Purdue back at No. 1 in AP Top 25, Alabama right behind

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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Purdue is back at No. 1 in the AP Top 25. Alabama is right behind the Boilermakers.

Purdue returned to the top spot in The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, moving up two spots after Temple knocked off No. 1 Houston over the weekend. The Boilermakers received 39 first-place votes from a 62-person media panel after a volatile week where just two teams kept the same spot from a week ago.

Alabama climbed two spots to No. 2, picking up 23 first-place votes for its highest ranking since reaching No. 1 in 2002-03. Houston, Tennessee and Kansas State round out the top five.

Purdue (19-1, 8-1 Big Ten) had dropped to No. 3 after four weeks at No. 1 following a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3, but has since won six straight.

Alabama (17-2, 7-0 SEC) has made a steady climb since being ranked No. 20 in the preseason AP Top 25, moving into the top 10 in early December. The Crimson Tide had lopsided wins over Missouri and Vanderbilt after Darius Miles was dismissed from the team as he faces a murder charge in a fatal shooting near campus.

Alabama coach Nate Oats reached out to Ray Lewis before the Crimson Tide played Vanderbilt last week, sharing a Bible verse suggested by the Hall of Fame linebacker. Alabama ended up beating Vandy by 12 and rolled over Missouri by 21.

“I did see some guys break down postgame,” Oats said. “I think they’ve been bottling some stuff up. We’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to get to the game. We got to the game and took care of business, and then it’s almost like a big relief. The game’s over, and we can let out a sigh of relief.”

COUGARS FALL

Houston moved atop the AP Top 25 for the first time since the Phi Slama Jama of the 1980s earlier this season before a loss to Alabama dropped it back to No. 5.

The Cougars returned to No. 1 on Jan. 9, but their run ended after two weeks with Sunday’s 56-55 loss to Temple. The win was the Owls’ first over a No. 1 team since 2000.

BEATING KU

Kansas State moved up eight spots to No. 5 after outlasting rival Kansas 83-82 at Bramlage Coliseum last week. It’s the Wildcats’ highest ranking since reaching No. 3 in 2010-11.

TCU gave Kansas consecutive losses in the state for the first time since 1989 with a 23-point beatdown at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday. It was one of Bill Self’s worst losses in 20 years as Kansas’ coach and ended the Jayhawks’ 16-game home winning streak.

The No. 14 Horned Frogs moved up three spots in this week’s poll after the win. Kansas, the defending national champion, dropped seven spots to No. 9.

BIG TEN BUMMER

While Purdue has remained near the top of the poll most of the season, the rest of the Big Ten has fallen off. With Rutgers dropping out, the Big Ten has just one AP Top 25 team for the first time since the Feb. 16, 2004, when No. 12 Wisconsin was the conference’s lone ranked team, according to Sportradar.

RISING/FALLING

Kansas State had the week’s biggest jump, followed by No. 4 Tennessee and No. 6 Arizona each climbing five spots. No. 21 Baylor moved up four spots with wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma.

Gonzaga had the biggest fall, losing eight places to No. 14 after Loyola Marymount ended the Zags’ 75-game home winning streak on Thursday. No. 13 Xavier dropped five spots after a one-point road loss to DePaul.

IN AND OUT

No. 22 Saint Mary’s is ranked for the first time this season after rolling over Pepperdine and Santa Clara last week. No. 25 New Mexico is back in the poll after beating San Jose State and outlasting Boise State in overtime.

A three-point loss to Michigan State knocked Rutgers out of the poll from No. 23. Arkansas dropped out from No. 25 following a loss to Missouri.

Investigators: Darius Miles provided gun in fatal shooting

Gary Cosby Jr./USA TODAY NETWORK
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Investigators said Darius Miles provided the gun used in the fatal shooting, but another man fired the weapon.

Investigators wrote in a court document that Darius Miles admitted to providing the handgun immediately before the shooting. Another man is accused of firing the gun and killing a young woman near the university’s campus, according to court documents filed in Tuscaloosa.

Miles, 21, a junior reserve forward from Washington, D.C., and Michael Lynn Davis, 20, of Charles County, Maryland, are charged with capital murder in the shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Harris. The shooting occurred on the Strip, a student-oriented business district of bars and restaurants near the Tuscaloosa campus. Harris was sitting in the passenger seat of a car when she was struck by a bullet, investigators wrote in the court document.

Tuscaloosa police Capt. Jack Kennedy declined to say where Miles got the gun. As of Jan. 1, Alabama stopped requiring a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Miles and Davis remained in the Tuscaloosa County jail, and Kennedy said a probable cause hearing could take 30 to 60 days in a capital murder case.

The University of Alabama said in a statement that Miles is no longer on the basketball team. The fourth-ranked Crimson Tide are scheduled to play Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Defense lawyers for Miles released a statement saying Miles maintains his innocence and that he and his family “are heartbroken” over Harris’ death.

“While Darius has been accused of being involved with this tragedy, he maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court,” they said. “Our firm’s own investigation is ongoing, and no further statement will be made at this time,” attorneys William White, Clayton Tartt and Suzanne Norman from the the Birmingham-based Boles Holmes White law firm wrote in the statement.

