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No. 2 Villanova beats Penn 82-57 in latest city series romp

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Kris Jenkins already made the biggest basket in Villanova history, so he can be excused a bit that he was unaware he was so close to a career points milestone.

Assigned to shoot free throws after Penn was whistled for a technical foul, Jenkins stood alone at the line and sank the first one for career point 999. He calmly made the second attempt and hit No. 1,000.

Jenkins was mobbed by teammates and buried in confetti when his 3-pointer at the buzzer beat North Carolina for the national championship. For his little slice of Villanova history, Jenkins simply hustled back on defense.

“It doesn’t mean much,” he said.

Coach Jay Wright was surprised as well after the game and gave Jenkins a hearty congratulatory slap on the back at the press conference table.

With little fanfare or championship parades, the magic numbers keep piling up at Villanova.

Jenkins hit six 3s and scored 22 points and No. 2 Villanova again flexed its Philly muscle at the famed Palestra and dominated Penn 82-57 on Tuesday night.

Already the national champs, the Wildcats (7-0) proved its still the best in the Big 5. Villanova, Penn, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and Temple have had its rivalry games intertwined in the fabric of Philadelphia sports for 61 years.

No team has made the series their own like the Wildcats. They beat the Quakers (2-3) for the 14th straight time and settled in for another round-robin romp with its record 15th straight Big 5 victory.

Wright downplayed the significance of the record.

“If we’re thinking about it, it’s not going to help us get better,” he said.

Get better? The Wildcats played about as well as they could against an underwhelmed Ivy League team, making 12 of 26 3s overall. They shot 60 percent from the floor in the first half and quickly squashed any thought Penn would become this week’s version of Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne.

“I don’t mean to slight their talent, but there’s a lot more talented teams in the country; not a ton, but there’s a good share, more length, more size, more speed, depth, skill,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “But there’s no team that plays together, and that hard, in every aspect of the game.”

The Quakers won the opening tip, the students that packed the Palestra roared, they missed their first shot – and Jenkins buried a 3 on the other end. Donte DiVincenzo hit a 3, so did Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart added one and the Wildcats led 40-22.

Jenkins hit three of Villanova’s seven 3-pointers in the first half to put this one away in a hurry. Hart, who had 12 points and nine assists, had his right hand wrapped in ice after the game. He may have jammed his thumb.

DiVincenzo scored 13 points and Darryl Reynolds had 12 points and eight boards.

Jackson Donahue led Penn with 12 points.

BIG PICTURE:

Penn: The Quakers never quit in front of a student section wearing red “Beat Nova” T-shirts. The Quakers could be contenders to make the first Ivy League tournament in Donahue’s second season.

Donahue didn’t think Villanova’s city dominance crippled overall enthusiasm for the Big 5.

“I think it motivates and inspires the other four programs,” he said. “If we won tonight, I don’t know we’d be saying that. All these games, I think it’s incredible. I’m proud to be part of the Big 5 and have a national champion in our (city). I think it elevates all of us.”

Villanova: The Wildcats won their eighth straight game over Penn at the Palestra. The Wildcats are the first reigning NCAA champions to play at the famed basketball gym on the Penn campus since, well, Villanova on Jan. 27, 1986. The Wildcats play two more games against Philly teams before a Dec. 10 game against Notre Dame that could prove their next toughest test.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Villanova should stay at No. 2 in the Top 25.

NO HART

Wright has never been shy about sitting starters for the slightest rules infractions. He benched Hart, the preseason Big East player of the year, for the start of his one because he was tardy to a workout session. DiVincenzo started for Hart.

UP NEXT

Penn: The Quakers face another tough city rival Saturday at Temple.

Villanova: The Wildcats try and keep their Big 5 winning streak rolling Saturday at Saint Joseph’s.

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

Texas Tech forward Zach Smith returns to school after withdrawing from NBA Draft

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Texas Tech forward Zach Smith will return for his senior season, the school confirmed on Monday.

