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No. 5 Kansas builds big early lead, beats Texas A&M 79-68

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has white-knuckled its way to the top of the Big 12.

It took hopping out of conference play to finally breeze to a comfortable win.

Svi Mykhailiuk poured in 24 points, Malik Newman added 15 and the fifth-ranked Jayhawks built a big lead on Texas A&M in the first half before sustaining it most of the way in a 79-68 victory Saturday.

Lagerald Vick added 10 points, and Udoka Azubuike had a couple of rim-rattling dunks, as the Jayhawks (17-4) — so accustomed to sweating out down-to-the-wire games this season — won their fourth straight in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and 10th in a row over the Aggies.

“Oh, we sweated,” Mykhailiuk said, smiling.

Just not a whole lot. The Jayhawks built a 45-27 halftime advantage, kept the gap nearly that wide in the second half and managed to breathe easy in the final minute for a change.

“It wasn’t as easy,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said, “as I would have hoped.”

Tyler Davis had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead Texas A&M (13-8), which began the season 11-1 with wins over Big 12 foes West Virginia and Oklahoma State. But after ascending to No. 5 in the AP poll, coach Billy Kennedy’s club has lost seven of its last nine in a calamitous freefall.

“I really think Kansas played as well as any team we’ve played all year, the way they shared the ball,” Kennedy said. “I think the Mykhailiuk kid, he made some special 3s, and giving up 10 3s in the first half was really hard to overcome against a good team.”

Robert Williams added 11 points, nine boards and four blocks for the Aggies, whose only win over Kansas in 22 tries came in 2007, before they bolted the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.

The Jayhawks took control with a 10-0 run midway through the first half, stretching a 20-18 lead into a 30-18 advantage behind the kind of 3-point barrage that has become so common this season.

At one point, they had hit nine of their first 13 from beyond the arc.

Mykhailiuk had three in the first half, part of his 17 points in 17 minutes, as the Jayhawks shot 53 percent from the field and took a 45-27 lead into the break against one of the nation’s best defenses.

“It seemed like every back-breaking play, we’d get a bad bounce and they’d hit a 3,” Kennedy said. “Every bounce, every play, they made it, and that’s the mark of a good team.”

Kansas kept the pace hot in the second half, creating run-outs every time the Aggies missed a shot — and there were plenty of them. And even when they were forced to set up offense, the Jayhawks managed to get high percentage shots, including a rim-shaking dunk by Azubuike early on.

Azubuike had barreled through Davis before slamming it home, then straddled the Aggies’ big man as he dropped back to the floor. He gave him a mean mug, too, that earned him a technical foul.

The Aggies finally clawed within 72-62 on free throws by Davis with 4:40 to go, but Marcus Garrett scored on a driving layup and Azubuike added a baby hook to restore the Jayhawks’ advantage.

The Aggies never managed to get within single-digits down the stretch.

DOKE’S TECHNICAL

Self was not happy with Azubuike’s technical foul, which he called “selfish.” The play also took some of the fire out of the big guy, who had a big first half but was quiet in the second. Azubuike ended up with eight points, six boards and four blocks in 22 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Texas A&M tried to establish its size in the paint, but the Jayhawks made up for their lack of size with scrappiness. The Aggies’ guards were outhustled to seemingly every loose ball, and that put too much pressure on Davis and Williams to make things happen in a game that hardly suited their style.

Kansas bounced back nicely from a late collapse at Oklahoma, showing a bit more moxie than the Jayhawks have in recent weeks. They had a 15-2 edge on fast-break points, and they hung with the bigger Aggies on the boards in a positive sign for a team that has struggled to rebound.

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

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Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

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Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

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The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

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Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

NCAA President Mark Emmert got a $500,000 raise in 2016

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NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.

That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.

But there’s not enough money to pay the players.

Nope.

Everyone is broke.

Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.