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Wiggins scores 29 as Kansas wins seventh straight

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — The emergence of freshman guard Andrew Wiggins is beginning to unfold.

With it, Kansas remains undefeated in Big 12 play.

Wiggins scored a career-best for the second time in as many games, netting 29 points Wednesday as the No. 6 Jayhawks toppled Iowa State 92-81 at Allen Fieldhouse.

“He’s so aggressive right now and you can tell he’s just oozing with confidence,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said of Wiggins, who was rated as the nation’s top incoming recruit. “That’s scary with that athleticism and that speed.”

Confidence is a key factor, though Wiggins did not, as Kansas coach Bill Self pointed out, “go hunting shots.”

He had 16 attempts and knocked down 10, including a 4-for-6 showing from 3-point range.

“I don’t care what anybody says, he’s played good all year,” Self said. “He just hasn’t lived up to the hype, which is not fair to him because there’s no way he could have. … He just appears to me to be more comfortable and he’s certainly more aggressive.”

The six straight points Wiggins scored following the final media timeout sealed the win as the Jayhawks improved to 16-4 overall and 7-0 in the Big 12. The victory was their seventh straight, and it was the ninth in a row at home in the series with the Cyclones (15-4, 3-4).

To begin his six-point tear, Wiggins was fouled intentionally by Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue and made both free throws before adding a follow shot on the same possession. The Jayhawks then got a turnover on the other end, leading to a breakaway dunk by Wiggins with 2:49 left for an 81-72 lead.

“That flagrant foul was a pretty big call,” Iowa State forward Georges Niang said. “Not saying it was bad. It was just where they took off.”

Wiggins in particular. He topped his previous career high of 27 points, which was set in Kansas’ previous game at TCU.

“He’s just going out there and playing basketball,” point guard Naadir Tharpe said. “I think at the beginning he was going out there and trying to make everybody else happy. That’s not what he needs to do. He needs to go out there and play for himself and play for his team. When he plays loose, you see what happens.”

Tharpe distributed the ball well, adding 12 points and 12 assists, against just one turnover.

“I knew I had to get dudes involved,” Tharpe said. “I tried to draw defenders and get the ball to the open man.”

The Kansas starters were grateful. Each scored in double figures. Sophomore forward Perry Ellis added 20 points and guard Wayne Selden had 11. Freshman center Joel Embiid, like Tharpe, recorded a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

“If they’re hitting shots like they did tonight, they’re going to be a tough, tough team to beat,” Hoiberg said of the Jayhawks, who went 32 of 62 (51.6 percent) and canned a season-high 10 shots from behind the arc.

Despite falling behind by 16 before 10 minutes had elapsed, the Cyclones tied the game on a 3-pointer by guard DeAndre Kane to begin the second half.

The Jayhawks, however, answered with an 11-0 run behind 3s from Wiggins and guard Wayne Selden, and a three-point play by Ellis.

Kane and forward Niang shared team-high honors with 22 points apiece for Iowa State. Forward Melvin Ejim added 18.

Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the first half, which included two huge shifts in momentum.

Kansas raced to a 16-point lead behind a dominant effort on the offensive glass, yet the Jayhawks lost practically the entire margin before reaching halftime ahead 46-43.

Iowa State went on a 20-7 flurry to crawl within 37-34, but it never led in the first half despite pulling within one at 44-43. During its big spree, the Cyclones scored on six straight possessions, hitting four 3-pointers during that run.

Ellis scored 15 first-half points for the Jayhawks, including four of their last five baskets. Wiggins added 12 first-half points.

The Cyclones went 6-for-12 from 3-point range before intermission. Five of their 3-pointers came in the final 8-plus minutes. They were led by Niang, who had 11

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

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Wisconsin earns top seed after conference tournament win

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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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SMU outmuscles Connecticut to take AAC title

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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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Alabama fires head coach Grant

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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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