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No. 15 Kentucky survives LSU 92-85

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Wenyen Gabriel scored a career-high 23 points, Malik Monk also had 23 and No. 15 Kentucky withstood a late LSU rally for a 92-85 victory Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (19-5, 9-2 Southeastern Conference) won for just the second time in five games and had to withstand the Tigers’ late rally that got them within 91-85 with 9 seconds remaining. Monk’s free throw 1 second later sealed a win that followed Kentucky’s 22-point loss at No. 17 Florida on Saturday.

Gabriel provided the initial offensive boost and finished 7 of 11 from the field including three 3-pointers to beat his previous career best of 15. He also grabbed eight rebounds, including three offensive, as Kentucky controlled the boards 40-26.

Monk bounced back from an 11-point outing to make 8 of 15 from the field with four 3s. De’Aaron Fox had 16 points and Isaiah Briscoe 14 for Kentucky.

Antonio Blakeney had a season-high 31 points and Brandon Sampson added 17 for the Tigers (9-14, 1-10), who have lost 10 straight for the first time since 2011.

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Mason, Hart still have an edge over Happ, Swanigan

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1. Frank Mason III, Kansas: Mason churned out one of his best performances of the season on Saturday, pouring in 32 points and dishing out six assists to help the Jayhawks get to overtime against an Iowa State team that hit roughly 100 – or 18 – threes in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. That came three days after he had 19 points and six assists in a win over Baylor and two days before he had 21 points in a win at Kansas State.

The game at Kansas State was the one that really stood out. Mason did not play well at all, at least not to his standards, and still managed to make a handful of critical shots and one of the best plays you’ll see this season all way looking like Michael Jordan during the flu game after playing 117 minutes in the last six days.

2. Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart closed the gap on Mason a little bit this week, going for 17 points in a win at Providence and backing that up with 26 points, nine boards and five assists as the Wildcats knocked off St. John’s. I think the biggest thing standing in Hart’s way at this point is that he is playing in a conference where the other three contenders have all run into a wall. Butler seemingly lost their ability to play basketball well while Creighton and Xavier both lost star point guards. How many big, statement games is he going to have the rest of the season? How many chances will he have to put up 30 points in the biggest game of the day, the game that everyone is watching?

Hart had his Player of the Year moments early on this season. I wonder how many more he’ll have this year.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 28: Ethan Happ #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates their 61-54 overtime win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in an NCAA college basketball game at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Getty Images/Getty Images)

3. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
4. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Happ vs. Swanigan remains the most interesting subplot in the Player of the Year race. Swanigan was unbelievable this week, averaging 25 points and 13 boards as Purdue beat two of the teams ahead of them in the Big Ten standings, Northwestern and Maryland. Happ averaged 17 points and 10 boards, but also added five steals and three blocks in wins over Indiana and Illinois.

To be frank, I don’t think there is a wrong answer here. Personally, I think Happ has the edge because of the player that he is on the defensive end of the floor. Swanigan is a better shooter, yes, and Happ’s struggles from the free throw line are an issue, but I think that the way Wisconsin plays nullifies some of Happ’s shooting woes and his ability to defend is much more important for a team that plays a fewer number of possessions.

That said, Swanigan was just so, so, so good this week. If you lean his way, I don’t really have an argument to make against it.

5. Lonzo Ball, UCLA: The Bruins snapped a two-game losing streak this week, going to the Washington schools and sweeping them without breaking much of a sweat. On Saturday, in a 41-point win at Washington, Ball outplayed the likely No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Markelle Fultz.

6. Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: Williams-Goss has become the go-to guy for Gonzaga. I explained his importance to that team here.

7. Luke Kennard, Duke: The Blue Devils look like they’re starting to put the pieces together this season, as their offense is now running through Kennard and Grayson Allen. We’ve been saying all along that as more players get involved in Duke’s attack, Kennard’s spot on this list is probably going to start to slide, but given just how important he’s been this season to the Blue Devils, he absolutely deserves to be in the mix for first-team all-american.

