Rob Dauster

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 03:  South Carolina Gamecocks guard Sindarius Thornwell #0 in action against the Iowa State Cyclones during their game at the Barclays Center on January 3, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Thornwell’s return helps South Carolina top Georgia, 67-61

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ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Sindarius Thornwell was especially proud of the steals that were part of his impressive return from a six-game suspension.

It’s the category which best reflected his status as the Southeastern Conference’s reigning defensive player of the year.

P.J. Dozier scored 24 points and Thornwell had 19, leading South Carolina to a 67-61 win over Georgia in the Gamecocks’ SEC opener on Wednesday night.

Thornwell had 11 rebounds, three blocks and six steals for South Carolina (11-3, 1-0 SEC).

“I like when I’ve got a lot of steals,” he said. “It just shows that I was in the right spots on defense. I had a good defensive night. You can’t control the ball going in. You can’t control a lot of things on the court, but one thing you control is your effort.”

Thornwell returned as a starter after completing the suspension for an unspecified violation of athletic department policy. He apologized to teammates and fans on Monday but would not say why he was suspended.

Yante Maten led Georgia (9-5, 1-1) with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He sank his only 3-pointer with about 1 minute remaining to cut South Carolina’s lead to 62-61.

Thornwell’s tip-in of his own miss pushed the lead back to three points. He then dove to come up with a loose ball on the other end of the floor.

“He makes such a big difference on the team,” Dozier said of Thornwell. “This game speaks for itself how much we missed him in all aspects of the game, rebounding, scoring, defending, everything. Just having him back was great for us.”

J.J. Frazier had 16 points for Georgia despite making only one of six 3-pointers.

The Gamecocks were 7-0 and ranked No. 20 with Thornwell, who was averaging 18.7 points. They were 3-3 and fell out of the Top 25 during the suspension.

Even while missing Thornwell’s defensive leadership for six games, South Carolina led the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 59.3 points per game. His return added more strength to the defense which swarmed Maten, the SEC’s second-leading scorer, near the basket and frustrated the Bulldogs’ outside shooters.

“All credit to their defense, they had us out of sorts for a little bit,” Maten said. “Not many teams play defense like that and are able to disrupt offensive flow.”

South Carolina opened the second half with a 12-5 run to take its biggest lead at 48-39. Georgia cut the lead to 51-49 on Juwan Parker’s 3-pointer and Frazier’s fast-break layup on consecutive possessions.

TIP-INS

South Carolina: The Gamecocks outscored the Bulldogs 18-9 on points off turnovers and 13-7 on second-chance points. … Thornwell scored on the Gamecocks’ first possession and had six points in the first half. … Dozier made two jumpers in the final 40 seconds of the first half, including a 3-pointer that just beat the buzzer as time ran out, giving the Gamecocks a 36-34 lead. … Chris Silva had 13 points and three blocks.

Georgia: Maten became the 48th 1,000-point scorer in school history. He needed 10 points to reach 1,000. Frazier reached the milestone on Nov. 14. … Parker had 12 points while make each of his two 3-pointers. Overall, Georgia made only 4 of 13 3s.

RIVALRY

Thornwell said Georgia ranks right behind Clemson on the Gamecocks’ list of rivals.

“It’s always a big game,” Thornwell said. “When we play Georgia, everything goes out the window. The records don’t mean anything. It’s always a tough game.”

BREAKING OUT

Parker scored in double figures for the third straight game and fourth time this season. He only had one game in double figures before the season.

UP NEXT

South Carolina: Hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.

Georgia: Hosts Missouri on Saturday.

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

The ACC makes absolutely no sense, and I love it

North Carolina coach Roy Williams reacts in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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We’re now more than a week into the start of ACC play, and the conference, as a whole, makes less sense today than it has in a long time.

Let’s start with the obvious: No. 9 Louisville – a team that is talented enough to get to the Final Four and good enough to win the ACC, not to mention beat the likes of No. 25 Indiana, No. 6 Kentucky and No. 20 Purdue – is currently sitting at 0-2 in the league, the only winless team in the ACC.

Huh?

And we’re just at the beginning.

