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No. 13 West Virginia defeats Kansas State 85-66

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) Jevon Carter was pretty excited to exact revenge against Kansas State.

“Revenge was a factor,” he said. “That’s what the Big 12’s all about. You get to play everybody twice. If you lose, you get a chance at redemption.”

His 19 points and nine rebounds led No. 13 West Virginia in a foul-plagued 85-66 victory over the Wildcats on Saturday.

West Virginia (20-5, 8-4) struggled at the start making two of its first eight shots over the first 4 minutes. James “Beetle” Bolden then led the Mountaineers on a 12-1 scoring run to take the lead.

Kansas State rallied to tie the game at 34 at halftime.

After a 3-pointer by Xavier Sneed early in the second half, the Wildcats (16-9, 5-7) went on a cold snap from the field that lasted over 6 minutes. West Virginia capitalized and held a 13-point lead midway through the second half.

Kansas State never recovered.

Fouls dominated the game, as 54 were called throughout the game although no player fouled out.

“The reason officials don’t come in and do a press conference like the coaches do is because they are independent contractors,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. “I think it would be a great move on the NCAA’s part to bring them in house.”

Nathan Adrian added 11 points for West Virginia and Bolden finished with nine.

Wesley Iwundu led five Wildcats in double figures with 14 points.

“We didn’t always make the right pass,” Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber said. “We didn’t always make the right play, and we missed open shots. The way they play, you have to jump up and make open shots. We had open shots and just didn’t make them.”

DJ Johnson did not play for Kansas State due to an ankle injury suffered late in their loss to No. 3 Kansas on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

The NCAA Tournament selection committee announced that West Virginia was the 14th overall seed in their bracket preview. The Mountaineers would be a 4 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today. The SAP Center in San Jose, California is hosting the West Region on March 23 and 25.

BURSTING THE BUBBLE

Kansas State does not have any more games against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 remaining on their schedule. With tough games against Iowa State, Oklahoma State and TCU looming, it is unlikely the Wildcats can escape the bubble before the Big 12 Tournament in March.

“It’s disappointing,” Weber said, “but you have to get ready for the next one.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Along with their lackluster win at Oklahoma on Wednesday, expect West Virginia to possibly enter the top 10 when the AP Poll is released Monday.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Iowa State on Wednesday night.

West Virginia travels to take on No. 3 Kansas on Monday night.

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

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.