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Iowa’s Cy-Hawk win evidence that Hawkeye collapse may not be in the cards

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Big Ten’s new 20-game league schedule has moved up the timeline on everything. Conference games come sooner, which means teams are tested earlier. You can’t hide in a weak non-conference schedule when you’ve got a pair of B1G opponents the first week in December.

For a moment, it looked like No. 18 Iowa’s schedule of events had changed because of it as well. Rather than waiting until February to see a promising season hit the skids, as it repeatedly has under coach Fran McCaffery, the Hawkeyes looked in danger of dashing hopes before Christmas this season after a so-so performance against Pitt, a home loss to Wisconsin and an absolute dismantling by No. 10 Michigan State at the Breslin Center.

It’s just the first week in December, but the Hawkeyes looked rattled. As much as a season can split in two directions before the calendar flips to the new year, Iowa looked in peril of finding itself in a slide that would be difficult to reverse with rival Iowa State, a burgeoning national darling thanks to a 7-1 start without a number of its best players, coming to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

As Iowa walked off the floor Thursday a 98-84 winner over the Cyclones that featured all the nastiness that makes rivalries so contentious and entertaining, it looked as though Hawkeyes weren’t about to surrender to such a fate just yet.

It was the type of response that was sorely needed for an Iowa team that fell behind by as many as 33 to the Spartans just days earlier.

“Exactly,” McCaffery said Thursday. “You know, we really deviated from the game plan on Monday night.”

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There didn’t seem to be any deviations Thursday, other than from the course Iowa looked like it may have been charting after back-to-back disappointing showings.

Iowa’s offense was humming. The Hawkeyes shot 57.4 percent from the floor and were 9 of 18 from 3-point range. They nabbed 17 offensive rebounds and scored 23 second-chance points. Tyler Cook looked like the All-American Iowa believes he can be in scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. The Hawks got production off the bench, a necessity McCaffery teams that often lean on a large rotation, and while they gave up 1.2 points per possession, played good enough defense in stretches to keep the Cyclones off-kilter.

Perhaps most notably, Iowa was a team determined to exert its will on the game. Against the Spartans, the Hawkeyes limped to the final buzzer without much objection. They brought the fight – literally – to Iowa State.

There were two scuffles Thursday, the first coming before halftime when Iowa State’s Michael Jacobson and Iowa’s Connor McCaffery getting into it some and then Iowa’s Cordell Pemsl rushing in to start a shoving match. Then as the game wound down the Cyclones’ Marial Shayok and Jacobson poked at the ball in McCaffery’s hands as the game’s final seconds ticked off, drew McCaffery’s offense and then started yet another fracas.

In a state where apologizing when someone bumps into you is the norm, two shoving matches counts for high drama.

While it’s debatable how much toughness it takes to get into a couple of relatively petty squabbles on the basketball court, Iowa at least showed it wasn’t ready to go quietly into that good NIT.

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Pemsl wasn’t even supposed to be playing. He’d been ruled out for the season with a knee injury. Pemsl often seems to find himself in the center of tensions on the court, so it’s probably no surprise his return coincided with Iowa showing some edge.

His decision to get back on the court might also underscore the stakes Iowa was looking at. This is a program that has played its way into big expectations only to disappoint before. In 2014, the Hawkeyes were 19-6 and 8-4 in the B1G before they lost five of six to end the regular season, dropped its first conference tournament game and then bowed out in the First Four. In 2016, they were ranked as high as third in the AP poll before losing five of their last seven to finish the regular season, dropped their first B1G tournament game and got destroyed by eventual national champ Villanova in the second round of the NCAA tournament. A three-game skid in February and another one-and-done conference tournament in 2017 spelled NIT.

Then there was last season when Iowa went 14-19 and it was revealed that Iowa signed McCaffery to a new contract with a massive new buyout number. They also didn’t tell anyone about it, and it took an open records request by media to bring it public that the cost of firing him ballooned from $4.6 million to $10.2 million last year and $9 million this year. It’s hard to imagine Iowa was doing anything other than negotiating against itself there for a coach who ended last year with a 68-76 B1G record.

So things weren’t all touchy feely in Iowa City – I haven’t even mentioned the bizarre public feud involving the radio play-by-play guy that erupted last month – and a three-game losing streak would have only exacerbated tensions and made the wins against Oregon and UConn in November that raised expectations quickly forgotten.

Instead, it’s easy to see the Hawkeyes reignited after last night. Not only did they beat Iowa State, they played well in doing so and showed an attitude that will prove useful in a Big Ten that looks formidable. Cook being a monster would go a long way, too. The defense needs to improve, but if the offense can operate the level it did against the Cyclones, it doesn’t have to be great for Iowa to rack up wins this winter.

Thursday’s win against a rival didn’t solve all Iowa’s issues, but, at minimum, it showed that they’re willing to fight to fix them.

