The Saint Louis University men’s basketball team lost a game to St. Bonaventure – and then its bus.
The Billikens walked out of the arena Wednesday night following the team’s 70-55 loss to the Bonnies, and their bus was nowhere to be found, said New York State Police Trooper James O’Callaghan. The driver, later identified as 56-year-old Linda Edmister of Gasport, New York, had taken off.
While authorities searched for the bus, the players sat in the arena. The team posted pictures on Twitter of players talking on their cellphones, playing cards and napping.
“Just chilling in the Reilly Center while we try to find our missing bus,” the team tweeted.
State police said the bus was eventually stopped in Randolph, about 40 miles from the arena. Troopers said they were able to find it through GPS on an item left on the bus. School officials said the item was head coach Travis Ford’s iPad.
“I’m not sure where their destination was after that. But yeah, it definitely wasn’t Randolph,” O’Callaghan said.
Troopers charged Edmister with driving a commercial vehicle while intoxicated. Police say her blood alcohol content was 0.22 percent, more than five times the limit for commercial drivers, 0.04 percent.
It couldn’t be learned if she has a lawyer who could comment on the accusations. The Associated Press also left a message for her employer.
As for the team, it later posted an update on Twitter thanking the St. Bonaventure staff for helping out.
O’Callaghan said police don’t believe Edmister was drunk when she drove the team to the arena. He said troopers don’t know exactly when she left the campus or why. The game ended around 9:30 p.m. Edmister was pulled over shortly before 11 p.m., troopers said.
Another bus took the Billikens to Randolph so the team could retrieve their possessions from the first bus. They were then taken to the airport in nearby Bradford, Pennsylvania, for the return flight, which arrived in St. Louis around 3 a.m. local time.
Wawrow reported from Buffalo.
Duke-North Carolina Preview: Small-ball vs. front court strength will determine this game
The debate will rage on as long as the four programs involved are among the nation’s elite.
Which is the better rivalry: Kentucky vs. Louisville or Duke vs. North Carolina?
Kentucky-Louisville is clearly the more vitriolic of the two. The hatred between those two fan bases runs deep, and a win in the one game they play annually is the kind of thing that can save an otherwise disappointing season and provides year-long bragging rights. Those games always end up being the dogfights that set the tone for the commonwealth’s internal war.
But Duke-North Carolina will always be the “better” rivalry in my eyes, for two reasons.
1. They play home-and-home every year, meaning that we get a game in Cameron Indoor Stadium and a game in the Dean Done each and every season.
2. But more importantly, those games carry more meaning. Duke and North Carolina are always going to be competing for ACC titles, and more often than not, these games will play some role in who will be the ACC’s regular season conference champion and who, if anyone, will get the No. 1 seed that so often comes out of the conference.
That’s not different this season.
North Carolina is going to head into Cameron on Thursday evening sitting all alone in first place in the ACC regular season standings. Florida State and Virginia are a game off the pace while Duke is sitting tied with Syracuse and Louisville two games in back of the Tar Heels in the loss column. Put another way, Duke’s hopes of making a miracle run to the ACC regular season title will come to an end with a loss at home to the Tar Heels.
And while it seems crazy to think that the Blue Devils, who went through more issues during the month of January than any team in college basketball, could win the ACC title, it’s not that far-fetched, is it?
Duke made a fundamental change to the way that they play three games ago. They’re fully embracing small-ball. Jayson Tatum starts at the four. He plays near all of his minutes at the four. Amile Jefferson starts at the five, Harry Giles III spells him when he needs a rest and Marques Bolden’s time as a contributor for Duke seems to be over, at least for the time being. This puts Duke in a position where they can play Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Tatum together while still having another floor-spacer on the floor, and this has made them a nightmare to defend.
The key to that lineup, however, is Tatum. More specifically, the key to that lineup is Tatum’s ability to defend and to rebound the ball. He’s going to be outsized by just about every opponent that Duke faces, and if he is able to keep from getting run over by bigger, more physical post players while holding his own on the glass – he had 14 rebounds last week against Notre Dame – this four-out, one-in look will be lethal for Duke.
That’s where Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks come into play. They may not be the best front line in the country, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a stronger, more experienced pair anywhere in college hoops. Throw in Tony Bradley, and that trio averages 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds. They post 33 points and 20 boards combined per game and will give Tatum by far his toughest challenge to date.
