TaShawn Thomas

Houston duo still looking to be released from respective scholarships

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One week after it was reported that both players made the decision to transfer, Houston’s Danuel House and TaShawn Thomas went through separate appeal meetings on Thursday. The goal for both: being granted a release from their respective scholarships and, as a result, having the opportunity to look for a new school.

Both requests were turned down by the athletic department, with the players making their desires known the day after the school hired Kelvin Sampson as its new head coach. Sampson to replace James Dickey, and the feeling at the time was that with the talented House (13.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Thomas (15.4, 8.1) in the fold Sampson could potentially hit the ground running in 2014-15.

But with neither player having the desire to remain a part of the program, that won’t be the case. And after going through their hearings Thursday, neither House nor Thomas is entertaining thoughts of sticking around according to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle:

“If I come back I’m not going to be looked at as that same guy,” Thomas said. “Everybody is going to look at me with a dirty eye. I don’t feel like me coming back would be a good idea.”

Said House: “The fans and the alumni would look at us differently now that we’ve gone through the process to get our release. Maybe they feel like we’re not even worth wearing the Cougar red anymore. That would be very uncomfortable and would really hurt.”

While it is rare there have been other examples of players stating their desire to transfer, only to have a change of heart and remain with the original program. Marquette’s Jake Thomas would be one example of this. But when a player clearly states his desire to leave after completing a season, regardless of who the school hires as its new head coach, what’s there to be gained by denying the request to be released from the scholarship?

Some will bring up the “investment” made by a school when defending the program’s decision to deny a player his release from the scholarship in order to find a new home. But it should also be noted that scholarships are “one-year renewable,” meaning that a program can decide not to renew the grant-in-aid for whatever reason they deem fit. And if there’s a concern about a new school possibly tampering with a player, why not just deny the release to that particular school?

At this point it’s clear that neither player wants to be a part of the Houston program and the same was true for Jaaron Simmons, who was allowed to leave the program without an issue according to the Chronicle. So regardless of what the committee decides it’s time to let House and Thomas move on to another program, because denying them that right won’t solve the issue.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.