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No. 13 Kansas holds off Iowa State 83-77

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AMES, Iowa (AP) — Kansas responded to arguably its worst loss of the year with a much-needed win in a hostile environment — one that kept the Jayhawks within reach of Big 12-leading Texas Tech.

Performances like the one they put forth on Tuesday night are a big reason why the Jayhawks win the Big 12 every year.

Udoka Azubuike scored 19 points, Malik Newman had 17 and 13th-ranked Kansas bounced back from a brutal loss at Baylor by beating Iowa State 83-77.

Lagerald Vick scored 16 points for the Jayhawks (20-6, 9-4 Big 12), who shot 48.4 percent from the floor and committed just seven turnovers.

Azubuike led the way, hitting 9 of 10 shots and adding three blocks.

“Whenever we need a big basket, we know we can go into the big fella,” Newman said.

Kansas took a five-point lead into the break after Nick Weiler-Babb’s long 3 to end the half was waved off, and it quickly jumped ahead by 11 early in the second half.

The Cyclones chipped away at that deficit at times, even getting as close as three, but the Jayhawks pushed their lead to 76-63 with 4:46 left on back-to-back alley-oop dunks by Azubuike.

That capped a run of six straight makes for the Jayhawks — who also held Iowa State without a field goal for over four minutes down the stretch.

“We took too many bad shots in the first half,” Kansas Bill Self said. “You’re going to shoot a good percentage if you throw it inside a lot.”

Freshman Cameron Lard scored 19 points with 11 rebounds for Iowa State (13-12, 4-9). But freshman Lindell Wigginton, who burned the Jayhawks for 27 points in their first meeting, was held to 12 points on 3 of 12 shooting. He also had five turnovers.

Weiler-Babb had 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists after missing four games with knee tendinitis.

“We knew they’d come in here focused. They’re a resilient group,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said of Kansas. “We weren’t good enough on the defensive end.”

THE BIG PICTURE

Kansas: This was a game KU couldn’t afford to lose if it hoped to keep its quest for a 14th straight conference title alive. The Jayhawks’ next three games: at home to West Virginia and Oklahoma and on the road at Tech, will likely determine their fate. Still, seeing the Jayhawks respond in a crucial spot as the season draws to a close is something their Big 12 rivals have seen over and over again.

Iowa State: The Cyclones encountered a Kansas team with something to prove after it got waxed by Baylor 80-64 over the weekend. That’s a tough combination to overcome in a rebuilding year — though Lard’s monster game, on the heels of being named Big 12 newcomer of the week on Monday — was highly encouraging.

THE NUMBERS

Devonte’ Graham finished with 13 points for Kansas, but he was just 3 of 16 from the field. The rest of the Jayhawks combined to shoot 27 of 46. …Iowa State’s Donovan Jackson was just 1 of 9 from the field. …Svi Mykhailiuk had 10 points for the Jayhawks. …The Cyclones shot just 3 of 16 on 3s, but Zoran Talley had his best game of the year. He scored 15 points on 7 of 11 shooting

HE SAID IT

“For (Graham) to go 3 for 16, and we were able to put him on our back for a change…and come out with the (win), it’s big — and it just speaks to how good our team can actually be when everything is clicking,” Newman said.

Bubble Banter: Is Butler in trouble after losing to Georgetown?

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Tuesday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

ARKANSAS (RPI: 34, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 9): The Razorbacks landed another Quadrant 2 win on Tuesday, picking off Ole Miss on the road and solidifying a resume that already looks like it will be enough to get them into the tournament. They’ve won three in a row and six of their last eight, including a 3-6 marks against Quadrant 1 and three more Quadrant 2 wins. Their stretch run is brutal: Texas A&M, Kentucky, at Alabama, Auburn, at Missouri. Those are all Quadrant 1 games, so going 2-3 should get it done.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 54, KenPom: 52, NBC seed: Out): The Huskers are now 20-8 on the season and 11-4 in the Big Ten after beating Maryland at home on Tuesday. Here’s the problem: Maryland (61) is just Nebraska’s fourth Quadrant 2 win of the season. They don’t have a Quadrant 1 win on the year. The rest of their schedule: at Illinois (184), Indiana (109), Penn State (86). None of those are even Quadrant 2 games. The Huskers need to win out and get some work done in the Big Ten tournament.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 42, KenPom: 68, NBC seed: First four out): The Bonnies beat La Salle tonight, which they absolutely needed to do because, at this point, they cannot afford another bad loss. St. Bonaventure has now won seven in a row, but the lack of strength at the top of the Atlantic 10 means that the Bonnies have just three Quadrant 1 wins and a 6-4 mark against the top two quadrants. They’ve also lost a Quadrant 3 and Quadrant 4 game. If they win out — which includes Friday against Rhode Island (5) they’ll be dancing.

