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No. 3 Villanova beats St. John’s 70-57

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NEW YORK (AP) Redshirt freshman guard Dante DiVincenzo had a season-high 19 points and No. 3 Villanova pulled away to a 70-57 victory over St. John’s on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Mikal Bridges had 12 points and Josh Hart added 11 points for the Wildcats (17-1, 5-1 Big East), who started the season with a 14-game winning streak. The defending national champions have won 23 of their last 24 games.

Freshman Shamorie Ponds had 13 points for the Red Storm (8-11, 2-4), who have lost four straight overall and 10 in a row to Villanova.

Villanova had trouble shooting early in the game, missing eight of its first nine 3-point attempts. DiVincenzo changed that by making three of the Wildcats’ 21 3-point attempts in the game.

The Wildcats didn’t start pulling away until the final 7 minutes. A 7-0 run capped by a 3 by Kris Jenkins gave Villanova a 60-48 lead with 4:56 to play.

The lead got as high as 17 points.

Villanova finished with a 41-23 rebound advantage but the Wildcats had an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers that the Red Storm turned into 20 points.

BIG PICTURE:

Villanova: Phil Booth (left knee) has played three games this season and none since Nov. 17, and there is no time table for his return. The junior guard was a key player in Villanova’s run to the national championship last season. … The Wildcats entered the game ranked in the top four in the Big East in every offensive statistic. … Villanova lost its last game at Madison Square Garden, the Big East Tournament championship to Seton Hall.

St. John’s: The freshmen backcourt of Ponds (17.5) and Marcus LoVett (17.6) are second in the Big East in combined scoring behind only Seton Hall’s Khadeen Carrington (18.9) and Desi Rodriguez (16.4). … Ponds and LoVett only trail Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox (16.7) and Malik Monk (21.7) among freshmen guard combinations in Division I. … The Red Storm have two three-game winning streaks and one two-game streak to account for their eight wins.

UP NEXT:

Villanova: The Wildcats host Seton Hall on Monday as part of the Big East’s five-game marathon on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

St. John’s: The Red Storm host DePaul on Monday as part of the Big East’s five-game marathon on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

VIDEO: LaVar Ball gets female ref replaced after threatening to pull team from court

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A female referee was removed from a Big Ballers game after LaVar Ball threatened to pull his team from the court for the second time in a week.

The referee called Ball for a technical foul, which sparked the confrontation, but both Ball and an adidas rep told ESPN’s Jeff Borzello that the reason the ref was pulled was because she and Ball had a previous issue:

Before the game was over, Ball would receive a second technical foul and the game was eventually called with two minutes left and Big Ballers losing by 10.

Western Kentucky’s five-star recruit Mitchell Robinson has left campus

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The soap opera that has been Mitchell Robinson’s tenure at Western Kentucky took another on Friday, as the five-star center and top ten prospect in the Class of 2017 has reportedly left campus.

Robinson was a massive coup for Rick Stansbury when he committed to and signed for the Hilltoppers, but it has been non-stop drama since then. Less than two weeks after his commitment, Robinson tweeted that he would be decommitting from WKU before immediately deleting the tweet and claiming that his account was hacked. Robinson did not attend the first session of summer school on campus, and he was in class in the second summer school session and reportedly practicing with the team this month for a trip to Costa Rica, but he cleaned out his dorm room and left the campus last night.

Part of the reason that Robinson opted to go to Western Kentucky was that his godfather, former UNC star Shammond Williams, was an assistant coach on the staff. Williams left the program on July 3rd, and ever since then there have been questions surrounding where Robinson will play this season. There have been rumors that he will be heading overseas for a year before entering the 2018 NBA Draft, and there is also the potential that Robinson could end up transferring to a different college.

The question, however, is whether or not Robinson will be able to transfer and play immediately without sitting out a year since he enrolled in summer school.

Robinson is a 7-foot center and a terrific defensive prospect that is projected as a first round pick next year. If he does get a waiver to transfer, he immediately becomes the best available talent on the market, along with Marvin Bagley III, who is considering reclassifying.

Virginia, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Vandy in NIT Tip-Off

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NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia and Vanderbilt will meet in one semifinal of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off on Thanksgiving Day at Barclays Center.

Rhode Island and Seton Hall face off in the other semifinal with the winners meeting on Friday, Nov. 24.

This is the third straight year the Tip-Off has been held at Barclays Center. Eventual NCAA champion Villanova won the event in 2015. All games will be televised on ESPNU.

Non-bracketed teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off who will play games at campus sites are: Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Oakland City and UNC Asheville.

Miles Bridges explain why he returned to Michigan State

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Miles Bridges changed the landscape of the 2017-18 college basketball season on April 13.

The Michigan State forward spurned the NBA for another year in East Lansing. The decision not only meant that Bridges was a frontrunner for national player of the year, but solidified the Spartans as a national title contender.

But Bridges’ choice to return was still puzzling to many. The 6-foot-7 forward was projected as a lottery pick. Bridges explained his decision to Mike Decourcy of Sporting News in a story published on Thursday.

“He says, ‘You know what, Coach? I want to get better. I don’t want to be in the D-League. I’ve got buddies that are, and I just want to make sure when I go, I’m ready,’ ” Izzo recalled to Sporting News. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Done deal.’ For me, that was a done deal. It was a reasonable, sensible argument.”

Agents, friends, reporters, scouts, acquaintances, fans, strangers and family members — oh and, as we said, coaches — all had one opinion about how Bridges should spend the next year of his life. Miles had another, opposing, viewpoint.

Bridges told Decourcy that support came from his teammates, many of whom were returning to the team as well. Assuming the backcourt of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford make a leap forward, as well as incoming freshman Jaren Jackson providing an immediate impact, the Spartans’ title hopes could become a reality.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman at Michigan State. He’s rated as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

Four conferences sign on to basketball officiating alliance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Four more Division I conferences will join a men’s basketball officiating alliance formed last year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

The Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast and the Patriot League are joining ahead of the 2017-18 season, according to announcements from the leagues Thursday. The alliance launched last summer for conferences to work together on officiating matters and enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s supervisor of officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, will continue to lead the alliance operations.

ACC commissioner John Swofford says the new additions to the alliance “provide an even greater opportunity to build chemistry and quality” across the officiating ranks.