Author: The Dagger - NCAAB - Yahoo Sports

No. 22 Saint Mary’s hopes to regain swagger vs. Pepperdine

Look past the gloom and doom of Saint Mary’s losing two of their past three teams, and dropping from No. 11 all the way to No. 22, and what the Gaels have is a 25-win team that still has a good chance to play into the second week of the NCAA Tournament.

“I told our team this the other day: ‘We’re in the last week of the season, and all of our goals are still on the table.’ That’s where you want to be,” head coach Randy Bennett told his Gaels via sfgate.com.

Almost every team has a hiccup, especially this season, where it seems every week a handful of high-ranked teams lose on the same night.

The Gaels hit a bump in the road by losing to Gonzaga, 78-65, in a game that wasn’t close from the tip. Bennett’s squad carried a hangover into their next game, a seven-point loss to San Francisco.

Saint Mary’s (25-4, 14-2 WCC) got back on track Saturday in Portland with a 12-point win against the Pilots. On Thursday, the Gaels will welcome Pepperdine (4-24, 1-15 WCC) to McKeon Pavilion hoping to regain some of the swagger and confidence they had built during a school-record 19-game win streak before losing to the Bulldogs.

All-time assists leader Emmett Naar’s status is uncertain against the Waves. Naar injured his left ankle in the first half against the Pilots, left the game and didn’t return.

“I’m not a fortune teller,” Bennett said. “I can’t read this thing (perfectly), but I think he’ll probably play.”

If Naar can’t go, Jordan Ford is expected to run the point. Whoever is playing still has All-America candidate Jock Landale in the post.

Landale is averaging 21.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. After being devoured by Gonzaga’s defense, which held him to just four shots and four points, Landale bounced back to score 23 points and grab 10 boards against the Pilots.

His execution and play around the basket comes as no surprise to his teammates or opposing coaches.

“It’s ridiculous how unsurprising it is,” Naar told the (San Jose) Mercury News before the win at Portland. “He’s been doing it all year. You look at the stat sheet and he has like 30 and 15. For most players, ‘Wow, that’s unbelievable.’ He’s done it so many times now you sort of take it for granted. It’s a ridiculous level he’s playing at right now.”

While the Waves are playing out the string with a lame-duck coach, an upset of the Gaels would be gratifying. And as this season has proven, upsets seem to be the norm, which the Gaels learned first-hand against the Dons.

Pepperdine, which announced on Feb. 13 that head coach Marty Wilson will not return for an eighth season, lost two close games last week.

BYU dropped the Waves in overtime on Feb. 15.

Against No. 6 Gonzaga on Saturday, the Waves trailed 66-64 before the Bulldogs went on an 11-0 run to put the game out of reach.

“Our focus coming into this game was to stay within striking distance,” leading scorer Colbey Ross told the Pepperdine Graphic. “Gonzaga is one of the top teams in the country, but we wanted to show our game and not back down to the challenge.”

Ross, a freshman guard, tallied a game-high 21 points and recorded six assists. Fellow freshman guard Trae Berhow had nine points and seven rebounds.

In the end, Gonzaga just had too much talent and made plays when it counted.

“We were struggling to stop them and bouts where we were struggling to score ourselves,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few told reporters as he credited the Waves for not giving up. “But in the end, we were really solid and made plays at both ends.”

Haldeman’s late 3 helps Northern Iowa hold off Valparaiso

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) — Spencer Haldeman drained a late trey to give Northern Iowa enough cushion to hold off Valparaiso 68-63 on Tuesday night.

Haldeman’s 3-pointer with 47 seconds left gave the Panthers a 62-56 lead. Tevonn Walker answered with a 3 for Valparaiso to close to 62-59. Haldeman then made two free throws and Bennett Koch finished the scoring with four straight free throws.

Koch was 8 of 8 from the floor, while making 9 of 14 free-throw attempts to total 25 points, which gave him 1,000 points for his career with Northern Iowa (14-15, 6-11 Missouri Valley Conference). Haldeman and Klint Carlson added 11 points apiece.

