Riley Norris leads Alabama to 4OT win over No. 19 Gamecocks

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Alabama coach Avery Johnson couldn’t help but gush a bit about his team’s drama-filled, four-overtime victory over No. 19 South Carolina.

“We’ll probably be watching this game 10 years from now,” an exhausted Johnson said with a grin across his face.

Riley Norris scored six of his 11 points in the final overtime, including the go-ahead free throws with 56 seconds left, as Alabama finally put away the Gamecocks, 90-86, on Tuesday night.

The Crimson Tide (14-9, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) overcame a career night by Gamecocks star Sindarius Thornwell, who had career bests of 44 points and 21 rebounds. He also made a South Carolina record 25 free throws, a number that surpassed the late, great “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s mark of 21 made free throws in an SEC game.

Thornwell, though, will probably ponder his missed shots – he was 9 of 25 from the field, 1 of 7 from 3 – including a foul shot at regulation’s end that could have had the Gamecocks up 58-57 with 13 seconds left and could have been the difference.

“We had open shots, good shots,” said Thornwell, who topped his previous high of 34 set in a loss to Kentucky last month.

Alabama built a 17-point lead in the first half and a 12-point edge with less than 5 minutes to go, watching the Gamecocks rally to force the extra periods. Johnson said his players didn’t hang their heads, instead digging in to go as long as they had to.

“When you’re in these situations, you want to learn from it,” said Norris, who had 27 points and eight 3-pointers to beat the 15-0 Gamecocks a year ago. “Coach kept us together, kept us focused.”

Norris led Alabama with 14 rebounds.

The Crimson Tide trailed 70-63 with 2:12 left in the second overtime, yet outscored South Carolina 11-4 to tie things once more. It was the Gamecocks who rallied in the final 90 seconds of the third overtime after trailing 82-77.

South Carolina, though, ran out of gas at the end and missed its last eight field goal attempts to fall into a three-way tie for the SEC lead with No. 15 Kentucky and No. 17 Florida.

Avery Johnson Jr. and Ar’Mond Davis had career highs of 23 points and 19 points for Alabama, which beat a ranked SEC opponent on the road for the first time since winning at No. 4 Mississippi State, 77-73, on Feb. 21, 2004.

Both teams had several chances to win.

Johnson’s long 3-pointer with 3 seconds left in regulation bounded away and time ran out during the scramble.

Davis’ jumper from the left side at the end of the first overtime hit the rim.

After Johnson’s 3-pointer put Alabama ahead 74-72, Thornwell tied it up in the second OT.

In the third overtime, Corban Collins’ 3-point attempt from just to the right of the key wouldn’t go for Alabama.

PJ Dozier scored 21 points for South Carolina before fouling out in the final OT.

BIG PICTURE

Alabama: The Crimson Tide came into this one off two losses and celebrated like they had won a championship when the final buzzer sounded. Alabama put themselves in the mix for one of the league’s top seeds come SEC Tournament time.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks finished with the fewest first-half points this year, 16, not reaching their previous low of 21 in a home win over Florida last month. South Carolina missed its last 17 shots of the half and did not have a basket for final 10:23 of the opening half.

LOTS OF SHOTS

Avery Johnson’s son, Avery Jr., played 44 of a possible 60 minutes and took 21 shots after not playing more than 20 minutes and shooting eight or fewer shots in Alabama’s previous four games. “I’ve never taken 21 shots,” the elder Johnson said smiling. “I’m going to talk to my wife. But we needed that from him.”

MARTIN’S FAULT

South Carolina coach Frank Martin blamed himself for the loss, certain he drove his players too hard in practice this week after a grueling 77-75 win over Georgia last Saturday. Martin said the evidence of fatigue was in the Gamecocks’ shooting as they finished 23 of 88 (26.1 percent) and 5 of 31 from 3 (16.1 percent).

“When I lay in bed tonight and stare at the ceiling, I’m going to kick myself over and over and over because I knew I practiced them too hard,” Martin said.

UP NEXT

Alabama returns home to play No. 15 Kentucky on Saturday.

South Carolina heads to Mississippi State on Saturday night.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://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.”