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Bridges scores 21 as No. 3 Michigan State beats Rutgers

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — After blowing out its last six opponents, including highly regarded North Carolina and Notre Dame, No. 3 Michigan State was due for one of those off nights.

It almost cost them against Rutgers.

Miles Bridges scored 21 points and the Spartans (8-1, 2-0 Big Ten) overcame their worst offensive performance of the season with a 62-52 victory over the surprising Scarlet Knights (6-3, 0-2) on Tuesday night.

“I don’t know how to say this to anybody, but we’re not perfect,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We’re not as good as you guys write. We’re a good basketball team that has a chance to be a great one.”

Against Rutgers, the Spartans had 15 turnovers, gave up 20 offensive rebounds and they played like a team that was starting four sophomores and a freshman, Jaren Jackson Jr. who scored all 11 of his points in the second half and had eight of the Spartans’ season-high 13 blocks. Joshua Langford added 15 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the field.

“Don’t let it eat you alive,” Izzo added. “Don’t let it frustrate you and don’t read into things. We have a long way to go.”

Rutgers made Michigan State work for this one, holding the Spartans to season lows in points and shooting percentage (38.6). The previous low was 63 points and 40 percent shooting against North Carolina.

What Michigan State did well was play defense. It came into the game with the nation’s best field goal defense (34.2) and it held the Scarlet Knights to 25.8 percent shooting from the field (17 of 66).

“They missed some shots, but boy you can build a lot on a good defense,” Izzo said. “You know it can rescue you a lot of times. Pick a pro sport. Pick a different sport, from good pitching to good goaltending to good defense like the Warriors. We textbook their offense. It doesn’t change. Championships are won by good defense 99 percent of the time.”

Deshawn Freeman had 13 points and Geo Baker and Eugene Omoruyi added 11 apiece for Rutgers, which lost its third straight.

“I hate to lose and I think everyone here came here to beat teams like that,” Baker said. “We were really close. Like Coach (Steve Pikiell) said, there’s a bunch of little things that if we can improve, we can win that game.”

Trailing 45-43 with roughly 8 minutes to play, Mike Williams missed a 3-point attempt that could have given the Scarlet Knights the lead.

Jackson then scored inside and added two free throws to ignite an 8-3 run. Bridges set up one of Cassius Winston’s two late 3-pointers and Jackson hit a free-throw to push the advantage to 53-45 with 3:03 to play.

“We found a way to get it done,” Jackson said. “It was plain and simple. We have to find a way when it’s close like that in a dogfight.”

The Spartans had taken the lead for good when Matt McQuaid hit a jumper for a 36-35 edge. Jackson followed with a layup and rebound dunk and Langford added a jumper for a 42-35 lead.

Playing a Michigan State team that had won its last six games by no fewer than 18 points, Rutgers stunned even its own home crowd by scoring the first eight points. A 19-4 spurt capped by eight straight points by Bridges allowed the Spartans to take a 21-14 lead with just over 7 minutes left in the half, but Rutgers responded with a 12-5 and went to the locker room tied at 26.

The 26 points were the fewest by the Spartans in an opening half this season, and half of them came from Bridges.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Playing their third game in six days and their sixth in 13 may have caught up to the Spartans. They looked sluggish and they got very little from Winston, until his late 3-pointers and even less from power forward Nick Ward, who was 1 of 5 from the field. He played so bad, Izzo only played him 1 minute in the second half.

Rutgers: This is a step forward for the Scarlet Knights. They are relentless on the both ends of the court and this game would have been a lot closer had they not missed so many layups and open shots.

BRIDGES: The conference’s preseason player of the year is finally getting over his sprained ankle. He was 7 of 17 from the field, including 5 of 11 from long range. He added five rebounds. “He can play the 2, the 3, and the 4. He causes problems,” Pikiell said.

UP NEXT

Michigan State returns home to play Southern Utah on Saturday.