The Panthers led throughout the second half but could never break free as the Crusaders remained within striking distance. They closed to 59-56 with 2:01 remaining after Markus Golder drilled a 3 and Walker followed with a layup.

Bakari Evelyn had 19 points to lead Valparaiso (14-16, 5-12), which is in last place in the conference.

Northern Iowa will play in an opening-round game at the MVC tournament for the first time since 2003. The bottom four seeds (7th to 10th place) will play on March 1 to open the tournament in St. Louis. The highest seed UNI can achieve is No. 8.

Palmer leads Nebraska to 66-57 win over Indiana

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska had the finishing kick against Indiana that it lacked at Illinois, and it got the Huskers running in the right direction again Tuesday night.

Nebraska outscored Indiana 13-6 over the final 5:32 for a 66-57 victory, overcoming some missed free throws by forcing the last of the Hoosiers’ 19 turnovers to reach 12 conference wins for only the third time in school history.

James Palmer scored 15 points as the Huskers won for the seventh time in eight games.

”The important part was to finish the game with a great defensive stretch and control the ball on offense, and put them away,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. ”The first half, the way we played, I wasn’t sure it was going to end like that.”

Nebraska (21-9, 12-5 Big Ten) bounced back from a 72-66 loss Sunday at Illinois. Senior co-captain Evan Taylor said much of the focus over the following 48 hours was on defense.

”I think we got stops,” Taylor said. ”In the Illinois game, we allowed them to get second shots. Tonight we got stops.”

Indiana (16-13, 9-8) had a four-game winning streak snapped, with Nebraska picking up 26 points off the Hoosiers’ highest turnover total since 19 in a season-opening loss to Indiana State.

”Lack of toughness, lack of confidence . I don’t know what it was,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. ”Maybe the road environment scared them a little bit, I’m not sure. But just some of the plays didn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

Indiana started a 10-2 run in the second half with back-to-back 3-point plays by Justin Smith and Juwan Morgan, taking a 41-37 lead with 13:50 remaining. Nebraska answered with 10 straight, including a 3-point play and two free throws by Taylor, and led the rest of the way.

The Huskers all but finished off the Hoosiers when Palmer had two free throws and a dunk during an 8-0 run that made it 64-53 with 1:51 remaining.

”The whole game, I didn’t think we were playing that well,” NU point guard Glynn Watson Jr. said. ”But we made that big stretch and got on that run, and put them away.”

Smith and Robert Johnson paced Indiana with 16 points apiece. Smith had the Hoosiers’ first eight points of the second half – more than his season average of 5.9 per game – but four turnovers on six possessions coming out of the break added to the Indiana struggles.

”I thought we were right there for a good portion of the game,” Miller said. ”But you can’t do that on the road – 19 second shots, 19 turnovers – it’s just not going to get it done.”

Indiana somehow emerged with a halftime lead despite a shaky first 20 minutes, going ahead 26-25 after Devonte Green and Johnson scored on hard drives in the final 90 seconds. Nebraska had a chance to regain the lead it had held for much of the first half but Isaiah Roby missed a 3-point shot as time ran out.

Nebraska had taken a 25-22 lead on a 3-point basket by Thomas Allen with 1:52 remaining, but the Huskers made just 3 of 15 from behind the arc in the first half and did not attempt a free throw.

The Huskers’ only other seasons with 12 league wins came in 1965-66 (Big Eight) and 1915-16 (Missouri Valley). Miles was glad to see Nebraska reach a dozen after seeming to be a little tight from the start.

”Tonight was one of those nights where I think they earned the victory,” he said. ”And hopefully that can really help them build that belief that we can beat anybody.”

BIG PICTURE

Indiana: The Hoosiers had built some late-season momentum by beating four consecutive Big Ten lower-division teams. They will try to rebound with a Friday night home game against Ohio State that concludes their regular-season schedule.

Nebraska: The NCAA tourney hopes remain fragile, but Nebraska picked itself up nicely after its costly setback at Illinois. The play of Palmer, a junior, continues to be an important part of one of the Huskers’ best seasons in years.

