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Maryland’s Jalen Smith declares for NBA draft

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Jalen Smith is leaving Maryland for the 2020 NBA Draft.

The sophomore forward known as “Stix” announced his decision on Tuesday.

Over the last month of the season, not many players in college basketball were more productive than the 6-foot-10 sophomore. Smith put up 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 block per game. Shooting 53 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range, Smith was efficient as well. With 60 blocks and 30 made threes this season, Smith was the only player in college hoops with that distinction.

Somehow, in Big Ten conference play, Smith accumulated even better overall numbers. In the deepest and toughest league in the country, Smith averaged 16.8 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in Big Ten contests. Smith’s field goal percentages also increased to 56 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point range. It’s a big reason why Maryland was one of the Big Ten’s regular season champions.

The Big Ten production Smith showcased is exactly the reason many peg him as a first-round pick. Smith is the coveted prospect who can erase shots at the rim while also being skilled enough to stretch the floor from three. It’s also a strong sign that Smith increased his production as a sophomore. Freshman season, Smith was a solid contributor for Maryland. The team also had veteran big man Bruno Fernando as the team’s go-to option in the post. But with Fernando gone this season, Smith stepped up his production and became a force.

Currently projected as the No. 19 overall pick in the first round of CBT’s latest 2020 NBA mock draft, Jalen Smith could work his way into the lottery with a strong pre-draft process. Not many players in the draft can erase shots and shoot threes and Smith also has a proven track record of being successful for two college seasons.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Tennessee stuns No. 6 Kentucky; Rutgers, Michigan State earn notable Big Ten wins

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Super Tuesday captured much of the nation’s attention as the schedule was light on college basketball action. Plenty of notable results still came through.

Tennessee stunned No. 6 Kentucky with a comeback road win at Rupp Arena. And in the Big Ten, Rutgers might have punched its NCAA tournament ticket with a win over No. 9 Maryland. Meanwhile, No. 16 Michigan State stayed hot with its third straight win over a top-20 team at No. 20 Penn State.

1. Tennessee stuns No. 6 Kentucky with second-half comeback road win

The night’s biggest upset belonged to Tennessee.

The Volunteers used an impressive second-half comeback to beat No. 6 Kentucky, 81-73, at Rupp Arena.

Tennessee was down by as many as 17 points. Trailing by 11 at the half, it looked like the Wildcats were completely in control. Riding an eight-game winning streak entering Tuesday night, Kentucky was a team peaking at just the right time before the postseason began. Now, after another puzzling loss to an unranked team at home this season, we just have additional question marks about how good (and consistent) this Wildcats team might actually be.

John Fulkerson deserves a massive amount of credit for Tennessee’s win. Soundly outplaying Kentucky’s talented group of big men, Fulkerson finished with 27 points and and six rebounds on 10-for-15 shooting. Fulkerson was tough to guard one-on-one and his established presence inside helped Josiah Jordan-James (16 points), Yves Pons (15 points) and Jordan Bowden (11 points) all get going.

Kentucky looked disjointed at times during the second half as they completely derailed after a promising start. Tyrese Maxey had a solid night with 21 points. But Maxey didn’t have a lot of consistent help. Immanuel Quickley (14 points on 4-for-14 shooting) and Nick Richards (12 points) both had issues scoring in the half court. And Kentucky’s bench only accounted for a handful of points as nobody else stepped up.

In the grand scheme of things, this outcome probably doesn’t have many direct implications on the NCAA tournament. Tennessee still has to likely win the SEC tournament to even sniff the NCAA tournament. And Kentucky was always going to have a difficult time catching up to the current projected No. 1 seeds — barring an unforeseen collapse.

The biggest takeaway here is that Kentucky is still capable of mental lapses against mediocre teams that can cost them games.

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2. Rutgers earns its biggest win of the season over No. 9 Maryland

The Scarlet Knights might be dancing for the first time since 1991.

