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Clemson leading scorer Marcquise Reed diagnosed with knee sprain

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A nondescript win over St. Peter’s on Tuesday was injected with some unwelcome drama for Clemson when leading scorer Marcquise Reed was felled by a knee injury that was feared to be potentially serious.

Testing Wednesday revealed good news for Reed and the Tigers.

The 6-foot-3 senior was diagnosed with a sprain – rather than with any ligament tears – after an MRI and is questionable for Saturday’s matchup with No. 22 Mississippi State, according to the Greenville News.

Reed is averaging 19.4 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor. He’s also tallying 5.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game for the Tigers and coach Brad Brownell, who said after the St. Peter’s win he was “very concerned” about losing Reed for an extended period of time with the injury.

Reed has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games for Clemson, and his presence Saturday will be a major factor against the Bulldogs on a neutral floor. After Saturday, Clemson has just one more non-conference game of consequence – Dec. 22 at South Carolina – before ACC play begins in a big way with a trip to Durham to face No. 2 Duke on Jan. 5.

The win against St. Peter’s stopped a two-game losing streak for the Tigers after they dropped contests against Creighton and Nebraska. They’re 6-2 on the season.

Monday’s Things to Know: No. 1 Gonzaga wins; ACC/Big Ten Challenge starts; Oregon, South Carolina falls

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Monday’s college hoops had the start of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge while No. 1 Gonzaga played without one of its rotation players for the first time. An SEC team also lost at home to a regular giant killer.

ACC/BIG TEN CHALLENGE GETS STARTED

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge started with two matchups between unranked opponents. The two games earned splits among the two leagues with each of the winners getting solid non-conference wins in the process.

Nebraska (6-1) earned its biggest non-conference road win in two seasons as the Huskers held off Clemson for a 68-66 win. Getting 20 points and nine rebounds from senior James Palmer Jr., Nebraska might have just picked up a win they desperately needed for postseason implications.

The Huskers still have more opportunities to earn solid non-conference wins against Creighton and Oklahoma State, but the road win against a Sweet 16 team on the road is a huge confidence booster.

Boston College (5-1) pulled out a 68-56 win over previously-unbeaten Minnesota at home in the second game. Nik Popovic went for 18 points as the Eagles won even though Ky Bowman (13 points) didn’t have his best game from the field.

The Eagles have that loss to IUPUI. They’ve also earned back-to-back wins over Loyola and Minnesota to help themselves build some momentum for Providence and Texas A&M.

NO. 1 GONZAGA CRUISES TO WIN WHILE ALSO LOSING CRANDALL

New No. 1 Gonzaga earned a 102-60 non-conference home win over North Dakota State on Monday night as six players finished in double-figures. Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura both finished with 18 points while Corey Kispert had 17 points.

But perhaps the bigger news of the day for the Zags is the loss of senior backup guard Geno Crandall with a fractured right hand. Gonzaga has a tough stretch of non-conference games beginning on Dec. 1 that includes two matchups with top-15 teams.

We’ll have to see if Gonzaga can sustain like this with the loss of Crandall, and how it alters Perkins playing heavy minutes at lead guard.

TEXAS SOUTHERN STUNS NO. 18 OREGON

The last game of the evening saw the night’s biggest upset as Texas Southern shocked No. 18 Oregon with a non-conference road win. The Tigers scored 57 points in the second half as big man Trayvon Reed was a perfect 9-for-9 from the field to finish with 23 points and seven rebounds. Five Texas Southern players finished in double-figures as John Jones also added 20 points.

This is a stunning loss for Oregon, who had 32 points and 11 rebounds from freshman big man Bol Bol, as they couldn’t protect the rim following the loss of big man Kenny Wooten to a left knee injury. Reed scored all of his buckets on dunks as his interior physicality was an issue for the Ducks.

Oregon doesn’t have the most difficult schedule coming up, but this is a concerning loss to a team from a one-bid league. They need to fix the interior defense while also a consistent third scoring option behind Bol and Payton Pritchard. Freshman Louis King would at least help in the third scorer department for the Ducks, but they’ll have to hope the injury to Wooten isn’t anything serious.

WOFFORD CLIPS SOUTH CAROLINA

For the second straight season, Wofford earned a big road win over a high-major opponent. Although this season wasn’t quite as big as last season’s win at the Dean Dome over North Carolina, the Terriers knocked off South Carolina for another big road win.

The SoCon had 30 points and nine three-pointers from junior guard Nathan Hoover while senior Fletcher Magee only had eight points on 3-for-15 shooting. Wofford still has two more major opportunities to win at Kansas and at Mississippi State before conference season begins.