Boston College entered the year as the team picked to finish dead-last in the conference as long as Georgia Tech didn’t beat them to it (more on the Jackets in a second). They kicked off ACC play by blowing out Syracuse, a preseason top 25 team coming off of a trip to the Final Four. Syracuse, after the loss to BC, smacked around Miami on Wednesday just three days after Miami did the same to N.C. State, who blew out a No. 21 Virginia Tech team that was three days removed from giving No. 8 Duke a beatdown.

Using the always-accurate transitive property, Boston College should be 88-point favorites when they play the Blue Devils on Saturday.

Right?

There’s more.

Georgia Tech opened up their season by playing North Carolina and Duke in back-to-back games. They beat the No. 14 Tar Heels by 12 points despite being 18 points underdogs while losing to Duke on Wednesday by a whopping 53 points; they were one basket away from getting doubled-up. So if BC is 88 points better than Duke, then UNC might as well not even make the trip to Beantown to play the Eagles.

My larger point is this: There are just two teams in the ACC without a loss yet this season, Notre Dame and Florida State, and just two more teams, Virginia and Wake Forest, that have more than one loss, meaning that ten of the teams in the conference are 1-1 on the year. We talked all throughout the preseason about just how good, how deep and how balanced the ACC can be this season, and that was while we were under the assumption that A) Boston College and Georgia Tech weren’t going to be beating the likes of Syracuse and UNC, and B) that Grayson Allen wouldn’t trip Coach K into needing to get back surgery (or something like that).

The team we thought was going to be the best in the league may be coming back to the pack. The two teams were thought were going to be bottom-feeders are better than anyone expected.

Which means that weird results are going to be the norm, and that the ACC is going to have more than their fair share of upsets.

You better be able to protect your home court, because if you can’t there are a lot of good teams in the ACC that could find themselves on the wrong side of .500 in conference and, thus, the wrong side of the bubble on Selection Sunday.

It’s going to be awesome.

VIDEO: Patton leads No. 10 Creighton rebounds from 1st loss

OMAHA, NEBRASKA-DECEMBER 17: Justin Patton #23 of the Creighton Bluejays slams the ball during their game against the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles at the CenturyLink Center on December 17, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) Creighton coach Greg McDermott gave a scouting report on his 7-foot freshman, Justin Patton.

“Justin’s best basketball is still ahead of him. He continues to grow and improve, and a lot of that goes to his work ethic,” McDermott said after Patton had a season-high 25 points and nine rebounds as the 10th-ranked Bluejays beat St. John’s 85-72 on Wednesday night. “As good as he was offensively he was better defensively, and that wasn’t the case the first five games. His patience, his footwork are off the charts.”

Patton, who finished 11 of 14 from the field, might not be one of the best-known big men in the country, but games like Wednesday will have him moving up NBA draft lists.

This was Creighton’s first game since its first loss of the season, New Year’s Eve to No. 1 Villanova.

“We were ready for this game and that’s the reason we played so well in the first half – kept putting up points and played defense,” Patton said. “We were attacking and getting to the rim and made the right play most of the time.”

The Bluejays (14-1, 2-1 Big East) saw their 13-game winning streak end – the school’s longest since 1942-43 – against Villanova but they came ready to play against the Red Storm.

“I was scared to death of this game,” McDermott said. “They were playing so well in their three-game winning streak. They are just learning how to win.”

Patton led Creighton’s huge advantage over St. John’s in points in the paint, 52-24.

During one sequence, Patton scored on two layups, blocked a shot and then hit a 3-pointer that gave the Bluejays a 42-24 lead with 51 seconds left in the first half. Creighton scored the first six points of the second to take a 50-26 lead, its biggest of the game.

“He’s only going to continue to get better,” McDermott said.

St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said about Patton: “He reminds me of Marcus Camby. The good hands, the length.”

Marcus LoVett had 23 points to lead the Red Storm (8-8, 2-1), who finally got their offense going but got no closer than 63-55.

Maurice Watson Jr. scored 19 points for Creighton, and Marcus Foster added 15.

The best individual job of defense on the Creighton side came from Khryi Thomas, who did a good job shutting down freshman star Shamorie Ponds early.

“Khyri has been solid all year for us and he has really developed as a defensive player,” McDermott said. “He has really committed to that end of the floor. I was hoping his length would give Shamorie trouble and it did.”