NOTHING IS FREE

Indiana and Nebraska played more than 17 minutes before either team made it to the free-throw line. The two shots by the Hoosiers’ Juwan Morgan (one make, one miss) with 2:59 left were then the only two attempted prior to halftime. Nebraska didn’t get to the line until the 16:58 mark of the second half. Overall, the teams eventually combined to shoot 26.

BALL CONTROL

Indiana hurt itself Tuesday night by not taking care of the ball. The Hoosiers had nine turnovers in the first half, then four more over their first six possessions of the second (by then already surpassing their season average of 12.3 per game). Indiana finished with 19, its highest total since 19 in a season-opening loss to Indiana State.

UP NEXT

Indiana hosts Ohio State on Friday.

Nebraska hosts Penn State on Sunday.

No. 13 Wichita State host struggling Tulane

Wichita State is coming off its biggest win of the season, a gritty 76-72 victory at No. 11 Cincinnati on Sunday.

The No. 13 Shockers will look build momentum off the win over the Bearcats, when struggling Tulane visits Charles Koch Arena on Wednesday. Wichita State (21-5, 11-3 American Athletic Conference) has won four in a row while the Green Wave have lost five straight.

“If we are hitting our stride, then I hope that we can sustain it,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said Tuesday. “Maybe we have another stride, I don’t know. We played pretty well against Cincinnati, obviously, and you have to do that in order to win there. We now need to keep it up. We have four regular-season games left. We’ve got the conference tournament and then whatever after that.”

Landry Shamet scored 19 points to lead the Shockers past Cincinnati, snapping the Bearcats’ 39-game home winning streak. Wichita State moved to one game back of first-place Cincinnati in the AAC standings, tied with No. 23 Houston in second place.

“It’s tremendous,” said Marshall, who got a post-game celebratory Gatorade bath in the locker room. “Look at my shirt. College basketball has such tremendous parity. The games are decided by great players making great plays. Landry is a tremendous player.”

Shamet, a sophomore guard who is considered an NBA prospect, leads the Shockers in scoring (14.7 points) and the AAC in assists (5.2). He created nightmare mismatches for a solid defensive team in Cincinnati, coming off picks outside of the 3-point line, forcing switches and then taking advantage of the bigger Bearcats who were forced to try to stay in front of him.

Tulane features a balanced offensive attack, with five players averaging in double figures. Junior guard Melvin Frazier and senior guard Cameron Reynolds are each averaging more than 15 points per game.

“Tremendous athlete,” Marshall said of Frazier. “Obviously, he gets a lot of points around the basket. He shoots a very, very good percentage. I’m not familiar with their team last year, but he’s kind of come out of nowhere. All the talk early in the preseason, and the guy that I met in the fall at the conference meeting, was Cameron Reynolds. He’s another very good player. Melvin Frazier’s kind of burst onto the scene … an NBA prospect who really has developed under coach Mike Dunleavy.”

The Green Wave (13-13, 4-10) suffered a 68-63 loss at home to Memphis on Saturday. Tulane allowed the Tigers to shoot 54 percent from the floor and was outscored 28-18 in the paint, something that’s been an issue this season and could be trouble against Wichita State big man Shaquille Morris.

Morris was named AAC Player of the Week after averaging 18 points and eight rebounds last week in wins over Temple and Cincinnati. The senior center grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds and scored 23 points to key the Shockers’ comeback win over Temple.

“Big fella is a real factor,” Marshall said of Morris. “He can take us to another level.”

This will be the first meeting between Wichita State and Tulane.

Dartis sparks Ohio to 88-76 win over Kent State

ATHENS, Ohio (AP) — Jordan Dartis sank half of his 10 3-point attempts and scored 20 to lead six players in double figures and Ohio won back-to-back Mid-American Conference games for the first time this season with an 88-76 victory over Kent State on Tuesday night.

Dartis added four assists, three rebounds and two steals for the Bobcats (12-15, 5-10 MAC). Teyvion Kirk scored 17 and Kevin Mickle and James Gollon added 13 points apiece with Gollon snaring seven rebounds. Mike Laster and Doug Taylor scored 11 and 10, respectively.

