Rob Dauster

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 05:  Emmett Naar #3 of the Saint Mary's Gaels brings the ball up the court against the Loyola Marymount Lions during a quarterfinal game of the West Coast Conference Basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on March 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Saint Mary's won 60-48.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Naar’s double-double paces No. 17 Saint Mary’s to 2nd win

Leave a comment

MORAGA, Calif. (AP) Randy Bennett couldn’t say enough good things about his team’s offense after No. 17 Saint Mary’s reached triple digits for the first time in nearly four years.

It was the defense that bothered the Gaels’ coach, a message that Bennett delivered strongly to his players after the game.

Emmett Naar had 16 points and 11 assists to pace seven scorers in double figures in the Gaels’ 110-72 victory over Prairie View A&M on Wednesday night.

“We were not engaged enough in what we were supposed to be doing,” Bennett said after the Gaels allowed the Panthers to shoot 44.6 percent from the field. “We need to get better defensively. We’re not good enough.”

The Gaels scored in triple digits for the first time since Dec. 12, 2012, when they beat Jackson State 120-67.

More than half the points came from Saint Mary’s bench, which outscored the Panthers’ 63-30.

“I don’t think anyone scored 20, which is pretty good,” Naar said. “Having a deep bench like that is amazing. For the other team it’s more guys to worry about, more guys to scout. It just adds a lot to our team.”

Naar, an All-West Coast Conference pick as a sophomore last season who was held to six points in the Gaels’ season-opener, shot 7 of 9 from the field. He scored eight points in the first 5 minutes of the second half, including two 3-pointers as part of a 15-4 run.

Jock Landale added 13 points and eight rebounds while Stefan Gonzalez had 14 points for Saint Mary’s (2-0).

L.J. Westbrook had 13 points for Prairie View A&M (1-2), which was coming off a win over defending Mountain West champ Fresno State.

“We kept fighting the best we could,” Panthers coach Byron Smith said. “There’s something to be said for playing a talented team like that. It gets you ready.”

Kyle Clark had 10 of his 12 points in the first half, including two 3s, and Jordan Ford scored eight points over the final 5 minutes as the Gaels built a 54-37 halftime lead. Ford did not play in Saint Mary’s season-opening win after getting banged around in the preseason.

BIG PICTURE

Prairie View A&M: Smith’s team wasn’t able to build off its upset of Fresno State two days earlier and couldn’t recover after falling behind early. That could be expected following three games in six days. The schedule lightens up a bit now, so that should help.

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels looked crisp on both ends of the court and beat the Panthers to almost every loose ball, typical for a Bennett-coached team. The ball movement was also strong – 26 assists – which should give them some momentum heading onto the road for the first time this season.

JUGGLING THE LINEUP

Bennett said he’s committed to his starting lineup but acknowledged the Gaels’ depth could lead him to jumble it at some point. “This team is going to keep evolving,” Bennett said. “That’s going to be the tricky thing because there are some guys coming off the bench that can really help us. I like our depth a lot. We just have to get all those guys comfortable and get them to understand their role.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Beating a smaller Prairie View A&M team isn’t likely to move the Gaels up much but the way they did it – dominating in every meaningful category including rebounds, assists, second-chance points – should earn them a little more credit.

UP NEXT

Prairie View A&M: The Panthers make their final stop on a season-opening four-game trip at Texas San Antonio on Saturday

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels leave the comforts of home for the first time this season when they travel to play Dayton on Saturday.

Moore sets Cal freshman record with 38 points in OT win

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 18: Head coach Cuonzo Martin of the California Golden Bears reacts to a play in the second half against the Hawaii Warriors during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Sure, Charlie Moore has heard of Shareef Abdur-Rahim. When told he had just broken the former NBA star’s California freshman record at this early stage of the season, he was thrilled.

“I was like, `Oh, wow, that’s a pretty big accomplishment,”‘ he said, smiling.

The Golden Bears needed somebody to carry the load with three starters and key playmakers sitting out injured and a cold first half.

Moore scored 38 points to top Abdur-Rahim’s mark of 33 points set in November 1995, Stephen Domingo hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:10 left in overtime, and short-handed No. 25 Cal held off UC Irvine 75-65 on Wednesday night.

Kameron Rooks’ tip-in with 23 seconds left in regulation tied the game and Jaron Martin failed to get off a shot for the Anteaters (1-2). Rooks scored a career-high 15 points to go with eight rebounds as Cal extended its home winning streak at Haas Pavilion to 21.

Martin scored a career-best 26 points with three key baskets over the final 6:11 of regulation.

“He’s been on this stage for a long time,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “He’s played in big games since he was a freshman in high school. He’s not fazed by this atmosphere.”

