Week in Review: Kevin Jones and Seton Hall get love, but the Big East doesn’t

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The #BIAHRoadTrip will be cutting into our national coverage a bit, so the Week in Review’s will be limited over the next three weeks.

Player of the Week: Kevin Jones, West Virginia

All of a sudden, the Mountaineers look like a team that has to be considered a contender in a wide-open Big East. After winning at Rutgers (a place when both Florida and UConn have fallen in the past two weeks) by 21 and knocking off Georgetown by 12 in Morgantown, the ‘Eers are sitting at 12-4 overall and 3-1 in the Big East, just a game off the pace set by Syracuse. And Jones, as much as anyone, is the reason for that.

He finished the week with 36 points and 30 boards in the two games, moving his season averages to Big East highs of 19.8 ppg and 11.9 rpg. He also played 78 of 80 minutes in the two games, which isn’t exactly unusual for a guy that averages 37.1 mpg. As good as Herb Pope and Henry Sims have been, Jones is making a very strong case as the best big man in the Big East. The scary part? There is still room for him to improve. KJ has always been a good three-point shooter, but he’s hitting just 23.3% from beyond the arc this season. What happens when he regains that stroke?

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: Kevin Dillard, Dayton: The Flyers moved themselves right back into the conversation for the Atlantic 10’s top team as they knocked off both St. Louis and Temple. Dillard was instrumental in that performance, averaging 17 points and 9 assists in the two games.

G: Jordan Theodore, Seton Hall: Theodore led the Pirates to their first national ranking in over a decade thanks to wins over UConn and at Providence. Theordore averaged 16.5 ppg, 10.0 apg and 4.5 spg on the week.

G: Damien Lillard, Weber State: Doug McDermott gets all the mid-major love, but Lillard is having an incredible season out at Weber State. After scoring 68 points, grabbing 12 boards and handing out 10 assists while shooting 12-21 from three in two wins last week, he’s now averaging 26.3 ppg on the season.

F: Travis Releford, Kansas: Releford may strides towards becoming that second weapon for the Jayhawks offensively, going for 16 points and 11 boards in a big win over Kansas State and following that up with a career-high 28 points in a win over Oklahoma.

F: Royce White, Iowa State: The Cyclone’s point forward thrust ISU into the national picture by leading them to big wins over both Texas and Texas A&M. He averaged 12.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and 6.0 apg in the two games, including a 10 point, 18 rebound and 10 assists performance against the Aggies. Imagine, now, if he shot better than 10-21 from the free throw line.

F: Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts: No one in the country is playing better than Dominique Morrison is right now. In the last seven games, he is scoring 26.0 ppg while shooting 61.8% from the field, 63.6% (28/44) from three and 89.9% (44/49) from the line. ORU is 7-0 in that stretch, including wins against Texas Tech, at Xavier and, in the last week, at Oakland and at home against North Dakota State and South Dakota State. In the win over SDSU on Saturday, Morrison scored 38 points as the Golden Eagles moved a game in front of the Jackrabbits for first place in the Summit.

Team of the Week: Seton Hall

The Pirates earned their first national ranking in more than a decade on Monday, and they have a legitimate gripe that they are still being underrated. The AP put the Pirates at 24th and the Coaches left the unranked. Frankly, the Pirates have a legitimate case to be considered for the top 15. Just take a look at who they’ve beaten: VCU, Dayton, UConn, St. Joe’s, West Virginia. There are not many teams in the country that can boast that kind of resume right now.

This week, the Pirates looked at their best. They ran the Huskies out of the gym on Tuesday, getting 19 points and 11 assists out of point guard Jordan Theodore, and followed that up with a tough win on the road against a better than you think Providence team. As good as Theodore has played and as impressive as Herb Pope has been this year, don’t forget about Fuquan Edwin, who went for 24 points, nine boards and five steals against Providence after notching a double-double against UConn.

Five more teams that impressed:

Dayton Flyers: The Flyers are making a strong case to be considered the favorite to win the Atlantic 10 this season. They started off league play with wins over St. Louis at home and followed that up with a win at Temple just three days after the Owls knocked off Duke in the same building.

