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No. 24 SMU beats UConn 80-54 on senior night for Nic Moore

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DALLAS (AP) Sterling Brown scored 20 points and No. 24 SMU beat Connecticut 80-54 on Thursday night in the final home game for seniors Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, the only players with coach Larry Brown for all four of his seasons during an incredible turnaround for the Mustangs.

Moore had 16 points and four assists in his 99th career game for the Mustangs, while Kennedy had only four points but a career-high nine assists. Jordan Tolbert, another senior in his final SMU home game, had 14 points and seven rebounds.

SMU (25-4, 13-4 American Athletic Conference) remained tied with Temple for the conference lead. The Owls, who on Jan. 24 handed the Mustangs their first loss after an 18-0 start, beat Memphis earlier Thursday.

Sterling Gibbs had 20 points for UConn (20-10, 10-7), while Daniel Hamilton had 12.

While the Mustangs can still win or share their second consecutive AAC regular-season title, they are ineligible for any postseason play because of NCAA sanctions handed down in September.

Hamilton’s 3-pointer with 8:13 left in the first half tied the game at 16-all, but UConn had only one more field goal while SMU finished the half with a 22-4 run.

Kennedy made a tiebreaking tip-in with 7:46 left before Sterling Brown hit a 3-pointer and eventually a layup that made it 26-16. Moore also had a layup high off the glass in that spurt of 10 consecutive points for SMU in just over 3 1/2 minutes.

Hamilton ended the Huskies’ scoring drought when he made two free throws with 4 minutes left, but SMU then had a 10-2 run capped by Moore’s three-point play in the closing seconds. Moore made an off-balance shot when stumbling forward after being fouled, and added the free throw.

There was an appropriate stretch early in the game when Moore had assists on consecutive baskets. First came a nifty pass to Kennedy for a two-handed slam, and then one to Tolbert for another score.

Tolbert sat out last season after transferring from Texas Tech. The only other senior player recognized was David Nelson, a former practice player who was put on the roster the second half of this season and appeared briefly in only four games, including a layup in the final minute Thursday.

Moore and Kennedy both had to sit out 2012-13, Brown’s first season, after transferring to SMU. Moore came from Illinois State with his head coach Tim Jankovich, who is Brown’s top assistant, and Kennedy arrived from Villanova.

SMU hadn’t been ranked in 29 years before breaking into the Top 25 in February 2014, late in Moore and Kennedy’s first season. While left out of the NCAA Tournament that season, the Mustangs made it to the NIT championship game.

The Mustangs won the AAC title last season, with Moore the league’s player of the year, and then advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993. Their season ended in a loss to UCLA after a questionable goaltending call in their tournament opener.

If not for NCAA sanctions handed down in September, the Mustangs would be a sure bet to be in the NCAA Tournament field again this season. Instead, their season will be done after Sunday’s regular-season finale at Cincinnati.

PRESIDENTIAL GREETINGS

Just before tip, Moore went to the sideline seats near midcourt to greet two presidents – former U.S. President George W. Bush and R. Gerald Turner, SMU’s president. The rest of the Mustangs starters followed him with some handshakes and hugs.

TIP-INS

UConn: The Huskies lost for the third time in their last four games. … UConn beat SMU 68-62 at home earlier this season, but is 0-4 in the series when the games are in Dallas.

SMU: The Mustangs shot 52 percent (32 of 62) from the field. … SMU had a 42-12 scoring advantage in the paint, and 11-1 on second-chance points.

UP NEXT

UConn hosts UCF on Sunday.

SMU is at Cincinnati on Sunday.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.

Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. returning to school

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Nebraska received some important news on Friday night as senior guard James Palmer Jr. will be back for next season.

The 6-foot-6 Palmer had tested the NBA draft waters, but he decided to return to the Cornhuskers. After putting up 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season, Palmer is expected to be an All-Big Ten candidate once again this season. Palmer shot 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range last season.

After transferring in from Miami, Palmer became the Huskers’ go-to scorer last season in helping Nebraska to a 22-win season and NIT appearance.

With Palmer back, Nebraska will have some legitimate expectations for the upcoming season, especially if the team’s second-leading scorer, Isaac Copeland Jr., also returns from the NBA draft process.