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Late surge helps Illinois State beat DePaul 72

The Sports Xchange



ROSEMONT, Ill. — Daishon Knight felt momentary panic late in Sunday’s game with DePaul before instincts kicked in.

The timing was perfect as the Illinois State guard scored three quick points in a stunning seven-point swing as the Redbirds overtook DePaul on the way to a 78-72 nonconference victory at Allstate Arena.

Knight picked up a deflection on a DePaul inbounds pass, went for a layup and drew a foul with 42 seconds to play. The Redbird guard hit the subsequent free throw to give his team a 73-69 lead to complete a 16-second turnaround.

“We threw the trap on and we ran and jumped it and he (DePaul guard Durrell McDonald) kind of lost it,” Knight said. “At first I didn’t know what to do with it and kind of panicked. (But) I saw the rim and I’m like ‘Why not just lay it up.’ And I did.”

Illinois State abruptly turned the tables with 58 seconds remaining as guard Paris Lee hit a desperation baseline 3-pointer under pressure that bounced and rolled before finally going in.

Lee was fouled on the play and hit the free throw to complete the four-point play and give the Redbirds a 70-69 lead.

“It looked like it was going towards the backboard, so I didn’t think it went in at all,” Lee said. “Then I saw him jump up and he gets to shaking, I turn around and it was a chance for a four-point play.”

The victory capped a rally from a nine-point second-half deficit as the Redbirds (5-3) won their second straight while DePaul (6-3) lost its second consecutive game.

But elation was tempered with the potential loss of Illinois State’s leading scorer, DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, who left the gamer early in the second half with a possible broken right hand. His status was not immediately known.

Knight collected a game-high 25 points — including 16 in the second half — and fell one short of matching a career high. Forward MiKyle McIntosh had 14 while center Reggie Lynch added 13 points and 13 rebounds. Lee closed with nine points.

Forward Jamee Crockett led DePaul with a career-high 22 points, center Tommy Hamilton IV had 13 points and 10 rebounds while forward Myke Henry and guard Billy Garrett had 12 and 10 points, respectively.

“We didn’t take care of it at the end,” said Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell. “We should have been shooting free throws at the end to win the game. It seems like we were up eight or nine and the wheels fell off.”

The teams traded leads seven times in the opening half, the last coming on guard Justin McCloud’s four-point play with two seconds showing as Illinois State opened a 33-30 halftime edge. McCloud was fouled by Durrell McDonald on his 3-point basket.

DePaul went back ahead at 40-39 on Hamilton’s free throw that was part of a 10-1 second half run. The Blue Demons’ lead reached a game-high nine points at 58-49 on Garrett’s layup at the 8:16 mark but didn’t last.

Illinois State now has a three-game winning streak in a series that dates back to 1909 and resumed last year after a 17-year hiatus. DePaul still leads 21-5 and suffered its first home loss to the Redbirds in 13 starts.

NOTES: Illinois State was idle for a full week following an 85-73 overtime victory over Youngstown State on Dec. 7. … The game at Allstate Arena opens a stretch of four games in eight days for the Redbirds. … Head coach Dan Muller was an Illinois State freshman the last time the Redbirds played DePaul in Chicago in 1995. … DePaul was shooting 49.4 percent from the field (209 of 423) entering Sunday, ranked 22nd in the country. … F Myke Henry was averaging 17.6 points per game, good for 72nd nationally. … C Tommy Hamilton IV earned Big East honor roll selection last week after averaging 17.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in a 3-0 week. … DePaul plays at Oregon State on Thursday before heading to Hawaii for a three-game holiday tournament next week.

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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