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Thomas’ 18 points lead No. 16 Creighton over DePaul 83-66

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Creighton has begun to pull itself out of the funk that set in with the season-ending injury to star Maurice Watson Jr.

Khyri Thomas scored 18 points, Marcus Foster had 15 and the 16th-ranked Bluejays beat DePaul 83-66 on Saturday.

Justin Patton added 14 points as Creighton (19-3, 6-3 Big East) won for the first time in three games since Watson was shelved by a major knee injury.

“The most important thing is it’s good to see these guys smile again,” coach Greg McDermott said. “It’s been a tough 10 days or so for our program. Everyone understands why. There have been a lot of adjustments and tinkering and experimentation, for lack of a better word, to try to figure out what’s best going forward.”

The Bluejays looked lost without Watson in their previous two games, losses of 102-94 at home to Marquette and 71-51 at Georgetown. A convincing win over the Big East’s last-place team was a good tonic, but next up is a trip to No. 11 Butler, a team the Bluejays beat 75-64 at home two weeks ago.

“This is just one game, and it’s a step in the right direction,” forward Cole Huff said. “I still think we have a lot of stuff we’ll watch on film that we need to clean up. Butler might be a top-10 team next week. They came here and probably weren’t too happy with the result. Today’s a start. We hope to keep going and see what happens.”

Billy Garrett Jr. scored 18 points and Brandon Cyrus had 12 for the Blue Demons (8-13, 1-7).

Playing only their second game in 12 days, the Blue Demons started 1 for 14 from the field on mostly rushed or bad shots. Starters Eli Cain, Tre’Darius McCallum and Garrett each committed three fouls in the first half.

“We were mentally and physically to start the game a little behind where we normally are and should be,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “You can’t have an expectation in this environment that you can walk in and try to go blow for blow if you’re not as locked in.”

Creighton led by 21 early, but the Blue Demons got to 44-29 at half and were within 46-37 on a Garrett 3-pointer early in the second half.

The Bluejays put away the Blue Demons with three dunks in two minutes. Thomas passed to Patton on back-to-back possessions for a dunk and an easy layup, Foster dunked off Tyler Clement’s pass and Thomas got a jam of his own to make it 75-58 with 5 minutes left.

Creighton has won 10 of its last 11 meetings with DePaul, including eight of nine since joining the Big East in 2013. Each of the last nine meetings has been decided by 10 or more points.

“Credit coach McDermott today. He really had his guys ready,” Leitao said. “They lost a couple of games in a row and it was time to batten down the hatches. As a result, I thought their overall performance from start to finish was really solid.”

BIG PICTURE

DePaul: The Blue Demons couldn’t overcome the big hole they dug for themselves. They have lost four straight and remain winless on the road.

Creighton: After their worst performance of the season in a loss at Georgetown on Wednesday, the Bluejays rediscovered some offensive flow. But questions linger over who is going to take command of the point guard spot. Davion Mintz started and played 14 minutes, but reserve Clement got 23 minutes.

THOMAS’ BIG DAY

Thomas played one of his best overall games. He also had seven rebounds and six assists.

“I kind of needed it bad,” he said. “The last two games weren’t strong games.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A 17-point win might not be enough to keep Creighton in the Top 25. The Bluejays’ stock has dropped with the loss of Watson and miserable outings against Marquette and Georgetown.

UP NEXT

DePaul hosts Georgetown on Tuesday in a meeting of the teams at the bottom of the Big East.

Creighton visits Butler on Tuesday.

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.

North Carolina to unveil national championship banner in October

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The latest addition to the rafters of the Dean Dome will be unveiled this fall.

North Carolina will raise the banner for its 2017 national championship on Oct. 13, according to a report from Inside Carolina.

The event will coincide with the Tar Heels’ “Late Night With Roy” event that marks the public start to the season for the program and also serves, like many other top programs, as a recruiting tool.

North Carolina won its sixth NCAA national championship in April by defeating Gonzaga, 71-65, in Phoenix to avenge its last-second loss in the title game to Villanova the year prior. It was the Tar Heels’ first championship since 2009.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball highlights

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It was the most anticipated matchup of the summer.

Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball.

People were turned away at the door – and LeBron James reportedly came and went – as the gym reached capacity for SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory over the Big Ballers. That’s Williamson over Ball (LaMelo and LaVar).

The game was mostly spectacle, and you can see it’s top moments right here.