Self bests Pitino in 1st meeting, No. 4 Kansas tops Iona

Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Christian Braun had 18 points and seven rebounds, Ochai Agbaji added 17 points, and No. 4 Kansas beat Iona 96-83 on Sunday in the first meeting between Hall of Fame coaches Bill Self and Rick Pitino.

David McCormack scored 13 points for Kansas (5-1). The Jayhawks were was coming off their first loss of the season, 74-73 to Dayton on a buzzer-beater in an ESPN Events Invitational semifinal on Friday.

Beating Pitino’s Iona team, which opened the tournament with a win over No. 10 Alabama, was enough to salvage third place in the tournament for Self’s Jayhawks.

“Now that I’ve faced Kansas, I’m glad we didn’t play them in all those years,” Pitino said. “I’ve always admired him. I’ve always thought he’s one of the best coaches in the game. What I admire most is, whether it’s his fast break, his offensive sets, his rebounding, he doesn’t have a weakness as a coach.”

When asked what he had to say to Pitino, a smiling Self said: “Good game and he said good game, too.”

“The way that his teams always competed on a very national high level and doing it without five-star recruits compared to the way some other people do it means they develop and they get the most out their guys,” Self said.

Iona (6-2) got 14 points apiece from Tyson Jolly and Ryan Myers. The Gaels also lost for the first time Friday, dropping a 72-65 decision to Belmont.

Both teams had five players score in double figures.

Unlike its first two games in the invitational, Kansas built a double-digit first-half advantage and held onto it, taking a 46-31 lead at the break behind 13 points from Braun.

“We didn’t accomplish the goal,” Braun said of the Jayhawks’ tournament performance. “All of us weren’t pleased. We have stuff to improve on. We’re going to do it.”

Agbaji had a dunk and Braun made a 3 during an 8-0 surge that made it 64-43 with 11 minutes left. Another long-range jumper by Braun gave Kansas a 75-52 lead 3 1/2 minutes later.

Myers, who came off the bench, had a pair of 3-pointers that helped Iona get within 80-68 with 5 minutes remaining, but the Gaels got no closer.

The Jayhawks put together first-half runs of 12-0, 10-0 and 8-0, and shot 58.8% (20 of 34). They shot 54.9% (39 of 71) overall and had 22 assists.

Iona had a pair of 4 1/2-minute scoring droughts, and turned the ball over 10 times during the opening 20 minutes.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kansas: The Jayhawks tried to make a case to stay in the Top 10. They are 104-15 after a loss under Self since 2003-04. Kansas won its opener at the invitational 71-59 over North Texas.

Iona: The Gaels look like a squad that could reach the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season with Pitino at the helm.

“We’d like to get to the point where we have the same type of talent Kansas has,” Pitino said.

UP NEXT

Kansas: At St. John’s on Friday night.

Iona: At Marist on Wednesday night.

Florida Atlantic makes first Elite Eight, bounces Tennessee

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Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Florida Atlantic, playing in just its second NCAA Tournament, moved within a victory of the Final Four by using a second-half push led by Michael Forrest to beat fourth-seeded Tennessee 62-55 on Thursday night.

The ninth-seeded Owls (34-3) will play third-seeded Kansas State in the East Region final at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

Even before the tournament started, this was the unquestionably the greatest season in FAU history. Now it the Owls are one of the biggest stories in all of sports.

Johnell Davis led the Owls with 15 points and Forrest finished with 11, eight in a crucial second-half run where FAU took control.

The Volunteers (25-11), who were looking for just the second Elite Eight appearance in program history, shot just 33% – including 6 of 23 from 3-point range. Josiah-Jordan James and Jonas Aidoo scored 10 points apiece.

UP NEXT

The Owls have never played Kansas State.

UConn a step from Final Four after 88-65 blowout of Arkansas

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Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
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LAS VEGAS — After UConn lost as a 5 seed to 12th-seeded New Mexico State in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, Huskies coach Dan Hurley told his core players they would be back on this stage.

Not only would they return, but Hurley said he would surround them with players capable of taking them deep into March.

They are certainly doing that.

The Huskies’ 88-65 victory over Arkansas in the West Region semifinals on Thursday night was their third by double digits in as many games. Jordan Hawkins scored 24 points to lead the dominant effort.

Fourth-seeded UConn (28-8) will play either UCLA or Gonzaga on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four, a stout response to last year’s early exit.

“We really from that day on really held each other to a higher standard and just told each other we’re going to push for a national championship,” UConn guard Andre Jackson Jr. said. “We’re going to push for that type of standard every day in practice and we’re going to hold each other to that.”