South Carolina (3-3) meanwhile dropped another one to a one-bid league at home as they’ve really struggled to win against lesser competition. The Gamecocks still have two games against top-ten teams (No. 7 Michigan and No. 4 Virginia) and an in-state game against Clemson before SEC play even gets started. Considering this team also lost to a Division II opponent, and this season could get ugly for South Carolina.

NBC Sports Top 25: Is Duke, Kansas or Gonzaga the No. 1 team?

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The way that I see it, there are three teams that have a legitimate case to be made to be the No. 1 team in the country: Gonzaga, Kansas and Duke.

Let’s walk through the argument in support of each, starting with the Blue Devils.

Duke was the consensus No. 1 team in the country last week. We were talking about whether or not this team had the goods to go undefeated, and while that conversation was happening far too early in the calendar to make any rational sense, it was happening. Duke may have the two best players in the country on their roster and, with Tre Jones and Cam Reddish available, are the single-most difficult team to matchup with in the game.

This isn’t all theoretical, either. Duke beat Kentucky — a top ten team that entered the season ranked No. 2 nationally — by 34 points. They beat Auburn in a game where the Tigers never really challenged them. Their only loss on the season came against one of the three teams that we have in contention for the top spot in a two-point game where Duke had four shots in the final 30 seconds that could have forced overtime.

Are you telling me that Barrett’s inability to score (or make the right read) on the final possession is what definitively tells us that Gonzaga, and potentially Kansas, are better basketball teams?

Put another way, Duke would be favored by at least five points, give or take a few, on a neutral court against team in college basketball. That’s not the No. 1 team in the country?

The argument for Kansas is similarly strong. This was the preseason No. 1 team in the country, a team that everyone had ranked above both Gonzaga and Duke almost without question, and they have done absolutely nothing since the season started to convince us otherwise. They beat Michigan State, a top 10 team, in their season-opener. They followed that up with a couple of games where they struggled and still managed to put up double-digit wins over Vermont and Louisiana, both of whom could end up in the NCAA tournament. They played horribly for a half in the semifinals of the preseason NIT and beat Marquette by nine. They never looked right against Tennessee, a top five team, and still managed to beat the Volunteers in overtime.

The Jayhawks have the best resume of any of the three teams in contention for the top spot. As the preseason No. 1 team. That’s worth something.

But it’s not worth as much as what Gonzaga did last week, when they went into Maui and made a statement by knocking off Duke in the title game of the Maui Invitational.

The Zags don’t have a bad resume, per se. In addition to beating the team that Jay Williams seriously thought could beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gonzaga has wins over Texas A&M, Illinois and Arizona. The names make those wins sound more impressive than they probably are, but a win is a win is a win.

This goes beyond simply looking at a resume, however.

We knew the Zags would be good this season. What we didn’t know was whether or not they would be able to beat the best teams with Josh Perkins starting at the point, or what kind of impact Brandon Clarke would have, or if Killian Tillie’s absence would be a killer, or if Rui Hachimura actually made the leap like we all expected him to.

Well, we know the answer to those questions now.

And when you combine that with the fact that they just beat Duke, you get the No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Power Rankings.

1. Gonzaga (6-0, Last Week: 3)
2. Kansas (5-0, 2)
3. Duke (5-1, 1)
4. Virginia (6-0, 6)
5. Tennessee (4-1, 5)
6. Michigan (6-0, 9)
7. Nevada (6-0, 7)
8. North Carolina (6-1, 4)
9. Auburn (5-1, 8)
10. Kansas State (6-0, 10)
11. Virginia Tech (5-0, 11)
12. Michigan State (5-1, 13)
13. Florida State (5-1, 12)
14. Kentucky (5-1, 16)
15. Oregon (4-1, 17)
16. Ohio State (6-0, 22)
17. N.C. State (6-0, 21)
18. Purdue (5-1, 25)
19. Texas Tech (6-0, UR)
20. Wisconsin (5-1, UR)
21. Iowa (5-0, 23)
22. Buffalo (5-0, 24)
23. Clemson (5-1, 20)
24. Arizona State (5-0, UR)
25. Mississippi State (4-1, 19)

New Additions: 19. Texas Tech, 20. Wisconsin, 24. Arizona State
Dropped Out: 15. UCLA, 18. LSU

Creighton wins second annual Cayman Islands Classic

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Sophomore Ty-Shon Alexander made seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 36 points to lead Creighton past No. 16 Clemson 87-82 on Wednesday night in the championship game of the second annual Cayman Islands Classic.

Alexander, who was named the most outstanding player of the tournament, was 9-of-16 shooting, missing just five from distance, and made all 11 of his free throws.

Clemson’s Marcquise Reed completed a 3-point play with 28 seconds left and Elijah Thomas forced a turnover on an inbound play, leading to Shelton Mitchell’s shot inside to pull to 83-80. Davion Mintz answered with two free throws at the other end, and after Reed was off on a 3-pointer, Mintz sealed it with a dunk.