Colorado Buffaloes: So guess who the only undefeated team left in the Pac-12 is? Granted, all three of Colorado’s wins have come at home and two of them were against Washington State and Utah (Washington the third). We’ll learn a lot more about this group as they head to the Bay Area to take on Cal and Stanford the week. Could a team that lost Alex Burks and Cory Higgins really be the Pac-12’s best this season?

George Mason Patriots: The Patriots got off to a slow start this season, but it looks like Paul Hewitt’s club is finally starting to hit their stride. This week, they won at Old Dominion and snapped Georgia State’s 11 game winning streak to move to 4-0 in the CAA.

Arkansas Razorbacks: Arkansas got a nice start to conference play as they knocked off visiting Mississippi State 98-88 despite not having Marshon Powell, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Julysses Noble and BJ Young both went for 24 points to lead five players in double figures.

La Salle Explorers: La Salle was picked to finish 11th in the Atlantic 10, but they have been quietly surging, winning 10 of their last 11 games. They put together a dominating performance in a win over Xavier on Wednesday and followed that up by knocking off another sneakily successful team in UMass.

Five Thoughts:

Todd O’Brien needs to put up or shut up: The latest in the Todd O’Brien hostage crisis is that his most recent appeal to the NCAA has been denied. He has come out and said that he is willing to waive the privacy laws if St. Joe’s wants to tell the world why he is not being allowed to play at UAB this season. Well, Todd, if you don’t care if the information comes out, than why don’t you just tell everyone the truth? I know that college coaches can be vindictive SOB’s, but I refuse to believe that Phil Martelli and St. Joe’s would take this kind of PR hit without having what they believed was a valid justification for ending this young man’s collegiate career.

I think it is incredibly unfair that coaches and schools are able to wield this kind of power. I think that it is one of the first rules that needs to be changed in college athletics. And I think that Martelli is being unreasonable. This decision needs to get reversed. But to paint Todd O’Brien as an angel that is being tortured by Martelli for the fun of it is incorrect. There is more to this than you think.

The Big East is way, way down: Syracuse is ranked No. 1 in the country, and deservedly so. They are undefeated, they are drilling good teams (ask Seton Hall) and they have the roster make up that puts them up with the UNCs and UKs of the world as legitimate national title contenders. But after that? Pitt has lost to Notre Dame and DePaul and is currently winless in league play. Villanova is 1-3 in the conference with a 17 point loss to South Florida at home and their only win coming against DePaul. UConn got smacked around by Seton Hall on Tuesday and then lost at Rutgers on Saturday. Louisville has proven themselves to be more overrated than we initially thought, losing to Notre Dame in double-overtime at home. Hell, even Marquette has tumbled after a strong start to the year.

With all due respect to Cincinnati, West Virginia and Seton Hall, when they all can legitimately be considered top five teams in the Big East, you know the league is down.

Be worried about Missouri: There is valid reason to be alarmed by Missouri’s loss at Kansas State on Saturday. They were manhandled. There are two concerns about this Tiger team: 1) Can they beat teams with a powerful front line by playing four guards?; and 2) Are they going to be able to win on the road this year? They did against Old Dominion last Saturday. They didn’t this Saturday. On Wednesday they are at Iowa State and on January 21st they are at Baylor. It will be interesting to see what happens in those two games.

The Pac-12 and ACC are going to get more bids than you think: Why? Its simple math. There have to be 37 at-large teams, and once you get towards the bottom of the pool, there really isn’t all that much to work with. The bubble is going to be very weak once again this year, which means that a team from the Pac-12 or the ACC that didn’t little to nothing in non-conference play is going to sneak in because they put together a solid season in their league. I’d say that the Pac-12 gets three and the ACC gets five.

Who those teams are, however, is anyone’s guess at this point.

Royce White can play: I gotta admit, I’m rooting for Royce White. He’s brought most of his issues on himself, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been through an incredible amount in the first two years of his collegiate experience. I got a chance to see him play on Wednesday against Texas, and he was out there playing great basketball with a big smile on his face. Good for him.

Duke women’s coach Kara Lawson says men’s ball used vs. FSU

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Duke coach Kara Lawson said her team played with a men’s basketball for the first half of a loss to Florida Stated.