Justin Jackson has been sensational for UNC this season, by far their most consistent perimeter player. He’s turned into a 39.3 percent three-point shooter and a go-to scorer that’s unafraid to take and able to make big shots. There’s an argument to make for him as the ACC Player of the Year. But he’s not the guy that makes the UNC offense go. That’s Joel Berry II, who has been equal parts terrific and inconsistent this season. When he’s on, the Tar Heels are as good as anyone in the country, but he’s been prone to dreadful games. He was 0-for-8 from the floor with a technical foul in the loss at Miami. He was 3-for-13 from the floor in both the losses at Georgia Tech and Indiana.
UNC certainly needs him to show up, but he’s not UNC’s x-factor.
Theo Pinson is.
An athletic defender that can rebound and provide another playmaking presence, Pinson is the perfect counter to Duke’s myriad of soon-to-be NBA wings. He can guard Tatum, he can guard Allen and he can guard Kennard, but he’s also dealing with a foot injury that just won’t go away and it’s unclear yet if he’s going to play.
PREDICTION: While the matchup with the bigger Tar Heels worries me, I think Duke is going to win this game because A) Cameron and B) if Pinson is out or banged up, I’m not sure how UNC slows down all those perimeter weapons. Give me Duke (-2.5).
Trier’s 22 help No. 9 Arizona escape with win over Stanford
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Stanford is the only Pac-12 school that hasn’t beaten Arizona in coach Sean Miller’s eight seasons in Tucson.
The Cardinal sure came close on Wednesday night.
Allonzo Trier scored 22 points and made 12 of 12 from the free-throw line, helping the No. 9 Arizona escape with a 74-67 victory.
Trier got his biggest offensive output since he returned to the team six games ago. This was his first start of the season.
“I’m just pretty much getting going,” Trier said. “I’m doing my best. Each game though is just more experience for me and allows me to get more comfortable with my teammates out there.”
Lauri Markkanen emerged from a three-game shooting slump to make a 3-pointer that gave the Wildcats the lead for good, 70-67, with 1:40 to go.
Trier added two free throws with 23.7 seconds to go.
Arizona (22-3, 11-1 Pac-12) led most of the game but never by more than 12 points.
Reid Travis led Stanford (12-12, 4-8) with 26 points.
“We showed ourselves that we can play against anyone in the country if we’re playing hard,” he said, “so although the loss hurt, it is definitely something that’s going to fuel us going into the next couple of games.”
Arizona beat the Cardinal by 39 at Stanford on Jan. 1, but Stanford was coming off a big win over Utah.
“I think our guys expected to win,” Cardinal coach Jerod Haase said. “We put ourselves in position, and all we talked about all night was trying to get ourselves in position in the last four or five minutes. I think our guys made a lot of plays, but at the end of the day we couldn’t seal it.”
Rawle Alkins added 12 points and Chance Comanche had 11 for the Wildcats, who won the game at the free-throw line, going 25 for 29 to Stanford’s 9 for 12. The Wildcats made their last 19 free throws.
Marcus Allen scored 15 points and Dorian Pickens had 12 for Stanford, which lost to Arizona for the 15th straight time.
Arizona looked to have a hangover from its 85-58 loss at Oregon last Saturday, a blowout defeat that snapped the Wildcats’ 15-game winning streak.
Miller was in a cranky mood afterward, mainly because of poor defense and rebounding.
“When you let teams get 17 second-chance points, it really puts a lot of pressure on your ability to win,” Miller said. “The other thing is we have a number of players that can’t guard their man.”
Stanford never led after the game’s first eight minutes but stayed close with the inside domination of Travis. The Cardinal tied it twice late, the last time at 67-67 on Allen’s layup with 1:56 to go.
After Allen started the second half with two free throws to cut the Arizona lead to 35-34, the Wildcats scored the next eight – a 3-pointer and driving layup by Alkins, followed by Kadeem Allen’s 3 – to put Arizona ahead 43-34.
Simmons’ free throw with 11:22 to play gave the Wildcats their biggest lead at 50-38. But Arizona went 7:32 without a field goal before Dusan Ristic’s rebound basket put Arizona up 61-57 with 5:18 left. Comanche’s two free throws padded the lead to 63-57 with 4:51 to go.
Stanford caught up with an 8-2 spurt, tying it at 65 when Pickens made a 3-pointer with 2:23 to play. Trier’s two free throws made it 67-65 before Allen got free inside after an offensive rebound and scored to tie it for the final time.
Markkanen’s big 3 was his second field goal in nine tries. He was 2 for 7 on 3-pointers.