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8. Lauri Markannen, Arizona: It was not a good week for Markkanen, who had just 12 points in two games as Arizona struggled to get past Oregon State and then got humiliated by Oregon on Saturday.

9. Johnathan Motley, Baylor: Motley and the Bears did not have the best week last week, going 0-2 with an understandable loss at Phog Allen Fieldhouse and a headscratching loss at home against Kansas State. The one thing that was abundantly clear in both of those games, however, is that the Bears, who are a legitimate national title contender, are at their best when they are running everything through Motley.

10. Josh Jackson, Kansas: Kansas just went through one of the toughest five-game stretches you’ll see anyone play this season – at West Virginia, at Kentucky, Baylor at home, Iowa State at home, at Kansas State, all in the span of 13 days. Jackson in those five games: 19.8 points, 7.4 boards and 1.6 steals while shooting 11-for-19 from three. He’s the best player on Kansas, and that includes Mason.

JUST MISSED THE CUT

De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Joel Berry II, North Carolina
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Malik Monk, Kentucky
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
Markelle Fultz, Washington
Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s
Alec Peters, Valparaiso

Rout of Arizona gives No. 5 Oregon a boost looking ahead

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) After a loss at Colorado and a close call against Arizona State, Oregon bounced back big time with a rout of Arizona.

The 85-58 victory on Saturday pushed the Ducks from No. 13 to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 released Monday. The jump was the largest in this week’s poll and brought Oregon back to its preseason ranking.

The Ducks (21-3, 10-1) now sit atop the Pac-12 standings with Arizona and have the tiebreaker with their victory. The Wildcats (21-3, 10-1) dropped from fifth to No. 9 in Monday’s poll.

“If they have another level above that, that’s a bad thing for every team in the country,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said about the Ducks after the loss.

With seven regular-season games to go, perhaps Oregon’s biggest challenge down the stretch will come on Thursday when the team travels to Pauley Pavilion to face No. 9 UCLA (21-3, 8-3). And of the Ducks’ seven remaining games, five are on the road.

But the victory over Arizona certainly gave the team confidence.

“I feel like the sky’s the limit,” junior forward Dillon Brooks said. “We can play even better than that.”

Oregon coach Dana Altman used the upcoming schedule to spur his team on against the Wildcats.

“I told our guys we have five road games. We got a much tougher schedule (than Arizona),” he said. “We have to win the game today or it’s over, and it would have been.”

Before the statement-making win over Arizona, the Ducks were slumping a bit. They fell 74-65 at unranked Colorado on Jan. 28 then struggled at home in a 71-70 victory over Arizona State last Thursday.

The Ducks built a 38-18 lead over the Wildcats and cruised to the win, leading by as many as 37 points in the second half. It was such a blowout that the home crowd started to chant for Charlie Noebel, a walk-on who had played just 23 minutes this season. Fans got their wish and Noebel played the final three minutes.

The victory was Oregon’s 40th straight at Matthew Knight Arena, now the nation’s longest home winning streak after Kansas fell at home on Saturday.

“It’s the best game we’ve played in the three years I’ve been here,” Brooks said. “Guys were focused and confident in their shots.”

Tyler Dorsey led the Ducks with 23 points and six 3-pointers. Brooks added 18 points, and on Monday was named the Pac-12 player of the week – not only for his performance against the Wildcats but because of his rally against the Sun Devils. The Ducks trailed Arizona State by a point with 3:15 left, but Brooks went on a personal 12-point run for the win and finished with 27 points.

Brooks is leading the Ducks with an average of 14.4 points a game, but he’s averaging 16 points against Pac-12 opponents.

The Ducks’ No. 5 ranking brings the team back to their preseason position in the AP poll. Oregon had some trouble out of the gate, with November losses at Baylor and against Georgetown in Maui, but had a 17-game winning streak before the Colorado loss.

Last season, the Ducks won a school-record 31 games while claiming the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. Oregon earned a first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the Ducks advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2007.