The 16th-ranked Blue Devils lost to the Seminoles 70-57 in Tallahassee, Florida – the team’s second Atlantic Coast Conference loss of the season.

After her team beat Pittsburgh 53-44 , Lawson ended her news conference by speaking animatedly.

“This would never happen in a men’s game. This would never happen. It’s embarrassing for our sport,” she said.

The circumference of a women’s ball is about an inch smaller than a men’s ball and it is typically 2 ounces lighter. While it may not seem like a lot, that’s a big difference.

Lawson said throughout the first half, Duke players were “complaining about the ball.” The Blue Devils were 7 for 34 from the field in the opening 20 minutes of that game. They were 12 for 38 in the second half. Florida State made 10 of its 30 shots in the first two quarters and 14 of 31 in the second half.

“To have a game that, at the end of the season, could be the difference between a seed, between a title, my players don’t deserve that and neither do their players,” Lawson said. “It’s a complete failure. And you can figure out who the people I’m talking about that failed the sport and our players and both teams.”

Lawson said assistant coach Winston Gandy went to the scorer’s table at the half to check on the ball when he realized what the problem was. She said the game officials changed the ball to start the second half.

“We have concluded through our investigation that it was a men’s ball,” Lawson said. “The conference and Florida State is saying that it wasn’t.”

The ACC said it did a comprehensive review talking with game officials, administrators, the table crew and both schools.

“Following the thorough and objective review process, there was no evidence found to support the claim,” the conference said in a statement. “Per NCAA playing rules, there is no appeal or protest process.”

The ACC has instituted a procedural change that the game ball will be brought to the pregame meeting with the captains for approval.

“It’s very frustrating that (the game) … was not treated with the utmost respect that players on both teams deserve,” she said.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened in women’s basketball. In 2017, the College of Charleston played home games and practiced with men’s balls for most of its season until the error was was discovered.

“Let me be clear: Florida State beat us. They beat us playing with a men’s ball in the first half and a women’s ball in the second half. But I can’t say if we’d have played with a women’s ball in the first half and the second half that we would have won. But they can’t say that either,” Lawson said.

No. 1 South Carolina wins 28th straight 87-69 over ‘Cats

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Dawn Staley’s pleased South Carolina had made its once-lopsided series with UConn more competitive the past few years.

She hopes her top-ranked team can accomplish another milestone when the teams meet for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

“It still stands true that we haven’t won up there,” Staley said.

Aliyah Boston had 14 points and 14 rebounds as South Carolina prepared for the top-five showdown with an 87-69 victory over Kentucky on Thursday night.

The Gamecocks (10-0 Southeastern Conference) improved to 22-0 and won their 28th straight, a run that included a 64-49 victory over the Huskies in Minneapolis last April to win the national championship.

Staley had lost her first seven games as South Carolina coach against UConn. The Gamecocks have won three of the past four matchups since.

“This particular class committed to each other,” Staley said. “When you have that type of commitment and you just want to win, you find yourself winning some games that you haven’t won before.”

Against Kentucky, reigning AP player of the year Boston extended her school mark with her 75th career double-double and moved within 11 of the SEC record of 86 games with a double-double held by LSU great Sylvia Fowles.

Things weren’t perfect for South Carolina, which fell behind early, then had its 15-point halftime lead cut to 54-48 midway through the third quarter.

Still, its dominant inside game – South Carolina outscored the Wildcats 62-14 in the paint – was more than enough to shut down Kentucky (10-12, 2-8), the last team to defeat the defending national champions at the SEC Tournament last March.

The Wildcats went on top 16-15 after a pair of baskets by Adebola Adeyeye.

That’s when South Carolina, fueled by its bench, took control with a 17-2 run. Ashlyn Watkins had three inside shots and Kamilla Cardoso scored four points during the surge.

The Wildcats used a 13-4 burst to start the third quarter to give South Carolina a few uncomfortable moments. But the Gamecocks got going once more with an 11-0 run to extend their margin.

Cardoso, the 6-foot-7 reserve, had 14 points and five of South Carolina’s 14 blocks. Defensive ace Brea Beal had 10 including both of the Gamecocks’ 3-pointers.

Beal thought the team held together well to blunt Kentucky’s runs and regain control. “I think it’s our mental aspect of the game and us believing in each other,” she said.