The 6-foot-8 forward is one of the most intriguing athletes in college basketball as he’s been a double-figure scorer for the Red Raiders the past two seasons. As a junior, Smith put up 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as he shot 50 percent from the field.

Three-point shooting was something that Smith improved dramatically last season as he increased it to 39 percent in a small sample size. If Smith can continue to show that he’s a perimeter shooting threat then he could be an ideal three-and-d candidate at the pro level.

By returning to Texas Tech, Smith gives head coach Chris Beard a potential all-league candidate who should be counted on to be a double-double threat next season.

 

Missouri lands five-star forward Jontay Porter

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Missouri has another member of the Porter family in the fold as forward Jontay Porter officially committed to the Tigers on Monday night.

Following in the footsteps of older brother Michael Porter Jr., and father Michael Porter Sr., Jontay is currently a member of the Class of 2018 who is rumored to be reclassifying to the Class of 2017.

A 6-foot-10 forward who was recently elevated to five-star status on Rivals.com, Porter is having a monster spring in the Nike EYBL with MoKan Elite. Porter has been one of the best players in the league, as he’s putting up 18.1 points and 12.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

If Jontay is able to join Missouri next season then he gives the Tigers another intriguing piece to play alongside his brother Michael, who is good enough to be a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although Jontay isn’t the go-to player that his brother is, he could be a very effective SEC role player early in his career, as his ability to rebound and stretch the floor makes him an extremely intriguing piece on the floor.

Kevin Stallings is a tone-deaf clown

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Pitt guard Cameron Johnson is the most coveted transfer in college basketball this offseason.

The 6-foot-8 Johnson is coming off of a strong campaign with the Panthers in which he put up 11.9 points per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range.

Not only is Johnson a proven double-figure scorer in a league like the ACC, but he’s eligible to play right away thanks to his graduation from Pitt. Johnson graduating from school in three years and missing one season due to injury also makes him the rare graduate transfer who has two seasons of eligibility remaining. So, not only can Johnson come in and make an immediate impact, but he’s also able to stay for another year after.

This sort of thing almost never happens, let alone with a 6-foot-8 shooter that could sway the national title race.

It’s why blueblood programs like Kentucky and UCLA are in hot pursuit of Johnson. It’s why another ACC school, reigning national champion North Carolina, is also intrigued by Johnson being on the market.

Except Johnson won’t be allowed to attend North Carolina, or any other school in the ACC, without first sitting out a season and losing one season of eligibility. At least that’s how things currently stand thanks to Pitt’s power over Johnson — despite Johnson graduating from the school and having no more formal educational ties to the school.

Here’s what Pitt said on the matter in a release to the News-Observer.

“Cameron Johnson and his father were informed of our policy as well as the appeals process when they elected to seek to transfer. They went through our transfer appeals process and were granted permission to contact ACC schools; however, the committee upheld the policy to limit immediate eligibility within the conference.

If Cameron were to transfer within the ACC, he would be eligible to receive financial aid immediately but would have to sit out a year of competition due to standard NCAA transfer regulations. Throughout this process, we have remained consistent to our department policy and we will continue to do so.”

Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings had a peculiar interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was published about two weeks ago. During the interview, of which the full transcript was made public, Stallings went in-depth about Johnson’s transfer and the current state of college basketball. Stallings also made remarks about how the media holds programs accountable for trying to bully certain players.

Here’s a small sample of what Stallings had to say.

“But the unexpected departures are the things that are becoming more common than uncommon in college basketball. You have guys constantly trying to transfer up. You have guys going pro that have never played a minute of college basketball after they’ve sat out a year at a school. You have guys asking out of their letters of intent with frequency. We’re dealing in a landscape in college basketball right now that is as probably as difficult and peculiar as it’s ever been. It used to be if a kid signed his letter of intent and he wanted out of it, you had to play a year of junior-college ball to get out of it.

