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Foster scores 23 in No. 25 Creighton’s 85-74 win over Butler

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Creighton’s Marcus Foster went from having his worst game of the season to one of his best.

Foster scored 21 of his 23 points in the first half and then turned into a playmaker in the second as the No. 25 Bluejays beat Butler 85-74 on Tuesday night.

The senior guard was coming off a season-low nine points on 3-of-14 shooting at Georgetown on Saturday. He bounced back quite nicely, leading the way during a run that broke open the game midway through the first half and scoring eight of the Bluejays’ last 10 points before the break.

Butler clamped down on him in the second half, when he had six of his season-high eight assists, including a couple big ones after Butler pulled within six points late.

“There weren’t many games a year ago that Marcus Foster had eight assists and two turnovers,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I think it’s just another sign of his progress and how he continues to grow as a player in every facet of the game.”

Foster, who transferred from Kansas State after the 2014-15 season, has always taken a prodigious number of shots, but he’s shown much more discipline this season. He put up only five shots in the second half after taking 14 in the first. He finished 10 for 19.

“Back at K-State, if I had a bad game like I did against Georgetown, I would have come and put up a whole bunch of shots and had a similar night to the one I had at Georgetown,” Foster said. “I stayed patient.”

Martin Krampelj had 14 points and 14 rebounds for his third straight double-double, and the Bluejays (14-3, 4-1 Big East) won for the ninth time in 10 games. The Bulldogs (12-6, 2-3) lost their third straight.

Butler’s star, Kelan Martin, struggled with Khyri Thomas guarding him. After averaging 25.8 points in the Bulldogs’ first four Big East games, Martin was held to two in the first half and 10 for the game. He did have 11 rebounds.

Creighton led by 18 early in the second half and was still up 69-55 with 8:39 left. Butler then went on a 13-5 run, with Martin backing down Thomas twice in the post to make it 74-68.

Foster fed Davion Mintz for a reverse layup and Krampelj for a dunk to put the Bluejays up 80-70 with a minute to play, and the Bulldogs missed seven of their last eight shots.

Paul Jorgensen had 18 points, Kamar Baldwin added 15 points and eight rebounds, and Aaron Thompson had 12 points for the Bulldogs.

“You spot them 17 points, it’s going to be really tough to come back when you dig a hole like that,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “I continue to say I love the fight in our group. You need a couple balls to bounce your way in order to pull one out like that on the road.”

BIG PICTURE

Butler: The Bulldogs had a 37-32 rebounding advantage, and four players scored in double figures. But they need Martin more involved on offense early.

Creighton: The Bluejays had 23 assists on 33 field goals and continue to show they are tough to beat once they get going in transition.

MONSTER JAM

Thomas, who had 14 points, drew the biggest roar of the night when he took a pass from Ronnie Harrell Jr. in the first half and instinctively took off near the free throw line for a huge throw-down.

“I really was going to do a layup,” he said. “I had the wide-open lane and I dunked it.”

TOUGH STRETCH ENDS

Butler finished a stretch in which it played four straight ranked opponents. The Bulldogs upset then-No. 1 Villanova before losing three straight.

“It’s been tough,” Jorgensen said. “We played arguably the best teams in the league. We fought every game, pulled out a good one against ‘Nova but came up short in the other three. Once we figure some things out, this team has a lot of room to grow and we’ll be really good.”

UP NEXT

Butler hosts Marquette on Friday.

Creighton visits No. 10 Xavier on Saturday.

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

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Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

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TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

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Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

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For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.