Creighton (5-1) has back-to-back home games against Montana and No. 3 Gonzaga, which upset top-ranked Duke 89-87 earlier Wednesday in Maui.

Reed was 11 of 22 from the floor and scored 27 points for Clemson (5-1), reaching 1,001 points with the team. David Skara had eight points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers, who play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Monday against Nebraska.

Clemson advances to title game in Cayman Islands

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Marcquise Reed scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Elijah Thomas had his second straight double-double and No. 16 Clemson beat Georgia 64-49 on Tuesday to advance to the championship game of the Cayman Islands Classic.

Thomas finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds for Clemson (5-0), which is off to its best start since the 2013-14 season. Shelton Mitchell, who scored a season-high 22 on Monday, chipped in with 13 points and David Skara had three of the Tigers’ nine steals.

Coach Brad Brownell won his 154th game at Clemson, three away from passing Bill Foster for second in program history.

Derek Ogbeide led Georgia (3-2) with 11 points. Nicolas Claxton, who scored 22 points in an 80-68 win on Monday, was held to three points on 1-of-9 shooting — but he had nine rebounds and five blocks.

Reed’s 26 points help No. 19 Clemson beat Sam Houston State

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Brad Brownell knows he has something many other programs don’t — a highly experienced backcourt to call on when things get tight.

Marcquise Reed had a season-high 26 points and point guard Shelton Mitchell 13 as the 19th-ranked Tigers used a second-half surge to put away pesky Sam Houston State 74-59 on Wednesday night.

“I better enjoy this, because I don’t think I’m going to have it next year,” Brownell said. “Those guys once again played well down the stretch.”

Particularly during a 16-3 run midway through the second half as they combined for 11 points while Clemson took control. The Tigers opened 3-0 for the second straight season and for just the fifth time in coach Brad Brownell’s nine years.

For a good while, though, it seemed the Bearkats of the Southland Conference were more than up to the challenge of handling an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.

RJ Smith’s 3-pointer early in the second half put Sam Houston State ahead 38-37 before Clemson’s back-breaking run.

Reed scored seven straight points to start the run while Mitchell added a pair of baskets, one off a steal where he dribbled into an official before getting clear for the layup and a 53-41 lead.

“I told him that was bad defense,” Brownell joked about Mitchell.

The Bearkats (2-2) could not respond as Clemson eventually grew the margin to 16 points down the stretch.

Both Reed and Mitchell explored their NBA options last spring before choosing a final college year. They’re each committed, Reed said, to an even bigger season than last year when the 25-win Tigers advanced to the Sweet 16.

Reed said he and Mitchell know they’re the ones who must set the tone with Clemson’s younger players.

“We’ve been in a lot of these situations and scenarios before,” Reed said. “So it’s easy to spread it to the young guys.”

Aamir Simms had 12 points and eight rebounds for Clemson.

It was Reed’s second 20-point game of the season.

Kai Mitchell led Sam Houston State with 14 points and Josh Delaney added 11.

Clemson looked ready to blow things open early as it made its first six shots and led 15-7 five minutes in. But the Tigers went cold the rest of the half, and Sam Houston State took advantage.

Clemson made just five of its final 18 shots of the opening half and the Bearkats took the lead, 30-29 on Albert Almanza’s four-point play with 43.8 seconds left when he got fouled by Elijah Thomas.

But Clemson’s Mitchell answered with a long 3 20 seconds later to send the Tigers into the break up 32-30.

THE BIG PICTURE

Sam Houston State: The Bearkats have lost two in a row on the road. They showed an ability to hang with bigger Clemson for much of the game, but could not handle the Tigers’ experience in the backcourt with three-year starters in Reed and Mitchell.

Clemson: The Tigers struggled to shoot consistently. Their defense, though, held up throughout the game as they limited Sam Houston State to less than 35 percent shooting with six steals and five blocks.

TOUGH TIME FOR THOMAS

Thomas has played through a difficult stretch. He was hurting from an ankle injury in the Tigers’ first two games and played against Sam Houston State despite being sick with the flu. Thomas had a 101-degree temperature Monday. He played 25 minutes Wednesday night with three points, five rebounds and two blocks.

ROAD WOES

Sam Houston State coach Jason Hooten has not liked what he’s seen down the stretch in his team’s first two road games. The Bearkats had the lead in the second half at Louisiana Tech and at Clemson, yet lost both games.

“There’s been a moment where we had chance to seize, I’m not going to say the game, but the lead. We’re not ready for that yet,” he said.

UP NEXT

Sam Houston State concludes its two-game swing at Power Five programs by going to Georgia on Friday night.

Clemson plays Akron on Monday to start the Cayman Islands Classic.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25