Bulldogs show some bite in 73-61 win over No. 8 Villanova

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INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Harris jump-started Butler’s offense early. Jair Bolden delivered the finishing touch.

Together, the Bulldogs’ backcourt was unbeatable.

Harris scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half on Sunday and Bolden finished with 12 of his 15 in the second half to help Butler pull away for a 73-61 win over No. 8 Villanova.

“Their guards just dominated the game,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. “Specifically Bolden and Harris, we just couldn’t control them.”

Harris and Bolden combined for four of Butler’s 10 3-pointers, including two in the waning moments to seal the victory.

It was a rough day for the Wildcats (15-4, 10-3 Big East), who entered the game as a 10 1/2-point favorite but made just 2 of 27 3s. Villanova was one of seven top-15 team to stumble this weekend, following losses on Saturday by No. 2 Baylor, No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 11 Florida State, No. 13 Creighton and No. 14 Texas. Later Sunday, No. 4 Ohio State lost to No. 9 Iowa.

Villanova’s defeat wasn’t terribly close, either.

Butler (9-13, 8-11) swung the game with a suffocating defense that limited the Wildcats to one basket during the final seven minutes of the first half and an offensive charge fueled by Harris. That combination resulted in a 16-3 run that gave the Bulldogs a 31-20 lead. They never trailed again, winning their second straight while beating Villanova for the fourth time in the last five meetings at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

“I felt like our guys deserved it,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “From start to finish, they executed the game plan, played through mistakes and played all the way through.”

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Collin Gillespie tried to rally Villanova in the second half. The Wildcats cut a 42-28 deficit in half with a 7-0 flurry and scored again after Butler called timeout to make it a five-point game with 14:14 to go.

But Bolden’s 3 stopped the run, Bryce Golden made three straight baskets for the Bulldogs and Bo Hodges made another 3 to give Butler a 54-39 lead with 10:40 left. And just when the Wildcats thought they had a chance after getting within 57-50 with 6:13 left, Harris and Bolden answered again.

Robinson-Earl finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds. Gillespie had 14 points.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: The loss won’t end the Wildcats’ streak of 30 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25. It could, however, impact their conference title hopes and perhaps their chances of earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Clearly, Villanova wasn’t itself during the first half – shooting 28% from the field and grabbing just one offensive rebound.

Butler: This has been largely a lost season for the Bulldogs. They struggled to find consistency between a rash of injuries and six postponed games. But the Bulldogs produced two solid performances this week by beating Seton Hall and now Villanova. If they keep it up, they could make a run in the Big East tournament.

STAT PACK

Villanova: Justin Moore and Caleb Daniels each scored 10 points. … Villanova had six assists and two steals. … The Wildcats have lost 19 conference road games since joining the reconfigured Big East. Four have come at Butler.

Butler: Harris made five of his first eight shots and finished 7 of 14. … Bryce Nze posted his fifth double-double this season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. He also had five assists. … Golden had 13 points and six rebounds. … Butler has scored 70 points four times this season. … The Bulldogs’ last four opponents are 15 of 81 on 3s.

TWO MEN OUT

The Bulldogs have been playing short-handed for much of the season and Sunday was no exception. Starting guard Aaron Thompson missed the game with shoulder and thumb injures and forward Christian David sat out with a knee injury. Thompson and David were two of the seniors honored with highlight packages that played on the scoreboard during timeouts in what could be their final home game.

UP NEXT

Villanova: Hosts No. 13 Creighton on Wednesday, a game that could determine the league’s regular-season champ.

Butler: Takes another extended break before closing the regular season Saturday at Creighton.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events

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WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.