Thursday’s Shootaround: Two undefeateds lose, Creighton upset


No. 12 Georgetown 71, No. 4 Louisville 68: See here

No. 17 Michigan State 80, No. 15 Indiana 65: See here

Missouri State 77, No. 19 Creighton 65: See here

No. 7 Baylor 54, No. 14 Mississippi State 52: I’m torn about how I should interpret this game. The talent level on both teams was evident. Baylor is certainly good enough to make it all the way to New Orleans, especially if Scott Drew can ever figure out how to bring out the mean side of Perry Jones III. The amount of size and athleticism Drew has at his disposal is simply staggering. But Mississippi State has quite a bit of talent themselves, enough that I think they can end up being the second best team in the SEC.

But this game also highlighted why there is so much to be concerned about on each team. I’ll start with Baylor. PJ3 is infuriating to watch at times. He has such an immense amount of talent — I think his worst-case scenario as an NBA player is some cross between Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani — but he is such a passive basketball player. He doesn’t demand the ball the way he should on that team, and when he finally does get it, he’s taking deep jumpers or fading away from contact in the post. If I’m Scott Drew, I pay someone to punch him in the face before every game just to get him pissed off. With PJ3 struggling with his assertiveness on the offensive end of the floor, Pierre Jackson is the guy that has become to go-to player in the Bear’s offense. That’s not a terrible thing — Jackson can create and he’s hit some big, big shots down the stretch of the past few games, including the game-winner Wednesday — but Jackson has a tendency to play a bit out of control. Once he learns to control his absurd athleticism, he’ll be better. But right now, when he is forced to score early, he becomes a gunner. That’s not what Baylor needs.

For Mississippi State, the question isn’t simply their late-game execution. I’m not even going to touch the disaster of a final possession in this space (see here and here for explanation). What I will talk about is Renardo Sidney. With Mississippi State up 52-50 in the final minutes, Sidney was called for his fifth foul when he failed to block out against Quincy Acy. He argued with the official and ended up getting called for a technical foul as well. While the tech didn’t directly cost Mississippi State the game — Baylor ended up missing two of the four free throws they shot — that may not be true next time. And its a shame because Sidney actually played well. We’ve been over this: he is never going to be the superstar he has the potential to be. But he doesn’t need to be for Mississippi State to be a good basketball team. All they need from Sidney is to be a low-post presence, block a shot or two, grab a couple of rebounds and avoid to immature blow-ups. For most of the season, he’s done well. The technical was a slip-up, but its up to Sidney to determine whether this was simply a misstep or a full-blown relapse.

No. 1 Syracuse 75, Seton Hall 49: The Pirates just never had a chance against the Orange. They struggled all game long trying to figure out the 2-3 zone, turning the ball over 23 times (Syracuse had 17 steals) and shooting just 31.4% from the floor. Fab Melo turned in his best performance of his career, finishing with 12 points, seven boards and 10 blocks. So much for that 11-1 start for the Pirates.

No. 2 Ohio State 87, Northwestern 54: Since we’re on the subject, remember how people were saying this could be Northwestern’s year? Not if they continue to put up duds like they did against the Buckeyes. Ohio State used a 14-0 run midway through the first half to take a commanding lead, and the Wildcats were never able to make it interesting. William Buford had 28 points while John Shurna and Drew Crawford combined to go 9-30 from the floor.

No. 9 UConn 60, South Florida 57: The Huskies always seem to struggle with South Florida. On Wednesday, UConn never got into a rhythm offensively. Jeremy Lamb had 23 points, but he was the only Husky in double figures. While Lamb shot 8-11 from the field, the rest of the UConn team was 13-37. As much as Husky fans would like to blame this on not having Jim Calhoun (they got a technical foul before tipoff for not turning their lineup card in on time), UConn’s struggles against inferior competition is starting to get a bit worrisome.

West Virginia 83, Villanova 69: Truck Bryant had a career-high 34 points and combined with freshman Gary Browne to score all 20 points in a game-ending, 20-6 run. Kevin Jones had 13 points and seven boards, but he took a solid elbow from a teammate that opened up a cut over his right eye that required stitches. Jones was a non-factor in the second half, but Bryant put on a show. The duo of Bryant and Jones is as good as any 1-2 punch in the Big East.