Basketball coach Nate Oats said his players are going through “kind of a grieving process.”

“They didn’t have too many questions,” Oats said of the players. “It’s really just more of kind of a grieving process. I mean, they understand the severity of the situation with Jamea. They also understand the severity of the situation with Darius. There’s both sides of it, dealing with it.”

Alabama ‘grieving’ after Darius Miles charged with murder

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
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Alabama head coach Nate Oats said the Crimson Tide are going through “kind of a grieving process” after player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder following a fatal shooting near campus.

Speaking at a news conference, Oats said he couldn’t discuss any specifics related to the case. He said he spoke with Miles’ mother multiple times, and met with the team that night.

“I thought it was important that we were all here and around to support one another through this situation,” Oats said.

Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit Capt. Jack Kennedy said the shooting occurred on the Strip, a student-oriented business district near the Tuscaloosa campus. He said Jamea Harris, 23, of the Birmingham area was shot and killed.

Miles, 21, a junior reserve forward from Washington, D.C., and Michael Lynn Davis, 20, of Charles County, Maryland, were both charged with capital murder. The capital murder charge arose because the death involved shots fired into a vehicle, Kennedy said.

Oats said the team met again and would practice later in the day before a game at Vanderbilt.

“They didn’t have too many questions,” Oats said of the players. “It’s really just more of kind of a grieving process. I mean, they understand the severity of the situation with Jamea. They also understand the severity of the situation with Darius. There’s both sides of it, dealing with it.”

“So yeah, it’s not something you go through often as a coach but I think we’ve got the services around the program to help us handle the situation.”

The university said in a statement Miles “has been removed from campus” and is no longer on the team.

Attorneys William White, Clayton Tartt and Suzanne Norman, from the the Birmingham-based Boles Holmes White law firm, issued a statement on behalf of Miles, saying he and his family “are heartbroken” over Harris’ death.

“While Darius has been accused of being involved with this tragedy, he maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court,” they said. “Our firm’s own investigation is ongoing, and no further statement will be made at this time.”

Kennedy said bail would not initially be set in the case. He said defense lawyers could request a probable cause hearing in Tuscaloosa County District Court and that a judge could consider bail later.

Miles had appeared in just six games this year, averaging 1.5 points. The team had announced he would miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury.

He had also missed time earlier this year with what had been described as a personal matter. Oats said that Miles went back to Washington to deal with that issue but that it was “completely unrelated” to the weekend charges.

Alabama basketball player, 2nd man charged with murder

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s Darius Miles and another man have been charged with capital murder after a fatal shooting near campus.

Tuscaloosa Police Capt. Jack Kennedy said that the shooting occurred in the Strip off University Blvd. near campus. He said Jamea Harris, 23, of the Birmingham area was shot and killed.

Miles, 21, a junior reserve forward from Washington, D.C., and Michael Lynn Davis, 20, of Charles County, Maryland, were both charged with capital murder. The capital murder charge arose because the death involved shots fired into a vehicle, Kennedy said.

“At this time, it appears that the only motive was a minor altercation that these individuals had with the victim as they were out on The Strip,” Kennedy said in a news conference Sunday evening. They didn’t have a previous relationship, he said.

He said the driver of another vehicle, in which Harris was a passenger, approached campus police near Bryant-Denny Stadium at about 1:45 a.m. saying that someone had shot into the vehicle, and he fired back. One of the suspects was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital, and Kennedy declined to disclose who fired the gun or who was hurt.

An emotional Miles spoke to someone as he was being ushered into a law enforcement vehicle: “I swear I love you more than you can imagine.”

Miles was a reserve on the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide team. Alabama had announced before Saturday’s game against LSU that he was out for the season with an ankle injury. His bio has been removed from the athletic department website and the university said that he “has been removed from campus” and is no longer on the team.

“The University of Alabama’s utmost priority is the safety and well-being of the campus community,” a university statement said. “We are grieved by the incident that occurred near campus last night and extend our deepest condolences to the victim’s family and friends.”

Neither the driver of the other vehicle nor Harris nor Davis appeared to be affiliated with the university, Kennedy said.

No. 8 Alabama mounts comeback, beats No. 1 Houston 71-65

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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HOUSTON – No. 8 Alabama could have called it a day when it was trailing by double-figures early in the second half.

The Crimson Tide didn’t, and earned another marquee win this season.

Alabama rallied from a 15-point second half deficit to stun No. 1 Houston 71-65 on Saturday, becoming just the second men’s team to beat two top-ranked teams in the same season.

Noah Clowney had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Jaden Bradley added 12 points and Mark Sears scored 11 points, including nine in the second half for the Crimson Tide (8-1). Alabama shot 50% from the field in the second half and 41% for the game. The Tide went 20 of 32 on free throws, including 15 of 21 in the second half.

“This is one of those character wins that shows that our guys are going to keep fighting no matter what the score is,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “We could have easily given up down 15. The start of the second half wasn’t great. We made some changes with the bench guys. Hung in there, kept clawing away at the lead, finally able to take the lead and then we pulled away from them.”

