Sports Today: Raiders begin two-game swing in NE Ohio

Published: Thursday, February 01, 2018 @ 10:16 AM

Wright State’s Mark Hughes drives to the basket during a 55-51 victory against Cleveland State on Jan. 5, 2017. TIM ZECHAR/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Staff Writer
Wright State’s Mark Hughes drives to the basket during a 55-51 victory against Cleveland State on Jan. 5, 2017. TIM ZECHAR/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO(Staff Writer)

Looks like winning is a habit the Dayton women’s basketball team just can’t break. 

The Flyers passed their toughest test yet Wednesday night, downing Duquesne 79-70 at the arena to take sole possession of first place. 

Dayton is 10-0 in league play while the Dukes fell to 8-1. 

UD has won 10 games in a row while pursuing a second straight Atlantic 10 title. 

» RELATED: 10 things to know about winning streak

If the NCAA tournament started today, ESPN projects the Flyers would be a 10 seed. 

This is certainly a program with a lot of momentum these days. 

What Jim Jabir started, Shauna Green has continued. 

These Flyers certainly know how to play the right way. 

If Green can parlay her now two-year hot start into even more recruiting wins (and signing some highly regarded players has been part of the winning formula already, make no mistake) this could be a run that extends for a long time… 

The area’s other conference-leading basketball team, the Wright State men, begin a two-game northeast Ohio swing tonight at Cleveland State

The Vikings are pretty bad, but WSU can’t afford to take any nights off as they hold a one-game lead over Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League standings. 

If styles make fights, this one could be ugly. 

Wright State is the No. 21 defensive team in the country according to KenPom.com while CSU is the lowest-scoring team in the Horizon. 

Writes Jay Morrison

With Mark Hughes handling the lock-down duties on the opponent’s top scorer and those around him defending batter, Wright State has limited opponents to 37.6-percent shooting and an average of 61.2 points the last five games.

Prior to this stretch, the Raiders were allowing opponents to shoot 42.7 percent while averaging 66.5 points.

After tangling with the Vikings, Wright State takes on Youngstown State on Saturday. The Penguins are also among the HL’s struggling clubs, but WSU coach Scott Nagy doesn’t want his team to take anyone for granted. 

“We’re inexperienced in a lot of ways. No. 1 of being in this position (in the standings), and No. 2, the youth on our basketball team.”… 

WSU takes on Cleveland State

Today in useless clickbait (non-political category), ESPN reports LeBron James “could take a meeting with the Warriors” in the offseason. 

This has touched off the type of social media hysteria that is not warranted but sadly can’t be avoided I guess. 

I say not entirely sarcastically he could take a meeting with any of the teams in the league. He could take a meeting with the organizers of the top leagues in Europe or China to see about trying his hand as the world’s first player-commissioner, too. 

Seeing what works and what doesn’t in all those places would make sense as he charts the rest of his career path, but I don’t see him actually joining any of those organizations. 

Of course, one of the hallmarks of James’ career has been avoiding challenges whenever possible, so I guess signing with the Warriors would make sense on at least some level. 

Plus it wouldn’t hurt his chance of catching Michael Jordan as the NBA’s all-time greatest player since that is already at zero given his Finals failures. 

RELATED: LeBron declares he has nothing left to prove; he’s right

Then again, if James did team up with Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, I would be interested to see how his apologists would find ways to pretend they aren’t as great as we once thought since that’s been the treatment the other stars on LeBron’s previous super teams have generally gotten

Anyway, whatever happens next with LeBron — I happened to buy the sentiment he expressed in his “Coming home” letter to Cleveland even if it was also clear the Cavaliers offered one of if not the best basketball circumstances at the time — I hope we end up with a more interesting title race than we have now. 

(Obviously that wouldn’t be the case if he signed with Golden State, but he’s not going to.) 

I’d also like to see everyone appreciate what a great player he is without over or underrating him, but we all know that’s impossible… 

  

Lastly, the legend of Vincent Edwards continued to grow last night. 

The Middletown High School grad played through illness to help Purdue beat Maryland 75-67. 