Rutgers earned its biggest win of the season with a decisive 78-67 win over No. 9 Maryland. A No. 11 seed in CBT’s latest Bracketology, Rutgers was stuck in last-four-byes status before Tuesday night’s win. Losing four of five entering Tuesday, Steve Pikell’s club needed to stop its recent freefall. But with another high-quality Q1 home win, the Scarlet Knights should breath a little easier entering the home stretch.

Jacob Young (17 points), Montez Mathis (15 points) and Geo Baker (11 points) led a balanced effort for Rutgers. Shooting an efficient 7-for-16 from three-point range, the Scarlet Knights limited themselves to seven turnovers on offense.

Maryland’s cold shooting also didn’t hurt. The Terps couldn’t buy a bucket from deep, going 6-for-32 from the floor. Besides for Anthony Cowan Jr. (19 points) and a late solid stretch from Jalen Smith (16 points), Maryland’s offense had a mediocre evening.

Now that Rutgers has secured this victory, its Big Ten finale against Purdue this weekend won’t be a dreaded must-win bubble-versus-bubble game. And with Purdue winning at Iowa on Tuesday night, the Boilermakers should enter that game with plenty of confidence. Obviously, the Scarlet Knights would like to win that one and keep momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament. But now that doesn’t feel like a must-win for Rutgers as much as it did before.

But the Rutgers court storm on Tuesday was well-deserved for its long-suffering fanbase. This is a season that fans of that program have waited decades for.

CBT Bracketology

3. No. 16 Michigan State rallies to get past No. 20 Penn State

Izzo in March…

Michigan State continued its late-season surge with an impressive comeback road win over Penn State. Trailing by 15 at the half, the Spartans scored as many points the first 10 minutes of the second half (31) as they had in the entire first half. With Maryland’s loss to Rutgers, Michigan State is now tied with the Terps for the Big Ten conference lead with both teams at 13-6.

Xavier Tillman Sr. put together a monster double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds. Senior point guard Cassius Winston chipped in an efficient 14 points and seven assists. Perhaps most importantly, Michigan State’s defense showed up in the second half.

After Penn State blitzed the Spartans in the first half with 10 three-pointers, Michigan State didn’t allow a triple during the second half.

Michigan State now has four straight wins with three straight victories coming against top-20 teams. The last two of those wins came on the road.

Although Michigan State was sluggish at times during the season after being ranked No. 1 this preseason, this is currently one of the most dangerous teams in college basketball. The Spartans will get yet another ranked matchup in their regular-season finale when they host Ohio State this weekend.

Rutgers earns biggest win of the season over No. 9 Maryland

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers has inched a little closer to its first NCAA Tournament berth in almost three decades.

Jacob Young came off the bench and scored 17 points and the Scarlet Knights claimed their fourth ranked victim at home with a 78-67 victory over No. 9 Maryland on Tuesday night.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Rutgers (19-11, 10-9 Big Ten) and it was their school record 18th win home this season, tops in the nation. It includes wins over Seton Hall, Penn State and Illinois, who were ranked at the time and still are.

Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell refuses to talk about The Tournament or getting over the hump, insisting his focus is now on the regular season finale at Purdue.

“We have won a lot of games in the best league in the country,” Pikiell said. “We have had the No. 1 schedule in the country, not just in the league, the last seven or eight games. We won against a lot of really good teams. This is another one today. We have one more with Purdue and then the conference tournament.”

CBT Bracketology

If there is a knock on Rutgers it is the the team’s record on the road. It is 1-10 away from the RAC.

Gio Baker, who added 11 points for Rutgers, is not sure what the NCAA Tournament selection committee thinks about the Scarlet Knights.

“We feel like we are good enough,” Baker said. “I don’t know if we have done enough but we feel like we belong in the tournament. We have the talent with the right team and the right mindset. But we still have more games left.”

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon believes Rutgers should get a bid. The Terps (23-7, 13-6) certainly will despite three losses in their last four games.

