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Jackson’s 28 points lead No. 22 Maryland past Minnesota

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Maryland still has more freshmen in the starting lineup than losses this season.

The teenage Terrapins, with age-defying poise, have begun to display the potential to top the Sweet 16 trip for last year’s team.

Justin Jackson had a career-high 28 points and 10 rebounds, making all five of his 3-point attempts, and No. 22 Maryland beat Minnesota 85-78 on Saturday for its sixth straight win.

“We don’t call them `freshmen.’ We call them `young guys,”‘ Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon said. “They’re good players. They don’t think about the stage. They’re just playing basketball. They’ve done it their whole lives.”

Kevin Huerter went 5 for 7 from 3-point range and finished with 19 points, and Anthony Cowan added eight points, five assists, no turnovers and tight defense on Minnesota’s leading scorer Nate Mason. Cowan, Huerter and Jackson have played well enough in their first season that junior star Melo Trimble said he sees a resemblance in their performance to his as a freshman.

“They’re just playing with no second thought,” said Trimble, who had 13 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and no turnovers. “They’re just shooting the ball, playing basketball. They’re not worrying about foul calls or missed shots or anything like that. I’m really proud of them.”

Minnesota entered the afternoon with the Big Ten’s lowest 3-point shooting percentage allowed, but Maryland was undaunted and more than willing to engage in a long-range launching contest as the Terrapins (19-2, 7-1) kept pace with Wisconsin in a tie for first place in the Big Ten.

“We believe in ourselves, and we believe in each other,” Jackson said. “I always say that our chemistry off the court spills on the court.”

Akeem Springs led the Gophers (15-7, 3-6) with a season-high 23 points, but they lost their fifth consecutive game despite a 41-31 rebound advantage and a 21-10 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Coach Richard Pitino gave his on-the-ball defense an `F’ grade, with Maryland making more than half of its field-goal attempts (30 for 59), including an 11-for-18 performance from beyond the arc. Trimble and Cowan penetrated with the dribble and consistently kicked the ball out to open teammates on the wing.

“That’s just on us, man,” said a downcast Springs, who buried his face in his hands at the podium between postgame questions from reporters.

FIRST HALF EDGE: MINNESOTA

The Terrapins were four-point underdogs, wary of last year’s 68-63 flop at Minnesota that gave the Gophers their first Big Ten victory after starting 0-13 in conference play, and the Gophers got their crowd going with a 19-1 run sparked largely by Springs that gave them a 21-9 lead past the midpoint of the first half.

Four of their first six made field goals were dunks, further enhancing the energy in the 89-year-old arena. Amir Coffey, who has produced most of his best rookie performances against Minnesota’s toughest opponents, swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 44 seconds left before halftime for a 33-26 lead. He scored each of his 11 points in the first half.

TURTLE POWER

Trimble’s twisting, foul-drawing layup, after which he glared at the Minnesota student section for emphasis, put the Terrapins in front 58-56 for the first time since 9-8. Trimble gave them the lead again at 73-71 with a similar, gravity-defying move that drew a foul on Springs for a three-point play with 2:49 left.

Mason answered with a 3-pointer and tied the game at 76 with a pair of foul shots with 1:47 remaining, but Huerter hit a 3-pointer from the corner to quiet the crowd and help the Terrapins inch toward the finish.

“I feel for our guys,” Pitino said. “We’ve got to break through.”

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: Trimble got to double-digit points for the 19th time in 21 games, but the sharpshooting freshmen carried most of the load for the Terrapins. Proving they can win in a raucous environment on the road without a major impact by Trimble was an important accomplishment.

Minnesota: Pitino picked an odd time this week considering the losing streak to talk to his players about the NCAA Tournament, but his urging of the Gophers to keep their confidence came with a reminder of their strength of schedule that’s a significant factor for the selection committee come March. They’re well past time for a win, though, if they’re going to make it.

“We’ll circle back with the optimism in a couple days,” Pitino said.

UP NEXT

Maryland: The Terrapins stay on the road for a game on Tuesday at Ohio State.

Minnesota: The Gophers have a full week to prepare for a trip to play at Illinois on Feb. 4.

For more college basketball coverage: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Michigan lands four-star 2018 forward Ignas Brazdeikis

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Michigan added to an already strong Class of 2018 recruiting haul on Friday night as four-star forward Ignas Brazdeikis pledged to the Wolverines on Twitter.

The 6-foot-8 Canadian was one of the premier scorers in the Nike EYBL this past spring and summer playing with CIA Bounce as Brazdeikis averaged 21.1 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the floor. Well-rounded outside of his scoring, Brazdeikis also put up 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while also showing a workable jumper that was 26 percent from three-point range.

With the job that Michigan head coach John Beilein has done developing forwards, most recently with the rapid improvement of players like D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner, it’ll be fascinating to see how Brazdeikis will look at the college level after some time on campus. Beilein’s offense is favorable for skilled forwards with a penchant for scoring and Brazdeikis could end up being a tremendous fit for the Wolverines.

Brazdeikis becomes the fourth member of Michigan’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul as he joins four-star forward Brandon Johns, four-star guard David Dejulius and three-star forward Taylor Currie.

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

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MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

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Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.

Five-star forward King picks Oregon

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Oregon has nabbed one of the top players in the 2018 class.

Louis King, a top-20 forward, committed to Dana Altman and the Ducks on Thursday via a video on social media.

“It’s been a tough, strenuous process,” King said, “but today makes all of that worth it. I’ve been blessed with great opportunities.”

The 6-foot-8 New Jersey native selected Oregon over other finalists Seton Hall, NC State, Purdue and Kansas.

“I would like to thank each of them for all the time and effort they put into my recruitment,” King said. “I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates that have pushed me and helped get me to this point in my career. My friends for all their love and support, but most of all I would like to thank my family, who has been by my side through it all.”

King is Altman’s second commit in 2018, joining four-star big man Miles Norris, a top-75 recruit in the class. It’s the beginning of what could be an absolutely dynamic class for Oregon, which still has two scholarships remaining.

“Out of all of my schools I felt like it was best for me and my family,” King said to MADE Hoops. “Coach Altman said that I would have the ball in my hands throughout the season. When I get there, it will be an easy adjustment for me with how I handle rock and get my teammates open. Our goal is to win a national championship next year.”