Maryland 83, Albany 72: Keep in mind that it came against Maryland, but in his collegiate debut, Alex Len — who missed the first 10 games of the season due to a suspension — had 14 points, eight boards and three blocks. Throw in the 11 points, eight assists and six boards Pe’Shon Howard added, and just maybe the Terps have a shot at sneaking up on some people in the ACC this season.

The rest of the top 25:

No. 3 Kentucky 86, Lamar 64: Terrence Jones returned to the Kentucky lineup for what seems like the first time in a month. He had seven points and six boards in 27 minutes off the bench.

No. 20 UNLV 124, Central Arkansas 75: Two insane stats from this game: the last time UNLV scored this many points, their head coach Dave Rice was wearing a Rebels uniform (1990-91), and UNLV finished with more assists (40) than rebounds (36).

Other notable scores:

– Temple 87, Buffalo 85 OT
– Loyola MD 72, Bucknell 67
– St. Joe’s 81, Morgan State 50
– Drexel 77, Fairfield 69
– Wichita State 90, Bradley 51
– Arkansas 80, Charlotte 67
– North Dakota State 96, Oakland 69
– Gonzaga 90, Portland 51
– New Mexico 89, New Mexico State 69

Top performers:

Cameron Moore, UAB: What’s more impressive than the 19 points and 24 rebounds that Moore had against GW? The fact that GW had 22 rebounds as a team. Moore outrebounds an entire team!

Drew Gordon, New Mexico: The Lobos are a different team now than they were back in November when they lost to New Mexico State at home. Gordon was a perfect example, finishing with 23 points and 19 boards in the 89-69 win

Wendell McKines, New Mexico State: The 25 points and 15 boards he had against Gordon was noteworthy as well.

Mike James, Lamar: Give James credit — he’s fearless. How else would you be able to score 29 points on Kentucky in Rupp?

BJ Monteiro, Duquesne: Monteiro had 28 points and eight boards as the Dukes knocked off a solid Bowling Green team.

Keiton Page, Oklahoma State: The diminutive Paige had 27 points as the Pokes won a much-needed game in double-overtime against SMU in Dallas.

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

Clark, Iowa end perfect South Carolina season in Final Four

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS – Caitlin Clark overwhelmed the reigning champions with another sensational game, scoring 41 points to help Iowa spoil South Carolina’s perfect season with a 77-73 victory on Friday night in the Final Four.

The spectacular junior guard set a record for the highest-scoring semifinal game and became the first women’s player to post back-to-back 40-point games in the NCAA Tournament. She now has the Hawkeyes in a spot they’ve never been in before – one victory away from a national championship.

They’ll have to beat another SEC team to do that as Iowa (31-6) will face LSU in the title game on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers beat Virginia Tech in the other national semifinal.

It’s the Tigers’ first appearance in the title game as Kim Mulkey became the second coach to take two different teams to the championship game.

Thanks to the spectacular play of Clark and the historic year by South Carolina, this was one of the most talked about and highly anticipated matchups in women’s Final Four history,

The game lived up to the hype surrounding it- the best player vs. the best team – much to the delight of the sellout crowd of over 19,000 fans.

Coach Dawn Staley and South Carolina (36-1) had won 42 in a row, including last year’s championship game.

This was Iowa’s first appearance in the Final Four in 30 years. The last time the Hawkeyes advanced this far was 1993 and C. Vivian Stringer was the coach of that team that lost to Ohio State in overtime.

Clark wowed the crowd that included Harper Stribe, a young fan of the team who has been battling cancer. She was featured in a surprise video that informed the Hawkeyes’ star that she was the AP Player of the Year.

Trailing 59-55 entering the fourth quarter, South Carolina scored the first five points to take the lead. Clark answered right back with two deep 3-pointers and an assist to Monika Czinano to give the Hawkeyes a 67-62 lead.