UConn is playing like a team capable of winning its fifth national title and first since 2014. The Huskies have outscored their three March Madness opponents by 62 points.

“They’ve got a real complete team, probably the most complete team in the country,” Arkansas guard Ricky Council IV said. “I think they can definitely win it all.”

The Huskies won their first two games by outscoring Iona and Saint Mary’s by a combined 86-49 in the second half. UConn surged early against Arkansas with a 14-point run and took a 46-29 lead into halftime.

The Huskies never trailed and led by as many as 29 points.

UConn, which has won nine of its past 10 games, shot 57.4% compared to 31.7% for Arkansas. The Huskies dominated inside, outrebounding the Razorbacks 43-31 and outscoring them 42-24 in the lane.

Adama Sanogo scored 18 points, Alex Karaban had 11 and Nahiem Alleyene 10 for UConn. Sanogo, who also had eight rebounds, has scored 71 points in 75 minutes in this tournament.

Anthony Black led Arkansas (22-14) with 20 points, Council had 17 and Nick Smith Jr. 11.

“I’m just proud of the way we’ve built this thing,” said Hurley, who is in his fifth season. “We’ve got an incredible group of players, and we get the right type of people and we’ve got great culture. We’re right where we thought we would be.”

MAKING PROGRAM HISTORY

Eighth-seeded Arkansas was seeking a third straight appearance in the Elite Eight, which would have been a first for the program. The Razorbacks made three consecutive Sweet 16s for the second time.

“There are not a lot of teams that have been to three straight Sweet 16s in the entire country, and we are one of them,” coach Eric Musselman said. “The culture is strong. As a staff, we’ll start working towards next year tonight as soon as we get back to the hotel.”

Senior Kamani Johnson won’t be around next season to see if the Razorbacks can get back to this point, but he said the program is in good hands.

“We’re doing something special in Arkansas and we’re of building on that,” Johnson said. “It hurts right now, but I’m really proud of this group.”

STILL PERFECT

UConn improved to 15-0 in nonconference games, all by double digits. Oklahoma State came the closest, losing 74-64 on Dec. 1.

“When people see us for the first time, it’s a great advantage to us because we are not a ball-screen heavy team,” Hurley said. “We have a lot of movement on offense. We’ve got the two centers (Sanogo and Karaban) that can dominate a game. We’re a unique team to play against if you haven’t seen us.”

SPREADING THE WEALTH

As dominant as UConn was inside, the Huskies also made 9 of 20 3-pointers and had 22 assists.

“To me, the most impressive thing is that they had 22 assists,” Musselman said. “We tried to cause turnovers and rush the quarterback, but 22 assists is a lot of assists.”

UConn entered the game averaging 17.4 assists.

Nowell breaks NCAA assist record, KSU beats MSU 98-93 in OT

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Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Markquis Nowell broke the NCAA Tournament record for assists in a game with 19, his last two on spectacular passes in the final minute of overtime, and Kansas State beat Michigan State 98-93 on Thursday night in a Sweet 16 thriller at Madison Square Garden.

Playing in his hometown and fighting through a second-half ankle injury, Nowell found Keyontae Johnson for a reverse alley-oop with 58 seconds left in OT to give the Wildcats (26-9) the lead for good in this back-and-forth East Region semifinal. He then threw an inbound pass to Ismael Massoud, who knocked down a jumper with 15 seconds left for a 96-93 lead.

With Michigan State needing a 3 to tie, Nowell stole the ball from the Spartans’ Tyson Walker and drove for a clinching layup at the buzzer. The 5-foot-8, Harlem-raised Nowell finished with 20 points and five steals in a signature performance at basketball’s most famous arena that drew tweets of praise from Patrick Mahomes and Kevin Durant.

“That was a legendary display of controlling a basketball game Markquis,” Durant tweeted.

Johnson scored 22 points for the No. 3 seed Wildcats, who will face either fourth-seeded Tennessee or ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic on Saturday as they seek the program’s first Final Four berth since 1964.

A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 25 points for seventh-seeded Michigan State (21-13). Joey Hauser added 18 points and Walker had 16, including a layup with 5 seconds left in regulation that forced the first overtime of this year’s NCAA Tournament.

UNLV’s Mark Wade had the previous NCAA tourney assists record with 18 during the Runnin’ Rebels 1987 Final Four win over Indiana.

Nowell turned his ankle early in the second half, was helped off the court and had it taped. Michigan State took the lead with him sidelined, and when he returned, he pushed off the ankle to bank in a 3-pointer that beat the shot clock and tied the game at 55-all.

