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McDermott, Creighton outlasts Butler

The Sports Xchange



INDIANAPOLIS — With the ability of Doug McDermott to make big shots down the stretch, his teammates made sure to give him that chance.

A chance McDermott, the two-time All-American power forward, thought he blew.

With the No. 18 Creighton Bluejays down 63-61 with 50 seconds left, McDermott popped into a sliver of daylight and launched a 3-pointer from the top of the key over the outstretched arms of Butler Bulldogs forward Kameron Woods.

“It didn’t feel good,” said McDermott, who had 26 points and five rebounds. “I didn’t think I made it at all. I was really surprised it went in.”

Because it did, Creighton, on the best roll in school history, survived for a 68-63 victory over the Bulldogs on Thursday night.

The Bluejays (20-4, 10-2 Big East) won 15 of their last 17 games and bounced back from a 70-65 loss at St. John’s on Sunday. The win is Creighton’s 100th in the last four seasons, an unprecedented stretch.

“That’s the big one,” said McDermott, whose father Greg’s tenure as coach coincides with the success. “It means a lot. We’re all proud and looking for more to come.”

This one was far from easy, as struggling Butler attempted to end its tailspin by pulling off another classic upset at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

It was not meant to be.

Guard Kellen Dunham, who led the Bulldogs with 16 points, missed a tough 3-pointer with 5 seconds left that would have tied it at 66. Butler coach Brandon Miller had guard Elijah Brown set a screen instead of a big man to try to create confusion.

Creighton rebounded and point guard Austin Chatman made two free throws to close the scoring.

“This is a really good win for us,” Greg McDermott said. “Butler played their tails off.”

The Bulldogs (12-13, 2-11) started the year 10-2 but have lost 11 of their past 13. Still, after a noncompetitive home loss to Xavier on Tuesday, Butler bounced back less than 48 hours later with an inspired performance.

“Heck of a game,” Miller said. “Our guys played Butler basketball from start to finish. Couldn’t be more proud of the effort, of the way we fought. Tonight we took a huge step forward.”

Butler went 9 of 20 from 3-point range, secured 14 offensive rebounds and committed just six turnovers. The Bulldogs shot just 39 percent (22-of-57) from the field.

They held a 63-61 lead when forward Khyle Marshall turned over his right shoulder and banked in a hook shot over McDermott from the left block.

Point guard Alex Barlow had 13 points for Butler, while Woods had 12 rebounds. Center Andrew Chrabascz scored 10 points and Brown and Marshall added eight apiece.

Creighton shot 50 percent from the floor (24-of-48) and its supporting cast was terrific in spite of an off night from center Ethan Wragge, who had just three points and was 0-of-4 from the field.

Backup center Will Artino controlled the paint with 11 points and a season-high 10 rebounds, guard Jahenns Manigat scored all nine of his points in the second half, and Chatman, a small, lightning-fast point guard, penetrated in the halfcourt and finished with nine points and six assists.

“We have a lot of guys on our team capable of making big plays,” Doug McDermott said. “We look for me first, but it makes it really easy on me. Will had that look in his eye.”

After McDermott’s go-ahead 3, Chrabascz missed two wild attempts in the paint and Chatman calmly drained a pair of free throws to give the Bluejays a 66-63 edge with 18 seconds left.

Chrabascz’s third 3-pointer of the season tied the game at 61 with 4 minutes to go, but Creighton’s defense locked down from there, getting three stops on Butler’s last four possessions, and secured another victory in a season full of them.

In the teams’ first meeting Jan. 14, won 88-60 by Creighton, the Bulldogs were completely overwhelmed, allowing McDermott and Co. to shoot 56 percent.

Early on, it appeared Creighton was on its way to a repeat, riding 12 points from McDermott to a 17-7 lead with 11:28 left in the first half.

But the Bulldogs dug in and righted the ship

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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