After losing to unbeaten Florida State, No. 14 Minnesota and the Spartans the past week, Rutgers takes a step down and plays host to NJIT on Thursday.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Rutgers lands upset win over No. 15 Seton Hall

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Corey Sanders scored 22 points and Deshawn Freeman added 12 points and 16 boards as Rutgers landed the biggest win of the Steve Pikiell era to date, erasing a 13-point deficit to knock off in-state rival No. 15 Seton Hall, 71-65.

The Scarlet Knights finished the game on a 17-2 run over the final six minutes of the game, answering a 9-0 Seton Hall run that put the Pirates up 63-54. Rutgers did not lead until a free throw from Sanders with 2:22 left put them up 64-63.

The win was the first for Rutgers over Seton Hall in four tries, roughly the time frame that the Pirates have been relevant nationally, and it is precisely what Pikiell needed to continue building a program in Piscataway. Rutgers is now 10-3 on the season, but their three losses have all come to teams are in – or getting votes in – the top 25: Florida State, at Minnesota and Michigan State. As the saying goes, it isn’t really a rivalry until both teams have a chance to win the game, and this win proves just that.

But that’s not the only reason to be bullish on this program. Rutgers is also starting to recruit a little bit better. They sold out the RAC for this game.

He still has a long way to go, and building something out of nothing in the Big Ten is never going to be simple, but Pikiell has this thing going in the right direction.

As far as the Pirates are concerned, there is some reason to be worried here. A team with this kind of veteran presence should not be getting rattled and blowing leads down the stretch. Khadeen Carrington, who is making the adjustment to playing the point this season, was 4-for-17 from the floor with five turnovers, and he struggled to make plays when Seton Hall needed them in the final minutes. Angel Delgado finished just 3-for-9 from the floor.

I’m not sure this is the kind of situation where you need to be worried about their long-term prospects, but it is something to monitor.

No. 17 Purdue takes down Butler in Crossroads Classic

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The annual Crossroads Classic opened with No. 17 Purdue running past Butler for a solid 82-67 win on Saturday afternoon. The Boilermakers continued a recent strong stretch of play with another road or neutral win against a power-conference opponent.

Here are three takeaways from this one.

1. Purdue is the second best team in the Big Ten (and the gap might be growing).

The Big Ten is a mess so far. Only Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State are 2-0 in league play. The Buckeyes aren’t expected to maintain their surprising hot start. Obviously, others in the Big Ten like Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern could all be dangerous. But those four teams have also been underwhelming and have a lot of glaring holes.

For the current moment, Purdue (11-2) clearly looks like the second best team in the Big Ten. And the gap seems to be getting wider during a seven-game winning streak. Outside of a weird two-game stretch at the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Boilermakers have put together a solid stretch that now includes road or neutral wins over Arizona, Maryland and Butler in the last few weeks.

Purdue has experience, unique size with 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas and 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms, and capable perimeter shooters who can space the floor. The Boilermakers have good defenders at multiple positions. They outplayed Butler in nearly every facet of the game during a solid win on Saturday. Carsen Edwards (18 points) has matured as a solid leading scorer and plenty of players around him are double-figure scorers.

Butler isn’t likely to be a second-weekend NCAA tournament team, but they’re a solid postseason-caliber group that the Boilermakers made look silly for much of the game. Purdue knows itself. The Boilermakers know their personnel and they’re a veteran group. There’s a lot to like about Purdue at this point in the season.

2. Butler struggles mightily against length

Butler’s offense couldn’t get much of anything going on Saturday. The Bulldogs were ice-cold from the perimeter (7-for-22 from three-point range) and they didn’t fare much better when they tried to go inside (26-for-69).

The Bulldogs haven’t been a very good perimeter team in general this season — entering Saturday’s game with only 31 percent three-point shooting — and those problems were very apparent against Purdue. Without an ability to space the floor, attackers like Kelan Martin (15 points) and Kamar Baldwin (13 points) struggled to get anything going with the drive as the Boilermakers had a great defensive game plan to limit Butler’s looks. Senior big man Tyler Wideman (seven points) also had a hard time finishing over the length of players like Haas and Haarms at the rim.

