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No. 4 North Carolina rolls over Oklahoma State in Maui

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LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) North Carolina has won the Maui Invitational three times, championships that were a springboard to two national titles and a trip to the Final Four.

Keep playing like this and the Tar Heels could be looking at a repeat performance.

Joel Berry III scored 24 points, Justin Jackson added 22 and No. 4 North Carolina steamrolled its way into the Maui Invitational championship game Tuesday night with a 107-75 victory over Oklahoma State.

“We played a level much higher than at any other time this year,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said.

The Tar Heels were warned about Oklahoma State’s pressing defense, one that effectively disrupted the Cowboys’ four previous opponents.

But North Carolina (6-0) dominated the Cowboys from the start, building a 12-point lead in the opening 4 1/2 minutes. The Tar Heels kept their foot down, shooting 57 percent and going 8 of 17 from 3-point range while smothering Oklahoma State at the other end.

Next up is No. 16 Wisconsin in Wednesday’s championship game for a chance at their fourth Maui title.

“At pregame meal, they weren’t trying to scare us, just prepare us for what was to come,” said Berry, who had five rebounds, four assists and three steals. “We came out and hit them first.”

The Cowboys (4-1) had no answer.

Oklahoma State’s press was picked apart by the long, athletic Tar Heels, and the Cowboys couldn’t stop them in the half court, either.

Jawun Evans had 30 points on 13-of-25 shooting, but got little help from his Oklahoma State teammates on the offensive end. The Cowboys shot 36 percent and were 6 of 22 from 3-point range.

“Boy, did they punch us in the mouth early and it was an uphill battle from there,” coach Brad Underwood said. “They are a very, very good basketball team and if we play another team that good, I hope that it’s deep in March and we’ve had time to grow.”

North Carolina needed a little warmup time against Chaminade in the opening round before dominating the Silverswords inside for a 104-61 win.

The Tar Heels jumped on the Cowboys from the opening tip, scoring inside and out. North Carolina hit seven of its first 13 shots to open with a 16-4 run and kept pouring `em in.

The Tar Heels hit 18 of 32 shots, going 4 of 7 on 3s, and led 51-38 at halftime.

Oklahoma State’s first-half offense was all Evans. He had 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting while the rest of the Cowboys were 4 of 21.

North Carolina hit a couple of quick baskets to open the second half, prompting Underwood to call a timeout.

It did little good.

The Tar Heels continued to pour it on, stretching the lead to 67-42 in the opening 4 minutes and cruising from there.

“They jumped on us right at the start of the second half and the game pretty much was never in doubt,” Underwood said.

BIG PICTURE

The Cowboys had little impact on North Carolina with their pressure defense and need to find someone besides Evans to carry some of the scoring load.

The Tar Heels showed just how good they can be with a dominating performance at both ends to set up what should be a fantastic final in Maui.

BALANCED SCORING

Berry and Jackson were the scoring leaders, but North Carolina spread it around, finishing with six players in double figures.

Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley had 13 points each, Nate Britt finished with 12 and Kennedy Meeks had 10.

“To see six players in double figures, that’s pretty crazy against a very good team,” Jackson said.

UP NEXT

Oklahoma State will face Georgetown in the third-place game on Wednesday.

North Carolina faces No. 16 Wisconsin in Wednesday’s title game.

Report: North Carolina won’t attend White House

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.

Ohio State snags third 2018 commitment in a week with four-star guard Luther Muhammad

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Ohio State continued a strong week on the recruiting trail on Friday night by landing a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Luther Muhammad.

Regarded as a four-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 Muhammad is a tough and rugged perimeter defender who can attack the basket. Also showing some ability to play on the ball as a secondary handler, Muhammad is a very solid addition to Ohio State’s recruiting class since they need to overhaul their roster under new head coach Chris Holtmann.

Muhammad is the third player to commit to the Buckeyes in the Class of 2018 this week as he joins four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington in the current Ohio State recruiting class. Since Washington is a three-point threat and Muhammad is more of an off-the-bounce specialist, the two guards are a good start for Ohio State in this class as they will likely try to find a true floor leader to play with them on the perimeter.