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No. 1 Villanova once again smacks around No. 10 Xavier

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PHILADELPHIA – Phil Booth led the way with 21 points and four assists while Jalen Brunson chipped in with 17 points and five assists and Mikal Bridges added 15 points as No. 1 Villanova pasted No. 10 Xavier, 89-65.

Xavier joined the Big East prior to the 2013-14 season, and in the five trips that the Musketeers have made to Philadelphia, the closest they have managed to keep a game has been 13. They lost by 23 points the first time they played as league foes. They lost by 13 the following year, by 31 points the season in which the Wildcats won the national title and by 25 last season.

Wednesday night was more of the same.

Villanova was up 18-6 just six minutes into the game and never looked back. The Wildcats took a 12-point lead into the break and lead by 20 less than five minutes into the second half.

The only thing the Musketeers had going all night long was Kerem Kanter, who finished with a team-high 16 points.

Here are three things that we can takeaway from this game:


The last two games that the Wildcats played prior to Wednesday night were somewhat worrying.

The issue was on the defensive end of the floor. The Wildcats gave up 101 points in their only loss of the season at Butler, a game that could somewhat be explained away by the Bulldogs making a ridiculous 15-for-22 from beyond the arc. But just a week later, Villanova gave up 90 points at Marquette, and that doesn’t even include the 85 points that Villanova gave up to DePaul in their Big East opener.

Prior to their blowout win over the Musketeers, Villanova was dead last in defensive efficiency in Big East play, according to KenPom.

Those doubts … well, they are no longer doubts, at least not in the moment. Xavier shot just 42 percent from the floor. They were 3-for-16 from three and turned the ball over 14 times. If you’re into the analytic angle, Xavier scored less than 1.0 points-per-possession, the first time Villanova held an opponent below that mark since Dec. 22nd.

And it’s probably worth noting here that, entering Wednesday, Xavier was ranked 13th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric.

“We’ve been struggling defensively,” head coach Jay Wright said, “and our guys really stepped up.”

The issue, according to Wright, has been complacency. It started on that Dec. 22nd game against Hofstra, and it continued into the start of Big East play. The problem? Villanova didn’t get in the practices they needed to in order to solve the problem. After the Hofstra game it was Christmas. Then they had to travel to Chicago to play DePaul. Next, they made a trip to Indianapolis on Dec. 30th.

“We saw it coming, we just didn’t have the time to practice,” Wright said.

It wasn’t until after the Butler game that they were able to take a week to really iron out some of the kinks, and the Wildcats still struggled with an admittedly awesome Marquette offense.

“We just kind of lost it,” Wright said. “We can’t just say, ‘OK, we’re going to play defense now’ when we haven’t been doing it or three weeks. You have to get back to your habits.”

“The older guys get it, a guy like [Dhamir] Cosby-Rountree or Omari [Spellman], even Donte [DiVincenzo], they’re looking at you like, ‘we scored 100, we’re winning, what’s the big deal?”

And that’s where Villanova’s veterans come in.

They’re the ones that set the tone in practice. Hell, they’re the ones that set the example for the entire program. The term that gets tossed around is “culture”, and the culture at Villanova is one for improvement and hard work even when the Wildcats are winning games.

That’s where Wright started.

“When we weren’t doing well defensively or rebounding, we didn’t focus on Omari or Dada,” he said. “We focused on Jalen, Phil and Mikal. They had to show those young guys how to do it first.”

They did.

And the result was the performance you saw Wednesday.


Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are the stars for Villanova, and while they got their numbers on Wednesday, they weren’t Wednesday’s stars.

Phil Booth was.

He scored 11 of Villanova’s first 18 points. He finished with 21 points and five assists. He was the spark for this team at the start of the game, the guy that led the run that buried Xavier before they were able to work their way into the game. We’ve seen nights where Donte DiVincenzo was that guy for Villanova. Omari Spellman has been that guy. Eric Paschall finished with 14 points on Wednesday and buried a pair of threes.

The blessing for Villanova is that Bridges and Brunson – especially Brunson – are annoyingly consistent. They don’t really have off nights.

Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura do, Xavier doesn’t necessarily have guys that can pick them up on those off-nights. Kerem Kanter was good on Wednesday, but he did most of his damage in the second half, once the lead was too big for Xavier to really have a shot at making a comeback; if Kanter was better defensively Chris Mack might have more confidence in using him when the game is on the line. Naji Marshall had 13 points, but that’s his second-highest scoring output of the season.


Bluiett is one of the best players in college basketball, but he has not played like it in the last month. In Xavier’s last eight games, he is shooting 34.2 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from three. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Xavier has lost twice during that span, needed to come back from 22 points down at home against East Tennessee and 16 points down at home against DePaul. They struggled at Northern Iowa, the MVC’s cellar-dweller, and barely held off Marshall at home.

Hell, when Xavier was blown out by Arizona State, Bluiett was 4-for-10 from the floor and finished with 11 points.

When he’s right, Xavier’s right.

And he has not been right for a while.

Indiana’s De’Ron Davis to miss remainder of the season

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Indiana announced on Wednesday that sophomore center De’Ron Davis will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn left Achilles.

Davis started the first five games of the season for the Hoosiers and is averaging 9.6 points and 4.3 boards.

In the last two games without Davis, Indiana’s Juwan Morgan has played 77 of a possible 80 minutes.

Texas sophomore Andrew Jones diagnosed with leukemia

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Texas announced on Wednesday afternoon that sophomore guard Andrew Jones has been diagnosed with leukemia.

He has already started treatments, according to a statement released by the Jones family.

“Speaking for our entire team and staff, we love Andrew and will do everything we can to support his family and help him get back to healthy,” head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement.

Jones missed four games earlier this season with a wrist injury. He returned at the start of Big 12 play, seeing 20 total minutes in games against Kansas and at Iowa State. He did not play last Saturday at Baylor and on Tuesday, Smart told reporters that Jones would not be available for Wednesday’s game against TCU.

Jones is a talented basketball player, a combo-guard with NBA talent. He was averaging 13.5 points and 2.0 assists this season while shooting a team-high 46.3 percent from three.

Foster scores 23 in No. 25 Creighton’s 85-74 win over Butler

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Creighton’s Marcus Foster went from having his worst game of the season to one of his best.

Foster scored 21 of his 23 points in the first half and then turned into a playmaker in the second as the No. 25 Bluejays beat Butler 85-74 on Tuesday night.

The senior guard was coming off a season-low nine points on 3-of-14 shooting at Georgetown on Saturday. He bounced back quite nicely, leading the way during a run that broke open the game midway through the first half and scoring eight of the Bluejays’ last 10 points before the break.

Butler clamped down on him in the second half, when he had six of his season-high eight assists, including a couple big ones after Butler pulled within six points late.

“There weren’t many games a year ago that Marcus Foster had eight assists and two turnovers,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I think it’s just another sign of his progress and how he continues to grow as a player in every facet of the game.”

Foster, who transferred from Kansas State after the 2014-15 season, has always taken a prodigious number of shots, but he’s shown much more discipline this season. He put up only five shots in the second half after taking 14 in the first. He finished 10 for 19.

“Back at K-State, if I had a bad game like I did against Georgetown, I would have come and put up a whole bunch of shots and had a similar night to the one I had at Georgetown,” Foster said. “I stayed patient.”

Martin Krampelj had 14 points and 14 rebounds for his third straight double-double, and the Bluejays (14-3, 4-1 Big East) won for the ninth time in 10 games. The Bulldogs (12-6, 2-3) lost their third straight.

Butler’s star, Kelan Martin, struggled with Khyri Thomas guarding him. After averaging 25.8 points in the Bulldogs’ first four Big East games, Martin was held to two in the first half and 10 for the game. He did have 11 rebounds.

Creighton led by 18 early in the second half and was still up 69-55 with 8:39 left. Butler then went on a 13-5 run, with Martin backing down Thomas twice in the post to make it 74-68.

Foster fed Davion Mintz for a reverse layup and Krampelj for a dunk to put the Bluejays up 80-70 with a minute to play, and the Bulldogs missed seven of their last eight shots.

Paul Jorgensen had 18 points, Kamar Baldwin added 15 points and eight rebounds, and Aaron Thompson had 12 points for the Bulldogs.

