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Langford scores 19 as No. 6 Michigan St beats Maryland 74-68

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Surely, there will come a time in the near future when Michigan State coach Tom Izzo will allow himself to savor another 20-win season and look forward to competing in the NCAA Tournament.

For now, however, the Hall of Fame coach has other things on his mind.

Minutes after the sixth-ranked Spartans rallied past Maryland 74-68 on Sunday, Izzo spoke softly about what it’s been like to prepare his team to play in the wake of an investigation of the program and the school involving sexual assaults by athletes and staff.

“It’s been hard to focus in on basketball,” Izzo said, “because when I do, I feel guilty.”

Michigan State’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations has come under increasing scrutiny since former university sports doctor Larry Nassar was charged with assaulting scores of girls and young women for years. Nassar has been sentenced to decades of prison time.

In the wake of that case, Izzo, his program and his current squad have received plenty of unwanted attention.

“I’ve been through a lot more than my guys have been through,” he said. “Yes, this is something that affects them, but not nearly as much. Don’t feel sorry for me or them. There’s 140-something women that we all feel more sorry for.”

Izzo would not discuss the specifics of any case, but noted: “We will cooperate with any investigation and always have. We’ve done it before and will do it moving forward. That’s all I’m going to say on it.”

Joshua Langford scored 19 points to lead a second-half surge that the Spartans to their fourth straight victory. Down by 13 at halftime, Michigan State (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten) returned to outscore the Terrapins 20-4 in the opening 5½ minutes and held on.

“We all know it’s been a time when there’s a lot of distractions,” Izzo said. “I think sometimes guys just have to focus on their job and then deal with the other stuff after, and that’s what they did.”

Izzo now has seven straight 20-win seasons at Michigan State and 18 in his 23 years at the school. This season, however, has been different than most.

“It’s been crazy,” guard Cassius Winston said. “We keep it tight in here. This is really a family. We’ve got coach Izzo’s back, he has ours. Out there, that was just us proving it.”

Winston scored 13 and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 12 for the Spartans, who shot 53 percent after halftime and finished with a 46-29 rebounding advantage.

After Maryland closed to 63-61 with 1:43 left, Langford grabbed the rebound of a miss by teammate Miles Bridges, and Winston subsequently made two free throws to all but seal the win.

Kevin Huerter led Maryland with 17 points, and Anthony Cowan Jr. and Darryl Morsell each had 12. The Terrapins (15-8, 4-6) have lost five of seven, a skid that began with a 91-61 defeat at Michigan State on Jan. 4.

“We’re getting better and I’m having fun coaching them,” coach Mark Turgeon insisted. “We’ve practiced really well. I want to continue to do that. See where it leads us.”

Maryland seemed upset-bound until the start of the second half, when the Spartans got a pair of 3-pointers from Jackson and two baskets from Langford in an 11-2 spurt that made it 39-35.

After Bruno Fernando scored in the lane for Maryland, Michigan State rattled off nine straight points to go on top for the first time.

In the first half, the Spartans went 9 for 33 from the floor, including 1 for 10 from beyond the arc.

Maryland delighted the sellout crowd of 17,950 by bolting in front 8-0, getting two 3-pointers from Dion Wiley and an alley-oop dunk by Morsell.

After missing eight of their first nine shots, the Spartans closed to 18-16 before Michal Cekovsky made three baskets in a 10-2 run that gave the Terps their first double-digit lead.

As it turned out, that wasn’t a problem for Izzo and his squad.

“A lot of things could have went wrong, but we found a way to stick together and fight through that,” Winston said.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Despite scoring only 24 points in a horrid first half, the Spartans appear to have recovered from a temporary lapse earlier this month, when they sandwiched two losses around an overtime win over Rutgers. With three strong wins this week, two on the road, Michigan State has established itself as a worthy fixture in the Top 10.

Maryland: The Terrapins’ hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament for a fourth successive season are sinking quickly. “I’ve had teams in situations like this that just got it done,” Turgeon said.

VASQUEZ RETURNS

Former Maryland star Greivis Vasquez returned to promote a drive to provide school supplies for underprivileged youth. He sat courtside next to another Maryland alum, sportscaster Scott Van Pelt.

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.