Via the Indy Star

With his stomach lurching throughout the game, sending him running up the tunnel in the first half to avoid throwing up in front of the crowd of 14,804, Edwards led the Boilermakers to a 75-67 victory against the Terps. Playing on rubbery legs and unable to get the normal lift on his jumper, Edwards scored just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting but controlled the defensive side with nine of his game-high 11 rebounds, and dictated the offensive flow with a team-best five assists.

The paper also notes this is not Edwards’ first “flu game.” 

He put up 33 points in a game his junior season at Middletown while feeling even worse than he did last night (he says), but this one came on a bigger stage. 

Edwards is putting together an All-American season for the Boilermakers, who are Final Four contenders thanks in no small part to the former Middie. 

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Trojans outlast Buffaloes’ late charge: 3 things we learned from USC’s win over Colorado

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 8:13 PM

USC kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive and moved into a tie for second place in the Pac-12 with a Wednesday night win that was in question for the majority of the game, even if the final score doesn’t say so.

The Trojans received an excellent game from Chimezie Metu, who scored 21 points on 10 of 16 shooting, grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots in the 75-64 win. The difference-maker in the second half, though, was point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who drilled multiple 3-pointers when USC’s offense needed a spark to stop a 12-0 Colorado run. McLaughlin’s 18 points, six assists and four rebounds helped propel the Trojans past the Buffaloes’ late surge and send USC out of Boulder with a double-digit victory.

The win improved the Trojans to 20-9 and 11-5 in conference play. It’s the first time USC has recorded three straight 20-win seasons since 2007-2009, under Tim Floyd, and only the second time it’s ever happened in the program’s history. Here’s what we learned from the Trojans’ triumph.

USC misses Bennie Boatwright

Sure, this can be filed under the obvious statements category, but it was very apparent in the second half, when the Trojans desperately needed someone,  anyone to get them a bucket and repeatedly failed to find a player to do so. The Trojans went more than three minutes without a bucket while the Buffaloes couldn’t be stopped, and USC’s 12-point lead disappeared. McLaughlin ended up quenching the drought, leading the offense with scoring and distribution efforts that keyed a late-game run, flipping the table on Colorado, which suddenly found itself in a drought of its own.

McLaughlin’s efforts — and Metu’s, though those were spread more over the entirety of the game — were enough to beat a green Colorado team in mid-February. But it remains to be seen (and is at this point seriously questioned) whether USC can weather future storms without Boatwright. This sticking point won’t go overlooked come Selection Sunday.

Colorado’s youth is maturing in front of our eyes

USC took a six-point lead into halftime, extended it to nine and then saw it reduced to a single possession before going on a run that made the game appear to be getting out of hand with 11 minutes to play. A good amount of young teams would have withered in such a situation, but Colorado stood firm, thanks to the contributions of bench contributor Lucas Siewert, who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as part of a 12-0 run that tied the game up and made things close until the final minutes. Credit Colorado coach Tad Boyle for keeping his group of young players from throwing in the towel. While familiar issues ended up sinking them — untimely scoring droughts, poor interior defense and unforced errors — it was good to see an inexperienced group go blow for blow with a more seasoned opponent.

No fireworks from the sidelines

While the first meeting between Boyle and USC coach Andy Enfield created some pregame headlines and included a curious late-game timeout that prompted some bitter post-game quotes, we didn’t get the same kind of excitement from either coach in this one. Boyle’s team played inspired basketball but fell apart down the stretch, and USC coasted to a win that wasn’t disputable. Those tend to produce boring handshakes and whatnot. “Tad and Andy” would still be a good name for a goofy cartoon, though.

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Freshman Kjerstad homers as Arkansas beats Arizona, 1-0

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 8:14 PM

Four days after the Arkansas baseball team scored 32 runs, one off its all-time high, the Diamond Hogs had just one against Arizona.

Get you a team that can do both.

The lone run, a Heston Kjerstad home run in the fifth inning, was the only run of the game Wednesday night. It was the only one Arkansas needed, too, in its 1-0 win over the Wildcats out in San Diego. The last two years the two teams have combined to score just four runs (a 3-0 Arizona win in 2017) between them.