No. 23 Furman tops Charleston Southern 77-69, stays unbeaten

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — No. 23 Furman took another step in its remarkable early-season journey, one coach Bob Richey expects will benefit his team the rest of the way.

The perfect Paladins (11-0) used a late run to pull away from Charleston Southern for a 77-69 victory Tuesday night in their first-ever home game as a Top 25 team.

Richey felt the jitters of his young team before the game, the desire to show the home crowd their rise was legitimate.

“The fear of if we lose, does all this go away,” Richey said. “And I think that’s normal for a young player — ‘Man, we want to keep this going.'”

Noah Gurley scored 17 points, and Alex Hunter and Andrew Brown had 16 points apiece to lead Furman in a game where leading scorer Jordan Lyons had zero points.

“We’ve got to continue to keep our pulse on these players,” Richey said. “We’ve got to continue to help them out.”

So far, so good.

The Paladins have been one of college basketball’s biggest surprises with their school-record run to start the season — a stretch that included defeating defending national champs Villanova and a second Final Four team from last year in Loyola-Chicago.

It took a late charge to break away from the Buccaneers (4-5).

Charleston Southern trailed 54-52 on Dontrell Shuler’s layup with less than 10 minutes left. After that, the Paladins went on a 14-4 run. Tre Clark had four points during the surge and when Gurley nailed a 3-pointer with 5:51 to go, Furman was up 68-56.

Charleston Southern could not respond and college basketball’s feel-good story of the season remained on track.

Lyons, averaging 20.2 points a game, missed all seven of his shots.

Matt Rafferty had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Furman.

“We’ve got to stay even-keeled,” Hunter said. “That’s something we’ve been practicing every day.”

Deontaye Buskey and Duncan LeXander had 13 points each for Charleston Southern.

Buccaneers coach Barclay Radebaugh said his team made too many mistakes to hang in at the end.

“You can’t do that against a team like Furman,” he said.

Furman, which joined the AP Top 25 last week for the first time in school history, had to wait another week — and make it through road wins at Elon and South Carolina Upstate — before it could celebrate its achievement on its home court. And it looked like the Paladins would have plenty to cheer about after they used a 17-8 run midway through the opening period to build a 26-18 lead.

But Furman went cold after that, missing seven straight shots as the Buccaneers of the Big South Conference tightened things up.

BIG PICTURE

Charleston Southern: The Buccaneers are nearing the end of a brutal opening stretch with seven of their first 11 games on the road. Those have included losses at Florida, Middle Tennessee and Marquette. Charleston Southern’s run ends with games at North Florida and Clemson in the next week. Radebaugh hopes the time away from home toughens the Bucs for Big South play.

Furman: The Paladins looked edgy in their first home appearance as a ranked team. They looked ready to take charge with a 51-42 lead before helping Charleston Southern’s comeback with four straight turnovers. Furman probably won’t win many games where Lyons struggles as he did against the Bucs.

STREAKING PALADINS

Furman is off to its most consecutive wins since winning 11 in a row in 1979. That’s back when the Paladins were one of the Palmetto State’s most successful teams, going to six NCAA Tournaments between 1971 and 1980. Furman has not played in the tournament since then.

RICHEY’S START

Richey was grateful to Radebaugh, who hired Richey as a 23-year-old and gradually gave him control of the Bucs’ offense. “Without Barclay, I wouldn’t be here today,” Richey said.

UP NEXT

Charleston Southern is at North Florida on Saturday.

Furman finishes a two-game homestand by hosting UNC Wilmington on Saturday.

Penn ends No. 17 Villanova’s 25-game Big 5 winning streak with 78-75 victory

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Villanova’s 25-game Big 5 winning streak is over.

The 17th-ranked Wildcats fell to Penn, 78-75, at the Palestra on Tuesday to see its undefeated run among its Philadelphia counterparts come to an end after six years.

It’s also an end to the six-game winning streak coach Jay Wright’s team has enjoyed since losing back-to-back games to Michigan and Furman last month.

Issues persisted on the defensive end for the Wildcats as they fell on a night they shot 50 percent from the floor and 34.6 percent from 3-point range. The Quakers bested that by converting 51.1 percent of their shots overall and 43.8 percent of their 16 attempts from distance.

Villanova had put some distance between itself and the shellacking it took courtesy of Michigan and the OT lost to Furman, but it continues to be clear that while still a top-25 caliber team, Wright’s squad this year looks to be well short of the teams that celebrated national championships in 2016 and 2018. Eric Paschall was expected to step into the void from losing so many players to the NBA off last year’s title-winner, but he took just five shots against Penn and has been generally inconsistent all season. Five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly can’t even got on the floor. That leaves Collin Gillespie and Phil Booth, who combined for 39 points Tuesday, carrying a bigger burden than would be ideal.

The Wildcats are likely ultimately going to be fine – they lost to a good team Tuesday – but unless they can get more from especially Paschall it’s hard to see them elevating themselves to a Final Four contender.

That’s the weight of expectation after two titles in three years.