Cal (2-0) missed three starters because of injuries: preseason All-America Ivan Rabb (toe), Jabari Bird (back spasms) and Columbia transfer Grant Mullins (neck strain). Martin hopes to have all three back for the next game.

“We don’t want to have any excuses after the game, we have key guys out,” he said. “Probably one of the better wins of my coaching career, seeing guys compete and battle and not make excuses.”

Moore’s three-point play with 1:53 left in regulation pulled Cal to 62-60. Martin missed a 3 on the other end and a jumper in the paint with 44 seconds remaining and Cal had one more chance with 35.7 seconds left.

“It’s unbelievable,” Rooks said. “Charlie’s a great player. In practice you can see how hard he works, very scrappy.”

Moore shot 10 for 20 from the field with three 3-pointers and made 15 of 17 free throws. Domingo finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.

Cal overcame a drought of 10:33 without a basket spanning the halves before Moore’s 3-pointer at the 17:22 mark of the second half.

The Bears missed seven straight shots late in the first half, 9 of 10 and 14 of 16, going without a field goal for the final 7:55 of the half after Domingo’s 3-pointer.

Moore made his first three shots with two 3s to score eight of Cal’s initial 11 points. At halftime, the Bears

Cal’s Sam Singer shot 1 for 7 in the first half and missed five of his six 3-point tries as Cal shot 26.1 percent to trail 31-23 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

UC Irvine: Brandon Smith added a key block against the 7-foot-1 Rooks late. … The Anteaters didn’t commit their first turnover until 3:10 before halftime after Cal already had seven. … Both teams already had a common opponent with lopsided victories against South Dakota State. … The Anteaters haven’t beaten Cal since Dec. 2, 2000.

California: The Bears’ unbeaten run at home dates to March 1, 2015. … Cal leads the series 7-2 and has won the last four meetings. … The Bears held South Dakota State to 28.6 percent shooting in an 82-53 season-opening win Friday.

BACK TO THE BAY

Seventh-year Irvine coach Russell Turner, a former Golden State Warriors assistant from 2004-10 who worked under Don Nelson and also coached at Stanford with Mike Montgomery, brought his 9-year-old son, Darius, along on the trip. The fourth-grader sat through study table and took a campus tour at Cal, then was on the bench during warmups.

“He’s counting curse words. I owe him a quarter for each of them,” Turner said. “It might be expensive. I’m trying to break my NBA habits.”

UP NEXT

UC Irvine: The Anteaters will host Damon Stoudamire-coached Pacific on Saturday.

California: Plays San Diego State on Monday at the Sacramento Kings’ new Golden 1 Center.

No. 1 Duke’s loss to No. 7 Kansas cemented their status as title favorite

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Frank Jackson #15 of the Duke Blue Devils drives in the lane against Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks in the first half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
4 Comments

NEW YORK — Just give them the damn title.

It sounds weird saying that when the No. 1 team in the country lost, 77-75, on a neutral floor to a team that was already 0-1 on the season, but I just don’t understand how you could have watched Duke erase a double-digit second half deficit to force Frank Mason’s heroics and come away feeling any other way.

Duke was playing without Harry Giles III, who likely won’t be available until ACC play, if at all. They were without Jayson Tatum. They were without Marques Bolden. That’s two of the five most talented players in the country and, in total, three likely lottery picks come June’s NBA Draft.

But there’s more.

Duke played just six guys on Tuesday night in the Garden, and the best player that’s actually able to suit up for the Blue Devils – Grayson Allen, who was the most popular pick for Preseason National Player of the Year – was bad. He finished with 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting and never really seemed to get into the game until the final minutes.

“Grayson had a frustrating game,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “You can’t expect to get fouled. I think he’s going to a point where he makes a move and it’s a good move and he expects a foul.”

“He’s playing hard when he gets the ball, but he needs to play harder when he doesn’t have the ball, which is what he did in the last few minutes.”

And despite all of that, Duke still led Kansas heading into halftime and still managed to scrap back from a 67-57 deficit with less than five minutes left on the clock.

“We’re a good team otherwise we’d get blown out of here tonight,” Coach K said. “But we’re a limited team right now. We’re not who we imagined ourselves to be. That’s not an excuse, it’s just the way it is. We’ll see what happens when we get guys back.”

It is still unclear when that is going to be. Duke is going to be in no hurry to bring Giles back, not when his earning power could disintegrate if he suffered another knee injury this year. Neither Tatum nor Bolden are dealing with serious injuries – Tatum has a sprained foot and Bolden has what Duke terms a “lower leg injury” – but initial reports said both of them should have been available on Tuesday night.

