week removed from their win over then-No. 1 Kentucky in Rupp Arena. This will be the first time they see the floor since then. Michigan had the look of a tournament team earlier in the season, but they’ve lost a pair of winnable games in recent weeks.
  • Hofstra vs. No. 6 Kentucky, Sun. 3:00 p.m.: The Wildcats will square off with Hofstra on Sunday, a game that is only really notable because it will be played in the Barclays Center.
  • No. 21 Florida at Florida State, Sun. 4:00 p.m.: The Gators looked the part of an NCAA tournament team when they lost to Duke in New York City on Tuesday. Florida State is more talented, however, but it’s difficult to trust them. This will be a big win for whoever gets it.

FIVE STORY LINES TO FOLLOW

1. Kentucky’s perimeter shooting is officially a concern: The Wildcats are currently shooting 32.2 percent from beyond the arc, which is 254th nationally. The only real threat they have from three in their starting lineup is Malik Monk, and he’s streaky. They can play Derek Willis at the four, but Willis is such a step-down on the defensive end of the floor from Wenyen Gabriel that it may not end up being a net-positive to play him, not when the Wildcats rely so heavily on their defense to create offense in transition.

I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m not even sure there is an answer. This is just what Coach Cal has to work with this season. Can they improve? Probably. The great thing about being a bad shooting team is that shooting is the easiest thing to develop. Teams without size can’t get bigger. Teams without athleticism can’t get more athletic. The only problem? There are just four months left of the season. How much better can Kentucky really get?

One thing worth noting here: The 2010 Kentucky team, the one with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe, the one that lost in the Elite 8 because of their shooting issues, finished the season making 33.1 percent of their threes.

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 07:  De'Aaron Fox #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball during the game against the Valparaiso Crusaders at Rupp Arena on December 7, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
De’Aaron Fox (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

2. Let’s see if Notre Dame is for real: The Fighting Irish are one of nine undefeated teams left in college basketball, but as good as they have been this season, Mike Brey’s club still hasn’t really beaten anyone. The Colorado win looks better after the Buffaloes beat Xavier. Beating Fort Wayne, the team that upset Indiana, is good. Northwestern and Iowa are Big Ten teams.

But none of those four wins – none of Notre Dame’s nine wins – have come against a team we know will be in the NCAA tournament. We know Villanova will be, and the interesting thing about this matchup is how well the two teams matchup, particularly up front. Neither the Irish nor the Wildcats have much size inside. If Notre Dame can pull off the upset, it will be time to start talking about them much more.

3. UCLA’s first action since the win at Kentucky: The last time that we saw the Bruins take the court they put up 97 points on Kentucky in Rupp Arena. That’s pretty good. It’s also an easy way to get a big head, especially for a team that has so many freshmen on the roster. UCLA will face off with Michigan at home on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how they come out early on in this one.

4. Bounce-back chances for Big East programs: No. 13 Xavier has lost two games in a row now, both of them coming on the road. They were felled at No. 4 Baylor before getting dropped at Colorado on Wednesday. The Musketeers will host Utah, a winnable game that could help them find a rhythm shooting the ball.

No. 16 Butler is coming off of a loss of their home, having been upset at Indiana State by the Sycamores. The Bulldogs will have a bigger test than the Musketeers, as they host a top 25 team in No. 22 Cincinnati.

5. Jonathan Isaac’s health, Florida State’s tournament hopes?: Isaac is the forgotten top ten pick. He’s been terrific this season and has a chance to play his way into the top ten if he continues doing what he’s been doing, but he’s missed the last two games with a hip injury. This is an important game for the Seminoles, as they host Florida this weekend. Will Isaac be available?