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DiVincenzo, Brunson, No. 1 Villanova rally past Butler 86-75

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PHILADELPHIA — Trailing by double digits and missing two key starters, No. 1 Villanova was plummeting toward its worst week in five years.

Donte DiVincenzo wouldn’t let it happen.

DiVincenzo scored a career-high 30 points, Jalen Brunson had 27 and No. 1 Villanova bounced back from its second loss of the season, rallying past Butler 86-75 Saturday.

Omari Spellman added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats (23-2, 10-2 Big East), who avoided losing consecutive games for the first time since March 2013. The injury-depleted Wildcats were coming off a surprising home defeat to last-place St. John’s three days earlier.

“The loss made it obvious we had to get back to playing Villanova basketball,” DiVincenzo said.

Kelan Martin scored 30 and Kamar Baldwin had 25 for Butler (17-9, 7-6), which handed Villanova its first loss of the season on Dec. 30. The Bulldogs had won three straight vs. Villanova, and looked they might continue the streak when they led by as many as 13 in the first half behind Martin’s hot hand.

The Butler senior forward shot 8 for 12 from 3-point range, hitting two straight 3s to spark an early 11-0 run and two more in a row that gave the Bulldogs a 36-26 advantage with 4:28 left in the first half.

But Villanova closed the half on a 9-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from freshman Collin Gillespie right before the buzzer, and took its first lead two minutes into the second half when DiVincenzo followed a game-tying 3-pointer with a pair of free throws.

“Nothing really changed (for us),” Martin said. “They just turned up the energy.”

DiVincenzo scored 20 of the team’s 51 second-half points — including a big basket with just under two minutes to go after Butler sliced the deficit to four — to help Villanova make up for the absences of injured starters Eric Paschall (concussion) and Phil Booth (fractured hand) and hold off the upset-minded Bulldogs in front of a sellout crowd of 20,603.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright said DiVincenzo also had his “best defensive game of the year” at the top of the zone. And he praised the defensive efforts of freshmen Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, all of whom saw their roles expanded for the shorthanded ‘Cats with Gillespie getting his first collegiate start.

“I’m so proud of our freshmen,” Wright said. “We’re a little bit in survival mode right here. We just have to survive for a little bit and I thought we did that today.”


Butler: Even though they’ve lost six games in the Big East, the Bulldogs are showing they can hang with anyone in the league. Four days before Saturday’s near-upset, they took No. 5 Xavier to overtime before dropping a 98-93 decision.

Villanova: The Wildcats, who have sat atop the rankings for eight of the last nine weeks, will almost certainly fall off their No. 1 perch when the new AP poll is released Monday. And even after Saturday’s win, their streak of four straight Big East regular-season titles remains in jeopardy with Xavier challenging for the crown.


When asked about Villanova’s nearly five-year-long stretch of never losing two games in a row, Butler head coach LaVall Jordan praised the Wildcats program.

“There’s so much respect we have for them and their tradition, and I think they feel the same way,” Jordan said. “That’s why it was a battle like it is today. They fight to protect it, the same as we do. I think this was a heck of a college basketball game. You’ve got two really good programs battling.”

Added Wright: “We have great respect for Butler — not just because they beat us all the time but the way they play.”


Wright said Booth, one of the team’s top guards, is “still a few weeks away” while Paschall remains in concussion protocol and is “a number of days away at a best-case scenario” after missing his second straight game Saturday.

Without those two, Villanova is down to eight available scholarship players, half of whom are freshman. And two of those freshman — Gillespie and Samuels — missed significant time this season with broken hands.


Butler: The Bulldogs open a three-game homestand, starting with Georgetown on Tuesday.

Villanova: The Wildcats have a tough week coming up, hitting the road to face Providence on Wednesday before a showdown with Xavier next Saturday.

High school basketball player collapses, dies at AAU event

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James Hampton, a member of Team United and a senior at Liberty Heights, a private high school in Charlotte, collapsed and died during a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League game on Saturday night.

Hampton was 17 years old.

In the second half of a game against Nike Phamily, a Phoenix-based program that is run by the father of Marvin Bagley III, Hampton collapsed to the floor unresponsive. Trainers at the event began CPR on and administered chest compressions. Parademics arrived within 10 minutes, but Hampton could not be revived.

The cause of death has not yet been released, but this is not the first time that Hampton had an issue. Last spring, at an event in the Washington D.C. area, Hampton collapsed on the court and had to be given CPR.

“He just fell down on the floor,” Team United director Jacoby Davis told the Charlotte Observer. “He had seizures a year ago and I remember (one of the Team United coaches) telling me that, ‘I saw his eyes rolling back in his head.’ I ran on the court thinking he was having a seizure. A trainer came over and said he didn’t know what was wrong. Another trainer checked his pulse. He said he didn’t have a pulse. It got crazy after that.”

RIP James Hampton.

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.