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No. 24 Spartans top Red Storm 73-62 at Battle 4 Atlantis

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) Michigan State coach Tom Izzo can see the positives and negatives all jumbled together for his 24th-ranked Spartans, from the good stretches where the ball goes inside to the bad ones when his team fires up quick 3-point attempts.

“It’s still not smooth for us,” the Hall of Fame coach said after Wednesday’s 73-62 victory over St. John’s in the Battle 4 Atlantis. “It might not be for a while.”

Freshman Miles Bridges had 22 points and a season-high 15 rebounds to lead the Spartans (3-2), who used a 17-4 burst midway through the second half to pull away late and build a 67-53 lead with about 2 1/2 minutes left.

Eron Harris added 14 points for the Spartans, while Tum Tum Nairn Jr. – a native of nearby Nassau – matched his career high of 13 points in his return to the Bahamas.

Michigan State has had a bumpy start to the season, starting with a loss to Arizona on a last-second basket in the opener. The Spartans managed just 48 points in a loss to current No. 1 Kentucky and barely beat Florida Gulf Coast at home over the weekend. It’s part of a tough opening month that concludes with a trip to preseason No. 1 Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

“There’s some frustrating moments, and it’s not all their fault,” Izzo said. “It’s just the cards we’ve been dealt. … I’m asking a lot of these guys. And you know what? I’m going to keep demanding it because that’s what we do here.”

Marcus LoVett scored 20 points to lead the Red Storm (2-2), who shot around 31 percent and couldn’t answer Michigan State’s clinching push.

“We tried everything – inside, outside, we tried pick and roll,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “We got enough looks but didn’t knock any down. When you shoot 30 percent, you aren’t going to win a game.”

BIG PICTURE

St. John’s: When LoVett was hitting (13 points after halftime), St. John’s was right with Michigan State. But the Red Storm struggled most of the game, while Mullin particularly noted the team’s eight assists as a sign of how the ball “stuck.”

“That’s really not the kind of game I want to play,” Mullin said.

Michigan State: The performance of Bridges and fellow freshman Nick Ward could be a welcome sign of hope for Michigan State’s frontcourt, which is down two big men due to knee injuries. Ward finished with nine points and a season-high 11 rebounds, and the Spartans desperately need more games like that from them going forward.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Spartans have slid significantly in the AP Top 25 from their No. 12 preseason spot, though they could start climbing again by getting through an Atlantis field that also includes No. 10 Louisville and No. 20 Baylor.

DOMINANT BRIDGES

The 6-foot-7 Bridges had a double-double by halftime and finished 9 of 18 from the field, including 3 for 5 from 3-point range. He had three assists and one block in 35 minutes.

“I’m just doing whatever Coach wants me to do,” Bridges said. “Wherever he puts me at, I’m trying to create for others, score for myself, rebound. Like I said, if people double-team me, I can get my teammates open. That’s what I like to do: I like to see my teammates score more than I do.”

TUM TUM’S BIG NIGHT

Nairn, a 5-foot-10 junior, had scored nine points through the first four games but blew past that with 11 after halftime. He hit 3 of 4 3-point attempts after never hitting more than one in any game in his career.

There was also his highlight-reel moment when he threw down a huge dunk in transition to thrill the large gathering of family and friends on hand to catch his return to the Bahamas.

UP NEXT

St. John’s: The Red Storm will face VCU on Thursday in the loser’s bracket on Day 2 of the three-games-in-three-days event.

Michigan State: The Spartans advanced to Thursday’s semifinals to face No. 20 Baylor, which beat VCU earlier Wednesday.

 

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.