Thursday’s Shootaround: Akron lands year’s first upset


No. 16 Arizona 67, Duquesne 59: Josiah Turner showed up late for a shootaround Wednesday afternoon, and that gave Jordin Mayes the start over him. That decision would end up being a blessing in disguise for Arizona, as Mayes scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half and sparked a late 12-0 run that gave Arizona a 61-48 lead. The Wildcats would go on to win 67-59, but the lead certainly wasn’t safe; Arizona had one stretch where they turned the ball over on four straight possessions while trying to put the game away.

In fact, Arizona finished the game with 21 turnovers, the most they’ve had in a game since February of 2010. And that’s where there conundrum of Jordin Mayes comes into play. For the second straight game, Mayes provided Arizona with the spark they needed to blow the game open; on Monday, he scored eight straight points to give the Wildcats control against Valparaiso. The problem? Mayes isn’t a pure point guard. After Wednesday’s game, Mayes now has one assist and three turnovers in Arizona’s first two games. Last season, he averaged just 1.2 apg despite playing 14.3 mpg.

He may be the best option at the point right now. Josiah Turner has loads of talent, but he has even more learning — and maturing — to do before he gets to the point that he can maximize that talent. Decision-making is not Turner’s strong suit. (Seriously, how do you show up late to the shootaround for the second game of the season?) Nick Johnson is talented and can be a playmaker, but he’s not a point guard. Kyle Fogg is the leader for this team, but he, too, is not a point guard. Mayes is the best option, but if Turner is able to put it all together this year, it will be interesting to see what, exactly, Sean Miller does with his back court rotation.

St. John’s 78, Lehigh 73: You would have thought that the surprising return of Steve Lavin, who is still recovering from treatment for prostate cancer, would be enough of an emotional boost to get St. John’s to come out on all cylinders on Wednesday night. Instead, it was Lehigh that had the hot hand early, knocking down their first five three pointers and eventually surging to a 32-16 lead. But like they did on Monday night, the Johnnies used a pressuring defense to create turnovers and get opportunities in the full court, where their athleticism took over. A 12-0 run cut the lead to 60-58 with five minutes left before God’sgift Achiuwa gave the Johnnies the lead for good with a running hook with under two minutes remaining.

Achiuwa finished with 21 points and eight boards — going 6-6 from the field and 9-9 from the free throw line — and Nurideen Lindsay and Moe Harkless both chipped in with 15 points.

This win was a good sign for St. John’s. Lehigh is not a bad basketball team. They have one of the best mid-major players in the country in CJ McCollum and came out completely unphased by St. John’s pressure. The Johnnies were able to regroup, made a comeback and then made enough plays in crunch time to win the game. No one — not even the most die hard St. John’s fan — should truly expect this team to contest for an NCAA Tournament bid this season. I don’t care is this game was at home and against an over-matched opponent, seeing such a young team rally from 14 points down and win a game when they didn’t play well for 30 minutes is a good sign.

Akron 68, Mississippi State 58: I touched on Renardo Sidney here, but there is more to this loss than just The Big Enigma.

Arnett Moultrie grabbed 15 rebounds (seven offensive), which was nice, but he shot 2-13 from the floor, many of which were shots around the rim. Granted, a lot of that can be attributed to the defensive presence of Akron’s Zeke Marshall, but that shooting percentage is still a problem. Dee Bost also had a tough game. He finished with 13 points, he was just 2-9 from the floor and 1-6 from three, he had four of Mississippi State’s 19 turnovers and he played far too quickly for a guy that is a point guard on a team with a terrific front line. And all you have to do is search Rick Stansbury on twitter to get a feel for his coaching job.


But the biggest thing you should take away from this game? Akron’s pretty good, bro! They played very well defensively, forcing Mississippi State into some ugly offensive possessions. They not only forced turnovers, they created ‘pick six’ turnovers — jumping passing lanes and making open court steals that led directly to easy buckets at the other end. Zeke Marshall made things very difficult in the lane before he fouled out, Alex Abreu was a terror defensively (six steals), Quincy Diggs scored 19 points and made a lot of plays in transition and Nikola Cvetinovic made a lot of little plays that don’t show up in the score book.

Akron is a well-coached, experienced team coming off of a trip to the NCAA Tournament. This loss is not a good sign for Mississippi State, but its also not as bad as it looks on paper.

No. 19 Texas A&M 81, Liberty 59: This game was over early. Despite playing without head coach Billy Kennedy, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the Aggies were stifling defensively early on, holding the Flames to just 14 first half points. They shot 65.4% from the floor for the game and cruised to the win. Ray Turner was great, scoring 20 points on 9-11 shooting while Elston Turner and David Loubeau chipped in with 16 and 14, respectively. The best news? The Aggies were this impressive despite getting only 10 minutes from Khris Middleton, who left the game with a hamstring injury and is currently day-to-day.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.