We knew the Big East championship wasn’t going to be Villanova’s to simply waltz to, but the top-half of the league continues to look incredibly tightly grouped together without mich separation.

Penn, meanwhile, looks a real threat in the Ivy, as was evident in the Quakers’ win over Miami last week. The win over Villanova only solidifies their status.

AJ Brodeur and Antonio Woods both scored 16 points against the ‘Cats as Penn led by as many as 12 points on the night, but still had to survive a Booth attempt from 3 at the buzzer to finally end Villanova’s supremacy over Big 5 hoops.

Iowa State could get Lindell Wigginton and Solomon Young back this weekend

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It’s been sort of a bizarre start to the season for Iowa State. For starters, the Cyclones enter the season not coming off an NCAA tournament appearance for the first time since 2011 after a 14-18 campaign last season snapped a program-record six-straight tourney streak. Coach Steve Prohm then suspended two players, including preseason all-Big 12 honorable mention center Cameron Lard, for the month of November for rules violations. The Cyclones also lost starting big man Solomon Young to a groin injury and then star guard Lindell Wigginton to a sprained foot.

Despite all that, Iowa State started the season 7-1 (including two wins at the Maui Invitational) before a loss at rival Iowa last week.

Now with an 8-2 record and having not only survived November but largely thrived with a reduced roster, the Cyclones are nearing full strength.

Wigginton, who averaged 17 points and shot 40 percent from 3 as a freshman, and Young, a two-year starter, could return as soon as Saturday and almost assuredly before the Cyclones’ Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State on Jan. 2.

“It’s where we thought it would be the whole time,” Prohm said of the duo’s timeline Monday, according to the Ames Tribune. “When we do halfcourt live segments Wednesday, if everything stays status quo the way it is right now, they’ll be able to go in the halfcourt.

“Not up and down, but they’ll go live contact in the halfcourt, and then evaluate them from there. Whether they suit up or not on Saturday, I couldn’t give you an answer on that right now.”

Prohm said both players could be in uniform against Drake on Saturday, but would not necessarily be available for big minutes, if at all. Wigginton, who went through the NBA pre-draft process last spring before announcing his return the day of the NCAA deadline, is expected to nearly immediately return to a major role.

Young, though, will be an interesting case. The Cyclones’ frontcourt is a crowded one with Prohm seemingly committed to playing four guards extensively and current starter Michael Jacobson, a Nebraska transfer, averaging a surprising 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 62.4 percent from the floor. With Jacobson, Lard and Young all soon available, Prohm will have a juggling act for minutes or reconfigure his lineup to play big, with the former seeming more likely than the latter.

Mark Few: NCAA prez Mark Emmert ‘needs to step up and be a leader and make some quicker decisions’

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Count Mark Few as one looking for the NCAA to shorten its timeline when it comes to potential discipline for schools ensnared by the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball.

The Gonzaga coach is also calling out NCAA president Mark Emmert by name in his plea to speed things along and make teams who may have violated NCAA rules accountable.

“I’m disappointed. I don’t think this is something the NCAA needs to take their time on,” Few said, according to Yahoo Sports. “There’s teams out here who are competing for Final Fours and national championships and they don’t need to stall this thing out.

“They need to make decisions and roll with it. I think that’s on Emmert. Emmert needs to step up and be a leader and make some quicker decisions.”

Emmert said last week that schools who were implicated by the FBI’s investigation, including by information that was made public in October’s court proceedings that involved three guilty verdicts, would not face potential punishment until after this season with the NCAA investigation extending beyond the Final Four.

New NCAA rules allow it to use testimony and evidence presented in those trials, but how the NCAA will apply those rules – will it simply accept anything mentioned under oath? – remains unclear. The NCAA, though, has committed to handle things methodically, as it so often does to the frustration of many a coach. It’s not exactly surprising, though, that the NCAA is in no hurry to drop sanctions on prominent schools – programs like Kansas, Auburn, Creighton, LSU, Louisville and Miami – in the middle of a season. Such a move would dominate discussion of the sport and upend seasons in an unprecedented manner. Intraseason discipline, especially something like a postseason ban, against some of the country’s top programs would be almost guaranteed to invite ugly legal challenges.

It’s not exactly a courageous rationale, but it is pragmatic. It also is the least likely to affect the bottom line, which is usually the best spot to place your bet when trying to determine the NCAA’s course of action.

Providence guard to miss at least a month with foot injury

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Rough news for Providence on Tuesday morning, as the school announced that freshman guard A.J. Reeves will miss the next four-to-six weeks with an unspecified foot injury.

Reeves, a native of Roxbury, Ma., has averaged 14.2 points this season while shooting 45 percent from three. He’s been the best freshman in the Big East and one of the best weapons for a talented Friar team that has yet to truly figure themselves out.

“It’s unfortunate that A.J. has to go through this as he has been having a very productive start to his college career,” head coach Ed Cooley said. “However, he is a great person and will use this time to get better and he will continue to support the team.”