LOSERS

BUTLER (RPI: 41, KenPom: 20, NBC seed: 10): The Bulldogs took a bad loss on Tuesday night, their first bad loss of the season, when Georgetown picked them off in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Now if we’re being fair, Georgetown is a better team right now than their RPI would indicate, but the numbers don’t care about that. Butler is just 3-8 against Quadrant 1 teams and now has a Quadrant 3 loss to their name. They are still in pretty good shape, and a 2-2 finish to the season — Providence, Creighton, at St. John’s, at Seton Hall — will probably be enough to get it done. But they have to turn this around. They’ve now lost three in a row.

LSU (RPI: 85, KenPom: 66, NBC seed: Last four in): The committee proved to us that they value quality wins. The Tigers have quality wins. They are 5-5 against Quadrant 1 opponents. They’re also 14-11 on the season after losing at Alabama on Tuesday. At some point, they have to stop losing games.

Saint Louis’ Jordan Goodwin season is over after Title IX investigation

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Saint Louis announced on Tuesday that Jordan Goodwin’s season has come to an end.

Following a Title IX investigation into four players that were accused of sexual assault by three women in September, Goodwin — a former top 50 recruit — has been found innocent of sexual assault but in violation of school policy. He will be suspended from the University for two months and will not play in another game this season.

He released the following statement:

“I take responsibility for a violation of University policy. I am going to take this short time to reflect and learn from this situation. I apologize to everyone who has been affected. I am sad to leave my team, but I look forward to returning to Team Blue in May.”

Goodwin was the only member of the four accused players that was allowed to play in games. The other three players were allowed to practice but were held out of competition. In January, it was announced that the three players were suspended from the school for 18-to-24 months. They appealed that decision, but last week, Boston College transfer Ty Graves announced that he was voluntarily withdrawing from the University while Adonys Henriquez signed with an agent. Jermaine Bishop is reportedly the third player.

“Saint Louis University has concluded the Title IX investigation that began on Sept. 25, 2017,” said a University statement released to the campus community. “The parties have been notified of the final decisions, which were determined by an Appeal Panel. With the notifications to the parties, these cases are closed. Throughout this Title IX investigation, the University followed its Sexual Misconduct Policy.”

Bill Self to Kansas fans: ‘Welcome to the real world’

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Kansas fans are in uncharted territory these days.

They’re a game out of first place in the Big 12. They’ve lost three games at home. Two of those home losses have come in league play. If they lose at Texas Tech in two weeks, their hopes of maintaining a streak of 13 straight Big 12 titles will be very hard to continue.

And that appears to have the KU faithful concerned. Bill Self was asked about that on Monday.

“Whether our fans do that or not, hey, welcome to the real world. I mean, good God,” Self said, via the Capital-Journal. “Hey, Duke feels the same way. North Carolina feels the same way. That’s life. This is what’s unbelievable to me about our fan base, and I love ’em and they’re great, but for 13 years we’ve gotten a T-shirt when we won the league. I mean, it was that big a deal we’d get a T-shirt. And now that we’re a game behind, the heavens are falling.”

He’s got a point. This is what life is like for most programs. This is what the stress of being a fan is in most places. Hell, how many programs would sell their soul to have a bad year be the one when you’re sitting all alone in second place in the toughest conference in the sport?

And it’s not like Kansas hasn’t been here before, either. We talked through that on Saturday. They’ve had near misses. This isn’t all that new.

“Our fan base, if this is how they’re feeling, then they should understand and appreciate all the emotions fans should have to go through, because it’s going to be a struggle this year,” Self added. “Doesn’t mean it’s over, but it’s definitely going to be a struggle.”