Ohio hit 7 of its 10 3-pointers in the first half and led 47-39 at intermission. The Bobcats led 62-51 on a Laster layup with 12 minutes left to play, but Kevin Zabo and BJ Duling combined for seven points in a 9-0 surge to pull Kent State within 62-60 with 9:12 remaining. Kirk scored six straight points in an 8-0 run to push Ohio’s lead back to double digits and the Bobcats were never threatened from there.

Adonis De La Rosa paced the Golden Flashes (13-15, 7-8) with 13 points, while Jaylin Walker, Desmond Ridenour and Zabo all scored 12.

Ivey hits late jumper as Akron upsets Bowling Green 81-79

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (AP) — Jimond Ivey drove into the middle of the lane to hit a floater and Lucas Smith added a free throw in the final seconds as Akron upset Bowling Green 81-79 in Mid-American Conference action on Tuesday night.

The teams swapped the lead throughout with Justin Turner nailing a jumper to put Bowling Green ahead 79-78 with 27 seconds remaining. Ivey followed with the floater to retake the lead. Bowling Green’s Dylan Frye missed a 3-point attempt, Demajeo Wiggins grabbed the offensive rebound but Ivey blocked his shot and Smith came away with the ball. He was fouled and split a pair of free throws with 2 seconds left.

Daniel Utomi led Akron with 29 points, making 9 of 10 from the line and draining four treys. Malcolm Duvivier added 14 points and Ivey finished with 12 for the Zips (12-15, 5-10), who garnered their first road win of the season.

Frye drained 5 of 7 from long range to finish with 24 points and Turner added 15 with six assists for Bowling Green (16-12, 7-8), which has dropped two straight but remains in second place behind Buffalo in the MAC East standings.

No. 1 Virginia aims to lock up No. 1 seed vs. Georgia Tech

With two weeks remaining in the ACC’s regular season, No. 1 Virginia has set itself apart from the rest of the pack.

So much in fact, that the Cavaliers can lock up the top seed for next month’s conference tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a victory Wednesday night over reeling Georgia Tech.

Virginia (24-2, 13-1 ACC) returns to action after a much-needed week off that allowed some nagging injuries to heal, players to receive a late-season rest and sophomore guard Kyle Guy to get engaged.

Guy’s shooting numbers have declined during ACC play but the sharpshooter is still just shy of 40 percent on the season from the 3-point line and leads the Cavaliers in scoring at 15.2 points per game.

“We tried to use the week off to heal up and prepare the right way,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said Monday. “I think the break came at just the right time for us. Everyone got the chance to refresh their bodies and then get back to preparing for Georgia Tech.”

Georgia Tech (11-16, 4-10) has fallen on hard times recently, losing five straight and nine of their last 10 games after a 3-1 start in conference play.

The Yellow Jackets’ most recent defeat came at the hands of Virginia Tech on Saturday where the Hokies led by as many 30 points in the second half before cruising to a 76-56 victory. Playing short-handed, senior guard Tadric Jackson knows the Jackets can’t blame the injury bug.

“We’ve got to get better in practice every day,” Jackson said after the loss to the Hokies. “The guys that got hurt — we can’t do nothing about that. That’s life, it happens. As a whole, we have to get better.”

Point guard Jose Alvarado was lost to a season-ending elbow injury against Duke on Feb. 11, and senior Ben Lammers has not been the Lammers of last year this season while playing on an injured ankle.

“Obviously we’ve had other things to deal with,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “More than that though, the injury bug has really hurt us. If I had to do it over again, I probably should have sat Ben (Lammers) for two or three weeks when he injured his ankle and let him get fairly healthy.”

Lammers is averaging 11.0 points and 8.4 rebounds this season.

Short-handed or not, the Yellow Jackets’ season must continue and in a tough way.

Virginia dispatched Georgia Tech in Atlanta by 16 in January and is not showing any signs of slowing down while holding a three-game lead in the conference standings.

“It would be terrific,” Bennett said when asked about the chance to clinch the top seed in the ACC Tournament with a win over the Jackets. “With this league and the number of games, it’s a tremendous thing to do and to have the chance to do so at this stage is really good.”

