Shabazz Napier carries No. 7 UConn into the Sweet 16

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Shabazz Napier has already earned a permanent place in the hearts of UConn fans, but he took a major step in the pursuit of his Kemba Walker moment on Saturday night.

With the No. 7 seed Huskies locked in a battle with No. 2 Villanova, a former Big East rival, Napier buried three straight ridiculous three to extend the UConn lead to as much as 11 points in a 77-65 upset that didn’t really feel all that much like an upset.

In total, Napier scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half despite the fact that: A) he played just eight first half minutes thanks to foul trouble, B) he rolled his left ankle on a jump shot in the first half and C) he suffered some kind of shin injury in the second half that left him writhing in pain and with a bag of ice on his leg before the final buzzer had sounded.

It was just another in a long line of dominant, clutch performances from UConn’s leader this season, far too many to list here.

But here’s the better news: UConn caught a break when they were placed in the East Region. The Sweet 16 and the Elite 8 will be played Madison Square Garden, and as any fan of the Big East will tell you, when UConn plays at the Garden, the Garden is packed. It may not be a home game, per se, but with the winner of No. 3 Iowa State — who will be without Georges Niang — and No. 6 North Carolina up next, there’s no reason to believe that the Huskies can’t pull off a run.

Particularly if they get this kind of play out of Napier.

Here’s the irony, however.

As good as Napier was, the most important part of this game was the play that UConn got off the bench from the likes of Lasan Kromah and Terrence Samuel. Think about it like this: Napier played eight minutes in the first half. Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels finished the night a combined 7-for-22 from the floor. If it wasn’t for Kroman and Samuel combining for 23 points off the bench, the Huskies would not have led at halftime and they would not be heading to the Garden.

But they did, and they are.

 

Arizona PF Ira Lee cited for DUI

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Tuesday afternoon it was announced that Arizona sophomore power forward Ira Lee was been cited for driving under the influence on Saturday.

Lee was ultimately released, and according to the Arizona Daily Star he faces misdemeanor charges for failing to yield at an intersection, driving under the influence as a minor (Lee is 20 years old) and extreme DUI involving a blood-alcohol content above .20. Lee is set to be arraigned on September 10.

In a release the Arizona basketball program announced that the incident has been referred to the Dean of Students for review and “the Athletics Department is reviewing the incident for team consequences.”

As a freshman Lee served as a reserve behind starters Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic in the Arizona front court, averaging 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game. With Ayton and Ristic both off to the professional ranks, Lee is expected to be a key contributor in an Arizona front court that includes transfers Chase Jeter (Duke; sat out last season) and Ryan Luther (Pittsburgh), sophomore Emmanuel Akot and freshman Omar Thielemans.

Loyola celebrity nun Sister Jean celebrating 99th birthday

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CHICAGO (AP) — Sister Jean is celebrating her 99th birthday months after gaining national attention as chaplain of the Loyola-Chicago basketball team that reached the NCAA Final Four.

The university held a campus party with students and school staffers Tuesday for Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt. The Catholic nun became a celebrity last March for her fandom and for praying before each game for her Ramblers — and for their opponents.

Schmidt says her health is better some days than others as she’s been recovering since last year from a broken hip. She received a number 99 basketball jersey and a birthday cake frosted in the team’s maroon and gold colors.

Players say they’re still inspired by her example.

Ramblers guard Marques Townes describes her simply as “Genuine, sincere, passionate, loving, caring, sweetheart.”

NC State PG Blake Harris granted immediate eligibility

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When former Missouri point guard Blake Harris transferred to NC State in January, the expectation was that he would not be eligible to compete until the end of the fall semester. However that will not be the case, as Tuesday afternoon NC State announced that Harris has been granted immediate eligibility.

Harris started nine of the 14 games in which he played at Missouri, averaging 3.8 points and 3.1 assists in just under 14 minutes per game. The addition of the former 4-star prospect gives NC State head coach Kevin Keatts additional depth and talent at the point, which is key given the up-tempo, pressure style the Wolfpack generally play.

In addition to Harris, NC State will also be able to call upon sophomore Braxton Beverly and junior Markel Johnson, with those two being part of a team that won 21 games and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015 last season.

In total NC State will have three transfers from Division I schools eligible to compete in 2018-19, with guards Devon Daniels (Utah) and C.J. Bryce (UNCW) ready to go after sitting out last season.

One player who will not be available for the Wolfpack this season is forward Manny Bates, with it being announced that he will redshirt after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. Bates, a 6-foot-11 forward from Fayetteville, North Carolina, dislocated the shoulder in early August.

The NC State front court will be led by newcomers, with grad transfer Wyatt Walker (Samford) and junior college transfer Derek Funderburk among the options.

Xavier lands commitment from four-star big man

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Xavier picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2019, adding an under-the-radar prospect in Zach Freemantle, a 6-foot-9 forward out of New Jersey.

Freemantle currently ranks 129th in 247 Sports composite ranking, but will likely move up after a strong July landed him a handful of high-major offers.

He’ll join Elias King and Daniel Ramsey, two more four-star prospects, in Travis Steele’s first real recruiting class for the Musketeers.

VIDEO: You need to see this Zion Williamson mixtape

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Zion Williamson made waves across the internet over the weekend as we got our first chance to get a glimpse of college basketball’s resident Viral King in Duke’s exhibition trip up to Canada.

So with that in mind, let’s go back and look at Williamson’s mixtape from his senior season of high school. I’ve never seen someone make in-game windmills and between-the-legs dunks look so commonplace.