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No. 14 Notre Dame uses red-hot second-half shooting to run past DePaul

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CHICAGO — Notre Dame used red-hot second-half perimeter shooting to run past DePaul for a 72-58 nonconference victory on Saturday afternoon.

The No. 14 Fighting Irish (1-0) started the second half shooting 8-for-10 from the three-point line to blow the game open as sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs paced Notre Dame with a career-high 21 points. Preseason All-American forward Bonzie Colson also contributed a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Irish while senior point guard Matt Farrell got hot in the second half to finish with 15 points. Notre Dame shot 14-for-25 in the second half as their offense looked very solid after a bit of a sluggish start.

While we certainly expected Colson and Farrell to be among the best players in the country after the way they played last season, the offensive emergence of Gibbs is the big story for the Fighting Irish. With Notre Dame needing to replace double-figure scorers like V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia from last season, Gibbs looked like he might be the consistent third scoring option the Irish were looking for.

“He’s been great in practice. He stats out right behind Bonzie Colson a lot of times. But he’s a fearless guy,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said of Gibbs.

“He’s been unbelievable and he’s been a lot of fun to play with,” Farrell said of Gibbs. “We’ve been saying since the summer that he’s going to have a big year. Strong driver. He shoots it way better than people think and I think you saw that tonight. He’s confident.”

Gibbs never played more than 25 minutes in a game last season as he logged 38 minutes on Saturday. The increased minutes over the course of the season will be something to monitor with Gibbs as Notre Dame’s staff acknowledged that he started to hit the wall towards the end of last season. But Notre Dame’s staff was also confident that Gibbs might be a breakout player when he got in tremendous physical shape this summer. The Fighting Irish don’t seem to have a lot of depth once again this season, so Gibbs will likely need to play heavy minutes and continue to score on a nightly basis for Notre Dame to maximize its potential.

“I just think his mental attitude has really been at a high level. He’s always been a hard worker. He came in the program as a freshman and he was in the gym every day,” Notre Dame assistant coach Ryan Ayers said. “Now he knows he’s a starter and he doesn’t have people backing him up and he’s comfortable in his role. The last couple of weeks he’s been making shots in practice and he has teammates who believe in him.”

Another new starter for Notre Dame, junior guard Rex Pflueger, didn’t find his rhythm on the offensive end but he was a big presence on the defensive end, holding DePaul three-point threat Max Strus (11 points) to a miserable 3-for-13 shooting day. Pflueger also added nine rebounds.

“Me and him talked at halftime. Our shots weren’t falling too well but we talked about how well we were defending and how we could come out in the second half and it was a brand-new half,” Farrell said of Pfluger. “He did an unbelievable job defending and we’re gonna need him to do that all year.”

Freshman wing D.J. Harvey also chipped in seven points in 16 minutes off of the bench as he could be a key reserve to a Notre Dame team that is looking for reliable depth.

If Gibbs can keep scoring like this, it will alleviate a lot of the defensive pressure that Colson faces as he drew constant double-teams against the Blue Demon defense on Saturday. Notre Dame might not have an offense that is as potent as last season’s ridiculous group, but this team might be a notch better defensively thanks to Pflueger’s relentless energy chasing shooters. Pfluger should also be able to improve as at least a catch-and-shoot three-point threat as the Irish once again look like one of the toughest teams in the ACC this season.

“I think it’s safe to say we have a different kind of team this year, a different look,” Farrell said. “We think we can be better defensively, which really showed tonight in the second half.”

DePaul (0-1) opened up its brand-new Wintrust Arena with a feisty first 24 minutes until Notre Dame’s barrage of three-pointers ultimately did them in. Senior forward Tre’Darius McCallum and junior wing Eli Cain paced the Blue Demons with 14 points each. Sophomore point guard Devin Gage looked much-improved from last season as he scored 10 points, doing a good job of attacking the rim with downhill drives.

The Blue Demons look like they’ll be more competitive than in season’s past but they still need more out of their frontcourt in order to be truly competitive in the Big East this season.

VIDEOS: Villanova team bus stuck on icy roads trying to leave campus

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Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.

Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.

A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.

Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.