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Duke shakes off loss, wallops Wake Forest

The Sports Xchange



DURHAM, N.C. — It took some time, but No. 11 Duke found the ideal tonic to recover from a tough-to-digest result.

Forward Jabari Parker scored 21 points, but the Blue Devils were slow to heat up before routing visiting Wake Forest 83-63 Tuesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Guard Rasheed Sulaimon added 19 points, and guard Andre Dawkins came off the bench to score 17 points, allowing the Blue Devils (18-5, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) to shake off any potential hangover from a loss in a wild game three nights earlier.

“I couldn’t wait to play,” Duke guard Tyler Thornton said. “That was a rough loss up there (at Syracuse). Trying to get to our next game was important to me.”

Forward Devin Thomas scored 14 points for Wake Forest (14-9, 4-6), which lost its third game in a row. Demon Deacons freshman guard Miles Overton scored a season-best 12 points, and forward Arnaud-William Adala Moto added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Duke stretched its home-court winning streak to 29 games, tied for the longest run in the country.

The Blue Devils, who fell 91-89 in overtime Saturday in an epic clash with unbeaten Syracuse, haven’t suffered back-to-back regular-season losses in five seasons. The setback to the Orange was particularly disappointing.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the Blue Devils had to “beat the emotion” of dealing with that result.

“All the plays from that game run through your mind,” Thornton said. “We wanted to get out there to have a good game and move forward.”

Duke’s depth appeared to be an important factor in the bounce-back victory.

“It’s keeping us fresh and everybody’s ready,” Duke guard Quinn Cook said. “When their number is called, everybody steps up.”

Duke, which made 15 shots from 3-point range at Syracuse, racked up 12 more Tuesday. Eight of those came in the first half.

“Every day after practice, we’re getting off a lot of 3s, and it’s showing,” Thornton said. “It’s paying off.”

Parker made eight of 10 shots from the field. He also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

The Demon Deacons were within 74-57 when Thomas fouled out at the 5:02 mark.

Duke built a 46-33 halftime lead after trailing for chucks of the opening half.

“They did a good job speeding up the court, and with the crowd behind them, they really got going,” Overton said. “We look forward to playing them at home. There are games before that, and we’ve got to get those.”

Blue Devils forward Rodney Hood was scoreless until breaking a 28-28 tie with eight consecutive points. It was part of a 12-0 run for Duke while Wake Forest was amid a stretch of turnovers on five possessions in a row. The Demon Deacons called two timeouts during that span.

“We hit a bad stretch there, and that gave them separation,” Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “It shows you how important each and every possession is.”

Wake Forest went more than seven minutes without a field goal late in the half after connecting on nine of 13 shots from the field to start the game.

A couple of reserve guards had early impacts as well.

Dawkins scored nine consecutive points to tie the score at 16. He posted 12 of the Blue Devils’ first 22 points.

For Wake Forest, Overton hit three jumpers — including two 3-pointers — as his eight points helped the Demon Deacons take a 21-16 lead. Overton was within a point of his career-high total less than seven minutes into the game.

Dawkins and Sulaimon combined for 22 of Duke’s first 24 points.

Wake Forest led 7-2 with Thomas scoring the first seven points for the Demon Deacons.

Both teams altered their starting lineups, with Thornton in the mix ahead of Cook for Duke.

Wake Forest went with Adala Moto instead of forward Tyler Cavanaugh. Madison Jones shifted to point guard with guard Codi Miller-McIntyre out due to an ankle injury, while guard Coron Williams entered the starting lineup.

Cavanaugh, who scored less than six points per game in the last four outings, was a reserve for the first time this season. He finished with nine points.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.


NCAA News Wire

Wisconsin earns top seed after conference tournament win

The Sports Xchange



CHICAGO — The Wisconsin Badgers earned a historic NCAA top seed Sunday, but their approach going forward will be strictly business as usual.

