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No. 3 Villanova routs No. 15 Xavier as Hart, Jenkins score 20 apiece

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Kris Jenkins hit four threes and scored a team-high 20 points to lead five players in double-figures as No. 3 Villanova made something of a statement with a 79-54 win over No. 15 Xavier.

The Musketeers took a 24-16 lead at one point in the first half, but Villanova responded with a 23-4 run at the end of the first half and the start of the second half to blow the game open. The game was never in doubt in the second half.

Here are four things we can take away from yet another dominant Villanova win in The Pavilion:

1. It’s never going to be easy to win in The Pavilion: If anyone not named Villanova is going to win the Big East this season, they’re probably going to have to win at Villanova, and if there’s anything that we’ve learned over the course of the last three-and-a-half seasons, it’s that winning in Philly is not an easy thing to do when you’re not playing the 76ers.

Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins have lost just seven Big East games in their careers; 14 games in total. Just two of those losses came at home, and both of those home losses came in the Wells Fargo Center – the NBA arena downtown – instead of the The Pavilion – the facility on campus. Villanova has never lost a home game out of conference, either, meaning that there is not a single player on Jay Wright’s roster that has ever lost a game in The Pavilion.

Xavier is a really good team, one that, with Myles Davis back in the lineup, has as much of an argument for being the second-best team in the league as Butler or Creighton.

And they still, for the second consecutive season, got utterly humiliated by Villanova in that building.

2. The Wildcats don’t need Josh Hart to play well to be great: Yes, Hart finished with 20 points, six boards and five assists, but the majority of his damage came after the game was more-or-less decided. I think even he would admit that he put up those numbers despite not playing his best basketball, and that’s a scary thing to think about with this team, because Josh Hart is the current leader in the clubhouse for the National Player of the Year award. On Tuesday night, it was Jenkins that carried the Wildcats early on, as he hit three of his four threes and sparked the run at the end of the first half.

And it was probably nice for Villanova fans to see Jenkins get into a rhythm again. After a somewhat slow start to the season, he’s hit for at least 20 points in three of the last four games and has at least three threes in all five of Villanova’s Big East games.

3. You can’t go small against Villanova: That’s their bread and butter. You don’t want to let them get their death lineup – Brunson, DiVincenzo/Booth, Bridges, Hart and Jenkins – on the floor without having to risk dealing with a big man on the interior. That’s precisely what Xavier did late in the second half, and it cost them. The Musketeers scored just 30 points in the final 28 minutes of the game, and on the night shot just 29.3 percent from the floor. Some of that are just the issues that Xavier has in their roster construction – we’ll get to that in a second – but much of that number is simply a result of Villanova’s effectiveness when they can switch every exchange without have to worry about Jalen Brunson ending up trying to guard a 6-foot-10 center in the post.

4. Xavier cannot fall into the trap of trying to be a three-point shooting team: They just simply don’t have enough good shooters to do it, but that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night in Philly. Xavier was 5-for-10 from three during the stretch when they opened up a 24-16 lead on Villanova. They finished the night going 6-for-32 from beyond the arc, meaning that in the final 28 minutes of the game, they shot 22 three-pointers and made just a single one.

That’s a problem. The return of Myles Davis – who was 0-for-4 in his first game back with the team after a 15-game suspension – should help solve that. His return should also help open up their half court offense as well, as he’s one of the best playmakers and facilitators on the roster. But his presence on the floor doesn’t change the fact that 28 threes were shot by his teammates.

And, quite frankly, if Xavier is going to try to win games that way, it’s not going to be all that effective.

South Carolina’s Martin understands Bowen’s choice to leave

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s Frank Martin understood all along he might never get to coach Brian Bowen in a game and is just happy the 6-foot-7 forward whose name is part of the federal corruption case in college basketball had the chance to spend a few months with the Gamecocks.

Bowen gave up his college career to turn pro last month when the NCAA informed South Carolina he would miss at least all of next season — his second full year on the bench — because of his alleged involvement in the scandal.

“Am I surprised? No. I’m realistic enough to understand when we took him that this was a possibility,” Martin said. “Was I disappointed? Yes.”

Bowen, from Saginaw, Michigan, transferred to South Carolina following his suspension from Louisville amid the federal probe after news of an alleged payment involving the Cardinals and his father to get him to join that school. Bowen could not play for the Gamecocks until at least the middle of December next season because of NCAA transfer rules.

The governing body told the school the penalty for Bowen would at least include the rest of the next year, something Martin knew meant Bowen had little option other than to turn pro.

“The NCAA kind of pigeon-holed him into only one choice,” Martin said.

Martin said did not want to dissect the NCAA’s decision, saying he accepted it and worked with Bowen and his family on his future. Bowen has since withdrawn from this month’s NBA draft. Martin said he’ll play in a developmental league or play outside the country to preserve his eligibility for next year’s draft.

South Carolina brought in Bowen last January despite his involvement with the college corruption scandal. It was not the coaches only ties to the ongoing investigation. One of Martin’s former staff members, ex-Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, was arrested by federal authorities. Documents from the investigation showed former Gamecocks point guard PJ Dozier received $6,115 from the ASM Sports Agency while in school.

Martin has said he knew nothing about Dozier or his family dealing with agents and that he has always run a clean program.