But ironically enough, having those three sidelined for the Champions Classic may have been the best thing for the Blue Devils, because Coach K now knows what he has in Luke Kennard, Frank Jackson and, frankly, Chase Jeter.

Kennard was the best player on the floor for the Blue Devils. He finished with 22 points, five boards and five assists and was responsible for 15 of Duke’s points – three buckets and three threes that he assisted on – in a 20-10 run that tied the game at 75 with 30 seconds left.

“He had a really good game tonight,” Coach K said. “He’s played really well. He’s played well in every practice. He’s a really good player. We expected him to be really good. I wouldn’t say he’s overachieved because he’s a big time player, and big time players show up in these environments.”

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Luke Kennard #5 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts against the Kansas Jayhawks in the second half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Luke Kennard (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Jackson also stepped up and made two huge shots in the final minutes after what was overall a pretty disappointing game for him. His four-point play with three minutes left kept Duke within one possession of the Jayhawks, and he followed that up by hitting the three that tied the game with 22 seconds left, setting up Mason’s game-winner.

Through the season’s first two games, Jackson was arguably Duke’s best player, averaging 19.5 points off the bench. He looked somewhat overmatched for the first 35 minutes on Tuesday night, but that happens to freshmen playing their first game with this kind of spotlight and pressure. The fact that he stepped up and made two critical shots that gave the Blue Devils a chance to win the game is far more important than the off-night that he had.

The same can be said for Jeter, whose stat-line – seven points, four boards and three blocks but three turnovers, four fouls and a 5-for-10 night from the line after missing a couple layups – isn’t as impressive as the impression he made on Coach K.

“I thought this was a big game for Chase,” he said. “There were a couple times he didn’t finish, but I thought he played hard and well.”

“You learn a lot from being in this level of a game,” Coach K added, and that’s what really matters here.

Assuming Duke finds a way to get back to 100 percent health, Kennard and Jackson will probably end up being Duke’s fifth and sixth scoring options. They’ll likely split minutes and find themselves in a similar position to where Allen found himself as a freshman. And when Allen was a freshman, he spent the majority of the year on the bench before exploding in the Final Four to average 13.5 points and spark the title-game run that eventually won the Blue Devils the 2015 national title.

“I thought overall it was a great experience for us,” Coach K said. “They’re going to be one of the best teams in the country throughout the whole year. To play that way when a couple of our veterans didn’t have a good game tonight? It was good for us.”

After Tuesday night, not only does Coach K know that he has those two weapons in his back pocket, but he knows that both Kennard and Jackson have the confidence to be able to succeed in the biggest moments.

If they can lead a short-handed, struggling Duke team back from 10 points down in MSG against a top five team that some – Hi! – have picked to win the national, then what can’t they be trusted to do?

Miami beats Arizona, Villanova and Kentucky for five-star guard

Lonnie Walker, Jon Lopez/Nike
Jon Lopez, Nike
Leave a comment

Miami landed a commitment from five-star guard Lonnie Walker on Wednesday morning.

The Hurricanes beat out Villanova and Arizona, among others, for the Philly product, who officially has become the king of tweeting out commitment edits with this Muhammad Ali picture:

Walker is the fourth member of Jim Larrañaga’s 2017 recruiting class, joining Chris Lykes, Sam Waardenburg and Deng Gak.

Walker is a product of the same AAU program that sent Ja’Quan Newton to Coral Gables.

VIDEO: South Carolina survived Monmouth at the buzzer

COLUMBIA, SC - JANUARY 09:  PJ Dozier #15 and Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks leave the floor after their game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Colonial Life Arena on January 9, 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina won 69-65 to remain undefeated on the season.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Monmouth very nearly picked up where they left off last season, taking South Carolina to overtime in Columbia last night.

But sophomore P.J. Dozier was the hero, hitting this buzzer-beater to ensure the Gamecocks avoid an early-season loss:

No. 7 Kansas beat No. 1 Duke thanks to Frank Mason’s game-winner

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks shoots the ball against Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats in the second half during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK — Kansas was my pick to win the national title in September.

They were my pick to win the national title when the season started last Friday.

They were my pick to win it all even when they lost to Indiana in the Armed Forces Classic, and they would have been my pick to win the national title had they lost to Duke in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night.

They did not lose to the Blue Devils.

The No. 7 Jayhawks left their troubles in Hawai’i, getting 21 points, five assists and the game-winning bucket from Frank Mason in a 77-75 win over a depleted No. 1 Duke in Madison Square Garden.

As Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski told Mason after the game, it was a “big time shot by a big time player.”

The Blue Devils were without Harry Giles III, as he is still recovering from a knee scope he had in September, while Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden both sat out as they are working their way back from a foot and “lower leg” injury, respectively.