South Carolina got within 69-68 on Raven Johnson’s 3-pointer before Clark got a steal for a layup with 3:32 left. Neither team scored again until star Aliyah Boston was fouled with 1:37 left. She made the second of two free throws.

Clark then scored another layup on the other end out of a timeout to make it a four-point game. After a layup by Zia Cooke made it a two-point game with 58 seconds left, the Hawkeyes ran the clock down with McKenna Warnock grabbing a huge offensive rebound off a Clark miss with 18 seconds remaining.

Clark hit two free throws after South Carolina fouled her with 13.5 seconds left. They were her 38th and 39th point, moving her past Nneka Ogwumike for the most points scored in a Final Four semifinal game.

After a putback by Johnson with 9.9 seconds left got the Gamecocks within 75-73, Clark sealed the game with two more free throws.

As the final seconds went off the clock Clark threw the ball high in the air and galloped around the court.

The loss ended a spectacular season for the defending champion Gamecocks, who were trying to become the 10th team to go through a season unbeaten.

Cooke led the Gamecocks with 24 points. Slowed by foul trouble, Boston had just eight points and 10 rebounds as the Hawkeyes packed the paint, daring South Carolina to shoot from the outside.

The Gamecocks finished 4-for-20 from behind the 3-point line and couldn’t take advantage of their 49-25 advantage on the boards that included 26 offensive rebounds.

Mulkey, LSU women rally in Final Four, reach first title game

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS – Kim Mulkey is back in another national championship game, this time taking the flagship university from her home state there for the first time.

It took LSU only two seasons to get there with the feisty and flamboyantly dressed coach, and a big comeback in the national semifinal game that was quite an undercard Friday night.

Alexis Morris scored 27 points and had two of her misses in the fourth quarter turned into putback baskets by Angel Reese in a big run as LSU rallied to beat top-seeded Virginia Tech 79-72 in the first semifinal game.

“I’m never satisfied. I’m super-excited that we won, but I’m hungry,” said Morris, who jumped on a courtside table and fired up LSU fans after the game. “Like, I’m greedy. I want to win it all so I can complete the story.”

Reese finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds for LSU (33-2), which will play in the national title game Sunday against the winner of the highly anticipated matchup between Southeastern Conference foe South Carolina or Iowa in the other semifinal.

“It’s like a dream. It still hasn’t hit me that I’m at the Final Four,” said Reese, the transfer from Maryland who carries the nickname, ”Bayou Barbie.” “I’m just not even believing this right now. It’s crazy how much my life has changed in one year.”

Mulkey – in a carnation pink top this time – won three national titles in four Final Four appearances over her 21 seasons at Baylor. She is only the second coach to take two different teams to the national championship game. The other is C. Vivian Stringer, who did it with Cheyney in the inaugural 1982 women’s tournament and Rutgers in 2007.

“I came home for lots of reasons,” Mulkey said. “One, to some day hang a championship banner in the PMAC (Pete Maravich Assembly Center). Never, ever do you think you’re going to do something like this in two years.”

LSU made five national semifinal games in a row from 2004-08 – the only times the Tigers had made it this far. They lost each of those years.

The Tigers had to dig deep for this one, with neither team backing down.

Trailing 59-50 after three quarters, LSU went ahead with a 15-0 run over a five-minute span. The Tigers led for the first time since late in the first half when Falu’jae Johnson had a steal and drove for a layup to make it 64-62.

Reese had six points in that game-turning spurt, including a basket after Morris’ attempted 3-pointer clanked off the front rim. Reese had a second-effort follow of her own miss after rebounding another shot by Morris.

Elizabeth Kitley, the 6-foot-6 senior, had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia Tech (31-5), the Atlantic Coast Conference champion that was in the Final Four for the first time. Georgia Amoore and Kayana Traylor each had 17 points, while Cayla King had 14.

Amoore set a record for the most 3-pointers in a single NCAA Tournament with 24, though she had a tough night shooting – 4 of 17 overall, including 4 of 15 from beyond the arc. She passed Kia Nurse’s record 22 set in the 2017 tourney for UConn, which lost in the national semifinals on the same court. Arizona’s Aari McDonald had 22 in six NCAA tourney games two years ago.