Bowen has insisted he’s had no involvement with Christian Dawkins, the would-be agent who federal prosecutors say brokered and facilitated payments to players during their recruitments in exchange for them hiring him when they turned pro.

Martin is grateful for the time he’s had with Bowen, who had a 3.5 GPA this semester and was a model teammate who’d spend hours by himself in the gym shooting jumpers. He was also committed to South Carolina’s future, the coach said, which he proved after his time at the NBA draft combine last month.

Martin said Bowen spent six days working out at the combine and another five after that visiting NBA teams for workouts. When Bowen finally returned to Columbia, he drove to a restaurant where Gamecocks coaches were entertaining a recruit.

“He’s a real good kid,” Martin said.

The coach also believes he is a future NBA player, though obviously Bowen needs to improve areas of his game. Martin recalled an informal workout with past South Carolina stars including Los Angeles Clippers guard Sindarius Thornwell and Dozier, who spent much of this season in the G-League with the Oklahoma City Blue.

“I wasn’t sure Brian wasn’t the best player on the court when I walked out of there,” Martin said.

Bowen also made other South Carolina players better at practices. Martin cited an early January slump — the so-called “freshman wall” many newcomers hit — by first-year forward Justin Minaya. When Bowen arrived for practices, he was matched up most of the time against the 6-5 Minaya.

“Justin had no choice but to engage in that matchup with Brian because Brian’s such a talented kid,” Martin said.

As a result, Martin said Minaya recovered his form and was among the Gamecocks most consistent players in February and March.

“I know what I walked into. I knew the situation,” Martin said. “Do I regret it? Not one bit because of the person he is.”

North Carolina gets commitment from four-star 2020 forward

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North Carolina has its first piece in its 2020 recruiting class.

Day’Ron Sharpe, a 6-foot-9 forward, committed to the Tar Heels on Sunday, according to multiple reports.

The Winterville, N.C. native picked Roy Williams’ in-state program over offers from Florida, Georgetown and Virginia, among others, after a second visit to Chapel Hill recently.

“We weren’t expecting it, and it kind of came out of the blue,” his father, Derrick Sharpe, told 247 Sports about the commitment. “He told coach Williams and coach was just really excited about it.”

Sharpe averaged 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during his sophomore season.

“He’s a very multi-talented player,” Dwayne West, executive director of the Garner Road Bulldogs told the Raleigh News & Observer. “He does several things very well at a high rate. He can obviously score the ball around the basket, has a solid shot and is actually a very good playmaker. Handles the ball very well.”

Sharpe is a four-star, consensus top-75 player in the 2020 class. Williams also has one commit in the 2019 class, top-50 point guard Jeremiah Francis, who, like Sharpe, committed to the Tar Heels the summer before his junior season.

Former Western Michigan basketball player cleared of murder

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A jury has acquitted a former Western Michigan basketball player of murder in the shooting death of a fellow student but convicted him of armed robbery and a weapons charge.

The Kalamazoo County jury deliberated two days before returning the verdict for Joeviair Kennedy. He faces a possible life sentence when he’s sentenced July 16.

Nineteen-year-old Jacob Jones was killed near the campus on Dec. 8, 2016.

Co-defendant Jordan Waire of Muskegon was convicted last month of felony murder, armed robbery and weapons charges.

Prosecutors said it was Waire who shot Jones. Kennedy has said they took marijuana and about $25.

Kennedy’s attorney, Eusebio Solis, said his client agreed to the robbery but not the killing.

Kennedy was arrested in 2016 at the start of his second basketball season.

Kansas, Missouri to play alumni game for charity

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Kansas and Missouri are putting their differences aside for charity.

Kareem Rush, a former Missouri Tiger and the brother of Brandon Rush, a former Kansas Jayhawk, is organizing a game called “Rivarly Renewed“, which will pit alumni from Missouri against alumni from KU.

On July 28th, the two teams will face-off in a game where the proceeds will go towards benefitting the Boys and Girls Club as well as Kareem Rush’s “Rush Forward Foundation”.

It’s also a chance for the Tigers and the Jayhawks to reignite a rivalry that has been dormant since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC, although they did play a scrimmage prior to the start of last season. There is no lack of hatred between those two fan bases and any chance they get to square off is a good thing.

There should also be some big names involved. According to the Kansas City Star, Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich, Drew Gooden, Kim English, Ricky Paulding and Marcus Denmon are among the players that will be participating.

I love it.

Can we make sure that Bill Self is invited so that he can get convinced to play the Tigers in a non-conference game?

Doppelgangers Grayson Allen, Ted Cruz finally meet

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Ever since Grayson Allen burst onto the national scene during the 2015 Final Four, the former Duke star has been called a Ted Cruz lookalike.

That, frankly, is not exactly a compliment, and it is a comparison that Allen initially bristled at, but now that his college career, Allen seems to be embracing the long-running joke.

We know that because Allen met Cruz this weekend as he helped the senator from Texas beat Jimmy Kimmel in a game of one-on-one:

The actually game won’t be broadcast until Monday night so we won’t know exactly how Cruz won or what Allen did to help, but Cruz did beat Kimmel 11-9.

We will get getting our answers this evening.

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