Paul Jorgenson (15 points) had a big second half and he has been solid at times this season as a floor-spacing threat. The Bulldogs need more help for him on the outside. Sean McDermott has been labeled as a perimeter specialist, but he’s also returning from a recent injury and the Bulldogs are slowly bringing him back.

Butler’s offense is at its best when they can rely on Martin and Baldwin to attack. That wasn’t even close to the case on Saturday as both struggled to get going. It meant Butler didn’t stand much of a chance.

3. Purdue has some late-game turnover issues

Purdue has been generally solid with closing out games this season but they weren’t able to do so against Butler on Saturday.

It looked like the Boilermakers were going to cruise to an easy win before turnovers became an issue and Butler crept back in this one. While Purdue maintained most of its defensive intensity, its offense took a foot off the gas as Butler’s aggressiveness defending on the perimeter led to 18 Boilermaker turnovers.

Purdue is great at closing out games from the free-throw line if they need to. But their ball handlers need to limit turnovers and continue to run good offense if they build up a lead.

Purdue had trouble at times defending late leads last season. They’re now 10-0 this season when they have a halftime lead. Could this be an issue that comes back once again? It doesn’t seem likely but the second half on Saturday brought some ugly flashbacks.

VIDEO: Miami’s Lonnie Walker skies for ridiculous putback dunk

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Miami freshman guard Lonnie Walker timed this one perfectly.

The 6-foot-4 McDonald’s All-American came from across the floor to hammer home a left-handed putback on Saturday as Walker showed why many consider him to be a potential one-and-done prospect.

After a career-high 26 points in a win over Boston on Tuesday, it appears that Walker might be gaining confidence as ACC season approaches.

VIDEO: Memphis’ Jimario Rivers catches lob on Louisville’s Anas Mahmoud

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Memphis senior forward Jimario Rivers caught a tough one-handed alley-oop on Saturday as Louisville senior big man Anas Mahmoud found himself on the receiving end.

This is one of the better lobs we’ve seen this season. Rivers got way up there for this one.

Northern Colorado basketball placed on probation by NCAA

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA placed the University of Northern Colorado men’s basketball program on three years’ probation among other sanctions Friday after finding academic fraud and recruiting violations by ex-coach B.J. Hill and some of his assistants.

The violations by Hill and eight members of his staff over a four-year span included completing coursework for prospects, paying for classes prospects needed to become academically eligible and arranging off-campus practice sessions with an academically ineligible student-athlete.

In addition to probation, penalties in the case include a one-year postseason ban (already served) for the men’s basketball team; a financial penalty; scholarship and recruiting restrictions; and a vacation of records.

Seven coaches received “show cause” orders, including a six-year penalty for the head coach, five years for two assistant coaches, four years for another assistant coach and three years for two assistant coaches and the graduate assistant. During the show cause periods, if an NCAA school hires the coach, that school must demonstrate why restrictions on the coach’s athletically related duties should not apply.

The NCAA concurred with the university’s self-imposed one-year postseason ban last season, a reduction of three scholarships and recruiting restrictions. Also, the school must return all proceeds from its 2011 NCAA Tournament appearance.

The rules violations spanned four years under Hill, a first-time head coach who personally completed coursework for a prospect and enlisted an athletic director to do the same, the NCAA found.

The NCAA said Hill recruited ineligible players, then broke rules to get them on the court.

Hill was fired last year when the NCAA began looking into the violations. He had gone 86-98 with two postseason appearances in six seasons after taking over the program in 2010 following a stint as an assistant in Greeley to current Colorado coach Tad Boyle.

The NCAA commended the university for its “exemplary cooperation” in the case and said Hill “admitted that he failed in his responsibilities to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his staff.”

The panel said two assistant coaches violated ethical conduct rules for lying to investigators and a third failed to cooperate with the probe.