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Enechionyia lifts Temple over No. 19 West Virginia, 81-77

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NEW YORK (AP) Obi Enechionyia had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead Temple to an 81-77 upset of No. 19 West Virginia in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday.

Enechionyia scored 18 of his 22 in the first half for Temple (4-2), but it was his free throw with one second left that sealed the early season tournament championship. Alani Moore II added 18 points for the Owls, while Daniel Dingle had 15 and Quinton Rose 12.

Despite having four players finish in double-digit scoring, West Virginia (4-1) lost for the first time this season. Ahmad led the Mountaineers with 19 points, Teyvon Myers added 15, and Nathan Adrian and Tarik Phillip had 13 apiece.

The 71st meeting between the programs saw Temple enjoy a 45-25 advantage at halftime thanks to two extended stretches in which the Owls held the Mountaineers scoreless.

Following Phillip’s layup 1:29 into the game, West Virginia did not score for 5:28 until Adrian’s layup at 13:09. During that stretch, the Owls outscored the Mountaineers 13-0. Then, after Ahmad’s layup with 5:28 left in the half, Temple scored the next nine points until Phillip knocked down a 3 to cut the deficit to 38-23.

The Owls held West Virginia to 32.3 percent shooting from the field – including 27.3 percent from 3-point range – in the first half. Temple also forced West Virginia into 11 first-half turnovers.

Trailing by 20, West Virginia ratcheted up its trademark press defense in the second half. After Phillip drilled a 3 in front of the Mountaineers’ bench, causing Temple coach Fran Dunphy to call timeout with 11:31 left, West Virginia was credited with nine forced turnovers in 8 1/2 minutes.

The timeout did not stem West Virginia’s tide, as the Mountaineers scored 13 of the next 17 points to take a 65-64 lead. It was their first advantage since opening the game on a 7-0 run. An Ahmad layup pushed the advantage to 67-64.

But Temple would not go away.

The Owls took a 75-71 lead on the strength of an 11-4 run spanning 2:36. Moore made four free throws in the stretch, and Rose added two free throws and a jumper.

The final 4:44 saw Moore play a pivotal role. The 5-foot-10 guard grabbed three rebounds and made two free throws to set the stage for Enechionyia.

Enechionyia was named the Most Outstanding Player of the two-day tournament. He was selected for the All-Tournament team along with Dingle, Ahmad, Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon and Illinois’ Malcolm Hill.

BIG PICTURE

Temple: Two strong performances against Top 25 teams can only bode well for Dunphy’s team once American Athletic Conference play begins.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers’ first four games were blowout victories. Being forced to play a possession-by-possession game in the second half could benefit West Virginia over the course of the season.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Temple: The Owls beat the No. 25 and No. 19 teams in the nation on consecutive days. That may be enough for them to sneak into the Top 25.

West Virginia: A four-point loss to an unranked team should not cause West Virginia to drop out of the Top 25.

NOTABLE

Temple: The Owls came into the game having defeated No. 25 Florida State a day earlier. The win allowed Temple to extend its streak of defeating a Top 25 team to 10 years in a row.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers entered the game leading the nation with 13.7 steals and 27 forced turnovers per game. Their 15.7 turnover margin was also best in the nation.

UP NEXT

Temple: Visits Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday.

West Virginia: Hosts Manhattan on Monday.

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

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averagedΒ 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.