Robyn Benton had 24 points to lead Kentucky, which has lost three of its past four games.

Wildcats coach Kyra Elzy said South Carolina is difficult to match up with because of its deep bench. “They have depth after depth after depth,” she said. “They keep coming.”

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats are the not the same team that featured two-time SEC player of the year Rhyne Howard the past few seasons. They have 10 newcomers – and six freshmen – who are still learning how to play against the SEC’s top teams like South Carolina.

South Carolina: Forgive the Gamecocks if their focus wasn’t fully on this one at first with a big week ahead. In an eight-game span, South Carolina will face No. 5 UConn and No. 3 LSU, a pair of high-profile games could expose any flaw – or show how powerful the Gamecocks are in chasing a second straight NCAA crown.

UCONN KARMA

South Carolina has opened 22-0 twice under coach Dawn Staley, in 2014-15 and the following year. Both runs ended against UConn. Next up for Gamecocks are the Huskies, although South Carolina has won three of the past four games over UConn including last April’s 64-49 victory to win the NCAA Tournament title.

UP NEXT

Kentucky returns home to face Alabama on Feb. 9.

South Carolina heads to No. 5 UConn on Sunday.

Miles, Citron lead No. 9 Irish past Boston College 72-59

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BOSTON — Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron had already scored 10 straight points to put away Boston College when they turned their attention to other things.

“I told Sonia I needed two more assists for the double-double. And she was like, `All right, I’ve got you,”‘ Miles said after helping No. 9 Notre Dame beat BC 72-59 on Thursday night.

“That’s just kind of our communication on the court,” said Miles, who found Citron for baskets on the next two Irish possessions to complete a 14-0 run – with all 14 points from Miles and Citron. “We just really play off each other really well.

Miles scored 22 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Citron scored 23 for the Irish (18-2, 9-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Maria Gakdeng scored 16 points, T’Yana Todd had 13 and Andrea Daly scored 10 with eight rebounds for BC (14-11, 4-8). The Irish beat BC at home 85-48 on New Year’s Day but hadn’t won in Chestnut Hill since 2019.

“This is such a tough place to play,” said Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey, whose team faces No. 16 Duke next. “We’ll celebrate it until about 12:30, and then we’ve got film. Tomorrow we start focusing on Duke.”

BC came within five points, 55-50, before the Irish ran off 14 points in a row – nine by Citron, and five by Miles. That put an end to what had been a back-and-forth game in which the Irish opened big leads and then frittered them away.

“I always feel like we’re close,” BC coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said. “They’re young; I think consistency comes with experience.

“I think it’s a big improvement from the first time we played Notre Dame,” she said. “I still want to see more, and I want to see us grow up as fast as humanly possible because I think we do have a dangerous team when we going well.”

Notre Dame led by 11 in the first quarter and held a 38-30 lead with two minutes gone in the third. BC scored 13 of the next 18 points, capitalizing on back-to-back Irish turnovers to tie it 43-all with three minutes left in the quarter.

But Natalija Marshall put back the rebound of her own miss, Miles drove to the basket, Maddy Westbeld added a pair of baskets and then Miles stole the ball and found Citron on the fast break to make it 53-43.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame bounced back from their first league loss of the season, a 69-65 defeat at North Carolina State on Sunday. Now they face No. 16 Duke.

The Eagles, who beat Pittsburgh on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak, were looking for their second victory over a Top 25 team this season, having also beaten then-No. 10 N.C. State on Jan. 5.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: Hosts No. 16 Duke on Sunday.

Boston College: Visits Syracuse on Sunday.

No. 16 Xavier beats No. 17 Providence 85-83 in OT thriller

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CINCINNATI — Jack Nunge had 23 points and 14 rebounds as No. 16 Xavier held off No. 17 Providence 85-83 in an overtime thriller Wednesday night.

Colby Jones and Souley Boum each scored 20 for the Musketeers, who won a first-place showdown in the Big East without injured forward Zach Freemantle.

Noah Locke had 22 points and Ed Croswell added 21 for Providence (17-6, 9-3), which had beaten Xavier three straight times.