The Ducks also rebounded from a brief stumble last season: They lost back-to-back games on the road in mid-February. Under Altman, the Ducks are 40-16 in the second half of the conference season.

Brooks credits his coach with keeping the team focused.

“He always finds a way – if we’re on top, keeps us level-headed and keeps us focusing and working hard, and if we’re down, finds a way to push us to go harder,” he said.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

PHOTO: Georgetown team bus involved in accident on highway in Maryland

Mex Carey, Georgetown Athletics
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The Georgetown team bus was involved in an accident on I-95 in Maryland on Monday en route to Philly for their Tuesday night game against Villanova.

There were no major injuries involving members of the team, although point guard Tre Campbell “banged up” his right knee, a source told NBC Sports. The bus company was able to provide the team with another bus to get them to Philly.

According to a release from the Maryland state police, a 49-year old woman and her 17-year old son were in the SUV that overturned. Both were taken to Harbor Hospital, although they were able to get out of the car on their own. A preliminary investigation by the MSP indicates that the bus, traveling in the right lane behind the SUV, struck it from behind and forced it off the road, where it overturned.

The car flipped over “three or four times,” the team spokesman said, adding that when the 17-year old came out of the car, he didn’t have any shoes on. “One of our guys grabbed sneakers for him to wear.”

The photo above shows Georgetown team members assisting the car involved in the accident.

VIDEO: Frank Mason comes from three rows deep in crowd to make a steal

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Frank Mason of Kansas had the steal of the season, coming from three rows deep in the crowd to pick off a pass out of nowhere.

If only he didn’t dribble the ball off his foot …

Roy Williams, Coach K take shots at politicians as the NCAA vs. ‘HB2’ heats back up

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College basketball is getting political in the Tar Heel state.

It started with Mike Krzyzewski on Saturday, who spoke with reporters after his return to the sidelines against Pitt. While making a larger point about how a headline or a tweet fails to give the context or provide a big-picture look at all that is going on – he was specifically referencing a story about how he revoked his team’s access to the locker room and their ability to wear Duke-issued team gear – he took a little swipe at our Commander-in-Chief.

“”We’re in such a line-item society, a Twitter world, so when one thing happens, that’s the story,” Coach K said. “It’s a good thing leaders don’t lead that way. I hope they don’t; I know one uses Twitter a lot.”

Roy Williams followed that up on Sunday by ripping the “ridiculous” HB2 law that taken the NCAA tournament about of North Carolina this season.

“You know, I’m glad that some people in Greensboro got to see us play,” Williams said, referencing the fact that North Carolina’s game against Notre Dame this weekend was postponed from Saturday evening in Chapel Hill to Sunday afternoon in Greensboro Coliseum due to a water emergency in the area this weekend. Prior to the season, the NCAA revoked the state’s NCAA tournament games for this season. Coach K has previously called the law “embarrassing.”

“I’m glad we were able to take a game here because of that stupid rule that we have in our state that took a lot of great opportunities for people in our state, and great athletes that like to do things in our state. I shouldn’t say rule, I guess it’s a law. A law’s more important than a rule, I guess. But I just think that’s ridiculous, and what it’s doing to our state and the reputation of our state.”

And the irony is that it may be a farewell to basketball in Greensboro Coliseum, at least for the foreseeable future. According to a letter sent to state legislators by the North Carolina Sports Association, the NCAA is nearing a decision that would remove all cities within the state’s borders from consideration for hosting NCAA tournament games until 2022. The NCAA already pulled the 2017 NCAA tournament from the state and relocated it to South Carolina for this season. The ACC removed the conference title game in football from the state for the same reason, and it’s reasonable to think that the conference will do the same with the 2019 and 2020 conference tournaments, which are scheduled to be played in Charlotte and Greensboro, respectively.

Without diving into the issues that surround the actual politics of North Carolina, let’s just say that efforts to repeal the law in the state have been thus far unsuccessful.

“In a matter of days, our state’s sports tourism industry will suffer crushing, long-term losses and will essentially close its doors to NCAA business,” the letter read. “Our window to act is closing rapidly.”