Arkansas’ Kacey Murphy, who had a one-hitter last year through seven innings against Memphis, had the same against Arizona, just through six. Alfonso Rivas had a single in the fourth and that was it. Murphy ultimately went those six innings, walking one and striking out six. Odds are strong he becomes Arkansas’ Sunday starter when SEC play rolls around.

Arizona is hardly Bucknell, the team the Razorbacks scored 32 on Saturday. The Wildcats are picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 and are around 30th in the country in a composite of the six national polls.

Cody Scroggins replaced Murphy in the seventh and picked up where his predecessor left off at first. He struck out the first two Wildcats hitters he faced before trouble started. A hit, a walk, a passed ball and another walk gave Arizona the bases loaded with two outs. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn went to the bullpen, where Matt Cronin entered from. He induced a groundout and Arizona left its runners stranded.

Arkansas had an opportunity to add insurance in the ninth, loading the bases with two outs. Jared Gates, however, had his fly ball tracked down a couple feet from the wall to end the inning.

Grading the Hogs

Pitching: A-

Other than Scroggins’ three-batter hiccup, things went swimmingly for the Arkansas staff. They combined to give up just two hits, allow four walks and strike out 11 Wildcats batters.

Hitting: D+

Ten strikeouts. Seven hits and walks. Not an ideal recipe.

The Big Stick + The Arm

Arm:  Murphy

Coach Dave Van Horn had said earlier this year Murphy wasn’t, specifically, a strikeout guy. His stuff doens’t make him, certainly, but somehow he gets them. He is the returning leader on the team from last year in strikeouts per nine innings and he cut through Arizona smoothly to start this year, too.

Stick: Kjerstad

The freshman from Amarillo, Texas, has looked wholly impressive as Arkansas’ everyday leftfielder. Not out of place whatsoever. Besides the home run, he was hit by a pitch in the ninth.

What’s next for Arkansas?

Arkansas sticks around San Diego until Sunday night. The Razorbacks are taking part in the Tony Gwynn Classic this weekend. First game is Friday afternoon, 3 p.m. Arkansas time, against Cal Poly.

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USC’s Elijah Stewart sets school’s career 3-point record

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 7:40 PM

Wednesday night became record rewriting night in Boulder.

After Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV broke Chauncey Billups’ freshman assist mark, USC’s Elijah Stewart did him one better, setting the school’s new career 3-point record with his canned jumper from the top of the arc in the second half Wednesday.

Stewart passed Lodrick Stewart, who played for the Trojans from 2004-2007 and made 232 3-pointers in his career. Elijah Stewart moved into a tie for 22nd place in the Pac-12 with Washington State’s Eddie Hill (1991-1994) at 233. With Stewart owning its new record, USC is 11th out of the conference’s 12 teams in all-time 3-pointers made by one player. Oregon’s Tajuan Porter (2007-2010) leads the conference all-time with 345.

The 3-pointer was the second of a pair during an important stretch that saw the Trojans build a sizable lead (which eventually evaporated). Stewart first made a step-back 3 on the wing, then caught, shot and drained the second 3-pointer.

USC allowed Colorado back into the contest, but ended up pulling away in the final minutes for a 75-64 victory.

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On the Beat: Just stop trying to figure out this Auburn basketball team

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 7:20 PM

Auburn basketball-Auburn Tigers-Auburn-Jared Harper

AUBURN, Ala. — This is supposed to be a column that explains just how Auburn basketball beat Alabama on Wednesday night.

This will not be a column that explains just how Auburn basketball beat Alabama on Wednesday night.

Auburn entered its rematch with a lot of issues. It was four days removed from a season-ending injury to Anfernee McLemore, one of the nation’s top shot-blockers. It had spent the last three days wondering if its second-leading scorer, Mustapha Heron, could overcome a stomach virus. (He wouldn’t.)

