No. 12 SMU beats UCF 70-59 in American semifinals

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) SMU goes into Sunday’s American Athletic Conference championship on a 15-game winning streak, having won more games than any other team in the program’s history.

Not bad for a squad that didn’t get a single vote in the preseason AP Poll.

Sterling Brown scored 22 points as the 12th-ranked Mustangs (29-4) beat UCF 70-59 on Saturday in the AAC semifinals.

Semi Ojeleye added 17 points, and Shake Milton had 14 of his 16 points in the second for SMU, which is back in the championship game after missing last year’s tournament because of NCAA sanctions. The Mustangs won the title in 2015.

SMU has won 25 of its last 26 after a 4-3 start to their season.

“It’s a good accomplishment, but we know we’re not done,” said Brown. “We’ve got a bigger goal that we’re trying to accomplish and add to those wins.”

B.J. Taylor had 20 points and Nick Banyard 16 for the Knights (21-11). They had won six in a row.

Neither team led by more than six before Milton stole the ball from the 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall under the UCF basket and made the Knights pay on the other end with a 3-pointer for a 42-34 lead. Taylor was trying to signal for a timeout that led to a technical foul and Sterling Brown extended the lead to 10 with two free throws.

“I didn’t see what happened, but it’s basketball,” said UCF coach Johnny Dawkins. “The player has to call (timeout). Everyone now is making plays on the basketball while the player is trying to make the call. So when that happens, there’s going to be a lot of guys, a lot of congestion in that area.”

That was part of a 14-3 run that gave the Mustangs a 50-36 lead and control of the game with just over 9 minutes to play.

Taylor tried to shoot UCF back into the game. He hit consecutive 3-pointers that cut the lead to eight points with 3 minutes left, but that was as close as the Knights would get.

Ojeleye had 10 of the Mustangs’ 26 points first-half points and SMU went into halftime leading by just three. Taylor had eight for UCF and hit the first 3-pointer of the second half to tie the game at 26.

Both teams hit 10 3-point shots, but neither could score inside, each getting just 10 points in the paint.

“Both teams were locked in defensively, said SMU forward Ben Moore. “Come around tournament time, that’s the most important thing. So both teams were playing hard on the defensive end and we were trying to keep them out of the paint. So that was a big key.”

SMU finished with 15 assists on its 21 baskets, five of them from Milton.

BIG PICTURE

UCF: The Knights had their best season since winning 22 games in 2011-12 as a member of Conference USA, their only 22-win season in the last 10 years. Friday’s win over Memphis was just their second win the four-year history of the conference tournament.

SMU: The Mustangs are hoping to receive the program’s highest seed in NCAA Tournament history. SMU was seeded fifth in 1985 tournament and received a sixth seed in 2015 after winning the AAC tournament in Hartford.

TIME MANAGEMENT

SMU’s starters, as they have in most games this season, each played at least 28 minutes. Coach Tim Jankovich said fatigue is a concern as the Mustangs prepare for their third game in three days.

“I felt like this could be as hard as anything we’ll do all year,” he said. “Obviously, in the NCAA Tournament, you’ll play some outstanding team, but at least they give you a day to rest if you’re fortunate enough to advance.”

SUITING UP

Sterling Brown played in his 134th game for SMU, tying him for the most games played in program history. Ben Moore is tied for fourth on that list with 133 games played.

UP NEXT:

UCF is expected to receive a bid to the NIT

SMU will face second-seeded Cincinnati or UConn in Sunday’s championship game.

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.