“We don’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Turgeon said. “We know who we are. We didn’t get to 23-5 by not being a good basketball team playing a Top-10 schedule in the country. It’s just that this last 72 hours has not gone so well. I love my team. We’re going to bounce back, but we just didn’t have it tonight. Give Rutgers credit.”

Montez Mathis added 15 points for Rutgers, which 49% from the field, including 7 of 16 from long range.

Jalen Smith had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Maryland. Anthony Cowan added 19 points for the Terps, who shot an atrocious 6 of 32 from 3-point range, including 2 of 16 in the first half.

College Basketball Scoreboard

Young helped break the game open early, hitting his first four shots to ignite a 15-4 spurt that allowed the Scarlet Knights to open a 19-8 lead.

“My coach just tells me to stay ready and be the spark,” Young said.

Cowan and Smith helped the Terps stay close, eventually going to the locker room down 35-29.

The second half was all Rutgers. It hit 10 of its first 14 shots and led by as many as 21 points. Maryland held the lead for less than a minute in the game and only made it close in garbage time.

The game ended with Rutgers fans on the court celebrating a win that had major tournament implications.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: Coupled with No. 16 Michigan State’s win over No. 20 Penn State, the Terps are tied for first place in the conference with one game to go. No. 23 Illinois and No. 24 Wisconsin can move into a first place tie with wins on Wednesday and Thursday.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are 4-4 in games against AP Top 25 teams and they can taste their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since the 1990-91 season. That was the last year Rutgers won 10 games in a league, going 14-4 in the Atlantic 10.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Finishes the regular season at home against No. 19 Michigan on Sunday.

Rutgers: Ends the regular season at Purdue on Saturday, and a win would probably seal the deal.

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

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Minnesota’s loss is Maryland’s gain, Penn State survives Rutgers and Kihei Clark delivers

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Some wild finishes from around the country Wednesday night. Let’s not waste any time diving into them. Here’s what you need to know:

Maryland wins after Minnesota stumbles down the stretch..again

This one was equal parts great for Maryland and devastating for Minnesota.

Well, it’s probably more devastating for the Gophers.

Minnesota, its NCAA tournament hopes already barely registering a pulse and its coach’s job security looking increasingly suspect, led the ninth-ranked Terrapins by as many as 17 in the first half and then by eight with just over 2 minutes to play, but absolutely crumbled down the stretch as Maryland got a go-ahead 3 from Darryl Morsell with 1.9 seconds left to deliver a 74-73 victory at Williams Arena.

For Richard Pitino and the Gophers, it was probably the end of whatever hopes they had for an NCAA tournament berth that didn’t include a conference tournament championship run. They’re 13-14 on the season, and were already looking at being on the bubble from a considerable distance. A win against a top-10 team at home could have changed that in a major way, but a loss leaves them in the status quo. Put it in context that its another blown home game – not much unlike the Iowa and Indiana games earlier this month – and it’s even harder to see the path to an second-straight NCAA tournament. Which means an All-American-type season for sophomore center Daniel Oturu, who had 28 & 11 against Maryland, will likely go for naught.

So that leaves Minnesota outside the dance for the fifth time in seven seasons under Pitino. The Gophers are also in danger of finishing under .500 for the second time in three years and the third in five. The school president and athletic director also weren’t the ones around when Pitino replaced Tubby Smith – who went to three tournaments in six years – in 2013. There may be a decision to consider in Minneapolis next month.

On the happier side of the ledger is Maryland, which maintained its two-game lead over Michigan State and Penn State along with its chances of a No. 1 seed come selection Sunday. It was the fourth time this season that the Terps have overcome a deficit of at least 14 points to win a game. They played much of the first half without Jalen Smith, who was dealing with foul trouble, while shooting 31 percent from the field and going 2 of 14 from the 3-point line. Smith played all 20 minutes of the second half (scoring 14 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking two shots) while Maryland shot 44.1 percent from the field (although still just 4 of 14 from deep).