“The media didn’t basically force institutions to let people break a binding agreement. It’s kind of interesting now the media tries to put so much pressure on programs, whether it be athletic directors or coaches, saying ‘Well, the coaches can move.’ Well, hey, guess what? I’ve got a great big buyout in my deal that prevents me from moving. I’ve got something in my contract saying I can’t go to another league school. It’s not as easy for coaches to go. That’s everyone’s rationale — ‘Well, the coaches can leave.’ We’re dealing in an environment right now that is as fluid as it’s ever been. It’s just where we’re at in the whole thing with the unexpected departures.”

Stallings makes some sound points–particularly about coaches having buyouts and the general perception of coaching changes in basketball.

But Kevin Stallings mostly sounds like a tone-deaf clown here.

Nobody is going to feel sorry for a millionaire coach who willingly makes the decision to change jobs.

Nobody.

Especially if that same millionaire is comparing a choice to change jobs to the transfer decisions of unpaid student-athletes. It’s even more laughable now that Stallings is holding power over an unpaid student-athlete from going to play at another school because of purely basketball reasons.

Pitt and Stallings need to do the right thing and release Johnson to play at any school right away because Johnson has already done everything he needs to do to appease the program.

Things changed dramatically for Johnson during his three years at Pitt. He became one of the ACC’s better players and earned his degree. Johnson held up his end of the bargain when he signed his Letter of Intent.  Now Johnson just wants the chance improve his basketball future by playing with one of the nation’s elite programs.

Stallings can blame the current state of college basketball, the media, or whoever he wants for Johnson’s transfer from Pitt.

But Stallings also has to realize that he’s going to be the one who looks stupid if he continues to leave these restrictions in place for Johnson. Stallings already has a history of this sort of thing when he placed transfer restrictions on former player Sheldon Jeter. If Stallings continues to uphold transfer restrictions on Johnson, then he’s going to gain a permanent reputation in recruiting during a time when players continue to gain more freedom over their basketball futures.

If Johnson does happen to go to an ACC school like North Carolina, it’s not as if Pitt has any sort of competitive roster that is going to be fighting the Tar Heels for league supremacy during the next two seasons.

Stallings and Pitt need to just bite the bullet, let Johnson have his freedom, and hope it doesn’t come back to hurt them for one or two seasons in ACC play.

It surely beats the alternative of being labeled a head coach who limits player freedom after six players left Pitt during a single offseason. That type of burn lasts a lot longer than two years.

Presbyterian hires Wofford assistant Dustin Kerns as new head coach

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Presbyterian finally has its new head coach as the program is set to hire Wofford assistant coach Dustin Kerns, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Kerns has been an assistant at Wofford for the past seven years during his second stint with the program. Also spending six seasons as an assistant coach at Santa Clara, the Tennessee native is getting his first shot at running his own program.

Finishing last in the Big South last season at 5-25 and 1-17 in conference play, Presbyterian is trying to rebuild after head coach Gregg Nibert resigned in April. Nibert was the head coach of the Blue Hens for 28 seasons, so Kerns is going to be a completely fresh start for the program.

Tennessee lands impact graduate transfer James Daniel

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Tennessee and head coach Rick Barnes earned a commitment from one of the top graduate transfers on the market on Monday when Howard guard James Daniel pledged to the Volunteers.

The 6-foot-0 Daniel was the nation’s leading scorer at 27.1 points per game his junior season in 2015-16. Daniel played in only two games last season as a left ankle injury caused him to have surgery.

With nearly 2,000 career points to his name, Daniel gives Tennessee an additional perimeter scorer who should come in and make an immediate impact right away. While Howard has low shooting percentages and a high usage rate during his time at Howard, it’ll be interesting to see how the year off and more talented teammates will alter his game.

If Howard can be a more efficient scorer in his final season, then he has a chance to be one of the better players for the Volunteers this season.