Overall in his last three games, Markkanen is 4 for 20 from the field, 3 for 13 on 3s.
Miller said he thought Markkanen’s confidence was shaken and the big field goal at the end should help restore that. He was more concerned that the 7-foot freshman had just three rebounds.
Stanford is obviously improving and will be no pushover down the stretch. Arizona stayed atop the Pac-12 standings but the Wildcats have some work to do to fix their recent issues.
Stanford: The Cardinal look to avenge a home loss to Arizona State with a rematch against the Sun Devils on Saturday night in Tempe.
Arizona: The Wildcats go for a Bay Area sweep when they host California on Saturday night.
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) James Bolden knows his opportunities to play for West Virginia often are limited, so he has to maximize the minutes he receives. His ability to do so helped the 13th-ranked Mountaineers immensely on Wednesday night.
The freshman guard scored a career-high 17 points in 10 minutes and West Virginia survived an off-shooting night to beat Oklahoma 61-50.
West Virginia (19-5, 7-4 Big 12) won for the first time ever at Oklahoma (8-15, 2-9) in five attempts and avenged an overtime defeat at the hands of the Sooners, who won 89-87 in Morgantown on Jan. 18.
The Mountaineers won despite shooting a season-low 37 percent from the field. West Virginia used its frenetic press to force 23 turnovers, 11 more than the Sooners committed in the previous meeting, and limited the Sooners to 33.3 percent shooting.
Bolden entered Wednesday having played only 107 minutes in 15 games. His previous career high had been nine points vs. VMI on Dec. 10, but against the Sooners he went 6 of 11 from the field and 3 of 6 from 3-point range. In the first half, he scored 15 of West Virginia’s 27 points.
“I just get in and do what I do in the time I get,” Bolden said. “When I’m called on, I’ve just got to be ready. I’ve got older guys in front of me . that are going to take the majority of the minutes. If I can get in, I’m going to try and contribute to the team.”
Kameron McGusty scored 11 points for the Sooners, who were so frazzled on offense that they burned all four of their timeouts by the 8:10 mark of the second half. Oklahoma lost its sixth straight since its win at West Virginia and posted a season low for points.
“West Virginia’s pressure bothered us a lot,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We didn’t handle it nearly as well as you have to to have a chance to beat a good ball club.
“I just didn’t think we moved with the same conviction to be available. West Virginia is going to work hard. They usually do. They try to cut you with their pressure. It didn’t kill us there but it did tonight. I thought they definitely won that battle.”
Bolden kept West Virginia afloat in the first half and gave them a 27-25 halftime lead with a driving layup right before the buzzer.
“I think he is terrific,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of Bolden. “He has been doing well in practice. You try to work those guys up.”
Nathan Adrian took over in the second half for the Mountaineers, scoring eight of his 13 points. His putback with 7:12 left gave West Virginia its first double-digit lead of the game at 48-38 and Jevon Carter followed with a 3-pointer from the corner for the Mountaineers.
Seven straight points by the Sooners – four by Khadeem Lattin, who tied a career high with 14 rebounds – pulled them within 51-45 with 5:15 left, but they came no closer as West Virginia outscored them 10-5 in the final 5 minutes.
“That’s what the Bob Huggins way is – we compete and play hard,” Bolden said. “We’ve just got to play hard for 40 minutes. If we do that and still play bad, you can get a win.”
Oklahoma jumped to an 11-2 lead in the first 4 minutes and led for all but a few seconds of the first half, despite going without a field goal for almost 8 minutes in one stretch.
West Virginia: Every team will have bad nights and the Mountaineers were fortunate to have survived one of theirs without taking a loss. They will have to play much better in upcoming games against Sunflower State foes Kansas State and Kansas.
Oklahoma: Once again – as in an earlier loss to Kansas – a young Oklahoma squad held tough for a half with a ranked Big 12 foe at home before fading down the stretch. The Sooners have been close in nearly every game during their six-game losing streak but haven’t made winning plays in the final minutes.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers could have dropped several spots with a loss, but now their poll fate for next week depends on how they fare Saturday at Kansas State.