Ponds averaged almost 21 points on 50 percent shooting in the three-game winning streak. With Thomas all over him on the defensive end, Ponds was able to score 17 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

“I’ll say he did a good job, but I should have been more aggressive,” Ponds said. “They had a good game plan and they executed it. By far they were the toughest team we played physically and they will be really hard to beat on the road.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Coming into this game, Creighton had trailed for a total of 83:17 out of 560 minutes. The loss to Villanova marked the only time this season the Bluejays trailed in the final 3 minutes of a game and only the second time they trailed in the final 8 minutes. … Watson entered leading the nation with 9.1 assists per game. He had five Wednesday. … Creighton’s name appears a lot in the national statistics. The Bluejays are ninth in scoring (88.4), second in field goal percentage (53.7) and second in 3-point shooting (43.0).

St. John’s: The last time St. John’s beat a Top 10 team in Carnesecca Arena (then Alumni Hall) was Dec. 9, 1975, defeating No. 7 Tennessee, which featured Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld. … Federico Mussini returned to the team after missing three games with an injury. He finished with five points. … Ponds was Big East freshman of the week for the third time in the last four weeks. He had 26 points in the upset of then-No. 13 Butler.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Bluejays didn’t drop following the loss to Villanova, and wins like this one should keep them in the Top 10.

SOME NUMBERS

Creighton shot 52.3 percent (34 for 65) while St. John’s made just 39.4 percent (28 of 71) from the field. Neither shot well from 3-point range as the Bluejays were 5 of 18 and the Red Storm were 7 of 22. Creighton’s huge advantage in points in the paint was hard to explain as both teams grabbed 40 rebounds. Both teams had eight turnovers and four blocked shots.

UP NEXT

Creighton: The Bluejays are at Providence on Saturday and then head home to host No. 18 Butler.

St. John’s: The Red Storm head back on the road to face No. 16 Xavier on Saturday and are at Georgetown on Monday.

Dorsey hits 8 3s as No. 15 Oregon routs Washington 83-61

EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 11: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks shoots the ball over Ar'Mond Davis #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half of the game at Matthew Knight Arena on December 11, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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SEATTLE (AP) With every open look, every shot Tyler Dorsey dropped through the basket, the grin got a little bit bigger and a little more noticeable.

Dorsey had every reason to smile after his performance for No. 15 Oregon in its Pac-12 road opener.

“It was just one of those nights where the basket just feels wide and everything felt like it was going to go in and it did tonight,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey made eight 3-pointers and finished with 28 points, and Oregon overcame foul trouble to pull away in the second half for an 83-61 win over Washington on Wednesday night.

Playing in an opponent’s gym for only the second time this season, the Ducks shook off foul problems for its two leading scorers – Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher – to easily take care of the Huskies. Oregon (14-2, 3-0 Pac-12) was 14 of 26 on 3-pointers, led by Dorsey going 8 of 12.

The sophomore set a career high with his eight 3s, the most for an Oregon player since Tajuan Porter set the school record with 10 in 2006 against Portland State. Dorsey finished one point off his career high of 29 set earlier this season against Savannah State.

“I’ve been waiting for Tyler,” Oregon teammate Jordan Bell said. “I’ve been talking to him that he’s a shooting guard – shoot it. Let it go.”

Bell, who left in the first half with an apparent left knee injury only to return just before halftime, was the only other Oregon player in double figures with 10 points. Bell said he was initially concerned he tore his ACL after colliding knees with another player, but it turned out to be just a scare.

Brooks, averaging 14.8 points per game, had only eight.

“We had a lot of guys make contributions and Tyler, we did a good job of running a couple of things for him and he hit shots,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “Guys found him in transition and he just had one of those games.”

Markelle Fultz led Washington (7-7, 0-2) with 22 points, but the Huskies shot just 4 of 16 on 3s. David Crisp added 14 points.

“There’s no way you should let anybody come in and hit eight 3s on us,” Crisp said.

Oregon’s only other true road game this season came in its second game, a 66-49 loss to undefeated Baylor. The Ducks dropped their opener at the Maui Invitational but have now won 12 straight after taking care of their northern neighbors.

The Ducks took control with a 12-0 run late in the first half, only to see Washington surge to start the second half, pulling to 42-39. That was answered by a seven-point run by the Ducks – with five of the points coming from Dorsey – as the lead remained near double figures.