All that is a long way of saying that Maryland was pitted against a desperate team on the road, played without one of its most important players and shot it terrible in the first half, but still won.

Still, Mark Turgeon is gonna wake up tired tomorrow.

Penn State blows a big lead, but holds on against Rutgers

Not a dissimilar situation from Maryland/Minnesota.

Penn State was the team blowing a lead in this one – a 21-point lead – but the Nittany Lions’ Myles Dread’s late 3-pointer delivered a 65-64 win for the home favorite and hand the team in need of an NCAA tournament boost a crushing L.

The Scarlet Knights have an OK resume – they’ve got three Quad 1 wins, a single Quad 3 loss and are 7-9 against Quad 2s – but with Wednesday’s loss at Penn State, they still don’t have a win away from home on the season. And for a team already on the bubble, a home game against Maryland and a road trip to Purdue isn’t an ideal way to have to finish the season and wrap up a bid before the conference tournament.

Conversely, Penn State is already clearly going to get the first NCAA tournament spot under Pat Chambers and has a couple of really nice resume opportunities left. They’re at Iowa before hosting Michigan State (and then finishing up at Northwestern). Winning the Big Ten regular season title is probably a long shot with Maryland up a pair of games, but getting a top-four seed is absolutely in play.

Kihei Clark won Virginia its fifth-straight game

When you’re in a down league and playing good-but-not-great basketball a year after winning the national title, you don’t generate a lot of buzz. Especially if you’re Virginia, playing games with halftime scores like 26-11, as was the case Wednesday against Virginia Tech.

The Cavaliers, though, have now won five-straight because after the Hokies figure a few things out offensively, Virginia got a game-winner from Kihei Clark.

Tony Bennett’s team is now just a game back of second in the ACC and two behind Florida State in first with three games – including against Duke and Louisville – to play.

Virginia certainly isn’t nearly as interesting or good as the team that cut down nets in Minneapolis last spring, but they’re playing serious defense and getting clutch plays from the point guard. Not a bad March formula.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Michigan State, Penn State win on the road

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College basketball didn’t have a ton of games on Tuesday night.

But we learned more about a crowded Big Ten race with two key road wins.

And three ranked teams struggled to put away feisty unranked teams during a night of close games.

Michigan State survives at No. 22 Illinois

College basketball’s biggest matchup came from Champaign on Tuesday night.

Michigan State claimed a crucial road win over No. 22 Illinois with a 70-69 victory. Stopping a three-game losing streak, this was one of the Spartans’ biggest wins of the season.

Jumping out to an 8-0 advantage, it looked like Michigan State would win this one with ease. The Spartans led by 17 at the half. For about the first 30 minutes, Michigan State looked like one of college basketball’s elite teams in this one.

Then Illinois made a furious rally to take the lead with under five minutes left. A back-and-forth finish ensued. Cassius Winston’s missed layup was followed by a Xavier Tillman putback dunk with just over six seconds left for the game-winning bucket.

Illinois sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu took the ball the length of the floor on the ensuing possession and twisted his knee before losing the ball. Dosunmu (17 points) was a warrior in the second half. But he had to be carried off the floor by two Illinois staffers following the heartbreaking loss. Dosunmu’s status going forward is certainly a concern for Illinois in a brutal Big Ten race.

But the story of this one is Michigan State holding on to win.

The Spartans blew a 20-point lead and got cold in the second half after a hot start. On an off night from Winston (12 points, four turnovers), freshman Rocket Watts (21 points) came up huge in the scoring column for Michigan State. Watts created offense off the dribble by himself when it was difficult for the Spartans to generate offense.

Xavier Tillman (17 points, 11 rebounds) also came through with a double-double as he converted a few key post touches on mismatches late in the second half.

This one certainly wasn’t pretty. And Michigan State still has to figure out how to get Winston going on certain off nights. But for Watts to step up like that and the Spartans to take Illinois’ best shot is a very positive sign of a turnaround. If Michigan State wanted to stay in the Big Ten race, they needed a road win like this to keep pace with teams like Maryland and Penn State.

