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Hart, DiVincenzo lead Villanova past St. John’s 92-79

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Josh Hart had 26 points and nine rebounds, Donte DiVincenzo scored a career-high 20 points and No. 4 Villanova beat St. John’s 92-79 on Saturday night.

Kris Jenkins added 15 points for the Wildcats (22-2, 9-2 Big East), who have won three in a row since a 74-72 loss at Marquette on Jan. 24. Mikal Bridges had 14 points and Jalen Brunson finished with 12.

Marcus LoVett led St. John’s (11-14, 5-7) with 23 points, and Bashir Ahmed had 15 points and seven rebounds before fouling out with 8:18 left. Shamorie Ponds also had 15 points for the Red Storm, who have lost 14 in a row against the Wildcats.

Playing in front of a packed house at the Wells Fargo Center, home of the Philadelphia 76ers, Villanova dominated from the start, with St. John’s missing its first 12 shots. LoVett finally got the Red Storm’s first bucket with 12:34 left in the first half, but the Wildcats then reeled off a 14-3 run.

DiVincenzo, who set his previous career high with 19 in Villanova’s last meeting with St. John’s on Jan. 14, had 15 points in the first half to help the Wildcats to a 46-28 lead at the break. The redshirt freshman hit a buzzer-beater in Villanova’s last game at the Wells Fargo Center just six days ago – a 61-59 win over Virginia.

Employing a frenzied full-court press that contributed to Villanova’s season-high 23 turnovers, St. John’s opened the second half on an 11-2 run to make things a little more interesting. But Brunson responded with a 3-pointer to help keep Villanova comfortably ahead.

Jenkins, the hero of last season’s national championship run, was held out of the starting lineup due to recent struggles but checked in just three minutes into the game.

BIG PICTURE

St. John’s: After going 1-17 in the Big East last season, the Red Storm continued to show improvement under second-year coach Chris Mullin. They have alternated wins and losses in their last six games, with two of the three losses in that stretch coming vs. ranked teams.

Villanova: The Wildcats held steady in first place in the competitive Big East and should move up in the national rankings with No. 2 Baylor and No. 3 Kansas both losing on Saturday.

UP NEXT

St. John’s has a week off before hosting Seton Hall next Saturday.

Villanova will play its first game on campus in three weeks, welcoming Georgetown to the Pavilion on Tuesday.

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.