Ball State head coach James Whitford adds Brian Thornton to coaching staff

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With Brett nelson and Billy Wright moving on at the end of the season, Ball State head coach James Whitford had two openings on his coaching staff to fill this spring. Friday afternoon the school announced that one of those positions has been filled, with Brian Thornton making the move from Winthrop to Ball State.

Thornton, who played at both Vanderbilt and Xavier, has been an assistant at both Winthrop and Furman and served as director of basketball operations at Xavier under Chris Mack. He joins Jason Grunkemeyer, the lone holdover from last season, on the Ball State coaching staff.

“I am excited about working with Coach Whitford,” Thornton said in the release. “I know the way he runs things and the ‘do what we do’ philosophy that exists at places like Arizona, Xavier and Ball State. Ball State is obviously a place that has had a history of success, and that is intriguing.

“The school is in a state that has maybe the best basketball in the country, so there are plenty of kids who are available and interested in being Ball State Cardinals.”

In Whitford’s first season at the helm the Cardinals finished with a record of 5-25 (2-16 MAC), and they’ll have to account for the loss of three of their top four scorers. The most productive returnee is guard Zavier Turner, who averaged 12.1 points and 3.7 assists per game. Ball State adds six newcomers to the program, and Cincinnati transfer Jeremiah Davis III will be eligible after sitting out the 2013-14 campaign.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)