“You spot them 17 points, it’s going to be really tough to come back when you dig a hole like that,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “I continue to say I love the fight in our group. You need a couple balls to bounce your way in order to pull one out like that on the road.”


Butler: The Bulldogs had a 37-32 rebounding advantage, and four players scored in double figures. But they need Martin more involved on offense early.

Creighton: The Bluejays had 23 assists on 33 field goals and continue to show they are tough to beat once they get going in transition.


Thomas, who had 14 points, drew the biggest roar of the night when he took a pass from Ronnie Harrell Jr. in the first half and instinctively took off near the free throw line for a huge throw-down.

“I really was going to do a layup,” he said. “I had the wide-open lane and I dunked it.”


Butler finished a stretch in which it played four straight ranked opponents. The Bulldogs upset then-No. 1 Villanova before losing three straight.

“It’s been tough,” Jorgensen said. “We played arguably the best teams in the league. We fought every game, pulled out a good one against ‘Nova but came up short in the other three. Once we figure some things out, this team has a lot of room to grow and we’ll be really good.”


Butler hosts Marquette on Friday.

Creighton visits No. 10 Xavier on Saturday.

Newman’s career night helps No. 12 Kansas beat Iowa St 83-78

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Malik Newman started the game for Kansas on the bench.

He was on the floor when it mattered.

The on-again, off-again starter finally broke out for a career-high 27 points, and Svi Mykhailiuk added 23 to help the No. 12 Jayhawks beat pesky Iowa State 83-78 on Tuesday night.

“I mean, it was a good one. I can say that,” said Newman, the heralded Mississippi State transfer whose first season playing for the Jayhawks has been a rollercoaster with more downs than ups.

“I mean, it feels good,” Newman said of his performance. “Coach has been putting pressure on me to go out and be aggressive, play my game and be myself. I tried to do that.”

They sure needed him to do that.

Devonte Graham added 11 points for the Jayhawks (13-3, 3-1 Big 12), most of those coming in crunch time, when he shook off a 1-for-11 start from the field to knock down three big jumpers.

The game was tied 73-all with 3 1/2 minutes left, but Newman blocked Donovan Jackson’s shot to create a run-out for Kansas at the other end. Iowa State proceeded to turn it over on its next three possessions, and the Jayhawks converted two of them into easy baskets to put the game away.

It was the Jayhawks’ 12th win over Iowa State in their last 13 tries at Allen Fieldhouse.

Lindell Wigginton had 27 points and Jackson scored 20 for the Cyclones (9-6, 0-4), whose four straight losses — including back-to-back overtime defeats — have come on the heels of nine straight wins.

Cameron Lard added 15 points and 10 rebounds, though he also committed seven of the Cyclones’ 17 turnovers, and Nick Weiler-Babb contributed 13 points, 10 boards and eight assists.

“The difference in the game was turnovers, live-ball turnovers,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “When you break it down, live-ball turnovers are what really killed us, that and transition defense.”

The Cyclones didn’t have to worry about transition D in the first half.

The Jayhawks spent it settling for long, contested 3-pointers — they shot 24 of them and had just 10 attempts from inside the arc, drawing the ire of coach Bill Self.

“We were over-reliant,” he said. “I mean, 15 of our first 19 shots were 3s, from what I was told, and we weren’t smart enough to play to their weakness.”

Kansas also kept breaking down on defense, particularly when Wigginton had the ball in his hands.

The high-scoring freshman guard from Canada had 16 points in the first half, and they came from just about everywhere. He knocked down a 3-pointer, got to the foul line and was money on pull-up jumpers, his ability to knock down the 15-footer causing the Jayhawks fits.

It was one of those jumpers that gave the Cyclones their first lead early in the second half.

“My teammates are always confident in me,” Wigginton said, “telling me to attack.”

Udoka Azubuike responded with a dunk for the Jayhawks, though, and Newman converted a three-point play to start their first big run. Newman turned a turnover into a dunk, and another turnover turned into a fast-break dunk by Lagerald Vick to make it 49-42 and prompt a Cyclones timeout.

Iowa State kept answering every time the Jayhawks went on another run, but it was Newman’s breakout performance and Graham’s poise down the stretch that yielded one run too many.

