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Thomas’ 18 points lead No. 16 Creighton over DePaul 83-66

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Creighton has begun to pull itself out of the funk that set in with the season-ending injury to star Maurice Watson Jr.

Khyri Thomas scored 18 points, Marcus Foster had 15 and the 16th-ranked Bluejays beat DePaul 83-66 on Saturday.

Justin Patton added 14 points as Creighton (19-3, 6-3 Big East) won for the first time in three games since Watson was shelved by a major knee injury.

“The most important thing is it’s good to see these guys smile again,” coach Greg McDermott said. “It’s been a tough 10 days or so for our program. Everyone understands why. There have been a lot of adjustments and tinkering and experimentation, for lack of a better word, to try to figure out what’s best going forward.”

The Bluejays looked lost without Watson in their previous two games, losses of 102-94 at home to Marquette and 71-51 at Georgetown. A convincing win over the Big East’s last-place team was a good tonic, but next up is a trip to No. 11 Butler, a team the Bluejays beat 75-64 at home two weeks ago.

“This is just one game, and it’s a step in the right direction,” forward Cole Huff said. “I still think we have a lot of stuff we’ll watch on film that we need to clean up. Butler might be a top-10 team next week. They came here and probably weren’t too happy with the result. Today’s a start. We hope to keep going and see what happens.”

Billy Garrett Jr. scored 18 points and Brandon Cyrus had 12 for the Blue Demons (8-13, 1-7).

Playing only their second game in 12 days, the Blue Demons started 1 for 14 from the field on mostly rushed or bad shots. Starters Eli Cain, Tre’Darius McCallum and Garrett each committed three fouls in the first half.

“We were mentally and physically to start the game a little behind where we normally are and should be,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “You can’t have an expectation in this environment that you can walk in and try to go blow for blow if you’re not as locked in.”

Creighton led by 21 early, but the Blue Demons got to 44-29 at half and were within 46-37 on a Garrett 3-pointer early in the second half.

The Bluejays put away the Blue Demons with three dunks in two minutes. Thomas passed to Patton on back-to-back possessions for a dunk and an easy layup, Foster dunked off Tyler Clement’s pass and Thomas got a jam of his own to make it 75-58 with 5 minutes left.

Creighton has won 10 of its last 11 meetings with DePaul, including eight of nine since joining the Big East in 2013. Each of the last nine meetings has been decided by 10 or more points.

“Credit coach McDermott today. He really had his guys ready,” Leitao said. “They lost a couple of games in a row and it was time to batten down the hatches. As a result, I thought their overall performance from start to finish was really solid.”

BIG PICTURE

DePaul: The Blue Demons couldn’t overcome the big hole they dug for themselves. They have lost four straight and remain winless on the road.

Creighton: After their worst performance of the season in a loss at Georgetown on Wednesday, the Bluejays rediscovered some offensive flow. But questions linger over who is going to take command of the point guard spot. Davion Mintz started and played 14 minutes, but reserve Clement got 23 minutes.

THOMAS’ BIG DAY

Thomas played one of his best overall games. He also had seven rebounds and six assists.

“I kind of needed it bad,” he said. “The last two games weren’t strong games.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A 17-point win might not be enough to keep Creighton in the Top 25. The Bluejays’ stock has dropped with the loss of Watson and miserable outings against Marquette and Georgetown.

UP NEXT

DePaul hosts Georgetown on Tuesday in a meeting of the teams at the bottom of the Big East.

Creighton visits Butler on Tuesday.

Jackson’s 28 points lead No. 22 Maryland past Minnesota

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Maryland still has more freshmen in the starting lineup than losses this season.

The teenage Terrapins, with age-defying poise, have begun to display the potential to top the Sweet 16 trip for last year’s team.

Justin Jackson had a career-high 28 points and 10 rebounds, making all five of his 3-point attempts, and No. 22 Maryland beat Minnesota 85-78 on Saturday for its sixth straight win.

“We don’t call them `freshmen.’ We call them `young guys,”‘ Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon said. “They’re good players. They don’t think about the stage. They’re just playing basketball. They’ve done it their whole lives.”