West Virginia played without starting guard Daxter Miles Jr., who sat out with a sprained right ankle that he injured earlier this week in practice. The university listed Miles’ status as day-to-day. Tarik Phillip started in place of Miles. . McGusty extended his streak of double-digit scoring games to 11, the longest by an OU freshman since Jeff Webster had 22 straight in 1990-91. . The loss was Oklahoma’s 100th in Lloyd Noble Arena since the facility opened in 1975. The Sooners have won 533 home games during the same period. . Huggins has 810 career wins and needs two more to tie Rollie Massimino for eighth place on the all-time Division I coaching wins list.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers will host one of Huggins’ former teams, Kansas State, on Saturday before a trip to Lawrence, Kansas, to face No. 3 Kansas next Monday.
Oklahoma: The Sooners’ next three games are against teams that beat them in the final seconds of earlier games – at Iowa State on Saturday, at home vs. Texas next Tuesday and at Oklahoma State on Feb. 18.
Kentucky has reached a crossroads of their season.
They steamrolled everyone in their path for the first month of the year. Losses at home to UCLA and at Louisville were explainable, particularly when there was a win over North Carolina in Las Vegas between them, and forgettable once SEC play started and the Wildcats were doing things like beating Texas A&M by 42 points.
But over the course of the last three weeks, the high-octane Wildcats have looked like a mustang on the highway being driven with the emergency brake on. As Drew Franklin of Kentucky Sports Radio put it, “Kentucky is a bad basketball team full of talented basketball players.”
“You won’t want to be at that practice tomorrow,” head coach John Calipari said in his postgame interview on ESPN after the Wildcats gave up 58 second half points in a 92-85 win over hapless LSU, the fifth straight game they’ve allowed more than 79 points to their opponent. “If someone wants to quit, they can quit. Because this has got to stop at some point.”
This is a team with as much talent as anyone in the country. This is a team that, at one point, looked like an unstoppable force.
How has it gone so wrong for Kentucky?
1. This just isn’t a good defensive team right now: That’s the crux of the issue for this team. They’re just aren’t getting enough stops. They’ve allowed an average of 86.2 points the last five games and, in the last four games, they’ve gifted their opponents an average of 54 points in the second half. They were beat up in the post by Tennessee. They were beaten in transition by Florida. Yante Maten of Georgia lit them up. LSU’s Antonio Blakeney scored 31 points, easily the best game he’s played this season.
“They couldn’t guard us for s***,” said a member of one staff that has faced Kentucky recently. Entering the game against Tennessee, the start of this recent slide, the Wildcats had totaled just 16 possessions of zone all season long. They’ve more than doubled that number in the last five games, with a total of 27 possessions coming against Georgia and Florida. Coach Cal relies as much upon a straight man-to-man defense as anyone, so while that number may not sound all that high in a vacuum, consider that in 2014-15, he played a total of 32 zone possessions.
Early on this season, Kentucky was able to thrive defensively because of the advantage they have physically. They were bigger, stronger and more athletic than anyone that they faced. Malik Monk, for example, didn’t need to understand how to scheme against a pick-and-roll when going up against Hofstra’s guards. The result was that Kentucky could force tough shots and turnovers which, in turn, allowed Kentucky to fire up their transition game, which is as terrifying in its speed, ferocity and directness as any in college hoops.
That’s the key to beating Kentucky.
You don’t let them beat you in transition.
“That was our No. 1 thing: make it a half-court game,” said an SEC coach who has scouted Kentucky this season. There are a couple of ways to go about this, the easiest of which is limiting the number of players that are going to the glass. Instead of sending three or four players to chase an offensive rebound, only send the two bigs. The more bodies behind the ball, the harder it is to get uncontested layups.
The other part of it is to avoid making the mistakes that lead to fast breaks. Don’t commit live-ball turnovers. Don’t take quick shots or forced jumpers. Run offense. Get the ball into the post. Because, unlike some of Kentucky’s best teams, this group will actually make mistakes defensively, which leads me into my next point.
2. This is what freshmen are supposed to be: One thing that got lost in Kentucky’s frenetic start to the season is that this lineup is as young as any that John Calipari’s ever had. His starting lineup includes four freshmen and a sophomore, and no one in that group is the kind of game-changing defensive presence that we’ve seen amongst Kentucky’s one-and-done players. There is no Karl-Anthony Towns. There is no Anthony Davis. There is no Willie Cauley-Stein or Nerlens Noel.
“They were as talented as they come, ahead of the game defensively as a freshman, and that’s a unique thing,” said an SEC assistant. “Most are ahead of the game offensively as freshmen. You don’t get freshmen that are like seniors as freshmen, and [Towns, Davis, Noel and Cauley-Stein] were killers on defense.”