The big run for LSU came right after Amoore made her last 3-pointer with 7:52 left for a 62-57 lead. The Hokies didn’t make another basket until King’s 3 with 1:19 left.

“I think we had a few crucial turnovers as well as missed box-outs where they scored on second-chance opportunities,” Traylor said. “I think that’s just what it came down to really.”

Morris had opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer for LSU, then had a driving layup before Reese had a layup after a steal by Johnson. That quick 7-0 run prompted a timeout by Hokies coach Kenny Brooks.

“They hit a couple of shots, gave them a little bit of momentum. They hit a 3 right off the bat … kind of changed the momentum,” Brooks said. “They were aggressive in the passing lanes. But they also were a little bit more aggressive down low.”

Virginia Tech had ended the first half with its own 11-0 run to lead for the first time, at 34-32 on Traylor’s driving layup with 53 seconds left.

But it was the Tigers who led for 17:55 of the first half with the Hokies getting off to a slow start shooting – they missed eight of their first nine shots – that an LSU cheerleader had an assist even before they officially had a shot.

King was charged with a turnover on a ball that hit the rim and bounced over the top of the backboard and got stuck there. With encouragement from officials and others at that end, a male cheerleader lifted up a female cheerleader, who knocked the ball down.

Gradey Dick to leave Kansas for NBA draft after one season

Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas sharpshooter Gradey Dick is entering the NBA draft after one season with the Jayhawks.

The 6-foot-8 guard announced his decision in a social media post Friday.

Dick started all 36 games for the Jayhawks and averaged 14.1 points while shooting better than 40% from 3-point range. He made 83 3-pointers, a program record for a freshman.

Kansas lost to Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, with Dick scoring just seven points in his finale.

Marquette’s Shaka Smart voted men’s AP coach of the year

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Shaka Smart has packed an entire career’s worth of experiences into 14 years as a college head coach. He led VCU to an improbable Final Four as a 30-something wunderkind in 2011, guided mighty Texas to a Big 12 Tournament title during six otherwise tepid years in Austin, and now has turned Marquette into a Big East beast.

It’s sometimes easy to forget he’s still just 45 years old.

Yet his work with the Golden Eagles this season might have been his best: Picked ninth in the 11-team league by its coaches, they won the regular-season title going away, then beat Xavier to win their first Big East Tournament championship.

That earned Smart the AP coach of the year award Friday. He garnered 24 of 58 votes from a national media panel to edge Kansas State’s Jerome Tang, who received 13 votes before guiding the Wildcats to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, and Houston’s Kelvin Sampson, who earned 10 before taking the Cougars to the Sweet 16.

Voting opened after the regular season and closed at the start of the NCAA Tournament, where the No. 2 seed Golden Eagles were knocked out in the second round by Michigan State and Smart’s longtime mentor, Tom Izzo.

“I’m very grateful to win this award,” said Smart, the second Marquette coach to take it home after Hall of Famer Al McGuire in 1971, “but obviously it always comes back to the guys you have on your team.

“Early on,” Smart said, “we had a real sense the guys had genuine care and concern for one another, and we had a very good foundation for relationships that we could continue to build on. And over the course of seasons, you go through so many different experiences as a team. And those experiences either bring you closer together or further apart. Our guys did a great job, even through adverse experiences, even through challenges, becoming closer together.”

It’s hardly surprising such cohesion is what Smart would choose to remember most from a most memorable season.

The native of Madison, Wisconsin, who holds a master’s degree in social science from California University of Pennsylvania, long ago earned a reputation for building close bonds with players and a tight-knit camaraderie within his teams.

No matter how high or low the Golden Eagles were this season, those traits carried them through.

“Everything that we go through, whether it be the retreat that we went on before the season, all the workouts in the summer, he’s preaching his culture,” said Tyler Kolek, a third-team All-American. “And he’s showing his leadership every single day, and just trying to impart that on us, and kind of put it in our DNA. Because it’s definitely in his DNA.”

