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Loyola Marymount extends DePaul skid to six

The Sports Xchange



HONOLULU — An early morning Christmas wake-up call snapped Loyola Marymount out of its recent funk.

Evan Payne’s five quick points stopped a 9-2 DePaul run and catapulted the Lions to a 72-69 win over the Blue Demons on Thursday in the seventh-place game of the Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Payne finished with a game-high 24 points and guard Ayodeji Egbeyemi added 20 points, including two free throws with 14.6 seconds remaining for the Lions (4-8), who snapped a six-game losing streak.

“Hallelujah,” Loyola Marymount coach Mike Dunlap said. “It’s been like (we’re) in a desert.”

Guard Billy Garrett’s 16 points led five DePaul starters in double figures. The Blue Demons (6-7) had only four points from the bench in their sixth straight loss.

“We played better here and we’re better than we’ve played in the first couple of games,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “We still have that rebounding issue and that really cost us.”

Loyola Marymount shot 63.2 percent from the field (12 of 19) and outrebounded DePaul 18-6 in the second half.

The Lions led by as many as nine with 6:23 remaining before DePaul scored nine of the next 11 points.

Guard Durrell McDonald drilled one of the Blue Demons’ 11 3-pointers to make it 61-59 when Payne came up clutch.

Payne, Loyola Marymount’s leading scorer who went 2 of 13 from the field in an overtime loss on Tuesday to Nebraska, slithered through the DePaul defense for a wide-open layup to push the lead to four.

On the next possession, Payne stepped back behind a screen and fired in a 3-pointer to push the lead to seven.

“Everybody came out hungry and we weren’t worried about the whole Christmas thing,” said Payne, who was up by 5:45 a.m. for the 8:30 tip. “We wanted this game bad and we came out and got it.”

Forward Godwin Okonji chipped in 13 points for Loyola Marymount, which is searching for offensive contributors outside of Payne and Egbeyemi.

“We opened the floor up and I thought the 13 points (Godwin) got really loosened things up because we haven’t been getting that from our post guys,” Dunlap said. “The 3 that (Payne) stuck at the end was ginormous.”

Center Tommy Hamilton chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds and scored in double figured in all three tournament games for DePaul.

The Blue Demons were 39.3 percent from 3-point range (11 of 28) but shot only 14 free throws.

The Lions got to the line 39 times but shot only 59 percent (23 of 39).

Two 8-0 runs helped DePaul take a 31-29 lead into halftime.

Garrett sank a 3-pointer to give DePaul a 16-12 lead, matching its largest of the first half.

Egbeyemi ended a scoring drought of more than four minutes by the Lions with a tough turnaround jumper as Loyola Marymount eventually climbed back in front.

Another four-minute scoreless drought plagued the Lions as DePaul used an 8-0 run to go up four before guard David Humphries’ putback with nine seconds left made it a two-point game at the break.

The Blue Demons led by as many as eight points in the second half, but the Lions battled back to tie it at 44 on forward Marin Mornar’s dunk with 12:08 remaining.

Garrett momentarily stemmed the tide with another 3-pointer, but the Lions answered with a 15-3 run to go up 59-50.

“They made some shots and we didn’t make shots,” Purnell said. “We missed some opportunities at the rim and has some costly turnovers.”

NOTES: DePaul G Billy Garrett was 4 of 4 from the line against Loyola Marymount to finish 23 of 24 (95.8 percent) in the tournament. … Loyola Marymount won its first game in 11 tries against Division I teams in preseason tournaments in Hawaii. The Lions lost all three games in the 1980 and 2005 Rainbow Classic events. Their only win was in the 1990 Maui Invitational against Division-II Chaminade. … This was the final tuneup for both teams before conference play starts 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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