Turns out he was just getting started.

Providence hires Kim English as next head coach

Jake Crandall/USA TODAY NETWORK
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Kim English is just 34 years old, but has already moved around a lot in his coaching career, serving as an assistant at three schools over six years before landing his first head coaching job at George Mason in 2021.

It was going to take a special opportunity for him to pack up and move again.

“Every place I’ve been, I’ve wanted to stay there forever. I really want to stay at a place for a long time,” English said Thursday. “I’m sick of moving,”

He believes he has found that place in Providence.

English was named the Friars’ new head coach, ending a fast search by first-year Providence athletic director Steve Napolillo that was created after Ed Cooley left to take the job at Big East rival Georgetown.

English becomes the 16th coach in school history. Cooley resigned on Monday following 12 seasons. He complied a 242-153 record with the Friars that included seven appearances, but just three March Madness victories.

English was 34-29 in two seasons at George Mason, leading the Patriots to a 20-13 record this past season. It was the first time the school reached the 20-win milestone since 2016-17.

George Mason president Gregory Washington said it would begin a national search to replace English.

In English, the Friars get a hungry, young coach who has built his reputation on recruiting. He said his secret sauce finding players is simple.

“You work at it. You do it every day. You’re relentless,” English said.

He played college basketball at Missouri and was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round in 2012. But his NBA tenure was short and he was waived in 2013. He had a brief stint with the Chicago Bulls in 2014 and also played two years professionally overseas.

English began his coaching career as an assistant under Frank Haith at Tulsa in 2015 and spent two seasons there before being hired by Tad Boyle in 2017 as an assistant coach at Colorado. In 2019, former Friars coach Rick Barnes brought English to Tennessee as an assistant coach and he stayed until being hired by George Mason

He feels as if he has found a kindred spirit in Napolillo, who sold him on the passion the administration and community have for the Friars’ basketball program.

The intel he got about Providence and Napolillo aligned with what he observed when he got the chance to meet him.

“His passion, his fire, his love for Providence basketball really speaks to me. It really spoke to me what he was looking for,” English said. “As a first-year athletic director to be in this situation and to go at it and not just do what other people may have been comfortable with. … That’s what you want in a partnership.”

English also said he’s impressed by facilities at Providence that he said are among the best he’s seen.

Napolillo said the reason he was able to move so quickly on the hire was because he heeded the advice of his mentors who told him to always be prepared to have to fill a coaching vacancy.

“You always need to have names in a drawer for any coaching situation. You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. ”This year, as noise kept growing and growing, I had a list in my drawer.”

That list also included a Sports Illustrated article he saved from last year that listed some rising coaches. He can’t recall why, but for some reason he highlighted English’s name in the story.

English has already started working and began recruiting not long after signing his contract on Wednesday night, he said.

He also confirmed that Dennis Felton, one of his assistants at George Mason, will join him at Providence. Felton served as a Friars assistant under Barnes from 1992 to 1994.

In a Big East that is stacked from top to bottom with coaching talent, English feels as if the pieces are in place to build something special.

“I’ve had no reason to take a bad job,” English said. “I was a 20-something-year-old assistant in the SEC. I didn’t have to rush. If I’m going to have interest in it, it’s going to be really good.”

For him, that translated into being in a position to bring the Friars a national championship.

“If you want to win the big trophy, you’ve got to be in the big dance,” English said. “At the mid-major level it’s getting increasing harder to get to the big dance. This gives us an opportunity. If we are competing for Big East championships, we’re going to be in the show.”

Report: Notre Dame closing deal with Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry

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Notre Dame is finalizing a deal to make Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry its new men’s basketball coach, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because contract details were still being completed and needed school approval.

Shrewsberry, in his second season at Penn State (23-14), led the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and a tournament victory for the first time since 2001.

The Nittany Lions beat Texas A&M and were eliminated by Texas in the second round.

Notre Dame has been searching for a replacement for Mike Brey, who spent the last 23 season as coach of the Fighting Irish. He announced in January that this would be his last season with Notre Dame

The Irish finished 11-21.

Shrewsberry grew up in Indianapolis and went to school at Division III Hanover College in Indiana.

He was the head coach at Indiana University South Bend, an NAIA school located in the same city as Notre Dame, from 2005-07.

He later worked as an assistant coach at Butler and Purdue, with a stint as an assistant with the Boston Celtics in between.

ESPN first reported Notre Dame was close to a deal with Shrewsberry.