That’s reflected in the way Smart, who accepted the Marquette job two years ago after an often bumpy tenure at Texas, has rebuilt the Golden Eagles program after it had begun to languish under Steve Wojciechowski.

Sure, Smart landed his share of transfers – Kolek among them – in an era in which the portal has become so prevalent. But he largely built a team that finished 29-7 this season around high school recruits, eschewing a quick fix in the hopes of long-term stability. Among those prospects were Kam Jones, their leading scorer, and do-everything forward David Joplin.

“He teaches us lots of things about the importance of each other,” Joplin said. “He lets us know, time and time again, that we can’t do anything without each other, but together we can do anything.”

That sounds like a decidedly old-school approach to building a college basketball program.

One embraced by a still-youthful head coach.

“I think being a head coach has never been more complicated, never been more nuanced, and never more all-encompassing,” Smart told the AP in a wide-ranging interview last week. “Does that mean it’s harder? You could say that.

“What makes your job less hard,” Smart said, “is having a captive audience in your players, and guys that truly understand and own what goes into winning, and that’s what we had this past year. But those things just don’t happen. There are a lot of steps that have to occur on the part of a lot of people, not just the coach, to get to where you have a winning environment.”

Purdue’s Zach Edey named AP men’s player of the year

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Zach Edey spent the days following Purdue’s historic NCAA Tournament loss lying low, his phone turned off, along with the rest of the outside world.

The disappointing finish did little to diminish the season the Boilermakers big man had.

Dominating at both ends of the floor during the regular season, Edey was a near-unanimous choice as The Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year. Edey received all but one vote from a 58-person media panel, with Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis getting the other.

“The season ended in disappointment, which really sucks, but it’s always nice to win individual accolades,” Edey said. “It kind of validates your work a little bit. The last three years I’ve played here, I’ve seen my game grow every year. AP player of the year is a great feeling, it just kind of stinks the way the season ended.”

That ending came in the NCAA Tournament’s first round, when Purdue lost to Fairleigh Dickinson, joining Virginia in 2018 as the only No. 1 seeds to lose to a No. 16.

Before that, Edey dominated.

The 7-foot-4 Canadian was named a unanimous AP All-American and the Big Ten player of the year after finishing sixth nationally in scoring (22.3), second in rebounding (12.8) and first in double-doubles (26).

Edey also shot 62% from the floor and averaged 2.1 blocked shots per game while leading Purdue to its first outright Big Ten regular-season title since 2017. He is the first player since Navy’s David Robinson in 1985-86 to have at least 750 points, 450 rebounds and 50 blocked shots in a season.

“He’s kind of a one of a kind,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “I’ve never played with someone like him, probably never will again.”

And to think, Edey didn’t want to play basketball when he was younger.

A hockey and baseball player growing up in Toronto, Edey resisted basketball at first. He was 6-2 by the sixth grade and the natural inclination by the adults was to push him toward basketball, where his size would be a massive advantage.

“It was something I kind avoided all my life.,” Edey said. “I didn’t like people telling me what I should be doing with my life and it felt like that’s what people were doing with basketball. When I started playing competitively, that’s when I really fell in love with the sport.”

Edey developed his game quickly. He played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and proved himself against some of the nation’s best high school players, drawing attention from college coaches. He ended up at Purdue, where coach Matt Painter had a proven track record of developing big men.

Edey had a limited role as a freshman, then averaged 14.4 points and 7.7 rebounds last season on a team that had talented big man Trevion Williams and future NBA lottery pick Jaden Ivey.

Already a tireless worker, Edey put in even more time during the offseason, spending extra time after practice and taking better care of his body. His already solid footwork got better, he added quickness and developed more patience with the constant double teams he faced – not to mention the barrage of physical play teams tried to employ against him.

“There’s not really any kind of cool, sexy answer,” Edey said. “I came in every day, I worked hard, I stayed after practice – stayed a long time after practice. I took care of my body and was able to steadily improve. There was nothing revolutionary I did. I just worked hard.”

It certainly paid off, even if the season ended with a huge disappointment.