This team, with all those young guys, they don’t have those guys that are seniors on defense. Isaiah Briscoe is the veteran presence on the floor and he’s a sophomore 50 games into his college career. Derek Willis is a senior, but his ineptitude on the defensive end of the floor is the reason that he can’t crack the starting lineup in a team that’s desperate for perimeter shooting. The same can be said for Mychal Mulder. In theory, Dominique Hawkins would be the ideal player to put in that role, but if he’s on the floor that means that one of Fox, Monk or Briscoe isn’t, and that’s simply not a recipe for consistent success.
The larger point is that freshmen are supposed to make mistakes defensively. That’s what freshmen do. The bigs are learning how to do something other than be really big and play in front of the rim. Guards are learning about a myriad of different ball-screens coverages, their defensive rotations, specific game-plans for specific players. Once you get into the meat of league play, defending isn’t as simple as “just stop your man,” and at this level, an individual’s defensive mistake leads to a breakdown of the entire defense.
Point being, Kentucky doesn’t have bad individual defenders as much as they have young defenders, and young defenders make mistakes.
Which brings us back to the issue of Kentucky’s transition game, because their defensive issues are compounded by the fact that …
3. … Kentucky is predictable in the half court: It’s not a secret what they’re trying to do, as their offense is, essentially, one of three things: Fox trying to turn the corner going left, Monk getting run off of screens and hunting jumpshots, or Adebayo getting the ball thrown into him in the post.
All three players are difficult to stop individually, but defenses don’t usually play them individually. Kentucky’s perimeter shooting woes have been a talking point since before the season started, and where those issues manifest themselves is in the inability for Fox to get driving lanes and for Adebayo to get a shot at going 1-on-1 in the post.
Monk can win any game on his own, but ‘hero ball’ can also shoot the Wildcats out of a game.
“We knew how dangerous Monk is in the half court, but you’re going to live with him taking tough shots,” said an SEC assistant. “If he gets 25, making tough shots in the half court, you deal.”
Against Georgia, Monk had 31 of his 37 points after halftime in a come-from-behind win. Three days later, he has his worst game of the season and Kentucky got smoked at Florida.
The other issue?
There seems to be a lack of fight with this group. Talk to people around the conference and you’ll hear things like “don’t really see a lot of leadership” and “they seem disinterested.” Tennessee is totally outclassed in terms of talent but, as one person that scouted the Tennessee’s win said, “Tennessee just played harder.” In the loss to Florida, they got punched in the mouth and didn’t have an answer, as Florida dominated the glass, picked up every loose ball and lit up Kentucky in transition.
In other words, Florida did to Kentucky what Kentucky wants to do to everyone else.
4. This is the danger of expectations: To me, this was the biggest take away I had from reporting on Kentucky.
Let’s look at this in a vacuum. As of today, the Wildcats are 19-5 on the season. They’re sitting tied for first place in the SEC with a good shot at getting a top three seed in the NCAA tournament come Selection Sunday. They have game-changing talent all over their roster and a back court that will be outclassed by exactly zero teams.
All things considered, that’s not a bad year to have for a team that starts four freshmen and a sophomore.
But this is Kentucky, where sitting atop a power conference has people questioning whether or not the basketball team is actually good.
The bottom line is this: At some point, all teams get found out. Once a few games worth of film make it to synergy, the coaches in this profession are good enough to figure out A) what it is that you want to do and B) how to slow it down. The best of the best are able to win when their opponent knows exactly what’s coming and make their adjustments while on a winning streak.
Everyone else, including teams as good and as talented and as flawed as Kentucky, will take a few losses along the way. They’ll go through a slump, and that’s where the Wildcats are right now.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on on,” Calipari said, adding later, “[I] don’t want to shorten the rotation to five or six guys, but I will if I have to. I’d like to play eight or nine guys so they all get a chance to play, have fun, morale, all that. But you better deserve to be on that court.”
Duke dealt with this for a month before they made the decision to fully embrace playing small-ball. They’re 3-0 since the change. Kansas had their issues and they made the decision to play zone; it earned them a comeback win in Rupp Arena despite playing short-handed.
Kentucky’s 2014 team – the last Cal-coached team to start four freshmen and a sophomore, the team that entered the year with hopes of going 40-0 and entered the tournament with 10 losses, finishing six games behind SEC champs Florida – had ‘the tweak’ before making their run to the national title game.
Calipari has been talking this week about a ‘reboot’.
Will that be enough for this group to fix what ails them?