No. 13 Penn State pushes win streak to seven with statement win

Perhaps the night’s most impressive win belongs to Penn State.

The Nittany Lions blitzed Purdue with 10 first-half three-pointers to claim another Big Ten road win. On a seven-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions have four road wins in that span.

Tuesday night’s win was impressive because of the way Penn State did it. With Lamar Stevens battling foul problems and second-leading scorer Myreon Jones (illness) out, the role guys stepped up.

I have much more on Penn State’s notable road victory here. It’s been a long time since Penn State basketball was relevant. This is one of the most fun and surprising stories of the 2019-20 college basketball season.

Three ranked teams survive scares

Some close games scared some ranked teams across college basketball on Tuesday night.

In a slow night for the top 25, two SEC teams needed second-half comebacks over unranked teams. And the Big Ten’s leader survived a final push from a conference bottom feeder.

After jumping out to a double-digit lead, Vanderbilt couldn’t close No. 12 Kentucky at home. Tyrese Maxey scored 25 points to pace the Wildcats past the Commodores for an SEC road win. Ashton Hagans also registered a triple-double for Kentucky in the win.

Keeping pace with the Wildcats in the SEC was No. 25 LSU. The Tigers also needed a second-half rally as they held off Missouri. Skylar Mays (23 points) and Darius Days (20 points, 10 rebounds) paced the five double-figure scorers for LSU. The wins for both keep Kentucky and the Tigers tied atop the SEC with 9-2 conference marks.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten’s leader also had some trouble. Maryland needed to get a stop on its final two defensive possessions to seal a win over Nebraska. Jalen Smith registered a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, coming up with a key defensive play late in the game to help keep the Terps on top.

The win keeps Maryland on top of the Big Ten standings. The Terps are a game up on Penn State and two up on the Spartans after Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Penn State wins at Michigan State, Jalen Smith’s excellence continues for Maryland

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Tuesday night threatened to go all kinds of college basketball crazy with favorites trailing late, but things mostly fell the way you would expect.

That’s not to say, however, there weren’t some meaningful and interesting results across the country.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Penn State knocks of Michigan State in East Lansing

Whatever concerns of a collapse there may have been about Penn State when the Nittany Lions dropped three-straight a couple weeks ago, well, those are proving to be unfounded.

No. 22 Penn State continued its resurgence under Pat Chambers on Tuesday with an impressive 75-70 win over No. 16 Michigan State at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, the Nittany Lions’ fifth-straight – and by far best – victory since that three-game January skid.

Not only is Penn State clearly on track to make its first NCAA tournament in Chambers’ ninth season in University Park, but the Nittany Lions are putting together a resume for a sterling seed line.

Chambers’ group is now a game behind in the Big Ten standings with wins at Michigan State and Michigan along with home wins against Maryland, Ohio State and Indiana during league play. The offense can be a little shaky at times – they shot 41 percent from the floor against the Spartans – but the defense is legit, especially inside with Mike Watkins’ rim protection anchoring things. Maybe the most impressive thing Tuesday was the way Penn State withstood big plays and moments from Michigan State. The Spartans, specifically Cassius Winston (who had 25 points), hit them with some big punches, but the Nittany Lions never hit the canvas like some of their previous squads likely would have.

Obviously, it’s not a crippling loss for Michigan State, for all the Penn State-related reasons above, but there are signs for concern. The loss in Madison on Saturday to a mediocre Wisconsin team that had one of its most important players suspended and another looking for a new school, well, that ain’t a great look. Following up with a home loss, even to a solid team, isn’t either, at least not for a team that only intermittently this season looked like the preseason No. 1 and national title contender many of us believed they’d be.

It just seems there’s not enough going on beyond Winston for Michigan State. The senior point guard put up 25, but went 8 of 21 from the floor and 3 of 11 from 3-point range. He had nine assists, yes, but didn’t have a go-to second option. No other Spartan scored more than nine points, and none took more than eight shots.