Kevin Huerter went 5 for 7 from 3-point range and finished with 19 points, and Anthony Cowan added eight points, five assists, no turnovers and tight defense on Minnesota’s leading scorer Nate Mason. Cowan, Huerter and Jackson have played well enough in their first season that junior star Melo Trimble said he sees a resemblance in their performance to his as a freshman.

“They’re just playing with no second thought,” said Trimble, who had 13 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and no turnovers. “They’re just shooting the ball, playing basketball. They’re not worrying about foul calls or missed shots or anything like that. I’m really proud of them.”

Minnesota entered the afternoon with the Big Ten’s lowest 3-point shooting percentage allowed, but Maryland was undaunted and more than willing to engage in a long-range launching contest as the Terrapins (19-2, 7-1) kept pace with Wisconsin in a tie for first place in the Big Ten.

“We believe in ourselves, and we believe in each other,” Jackson said. “I always say that our chemistry off the court spills on the court.”

Akeem Springs led the Gophers (15-7, 3-6) with a season-high 23 points, but they lost their fifth consecutive game despite a 41-31 rebound advantage and a 21-10 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Coach Richard Pitino gave his on-the-ball defense an `F’ grade, with Maryland making more than half of its field-goal attempts (30 for 59), including an 11-for-18 performance from beyond the arc. Trimble and Cowan penetrated with the dribble and consistently kicked the ball out to open teammates on the wing.

“That’s just on us, man,” said a downcast Springs, who buried his face in his hands at the podium between postgame questions from reporters.

FIRST HALF EDGE: MINNESOTA

The Terrapins were four-point underdogs, wary of last year’s 68-63 flop at Minnesota that gave the Gophers their first Big Ten victory after starting 0-13 in conference play, and the Gophers got their crowd going with a 19-1 run sparked largely by Springs that gave them a 21-9 lead past the midpoint of the first half.

Four of their first six made field goals were dunks, further enhancing the energy in the 89-year-old arena. Amir Coffey, who has produced most of his best rookie performances against Minnesota’s toughest opponents, swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 44 seconds left before halftime for a 33-26 lead. He scored each of his 11 points in the first half.

TURTLE POWER

Trimble’s twisting, foul-drawing layup, after which he glared at the Minnesota student section for emphasis, put the Terrapins in front 58-56 for the first time since 9-8. Trimble gave them the lead again at 73-71 with a similar, gravity-defying move that drew a foul on Springs for a three-point play with 2:49 left.

Mason answered with a 3-pointer and tied the game at 76 with a pair of foul shots with 1:47 remaining, but Huerter hit a 3-pointer from the corner to quiet the crowd and help the Terrapins inch toward the finish.

“I feel for our guys,” Pitino said. “We’ve got to break through.”

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: Trimble got to double-digit points for the 19th time in 21 games, but the sharpshooting freshmen carried most of the load for the Terrapins. Proving they can win in a raucous environment on the road without a major impact by Trimble was an important accomplishment.

Minnesota: Pitino picked an odd time this week considering the losing streak to talk to his players about the NCAA Tournament, but his urging of the Gophers to keep their confidence came with a reminder of their strength of schedule that’s a significant factor for the selection committee come March. They’re well past time for a win, though, if they’re going to make it.

“We’ll circle back with the optimism in a couple days,” Pitino said.

UP NEXT

Maryland: The Terrapins stay on the road for a game on Tuesday at Ohio State.

Minnesota: The Gophers have a full week to prepare for a trip to play at Illinois on Feb. 4.

For more college basketball coverage: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Luke Kennard bails out No. 17 Duke in win at Wake Forest

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Luke Kennard scored 30 of his 34 points in the second half as No. 17 Duke erased a late, 10-point deficit as they landed their first road win in ACC play, beating Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, 85-83.

“The pride we showed in wearing this name across our chest, it meant something today,” Kennard said in an interview after the game.

Kennard was quiet in the first 20 minutes, but he took over down the stretch, hitting a flurry of threes and thriving as the Duke their offense through the sophomore.

He made all ten of his shots in the second half.

One of those ten field goals was a three that he hit with 6.6 seconds left to give Duke their first lead since the under-12 time out in the first half.

The win gets the Blue Devils back to .500 in ACC play, and ends a skid where they had lost three out of four in league play.

