Late Night Snacks: Saint Mary’s, California improve respective resumes

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Game of the Night: Saint Mary’s 64, BYU 57

The Gaels, in the first of two games that will have a significant impact on their NCAA tournament hopes, did enough late to hold off the Cougars in Moraga. Matthew Dellavedova scored 20 points and Beau Levesque added 17 for the Gaels, who host Creighton on Saturday evening in an important non-conference battle.

Brandon Davies paced BYU with 25 points but the Cougars are now 0-2 against the Gaels this season, and even if they beat No. 3 Gonzaga next Thursday BYU will most likely need to win the WCC tournament in order to get to the Big Dance.

Important Outcomes 

1. California 48, No. 23 Oregon 46

A Justin Cobbs jumper with seven tenths of a second gave the Golden Bears their sixth win in the last seven games, while also tightening things atop the Pac-12 standings. Cobbs finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and with a sweep of the Ducks and a win over No. 12 Arizona to their credit the Golden Bears have two key tiebreakers in their possession. Oregon was once again without point guard Dominic Artis, and Arsalan Kazemi tallied 11 points and 18 rebounds inside.

2. Temple 82, La Salle 74

La Salle entered the Liacouras Center with hopes of winning their first-ever outright Big 5 title, but left having to share it with the rival Owls. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson was outstanding for Temple, finishing with 23 points, 18 rebounds and five assists to lead four Owls in double figures. Temple picks up another quality win for their resume, and it remains to be seen just how many teams the Atlantic 10 (six?) can get into the field of 68.

3. Illinois 64, Penn State 59 

The Fighting Illini didn’t shoot particularly well (39.5%) but they did enough to hold off a Penn State team that’s now 0-14 in Big Ten play. D.J. Richardson (18 points) and Brandon Paul (16) led the way for Illinois, who avoided what would have been a bad loss from a resume standpoint. The Nittany Lions may still be winless in Big Ten play but Patrick Chambers’ team continues to play hard, and Jermaine Marshall scored a game-high 20 points to pace PSU. Their best shot at a league win: March 7 at Northwestern.

Starred

1. F Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (Temple) 

Hollis-Jefferson was the star of the Owls’ 82-74 win over La Salle, finishing with 23 points, 18 rebounds and five assists. The point and rebound totals are both career-highs for him.

2. G/F Nick Paulos (UNC Greensboro) 

Paulos was hot from beyond the arc in the Spartans’ 94-68 win over Chattanooga, hitting ten of 12 from deep and scoring 30 points. As a team UNCG shot 20-of-36 from three.

3. G Devon Saddler (Delaware) 

Saddler finished with 31 points (9-of-14 FG, 11-of-15 FT), two assists and two steals in the Blue Hens’ 73-71 double overtime win over Drexel.

Struggled

1. Chattanooga’s three-point defense

The Mocs entered Thursday’s home game against UNC Greensboro allowing SoCon opponents to hit 37.7% of their three-pointers, a figure that ranked 11th in the conference. UNCG shot 20-of-36 from three, rolling to the 94-68 victory.

2. F E.J. Singler (Oregon) 

Singler had a rough night offensively, shooting 1-of-12 and scoring seven points in the Ducks’ 48-46 loss to California.

3. Fairleigh Dickinson players not named Kinu Rochford

Rochford shot 10-of-15 from the field in the Knights’ 69-63 loss at Saint Francis (PA), scoring 21 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. His teammates combined to shoot 16-of-50 (32%).

Three Facts 

1. Middle Tennessee wrapped up the Sun Belt regular season title with an 85-50 win over South Alabama, guaranteeing the Blue Raiders of an automatic bid to the postseason NIT should they need it. Kermit Davis’ team has been the class of the Sun Belt, and obviously they hope the distinction translates into a trip to the NCAA tournament after they were upset in last year’s conference tournament.

2. The leaders in the race for Big East Coach of the Year are likely Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Georgetown’s John Thompson III and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, but Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie deserves some recognition as well. The Huskies moved to 8-5 in league play with a 73-66 overtime victory over Cincinnati, with Shabazz Napier scoring 27 points to lead the way.

3. Ryley Beaumont’s layup with eight seconds remaining proved to be the difference in Elon’s 63-62 win over Samford, clinching the North Division title (Southern Conference) for the Phoenix.

Top 25 Scores 

No. 6 Duke 88, Virginia Tech 56

California 48, No. 23 Oregon 46

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.