MORE: Auburn basketball wills way to blowout of Alabama without Mustapha Heron

On top of that, its leading scorer, Bryce Brown, entered the game just one week after playing through a strained shoulder and suffering a foot injury. He wasn’t 100 percent.

With two of its top players still ineligible from an FBI case that rocked the program and college basketball, the Tigers only dressed out seven scholarship players in the rotation Wednesday.

And this wasn’t the same Alabama team that beat Auburn earlier this season. Collin Sexton, who will almost assuredly be an NBA lottery pick in a few months, was playing after missing the first matchup. The Crimson Tide had beaten Oklahoma, Florida and Tennessee since their last meeting and were now firmly in the NCAA Tournament picture.

Alabama was taller — the nation’s 26th-tallest roster, to be exact — and deeper. Just losing by single-digits seemed like it would be an impressive performance heading into the game.

Auburn-Bruce Pearl-Auburn basketball
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl led the Tigers to their most impressive win yet Wednesday. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

So, naturally, Auburn had more rebounds, blocks and points in the paint Wednesday night in a 90-71 win.

“It’s just special,” Pearl said. “It’s special beyond compare. This team is trying to make history. We have a long way to go, but I can’t deny that what we are seeing is rare. That combination of grit and determination, resiliency, family — it’s all right here.”

Dig into the numbers and try to explain what’s happening with basketball on the Plains this season.

Some little things might make sense — an effective zone defense leading to improved rebounding, a spread-it-out offensive system working when a team is shooting well, a versatile group of players covering for a lack of depth — by themselves.

But they aren’t all supposed to happen at the same time for the same time.

Auburn only had seven players in its rotation and ran 11-man Alabama out of the gym in the second half. The Tigers scored 50 points in the half of heavier legs, tougher breathing and fewer substitutions. They shot greater than 50 percent from the field and were dunking on each other for fun down the stretch.

Alabama hadn’t allowed more than 89 points in a game this season. The time that 89 happened, it only had three players on the floor for a good chunk of the second half. Auburn torched the SEC’s best defense with its biggest handicaps yet.

This is a team that, when two of its most consistent starters are out, get career-best performances from reserves Chuma Okeke and Malik Dunbar. Okeke, a freshman, posted his first career double-double and completely took over a stretch of Auburn’s monster second half.

The smallest player on the court, 5-foot-10 Jared Harper, outperformed Alabama’s future lottery pick and his former high school teammate. Harper was the game’s MVP at 21 points and 6 assists, even though he was coming off the worst game of his career. Alabama coach Avery Johnson, a former NBA point guard himself, called Harper a “little maestro.”

“Against South Carolina and the last time we played against Alabama, he wasn’t the best point guard on the floor,” Pearl said. “Tonight, he was. You can see the result.”

With undersized Harper and inexperienced Okeke leading the way, Auburn showed again why its a team that defies all common basketball knowledge. Remember the horrible second-half defense last season, the Chuck Person bombshell, the overtime exhibition loss to a Division II school in November?

WATCH: Auburn fans sing reverse ‘Rammer Jammer’ after blowout against Alabama

A team this thin, this short, this far removed from the last time it tasted NCAA Tournament glory shouldn’t be here. It relies too much on the 3-point shot. It hasn’t had a winning SEC record in nearly a decade.

And yet, the Tigers are one win away from clinching an SEC regular season championship — their first since 1999. At this point, Auburn is playing better basketball when things aren’t going its way.

The job isn’t done, as Pearl said multiple times Wednesday night. Auburn has to travel to Florida and Arkansas, two of the bluest bloods in the SEC this side of Kentucky. The Tigers’ final game is against a South Carolina team that defeated them just last Saturday.

“Guys, this is not a time to celebrate,” Pearl said. “This is a time to continue to prepare. We have to find a way to go down to Florida.”

Common sense would say that shorthanded Auburn will have a tough time replicating its win from Wednesday in road environments, without the backing of a rivalry-frenzied crowd.

Common sense wouldn’t have predicted any of this, though.

The post On the Beat: Just stop trying to figure out this Auburn basketball team appeared first on SEC Country.

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