“We just (weren’t) on cue,” Jackson said. “We’ve got a real good team, but down the stretch we just have to add the extra five minutes, like Coach has been preaching to us. And it’ll come.”


Kansas was 5 of 13 from the foul line. … Graham also had nine assists and four steals. … The Cyclones had a 44-34 advantage in rebounds. … Wigginton played all 40 minutes. … Iowa State got two points in 36 minutes from its bench.


Iowa State squandered a soft start to league play in losses to Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma State, but could have made up for it by beating Kansas. Instead, the Cyclones showed they’re good enough to compete but not quite good enough to win just yet.

Kansas was coming off a tough road win over TCU, and for a while it appeared the Jayhawks had taken Iowa State lightly. They came up with crucial stops on defense in the closing minutes to prevent the upset, but also showed the same cracks that have been evident all season.


Iowa State returns home to face Baylor on Saturday.

Kansas plays rival Kansas State on Saturday.

No. 24 Tennessee rallies from 10 down, beats Vanderbilt 92-84

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Grant Williams gave a glimpse of just how dominant he can be inside when avoiding foul trouble.

Williams scored a career-best 37 points as No. 24 Tennessee rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat Vanderbilt 92-84 on Tuesday night.

“These officials were amazing,” Williams said after finishing with only two fouls. “Two of them were Final Four officials, and you knew it was going to be a good game, so they did their job tonight. … It was even 22-23, so what more can you ask for?”

With the sophomore forward staying out of foul trouble, Vanderbilt couldn’t handle the 6-foot-7, 241-pound Williams around the basket despite double-teaming him at times. Admiral Schofield tied his career high with 22 points as Tennessee (11-4, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) won its second straight.

“He’s good,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said of Williams. “He’s really good down there when he gets it deep and he goes quick. And we knew. We spent a lot of time expecting double-teams not just on Grant but on Admiral. … He’s only going to continue to get double-teamed.”

Jordan Bowden scored all 12 of his points in the second half for the Volunteers.

Saben Lee led Vanderbilt with 21 points. Jeff Roberson added 19 and Riley LaChance had 16. Matthew Fisher-Davis scored 10 for the Commodores (6-10, 1-3), who had their highest-scoring game yet in SEC play.

“That should be good enough to win games,” coach Bryce Drew said after his team put up 84 points.

The Volunteers trailed 50-40 after LaChance scored the first five for Vanderbilt to open the second half. Vanderbilt still led 56-47 when the Vols went on a 13-1 run to take the lead back on four straight points by Williams, the last two on a layup with 8:11 left in a game with 12 ties and 16 lead changes.

Tennessee didn’t lose that lead again, and pushed it out to as much as 10 down the stretch.

Tennessee opened the game by scoring seven of the first nine points. Then the Commodores started knocking down shot after shot, especially outside the arc. By the time LaChance beat the buzzer with yet another 3-pointer, the Commodores led 45-35 at halftime by shooting 8 of 15 (53.3 percent) from long range.


Tennessee: The Volunteers have scored the most points they’ve ever managed in Memorial Gym in back-to-back seasons. They scored 87 in a win a year ago and topped that Tuesday night. The Vols have won three of their last four trips to Memorial. They also have won three of four road games this season.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores couldn’t hold onto a double-digit lead on their own court, and a team that shoots 3-pointers so very well in bunches went cold in the second half. The Commodores went just 3 of 11 over the final 20 minutes. Worse, they were only 15 of 22 (68.2 percent) at the free throw line.


Not only did Williams set a career best for points, he made and attempted a career high at the free throw line, where he went 13 of 15. Tennessee shot 89.3 percent from the line (25 of 28). Williams said he and Jordan Bone talked of how he hadn’t played well in his first two games in Nashville.

“It’s kind of funny that this night turned out the way it was,” Williams said. “I’m glad it happened, glad we got the win.”


“Tale of two halves again for us,” Drew said. “Unfortunately, the bad one was in the second half. First half, executed well, moved the ball well. Defensively we were able to get a few more stops on that end, and we outrebounded them, which I thought was a huge key coming in. The second half, they turned the tables.”


Tennessee: The Volunteers host Texas A&M on Saturday night.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores host No. 21 Kentucky on Saturday afternoon for back-to-back home games against ranked teams.