Wisconsin (31-3) beat Michigan State 80-69 in overtime in Sunday’s Big Ten tournament title game to complete a championship sweep and were rewarded with the first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed in program history.

“I’m sure it will sink in,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. “What we need right now is to get these guys back (home). We have class tomorrow, some of these guys have tests, they’ve got midterms this week. So it will be business as usual for our student-athletes.”

But players like forward Frank Kaminsky, the Big Ten tournament most outstanding player, are pretty pumped up.

“It’s awesome,” Kaminsky said. “First No. 1 seed in program history. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself, but we have a lot of goals and aspirations in the NCAA Tournament. So we’re going to prepare for our first game and be ready we tip the ball up.”

No. 6 ranked Wisconsin, the league’s regular-season champion, claimed the Big Ten’s automatic NCAA berth with the overtime win at the United Center and meets No. 16 Coastal Carolina (24-9) in Friday’s West Region opener in Omaha, Neb.

The overtime outcome was the first in Big Ten tournament history.

Michigan State (23-11) is also tourney bound with a No. 7 seed in the East Region. The Spartans will face Georgia, which is the 10th seed, on Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

Ryan was initially at a loss for words after the Badgers’ dramatic come-from-behind win.

“I’m speechless and that’s hard to do,” he said. “It was the fight in this group, and to do what they did when it seemed like Michigan State couldn’t do anything wrong. I just hope we have something left in us come NCAA Tournament time.”

The Badgers rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit and back into contention late in the game. They then scored 11 unanswered points in overtime behind seven points form forward Nigel Hayes.

Hayes closed with a game-high 25 points and was 12-for-12 from the free throw line. Kaminsky had 19, guard Bronson Koenig finished with 18 while reserve forward Duje Dukan added 11.

Michigan State, making its third title game appearance in four years, was led by forward Branden Dawson and guard Denzel Valentine with 16 apiece while reserve guard Bryn Forbes had 10.

“I thought we played one of the greatest games we’ve ever played for 32, 32 and one-half minutes or 35, 36 minutes,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “And then we made a couple of mistakes and they made a couple of great shots and that’s the way the game goes.”

Wisconsin trailed 57-46 in the second half when Koenig launched a comeback with a 3-pointer and added another with 4:19 left to give the Badgers a temporary 60-59 lead.

“We were down eleven and they thought they had it in the bag,” Koenig said. “But I kept reminding my teammates that we were never going to give up.”

Guard Lourawls Nairn’s 3-pointer then put Michigan State up 62-60 as the teams exchanged leads three times and tied four times. The last in regulation came on Koenig’s two free throws for a 69-69 deadlock.

A potential game-winning shot by Dawson rolled in and out as regulation time expired.

In the first half, Michigan State outscored Wisconsin 10-5 in the final 3:25 for a 32-31 halftime lead after a half that saw with seven lead changes and five ties. The Spartans opened a 32-28 lead after a turnover by Koenig and a rebound put back by forward Marvin Clark with 25 seconds showing. But Wisconsin narrowed the deficit to 32-31 as Kaminsky hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

It was the Badger’s fifth successful shot from beyond the arc in the half. Wisconsin ended 13-of-26 (50 percent) on 3-point shooting for the game.

NOTES: Sunday’s game was tied 13 times and had 14 lead changes. … The Badgers claimed a 68-61 win in March in the long regular season meeting behind F Frank Kaminsky’s season-high 31 points. … The Badgers’ two previous Big Ten tournament titles came in wins over Illinois in 2004 and 2008. … Wisconsin’s 31 wins match an all-time

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NCAA News Wire

SMU outmuscles Connecticut to take AAC title

The Sports Xchange



HARTFORD, Conn. — After a crushing omission from the NCAA Tournament last season, the 20th-ranked Southern Methodist Mustangs didn’t have any worries during this year’s Selection Show. They are dancing for the first time since 1993.

SMU’s deep and talented frontcourt frustrated the Connecticut Huskies on both ends of the floor, paving the way for the team’s first conference title in 27 years with a 62-54 win in the American Athletic Conference championship game on Sunday.