Even Brooks picking up his fourth foul with 10 minutes remaining didn’t matter. Washington got as close as 55-47 with 11:55 to go, but a pair of 3-pointers by Dorsey and his pass to Casey Benson open for a corner 3 quickly pushed the lead back to 18.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks showed an ability to handle frontcourt issues, especially in the first half. Bell was helped off with 9:38 left in the half, Boucher picked up his second foul with 8:39 to go and Brooks got his third foul with 4:53 remaining. Yet the Ducks outscored Washington 25-15 during that stretch.

Washington: Fultz played after a whirlwind trip to the East Coast to attend the funeral of his great-grandmother. Fultz left the team following last Sunday’s loss to Washington State and arrived back in Seattle around 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

FUN WITH NUMBERS

Washington’s football team outscored its basketball team when facing Oregon in the regular season. The Huskies beat the Ducks 70-21 on the football field in October.

ONLY MEETING

Due to the Pac-12’s rotating schedules, this was the only meeting between the Ducks and Huskies in the regular season. Last season the teams met only once – at Oregon. It was the first time in 100 years the Ducks and Huskies did not play in Seattle.

UP NEXT

Oregon: The Ducks travel to Pullman to face Washington State on Saturday.

Washington: The Huskies host Oregon State on Saturday afternoon.

Dennis Smith Jr. records triple-double as N.C. State mollywhops No. 21 Virginia Tech

Dennis Smith Jr., courtesy N.C. State Athletics
N.C. State Athletics
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In a hectic night in the ACC, perhaps the most surprising scoreline came in Raleigh, where Dennis Smith Jr. posted the second triple-double in Wolfpack history as N.C. State dispatched No. 21 Virginia Tech, 104-78.

Smith finished with a quiet 27 points, 11 boards, 11 assists and five steals, and I mean that sincerely. I watched the game. Smith played well, but it never felt like he was having this kind of performance. Maverick Rowan played really well, as did Terry Henderson. Abdul-Malik Abu finished with 20 points and 11 boards.

But he did. The only other N.C. State player to post a triple-double was Julius Hodge, and Hodge didn’t get his against an ACC opponent.

So good for Smith, and good for the Wolfpack.

They entered Wednesday night at something of a turning point in their season. They were coming off of an ugly loss at Miami in their ACC opener – a Miami team that got worked over Wednesday by Syracuse, who got blown out by Boston College over the weekend – and they were hosting a Hokie team fresh off of their own statement win against Duke.

The Wolfpack have quite a bit of talent. They have the look, on paper, of a team that can finish in the top six in the league and make a run at the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, even if it hasn’t really shown through in their performances to date. This game, at least from this writer’s point of view, is the kind of game that N.C. State has to win if they’re going to be that team.

And not only did they win it, they dominated from tip to buzzer.

While their potential top five pick posted a scoreline – 27, 11, 11 and 5 – that we have seen just once since 2010, when Elfrid Payton went for 34 points, 11 boards, 11 assists and five steals in a double-overtime win against Louisiana-Monroe in 2014.

VIDEO: Pitt overcomes Perrantes’ heroics, beats No. 11 Virginia

Virginia guard London Perrantes (32) reacts to a three pointer during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Virginia won the game 63-61. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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The least surprising thing in college basketball is London Perrantes hitting a clutch shot.

He did it again tonight:

But in the end, the shot didn’t matter, as the Pitt Panthers landed the biggest win of the Kevin Stallings era on Wednesday night, picking off the Cavaliers in overtime, 88-76.

Jamel Artis led the way with 24 points, eight boards and four assists while Michael Young chipped in with 19 points, six boards and five assists. Sheldon Jeter buried back-to-back threes to start the overtime period, finishing with 16 points of his own, as the Panthers shot 13-for-21 from beyond the arc in the win.

Virginia isn’t the Virginia team that we are used to seeing under Tony Bennett. They don’t have a Malcolm Brogdon or an Anthony Gill or a Joe Harris this season. As good as Perrantes is, he’s still at his best when he plays a facilitatory roll, but without Austin Nichols on the team, he’s forced into being the go-to guy.

The ‘Hoos are still a tournament team, and this is still an impressive win for Pitt, but at the end of the year it is going to look like a win over a middle-of-the-pack ACC program, not an ACC title contender.