Here are three things to take away from Duke’s win:

1. It’s time to turn this team over to Luke Kennard: We talked earlier in the week about how there is a power struggle amongst Duke’s ranks. What is this team’s identity? Who is the leader? Whose team is it?

The answer should be obvious today: Luke Kennard’s.

He put together one of the most impressive performances that you’ll see this season, hitting all ten of his shots and scoring 30 of his 34 points in the second half as the Blue Devils overcame a ten-point deficit in the final five minutes and a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes. He not only made the big shots, but he made the right play. Twice late in the half, when he was on fire, he drove the lane, drew the defense and kicked the ball out in what ended up being a wide-open three for a teammate.

It was masterful, and it saved Duke’s on Saturday, and maybe even saved their season.

2. Is this a low-point for Jayson Tatum?: Duke made a definitive choice to try and play more small-ball on Saturday, using Tatum at the four alongside three guards while Marques Bolden sacrificed minutes on the bench. And while it seemed to work early on, Tatum ended up playing his most disappointing game to day. He finished with just eight points on 2-for-6 shooting with three turnovers before fouling out with seven minutes left.

Part of his struggles had to do with the fact that he couldn’t stay on the floor – there’s something to be said for the officiating on Saturday afternoon in Winston-Salem, but I’m not going there – but even when he was on the floor he never seemed in the rhythm of the game. In a half where Kennard has clearly caught fire, there were at least two possessions where the ball stopped with Tatum and he tried to make a one-on-one move that resulted in a shot bouncing on the front of the rim.

Duke’s offense is at its best when the ball moves quickly and the myriad of quick guards on the roster attack close outs, draws defense and kicks the ball out. That ends when Tatum gets the rock, and it was very noticeable in the second half on Saturday.

3. Duke showed the kind of heart and fight that we haven’t seen from them in a while: They erased a pretty significant deficit late in the game, and it never felt like that was something that was going to happen, did it?

From midway through the first half, when it became clear that Duke was never going to be getting a friendly whistle, it seemed like this was destined to be one of those nights where the Blue Devils couldn’t do enough to win. They’d keep shooting themselves in the foot with bad fouls, quick shots and missed box outs until they left with a close, frustrating road loss.

Only, that’s not how it played out.

Duke has Kennard to thank for that.

So, again, maybe it’s time to give him the reins?

4. Marques Bolden got benched for Antonio Vrankovic: If you’re saying ‘Who?’, that’s the point.

Duke went small in this game. It was clear they wanted to see what this team looked like with Tatum at the four, and that meant that Harry Giles III and Amile Jefferson were going to be splitting minutes at the five. Bolden played a few minutes here and there as Giles and Jefferson picked up fouls, but in the second half, it was the seldom-used Vrankovic that interim head coach Jeff Capel turned to.

VIDEO: Brandon Childress tackles Grayson Allen in Duke, Wake Forest dust-up

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We’ve reached a point in time where the reaction of people to any minor incident involving Grayson Allen is greater than the actual incident itself.

Saturday is the perfect example.

With Duke struggling and down on the road against Wake Forest, Allen missed a quick, ill-advised three and then grabbed Bryant Crawford’s arm as he went after the loose ball. He was called for a foul, but Allen and Crawford wound up heading into Duke’s bench tangled up.

It looked bad, but there was nothing there. Both Crawford and Allen reacted with surprise to what was going on around them:

The bad guy here? Wake Forest’s Brandon Childress, who grabbed Allen and, essentially, said “sit on the bench”:

Tensions have been running high in this game, as Allen and Crawford were both given technical fouls after jawing back and forth earlier in the game.

VIDEO: Roy Williams slams chair, Enes Kanter scolds him

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Roy Williams watched his North Carolina team play terribly in a loss at Miami on Saturday.

During one first half timeout, Williams was caught on video going to town on one of the UNC team chairs. Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter, who broke his forearm punching a chair this week, took to twitter to advise Williams on his anti-chair antics:

VIDEO: This is why you’re LSU, LSU

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I’m not sure I have anything to add to this that isn’t written out in the tweet:

I can’t stop laughing. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprised that a loss to Texas Tech dropped LSU to 9-11 on the season.