A layup by Boum put the Musketeers (18-5, 10-2) ahead 82-79 with 51 seconds remaining in overtime. A turnover by the Musketeers led to a layup by Devin Carter that cut Xavier’s lead to one with 24 seconds left.

Boum hit one of two free throws, and Jared Bynum’s 3-point attempt from the left corner rimmed out at the buzzer as the Musketeers held on.

Xavier played its first game without Freemantle, the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. He is expected to miss four weeks with a left foot injury, the same foot that required surgery in 2021.

Jerome Hunter, who has excelled off the bench for the Musketeers, made his first start of the season and scored nine points with eight rebounds. Xavier had used the same starting lineup in each of its previous 11 Big East games.

Things started well for the Musketeers. who went on a 12-1 run to build a 25-11 lead.

With Boum on the bench with two fouls, the Musketeers didn’t have a field goal in the final 4:18 of the first half and the Friars pulled to 39-35 at halftime.

Providence outscored Xavier 8-2 to start the second half and took its first lead, 43-41, with 17:41 left.

There was a frantic finish to the second half, with Adam Kunkel’s 3-pointer putting Xavier ahead 76-73 with 55 seconds left. But then Bynum banked in a tying 3 and Boum missed two long shots to send the game to overtime.

BIG PICTURE

Providence: The Friars, who won their first Big East regular-season title last year, entered the night tied atop the conference standings with Xavier and No. 14 Marquette, which hosted Villanova later. Providence was picked fifth in the preseason.

Xavier: Hunter, who averages 14 minutes, left with three minutes remaining in OT with an apparent cramp in his right leg. With Freemantle out, Hunter played 36 minutes.

UP NEXT

Providence: Hosts last-place Georgetown on Wednesday.

Xavier: Will host St. John’s on Saturday.

Florida upends No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 behind Colin Castleton

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Colin Castleton had 20 points and nine rebounds, Kyle Lofton added 14 points and Florida used a 13-0 run late in the second half to upend No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 on Wednesday night.

The Volunteers, playing with their highest ranking in four years, lost for the first time in five games. They had won nine of 10.

Tennessee (18-4, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) looked like it had taken control midway through the second half. They outscored Florida by 10 points in the early going to take a six-point lead.

But the Gators (13-9, 6-3) stormed back behind Castleton, who scored 11 of 14 points as Florida rallied. The senior had a dunk, two free throws, a three-point play, a layup and a short jumper – essentially putting the team on his back down the stretch.

Myreon Jones and Will Richard chipped in nine points apiece for the Gators.

Zakai Ziegler led the Vols with 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Olivier Nkamhoua added 11 points and nine rebounds for the vistors, who also got 11 points and eight boards from Vescovi Santiago.

Florida led 27-21 at halftime, just the fifth time the Volunteers has trailed at the break this season. Tennessee rallied to win three of the previous four.

The Gators were red hot to start, making six of their first eight shots – including all three from 3-point range – while building a 17-4 advantage. But they quickly cooled against the nation’s best defense, missing nine of their next 11 as Tennessee made cut it to 22-21.

The Vols had it going coming out of the locker room, with Ziegler getting into the paint and making things happen. But it was short-lived – thanks mostly to Castleton.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Tennessee surely will drop a few spots in next week’s AP Top 25 college basketball poll.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers gave up 10 points in the opening four minutes of the games, a rare sluggish start for the nation’s best defense. Tennessee had held four of its first eight SEC opponents scoreless at the first media timeout, roughly the first four minutes of games. It was a sign of things to come.

Florida: The Gators have been resilient much of the season, and this was arguably the most impressive comeback of the season for coach Todd Golden’s team. The Gators squandered a 13-point lead early and a six-point advantage in the second half. But they rallied when it mattered.

IN THE HOUSE

Football coach Billy Napier watched the game from a few rows behind Florida’s bench alongside his two sons and receiver Ricky Pearsall. Former Florida tennis star Ben Shelton, the NCAA singles champion in 2022, also was in attendance. So was former Gators and NFL quarterback Doug Johnson.

UP NEXT

Tennessee hosts No. 25 Auburn and former coach Bruce Pearl on Saturday.

Florida plays at Kentucky on Saturday. The Gators have lost seven of eight in the series.