Najdawi hits late 3, scores 24; The Citadel beats ETSU 84-82

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) — Zane Najdawi scored 24 points, including a late tie-breaking 3-pointer, and Frankie Johnson hit four free throws in the final 17 seconds to help The Citadel beat East Tennessee State 84-82 on Tuesday night.

The Citadel (10-18, 5-11 Southern Conference) snapped a five-game skid against the Buccaneers (23-6, 14-2), who have lost two of their last three overall after winning 16 in row. ETSU remains alone atop the conference standings, one game ahead of UNC Greensboro (13-3), which beat Wofford 76-66 on Tuesday.

ETSU’s David Burrell hit a 3, Mladen Armus made a layup and Burrell’s alley-oop dunk off a lob from Jalan McCloud made it 76-all, but Najdawi’s 3-pointer from the left side put the Bulldogs in front for good 25 seconds later. Johnson made four straight free throws to make it 83-77 with nine seconds left.

Bo Hodges had 16 points, Burrell added 15 with 10 rebounds and Armus scored 14 for ETSU. The Bucs made just 8 of 15 free throws.

The Citadel hit 13 3-pointers and made 19 of 23 (83 percent) from the foul line.

Mississippi State stuns Texas A&M 93-81

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Quinndary Weatherspoon got down to the basics of why Mississippi State overwhelmed Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

”We were just quicker than them, and we used that to our advantage on the defensive end,” Weatherspoon said.

MSU’s quickness came in handy on the offensive end, too, in its stunning 93-81 road victory. Abdul Ado led the way with 19 points and five Bulldogs scored in double figures.

The Bulldogs (20-8, 8-7 Southeastern) improved to 2-6 in SEC road games, while the Aggies (17-11, 6-9) fell to 5-3 at home against league competition.

”We did a really nice job of managing the game down the stretch,” MSU coach Ben Howland said. ”I’m just really proud of our players because this is a huge win for us to come on the road and get an RPI win of 21. This really helps us toward our goal of getting to the NCAA Tournament.”

MSU throttled A&M in points off turnovers (19-5) and bench points (23-6). The Aggies, ranked 21st last week in The Associated Press poll, dropped out of the rankings this week following consecutive road losses at Missouri and Arkansas.

”We’ve lost our defensive identity for whatever reason,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. ”We’re struggling to make the tough play on the defensive end of the floor, and that’s my responsibility.”

Bulldog forward Aric Holman was questionable for Tuesday’s game after hurting his knee on Saturday in a victory over Mississippi, but played 19 minutes and contributed 13 points and five rebounds. Weatherspoon added 17 points for MSU.

A&M center Tyler Davis led all scorers with 25 points. MSU made 23-of-29 of its free throws (79 percent) compared to 16-of-28 (57 percent) for the Aggies.

The Bulldogs won for the first time in four tries in Reed Arena and notched their 18th 20-win season in program history.

BIG PICTURE

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are likely still on the outside looking in concerning the NCAA Tournament, but not if this keeps up. MSU won its second straight and likely needs to close out the regular season with three more victories to make a strong case for the NCAA postseason.

Texas A&M: The Aggies, losers of three straight, are still considered likely for an NCAA Tournament berth, but this one hurt, considering they entered the game having won 12 of their 14 home games. Their next two are on the road.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

A&M entered the game as the SEC’s top rebounding team, but MSU held a 44-31 advantage on the boards, despite no Bulldog player registering double-digit rebounds.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

Bulldog forward Aric Holman grabbed an offensive rebound, missed a dunk attempt, again grabbed the rebound, dribbled outside the arc and smoothly sank a 3-pointer to further deflate the half-empty arena midway through the second half.

HE SAID IT

A&M center Tyler Davis on the Aggies’ defensive woes: ”You have to have a certain togetherness to play defense, and when you don’t have that you can’t play defense at a high level. If you aren’t going to play together . then you’re not going to win games.”

UP NEXT

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs play host to South Carolina on Saturday, their first of consecutive home games.

Texas A&M: The Aggies play at Vanderbilt on Saturday, their third road game in four contests.