Watching Michigan State, it’s easy to see so many of the pieces with Winston at the helm and a bunch of types of guys that have thrived on Tom Izzo teams, but it’s hard not to think about Josh Langford, the 6-foot-5, 40-percent 3-point shooter and double-digit scorer who won’t play for the Spartans due to injury. Langford running the wing alongside Winston makes Michigan State a different team.

But they’re this team, and Langford won’t be suiting up. If Michigan State hasn’t been able to consistently get enough from the supporting cast around Winston, time is running out to think they ever will. This Spartan teams is really good, and sometimes great, but their fatal flaw isn’t one that is particularly difficult to exploit.

2. Duke was mostly bad, but good enough to beat Boston College

Duke shot 37.7 percent from the field, including 26.7 percent in the first half. The Blue Devils missed their first 14 3-pointers, finally making one – their lone make – with under 8 minutes to play. Vernon Carey played most of the second half in foul trouble.

It was ugly and ineffective against a Boston College team that has lost five of its last seven and doesn’t have a win against a KenPom top-50 team this season.

Still wasn’t enough for the Blue Devils to lose.

Duke got a lift offensively from Joey Baker and enough from Tre Jones and Carey while the defense turned things up enough late to give Coach K and Duke a 63-55 road ACC win.

It was far from a good performance from Duke, but when you’re on the road at BC for a mid-week, that falls directly into the Just Don’t Lose category when you’re angling for a No. 1 seed. An icky performance isn’t exactly surprising, and if it’s in a win, it’s not at all damaging, except for the eyeballs of anyone who spent two hours watching these two teams combine to go 3-33 from 3-point range. With North Carolina this weekend and Florida State on Monday, the Blue Devils being stuck in neutral isn’t exactly surprising. Nor is it discouraging.

Duke was pretty dreadful offensively. They were 1-15 from 3-point range overall. They were 8 of 18 (44.4 percent) on 2s in the first half. Jones finished with 18 points, but it was a lot of work to get there as he went 7 of 15 from the field. Carey tallied 17 points on 5 of 13 shooting. Cassius Stanley was 2 of 8. Matthew Hurt was 1 of 6 and didn’t even play in the second half. Baker was perhaps the best offensively, at least for a stretch, scoring eight second-half points on 3 of 3 shooting.

So all in all, a pretty terrible offensive performance, but give Duke has a top-five offense for the year, it’s hard to see anything but an outlier performance. We know Duke is really good offensively. Tonight’s work just wasn’t emblematic of the big picture. It happens.

It was interesting to see, however, that Duke was able to put the clamps down defensively in crunch time. Three-straight Boston College turnovers courtesy of Duke’s full-court defense helped them push the lead from one to seven after the 5-minute mark.

3. Jalen Smith continues to be awesome as Maryland gets by Rutgers

Jalen Smith has been great all season long, but the Maryland big man has been spectacular lately. The 6-foot-10 sophomore continued the trend against Rutgers, posting 14 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks in the Terrapins’ 56-51 win over a tough Scarlet Knights squad.

Fourteen points. Fifteen rebounds. Six blocks. Not to mention being 3 of 7 form 3-point range.

What an absolutely awesome performance. Not that it’s anything new for Smith.

The Baltimore native is averaging 21 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game over his last six contests. He’s playing himself up NBA draft boards every single time he’s on the floor. Maryland, by the way, is 5-1 while Smith has been on this especially splendid tear. If the Terps stay in the Big Ten race and Smith continues to cook, we’re going to be looking at him as a first-team All-American and national player of the year contender. He’s been that good.

The Terps’ immediate schedule includes two must-wins – home games against Nebraska and Northwestern – stacked between huge matchups at Illinois and Michigan State. Then it’s a sprint to the finish against some of the Big Ten’s best teams. It should be a wild league race, and Maryland will be in the thick of it.