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No. 5 Baylor rallies to top Mississippi 78-75

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OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Baylor’s Manu Lecomte caught the ball about five feet behind the 3-point line as the shot clock was winding down. For most guys, it wouldn’t have been an ideal situation.

For Lecomte, it was perfect.

“I was deep,” Lecomte said. “But I was open.”

The 5-foot-11 junior drilled the crucial shot for his fifth 3-pointer, and it proved to be the difference in No. 5 Baylor’s hard-fought 78-75 victory over Mississippi on Saturday night in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

Lecomte led the Bears with 17 points, and Johnathan Motley and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. had 16 apiece.

Baylor (20-1) rallied from a 15-point deficit in the first half to win its fifth straight game. The Bears trailed 50-40 early in the second half, but pushed ahead to take their first lead at 56-54 with 10:25 left after Motley made a pair of free throws.

It was a close game from that point forward. Lecomte hit his decisive 3-pointer with 23 seconds left, making it 78-72 and sending many of the Ole Miss fans to the exits.

Lecomte shot 6 of 9 from the field, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range.

“We had some good looks and Manu is a good shooter and somebody who is capable of going 5 for 6,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Whenever he shoots we think it’s going in. We’re blessed he made them today.”

Ole Miss (12-9) dominated early on and jumped out to a 33-18 lead with 6:33 remaining in the first half. The Rebels used a 1-3-1 zone defense that bothered Baylor for a big chunk of the game.

But the Bears played much better in the second half, shooting 14 of 26 (53.8 percent) from the field.

“It was really the first time we’ve played against a zone like that, so it was kind of weird at first,” Lecomte said. “But we figured it out.”

Ole Miss was led by Sebastian Saiz and freshman Breein Tyree, who both scored 20 points. It was a career high for Tyree, who had 18 points in the second half.

But a few crucial Ole Miss turnovers in the final minutes – along with Lecomte’s big shot – helped Baylor escape with the victory. The Bears were also dominant on the glass with a 37-27 rebounding edge.

“This is the second game in a row at home that we get destroyed on the glass,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The Bears struggled, especially when Motley was in foul trouble during the first half, but surged ahead late to escape Oxford with the win. Now they’ve got another tough road game at Kansas on Wednesday.

Ole Miss: It’s a missed opportunity for the Rebels, who put a scare into Baylor but still leave with the loss. Ole Miss has now lost six of their last nine games.

BROOKS IS BACK

Ole Miss guard Rasheed Brooks scored two points in 14 minutes in his first game back after a seizure on Jan. 17.

The 6-foot-5 senior was taken off the floor on a stretcher after the scary situation during a timeout, but less than two weeks later was back on the floor.

Kennedy said there was “never a specific cause” of the seizure, but that “all of the tests came back clear, which is a great thing, obviously.” He said doctors have changed some of Brooks’ medications and want to make sure he stays hydrated.

UP NEXT

Baylor travels to face No. 2 Kansas on Wednesday.

Ole Miss stays at home, where it will face Mississippi State on Tuesday.

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

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley to remain NBA Draft

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For the first time in a decade and just the third time in 14 seasons as UNC’s head coach, Roy Williams has a one-and-done player.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley will sign with an agent and remain in the NBA Draft.

Bradley had an impressive freshman season, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 boards in less than 15 minutes per game as the sixth-man for the national title-winning Tar Heels. He initially declared for the draft without signing with an agent, testing the waters, and the feedback was positive: He’ll likely be a late first round or early second round pick.

As the process dragged on, it became fairly evident that Bradley would keep his name in the draft, and that is a massive blow for a UNC team that is already losing Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, not to mention Justin Jackson.

As it stands, Roy Williams will likely start the following lineup next season: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson on the perimeter with Luke Maye and either Brandon Huffman or Garrison Brooks, both freshmen, alongside him. Williams is one of the few coaches left in the sport that still relies on playing two bigs and utilizing an overwhelming front court to win games, and that is not going to be an easy thing to do with that group of bigs.

UNC’s perimeter is strong. Berry will likely be a preseason all-american while Pinson and Williams are both above average role players on the wings.

But without that hoss in the paint — Bradley, like Berry, would have popped up on preseason all-american teams — the Tar Heels are going to have a tough time making a run at an ACC title, let alone a third straight trip to the national title game.

North Carolina is currently ranked 18th in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.