SMU earned a No. 6 seed and will face No. 11 UCLA in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.

“This is big for all of us,” said senior guard Ryan Manuel, “not just the seniors but it’s as big for SMU as a school, as a basketball program. When coach (Larry) Brown got here, he wanted us to put it back on the map, and I think we made great strides in that.”

UConn (20-14), the defending national champion, came into the AAC tournament needing four wins in four days just to return to the NCAA Tournament. After falling just short of their goal, the Huskies are headed to the National Invitation Tournament.

“It’s postseason play,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “If it’s NIT or NCAA, they’re going to learn from it and they’re going to come back better from it. I’m still coaching them the way I coach them, they’re still going to play the way they’re going to play.”

SMU (27-6) was expected to receive an at-large bid if it lost Sunday, but the victory guaranteed it a spot in the NCAA Tournament field after being one of the final teams left out last season.

“Last year at this time was about as disappointing as it could get,” Brown said. “Fortunately we’ve got another opportunity, and didn’t have to get anybody to decide whether we’re worthy or not.”

As it had all weekend long, it was SMU’s frontcourt that anchored the win.

The conference’s Sixth Man of the Year, Markus Kennedy, capped off a strong weekend by leading his team with 14 points, one of four Mustangs players in double figures. He earned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for his efforts. The 6-foot-10 junior and his fellow forwards helped SMU to a 43-30 advantage on the glass, with sophomore Sterling Brown pulling in 12 rebounds to lead the team.

Sophomore guard Rodney Purvis had 29 points and was the only UConn player in double figures in scoring.

“I was trying to be aggressive and take what the defense gave me,” he said.

For a while, it appeared this game would not be close. The SMU zone defense that Connecticut had carved up for 81 points just two weeks prior locked things down this time around, and the Mustangs took a 33-19 advantage into halftime by holding UConn to 5-of-24 shooting (20.8 percent) from the floor over the opening 20 minutes.

The Huskies, who made more than 53 percent from the floor and knocked down nine 3-pointers in that win, were just 2 of 13 from beyond the arc in that first half.

Usual leading scorer Ryan Boatright would manage just seven points on 1-of-12 shooting for the game.

“I’m just disappointed in my play,” he said. “I missed a lot of shots that should be easy knock-down shots for me. I didn’t show up and be the player I know I can be, I can be better than that. But my teammates fought, they played a tremendous game.”

UConn made it a game in the second half by doing similar things on the defensive end, thanks in large part to the presence of sophomore Amida Brimah. The 7-foot center, limited to just four first-half minutes because of foul trouble, played the entire second half, blocking seven shots during that time and altering numerous others.

The Huskies were able to get within five points with just over three minutes to play, but the Mustangs would hold on.

“He’s a shot blocker, so it made it a little difficult,” Manuel said about the difference Brimah made in the second half. “UConn, they have a tradition of coming back, and we knew they weren’t going to go down with a fight, so for us to stand there as a team and get the

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NCAA News Wire

Alabama fires head coach Grant

The Sports Xchange



Alabama fired head basketball coach Anthony Grant on Sunday after six seasons.

The Crimson Tide struggled over the final two months of the season, finishing 18-14 and tied for eighth in the Southeastern Conference.

Grant, 48, won at least 20 games three times and made an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012. His Alabama teams went 117-85, including two NIT appearances (2011 and 2013). He came to Alabama from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he went 76-25 and made two NCAA Tournament appearances.

“This has been a very difficult decision, as I have the highest respect for Anthony as a coach, as a molder of young men, and as a person,” Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said in a statement. “Anthony is a man of impeccable character who has been an excellent representative of our program. He has made tremendous contributions to our program and we always will be grateful for his efforts. Anthony, his wife Chris, and their children have been tremendous assets to our University and our community.

“In this business we are ultimately judged by wins and losses on the court and, for a variety of reasons, we haven’t made satisfactory progress in that area.”

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