No. 23 Iowa State beats No. 11 W Virginia for Big 12 title

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Monte Morris scored 17 points, Deonte Burton and Matt Thomas helped him deal with West Virginia’s attacking defense, and No. 23 Iowa State beat the No. 11 Mountaineers 80-74 on Saturday night for the Cyclones’ third Big 12 Tournament title in four years.

Burton had 16 points and Thomas finished with 12 for the fourth-seeded Cyclones (23-10), who will enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the nation’s hottest teams. They’ve won nine of their last 10 games, with their only loss during that stretch coming a week ago in Morgantown.

They avenged that defeat in a big way at the Sprint Center.

Iowa State has never lost in four appearances in the Big 12 title game, while the Mountaineers (26-8) remain without a conference tournament title of any kind since winning the Big East in 2010.

Jevon Carter had 18 points for West Virginia, which will no doubt rue its 8-for-17 shooting from the foul line. Esa Ahmad, Daxter Miles Jr. and Elijah Macon finished with 10 points apiece.

The No. 2-seeded Mountaineers had been a scourge for the Cyclones the past two years, winning the last four meetings in relatively easy fashion. But the hallmark of those games had been their ability to get easy baskets against an Iowa State team that doesn’t always play defense.

There were no easy buckets Saturday night.

Iowa State threw down its own half-court press against Press Virginia, and caused 10 first-half turnovers that gave the sea of red inside Sprint Center reason to stand from its seats.

The biggest roars from the Cyclones faithful came late in the half, when Bowie came off the bench to score 10 points in quick succession. He checked out to a standing ovation, and Morris took over from there, hitting Iowa State’s final three baskets of the half for a 35-29 lead.

After drilling a long 3 as time expired, Morris rode an imaginary horse off to the locker room.

The whooping and hollering continued in the second half, when Burton hit a pair of 3s and Thomas hit another, pushing Iowa State’s lead to 10. And that caused tempers to boil over on the West Virginia bench, where coach Bob Huggins was given a technical foul with 15:46 to play.

Thomas hit both of the foul shots as the lead stretched to 50-38.

The Mountaineers eventually turned to the 1-3-1 zone that caused Kansas State all kinds of trouble in the semifinals. But the ball-handling of Morris, Burton and Co. allowed the Cyclones to deal with the frequent trapping attempts, and that created enough open looks to keep West Virginia at bay.

As chants of “I-S-U!” rattled the building, Iowa State coach Steve Prohm allowed Thomas and Naz Mitrou-Long to check out with seconds left, the pair of seniors relishing in the moment.

Fellow seniors Morris and Burton joined the jubilant celebration as the clock hit zero.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa State gave Prohm his first Big 12 Tournament title after he took over for Fred Hoiberg, the popular former player and coach who guided the Cyclones to championships in 2014 and `15.

West Virginia lost despite hitting eight 3-pointers and shooting 51.8 percent from the field in part because its defense let it down. Iowa State is 16-0 when scoring at least 80 this season.

UP NEXT

Both teams settle in to learn their NCAA Tournament seeds on Sunday.

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

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.