Texas’ Andrew Jones ‘absolutely’ plans to play again

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Texas point guard Andrew Jones, who is currently in the middle of a fight against leukemia, “absolutely” plans to play basketball again, according to Gene Wojciechowski, an ESPN sideline reporter that worked Monday night’s games between Baylor and Texas.

Elijah Mitrou-Long, who is sitting out the season as a transfer from Mount St. Mary’s, spoke with Wojciechowski and provided an update on Jones’ condition. The sophomore posted a video of himself shooting baskets in the hospital last week. He’s been in a hospital in Houston for nearly a month now.

“I talked to his teammate and best friend Eli Long at the shoot-around today. Eli actually went to Houston and spent the night on a couch in his hospital room just to be with Andrew,” Wojciechowski said during the first half of the game. “He said his spirits are great. He thanks everybody for all the public support. He FaceTimed with his Longhorn teammates on Sunday. And he absolutely plans to play again, Fran.”

It’s been special to see the outpouring of support that Jones has received from Big 12 rivals. Just about every team that the Longhorns have played have sported some kind of message on their warmup shirts supporting Jones. The school has raised more than $181,000 to help with medical bills.

Mark Fox on hot seat as Georgia’s freefall continues

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ATLANTA (AP) — Mark Fox may be running out of time to find a way to save Georgia’s season — and perhaps his job.

Georgia heads to Wednesday’s game at Florida having lost three straight games and six of seven. The Bulldogs (13-11, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) may need to win at least five of their last six games and then have a strong run in the SEC Tournament to be considered for a NCAA bid.

There has been no sign Georgia is poised for such a strong finish. Instead, Fox is facing perhaps the most difficult challenge of his nine years in Athens.

“Obviously our confidence has been shaken,” Fox said after the Bulldogs’ 78-61 loss to No. 8 Auburn on Saturday.

Each of Georgia’s three straight losses — to Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Auburn — has come by at least 15 points. The trip to Florida provides a needed reminder of Georgia’s home win over then-No. 23 Florida on Jan. 30, the Bulldogs’ only win since mid-January.

Fox is looking for ways to improve Georgia’s defense and rebounding. He surprised observers Saturday when he acknowledged he’s still trying to replace last year’s leader, point guard J.J. Frazier.

“We’re disappointed in our backcourt play and obviously it’s been a challenge to replace Frazier and we haven’t found a way to effectively do that yet,” Fox said.

Fox had ample time to prepare for the exit of Frazier, a senior. Fox and his staff bear responsibility for the inability to find reliable backcourt leadership after 24 games.

The timing of Fox’s comment on his backcourt was especially bad, because Auburn’s leading scorer in the win over the Bulldogs was guard Jared Harper, from Mableton, Georgia. The Tigers won despite playing without top scorer Bryce Brown, another guard from Georgia.

Despite Auburn’s success finding talented players in the state of Georgia, recruiting could help Fox keep his job. Fox has the nation’s No. 1 class of commitments for 2019, according to 247 Sports. In December, Fox landed verbal commitments from a five-star prospect, point guard Ashton Hagans from Covington, Georgia, and small forward Elias King, a four-star prospect from Snellville, Georgia.

Only Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity knows if the 2019 recruiting class could impact a decision on Fox’s future. McGarity declined comment to The Associated Press on Monday when asked about Fox’s status.

Maten, who leads the SEC with his 19.4 points per game, has provided Georgia’s only consistent production.

Maten said he hasn’t given up on the season.

“I haven’t given up in anything in my life,” Maten said. “Being a leader of this team, I’m going to relay that message that we don’t give up. That’s not how we roll at Georgia. At the end of the day, we made our own bed so we’ve got to fix it and keep rolling.”

Fox is 158-129 at Georgia. He has earned only two NCAA bids in his first eight seasons, losing in the first round in 2011 and 2015.

With Maten’s return for his senior season, this was the season for Fox to show he can make the program more than a regular visitor to the NIT. If the Bulldogs can’t stop their freefall, even the NIT may not be a postseason option this year.

Fox said a recent stretch where the Bulldogs played six of nine on the road “got the best of us.” He said defense and rebounding have been the problem in each of the last three losses.

He knows responsibility for those struggles “all falls on me.”

“It’s totally on the coaches to make sure we have a scheme ready to go,” Fox said. “Now the individual has to emotionally and mentally get himself ready to play. We have to find a way to push those buttons. The responsibility totally falls on me.”