Mason was the story, however. He was, once again, incredible, but I’ll get to that in a second.

The bigger story is that Kansas needed this win more than you probably realize.

It’s hard to call any game a must-win five days into the season, particularly when that win involves a team like Kansas, who is probably going to win the Big 12 title and who will undoubtedly end up in the NCAA tournament barring a Duke-esque run of injuries.

But Kansas is in a unique situation this season. This was the last chance for the Jayhawks to get a marquee win on their résumé until a January 30th visit to No. 2 Kentucky. The rest of their non-conference schedule is headlined with programs that are better in theory than they will be on the floor. Stanford is a middle-of-the-road Pac-12 team. The same can be said about Nebraska in the Big Ten and Georgia, should Kansas get the Bulldogs in the CBE Classic, in the SEC. Davidson? They’re OK. UNLV? Gross.

Then there is the Big 12, which isn’t nearly as good as it has been in past seasons. There may not be another top 25 team in the league this year – that depends on how you view a Baylor team that beat No. 4 Oregon without Dillon Brooks at home – but the bottom-line is that it doesn’t look like there are going to be many chances for the Jayhawks to land the kind of victories they would need in league play to earn a No. 1 seed.

Which is what makes this win so important. On Selection Sunday, we may all remember that Duke was without three of their top four players, but that won’t factor into where they get bracketed. Injuries matter for who was missing when you lose. They are not considered when discussing teams that you’ve beaten, and if tonight taught us anything, it’s that Duke is going to be scary-good if and when they finally get healthy.

Come March, this win is going to look sensational, and Kansas is not going to have too many more chances to get wins that look that way this season.

Back to Mason, were just five days into the season, but he is undoubtedly the front runner for National Player of the Year despite the fact that he is playing on a team that is just 1-1. After two games against top ten teams, Mason is averaged 25.5 points, 7.0 assists and 5.0 boards while getting to the line 22 times and, ya know, hitting a game-winner in MSG.

Perhaps more important, however, is the fact that he totally took over both games down the stretch. That’s who he is for the Kansas team, and considering that the Jayhawks are dealing with some of the growing pains that come with building a roster entirely around freshmen, it’s a luxury that other programs aren’t necessarily afforded.

“Frank made some plays tonight that were … ,” head coach Bill Self said, trailing off as he did the real-life version of ‘SMH’, as if he couldn’t believe how lucky he was that a kid that a kid that originally committed to Towson was torching the No. 1 team in the country for him.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks puts up a layup over Amile Jefferson #21 of the Duke Blue Devils in the second half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Devonte’ Graham (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

And the scary part?

Self isn’t doing anything more than giving Mason the rock and letting him do what he can do. It’s what we like to call the ‘Do Him’ offense.

“The last three minutes we were just wasting time and putting him in pick and roll situations,” Graham said.

“Quite a play we called,” Self added with a laugh. “‘Get out of [Mason’s] way and he’ll shoot it.’ He’s made a lot of big plays for us. He’s a stud.”

There isn’t a player in the country that is better in a big moment than Mason, and what should be comforting for Kansas fans is that he’s not alone in that back court.

“I’m really big on strong faces and leadership,” Coach K said of Mason, whose stoic demeanor makes him appear incapable of emoting during a game. “He gives the face of a great leader all the time. Big time guard. Big time winner.”

Devonte’ Graham, who originally committed to Appalachian State, was just as impressive for the Jayhawks before he started cramping up. He finished with an impressive 13-point performance, buoying Kansas early as the Jayhawks struggled to gain a foothold in the first half.

“[Graham] could’ve made the same play,” Mason said of his his game-winner.

“Those guys are both pitbulls,” Self added. “They have an assassin mentality. They bring our team as much toughness as anybody does. We don’t always play pretty, but [with them] we can compete.”

Freshman Josh Jackson, who was rated as a first-team preseason all-american by NBC Sports, was on the verge of a sensational game, finishing with 15 points in 18 minutes. But he fouled out thanks, in part, to a technical foul he earned in the first half when he slapped the ball out of a Duke player’s hands after a foul was called. Udoka Azubuike also provided critical minutes, grabbing 12 rebounds and adding six points in just 15 minutes off the bench.

But it was the play of Mason and Graham, a pair of guards that were rated as mid-major prospects in high school, that led the Jayhawks to this win. It was the play of Mason and Graham that forced overtime in Kansas’ loss to Indiana.

And it will be the play of Mason and Graham, who make up the best back court in college basketball, that will be the reason the Jayhawks will compete for a national title this season.

“[They don’t] fit the eye test with length and height but [they’ve] got some things you can’t teach,” Self said. “Intangibles that are as good as anybody in america possess.”

“There isn’t much they can’t do.”