The Crimson Tide beat North Carolina 103-101 in four overtimes on Nov. 27 and joins the 1990 Oklahoma team to take down two No. 1s in a season.

“Huge program win,” Oats said. “Not sure how many teams get the chance to play two No. 1 teams in nonconference, let alone beat them, but I think that shows where we’ve gotten this program to that we can play with anyone in the country at this point.”

Jamal Shead had 19 points and six rebounds, and Tramon Mark scored 10 points before fouling out with 8:10 remaining for Houston (9-1).

“That’s the No. 8 team in the nation,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “No shame losing to a really, really good Alabama team. Disappointing obviously. We haven’t lost a lot in this building.”

The Cougars shot 39% from the field, including going 1-of-8 to end the game. Houston was 3 of 13 on 3-pointers and 12 of 22 from the free-throw line.

“We just couldn’t guard,” Shead said. “We didn’t stand in front of the ball for like four or five straight possessions and that’s how they got back into it. And we just weren’t tough enough to finish it out.”

The game was tied at 63 following a Marcus Sasser free throw with two minutes left. Then Clowney put the Tide up by two with a layup with 1:12 remaining, Shead missed a jumper with 48 seconds left and Brandon Miller made two free throws five seconds later to push the lead to four.

After Reggie Chaney missed two free throws, Miller made two more free throws to give Alabama a 69-63 lead with 27 seconds remaining.

Trailing 57-49 with 8 1/2 remaining, the Tide went on an 11-3 run to cut the lead to 61-60 on a layup by Clowney with five minutes to go.

Houston used an 18-2 run to end the first half and start the second half to take a 44-29 lead with 17:13 remaining on a steal and layup by Jarace Walker, but Alabama responded with a 15-5 spurt to cut the led to five on a 3-pointer by Sears with 11 minutes left.

BIG PICTURE

Alabama: Alabama outrebounded Houston 44-39 and got 27 points from its bench. The Tide improved to 3-1 this season against teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

Houston: The Cougars missed a chance for a resume-building win and fell to 1-1 this season against Quad 1 teams. Houston forced Alabama into 15 turnovers but turned it into only 18 points.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Houston, which has been No. 1 for two weeks, will likely fall in the AP Top 25 poll, while Alabama should rise.

UP NEXT

Alabama: Hosts Memphis on Tuesday.

Houston: Hosts North Carolina A&T on Tuesday.

Clowney, No. 11 Alabama recover to beat South Dakota State

Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Freshman Noah Clowney’s breakout game – 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a steal – helped No. 11 Alabama recover from blowing a 20-point lead and beat South Dakota State 78-65 on Saturday night.

Clowney shot 8 of 17, including 5 of 12 on 3s, in his highest-scoring game of the season.

“We’ve encouraged him to shoot it, I’m glad he did,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “His senior year of high school, he started out pretty poorly from 3 then shot it 40% after that, so I kind of referenced that.”

Alabama (7-1) led 37-17 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half. South Dakota State (3-6) rallied to go ahead 51-50 on Alex Arians’ 3-pointer with 11 1/2 minutes remaining.

Nimari Burnett’s foul shot a minute later put the Crimson Tide ahead for good at 54-53. Alabama used a 9-0 run to pull away.

Mark Sears scored 19 points and Brandon Miller had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Crimson Tide

Alabama made 14 of its first 26 shots to build a big lead before it slipped away.

“I’m not going to call them mature, we still have some room to grow,” Oats said. “Our guys have to understand, no matter who we’re playing, even if their record isn’t great, they’re Division I basketball players, they’re good teams. Last year, we had issues with this going down the road.”

Charlie Easley and Arians each scored 17 points for the Jackrabbits. Zeke Mayo added 12 points and Matt Dentlinger contributed nine rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Sears continues to be a force at home for Alabama. In Alabama’s last three home games – wins over Liberty, Jacksonville State and South Dakota State – he has scored 22, 18 and 19 points, making at least three 3-pointers in all three games. Alabama’s next home game comes against a Memphis team that already has two wins over SEC competition.

SECOND HALF SPRING

South Dakota State coach Eric Henderson noticed that in Alabama’s first two home games, Longwood and Liberty both trailed by fewer than 10 points at halftime before losing by 21 and 36 points, respectively. He viewed the first five minutes of the second half as critical in both instances, seeing an Alabama team using the home environment to its advantage.

Henderson stressed to his team that it had to win those five minutes to have a chance. Down 42-35 at the break, it did, and ultimately took the lead.

“They really increase the pressure, they try to play a little faster, they get downhill and they really spray it,” Henderson said. “I thought we were getting some 50-50 balls, I thought we were playing with some confidence. There’s been a lot of schools to come in here and have a good first half and it ends up being a 30- or 40-point game.”

UP NEXT

South Dakota State stays on the road to face Montana on Tuesday.

Alabama takes a weeklong break before its second game against the current No. 1 team in the nation, this time a road game against Houston on Saturday. The Crimson Tide beat former No. 1 North Carolina in its first shot at the top-ranked team, winning 103-101 in four overtimes on Nov. 27.