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Sports Today: National Signing Day gives way to big basketball night

Published: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 @ 9:03 AM

Springfield's Leonard Taylor throws a pass against Xenia on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, at Xenia. David Jablonski/Staff
HANDOUT/David Jablonski/Staff
Springfield's Leonard Taylor throws a pass against Xenia on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, at Xenia. David Jablonski/Staff(HANDOUT/David Jablonski/Staff)

Today is National Signing Day and a notable night for college basketball. 

As I write this, we’re still waiting to see how the winter weather will affect college announcements, but at last check three of the area’s best players were planning to make an announcement today. 

Stay tuned to find out what’s next for star running backs Tavion Thomas and Ra’veion Hargrove plus all-around Springfield athlete Leonard Taylor. 

Ohio State signed most of its class in December but is looking to add a couple of players today — offensive tackle is of particular interest and need… 

Ohio State basketball will take over the spotlight tonight as the 14th-ranked Buckeyes head to Purdue to take on the third-ranked Boilermakers. 

The game matches the top two contenders for Big Ten Player of the Year: Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State and Vincent Edwards of Purdue. 

Edwards, a Middletown graduate, and Bates-Diop are both seniors who figure to be under-drafted by NBA teams in June before going on to long, productive pro careers. 

This is the only meeting between the two teams, and a win for Purdue would certainly put them in the driver’s seat for a Big Ten championship as they would maintain a two-game lead over Michigan State, a winner last night and Purdue’s next opponent. 

Ohio State doesn’t have much to lose tonight if you ask me. 

A win would mean they have a chance to hang a banner this season, but they have already surpassed expectations. 

Even if the Buckeyes lose, they would have a three-game cushion in terms of staying in the top four, which is important for seeding in the conference tournament that is stupidly being held a week early in New York City… 

Meanwhile, Dayton is back home tonight to take on Duquesne at UD Arena. 

The Flyers’ loss in Pittsburgh to start Atlantic 10 play looked like a bad one at the time, but since then the Dukes have been having the better season. 

First-year coach Keith Dambrot’s team has already won five more games than last season despite dropping a pair of heart-breakers in the previous eight days. 

Exactly what’s ailing Dayton is hard to put a finger on. 

I mean, there are obvious statistical things to look at, but everything feels interconnected, doesn’t it? 

»PREVIEW: What you need to know about Wednesday’s gameBench seeing minutes decline

Overall, things just aren’t right. 

There’s plenty of talent there, but experience is lacking of course. 

Darrell Davis is a veteran but playing in a new role, and Josh Cunningham barely played the previous two seasons. 

Of course, they’ve also had 22 games to figure out how to play together but seem to be going in the other direction.

Their improvement in shooting percentage over the course of the season is definitely eye-opening. I thought this team would be athletic but struggle to makes shots. 

The lack of improvement on defense is kind of baffling. 

So are the fluctuations in the way coach Anthony Grant has substituted. 

It seemed like a lot of guys were on yo-yos in the first half of the season, and now the rotation has been severely curtailed. 

I can imagine that makes getting comfortable and building confidence hard. 

I’m sure it’s tough for any new coach to establish what he wants, never knowing just how youngsters are going to react to a given situation. 

That’s why they make the big bucks though. 

Perhaps short-term pain will yield long-term gain. 

The rest of the schedule isn’t a cakewalk. Finishing over .500 in the regular season could be a challenge… 

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Analysis: ‘Desperate,’ poised Kentucky finish vs. Alabama was even bigger than the win

Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 2:10 PM

LEXINGTON, Ky. — To hear the relieved roar of the Rupp Arena crowd, as if 23,000 people just exorcised a demon together on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Lexington, was to know just how much went right in Kentucky’s 81-71 win over Alabama.

The end of a four-game losing streak, unprecedented under coach John Calipari. Leading for 31 minutes after weeks of playing from behind. Clobbering the Crimson Tide 44-27 on the glass. Neutralizing Alabama star Collin Sexton while five Wildcats scored in double figures.

Oh, and pumping the brakes on all that NIT talk and bolstering their NCAA Tournament resume with a fifth victory over an RPI top-50 team. That was all good stuff for Kentucky (18-9, 7-7 SEC), but this was the best stuff:

Leading by two points with five minutes to go, the Cats did not collapse. They swarmed instead. They grabbed eight rebounds — four offensive — swiped four steals, had zero turnovers and outscored Alabama 14-6 to close the game.

For once, nobody had to hold their breath, which meant you could hear the collective exhale Saturday.

“We needed this very bad,” said point guard Quade Green, who had 12 points, 4 assists, 1 steal and 0 turnovers off the bench, “so we can start our winning streak.”

Kentucky had never ever lost three straight in Calipari’s first eight seasons, yet here it was trying to fend off the coach’s first five-game skid since his UMass days in the early 1990s. He tried to dismiss the significance of that, but it had been hanging over this team like a storm cloud since the Cats shriveled in the final minutes at 10 th-ranked Auburn on Wednesday night.

“We had a losing streak?” a grinning Calipari said after it was finally over. “These guys, they are all freshmen [and] they were a little bit scattered now, a little bit rattled. If they looked at me and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be five and [imitating crying] …’ how would they have played today?”

RELATED: Everything Calipari said after Bama win

Kevin Knox probably wouldn’t have cut loose and scored all 13 of his points after halftime — 11 in a 5-minute span that steadied the Cats when they fell behind with 13:58 remaining. PJ Washington likely wouldn’t have shaken off a 4-turnover first half and scored 10 in the second half.

Had Kentucky played tight, there’s almost no chance it manages to go the final 11:31 without a turnover.

“They played desperate,” Calipari said. “We gave away some games this year [and] we have to start taking games from people, which means desperation. We gave some away and now we’ve got to take some back. Gotta go get some, and this was a good one.”

Alabama coach Avery Johnson used the word desperate, too, as he noted an energy and effort level in the Wildcats that he did not see from his own very fine team. The Crimson Tide (17-10, 8-6) entered the day with five RPI top-25 wins, three in the last month.

“We just went out there and fought like we had nothing to lose,” said Jarred Vanderbilt, who delivered 11 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in just 19 minutes off the bench. “We played with desperation, but we didn’t put the pressure on ourselves. Honestly, I feel like we needed [the losing streak] — I’m not saying that many losses, but it kind of helped us come back together as a team, trust each other more and play together as a team.”

RELATED: Calipari wants Vanderbilt to ‘be Dennis Rodman’

In each of the four consecutive losses before Saturday, there was a moment when Kentucky looked like it might win. Then came a defensive lapse, an offensive drought — or both — and it all fell apart.

Against Alabama, when that moment arrived, the Cats were ready. Freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander used every bit of his 7-foot wingspan to snatch three give-me-that steals in the span of 2 minutes, the last coming with 49 seconds to go, to effectively finish off the Tide.

“I was like, ‘We need to get these loose balls, because these are the plays that we lost these last couple games,’ ” said Vanderbilt, who had a dunk, layup and tip-in in the final 3:15. “So we buckled down, locked up on defense, got steals, made plays and we executed.”

And as it was winding down, a joyful noise filled the arena. It was the long-lost sound of having not left the outcome to chance — of finally taking a victory rather than giving one.

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WATCH: Matt Farrell ties Notre Dame single-game record for 3-pointers

Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 2:12 PM

As Notre Dame claws its way towards impressing the selection committee, Matt Farrell etched his name into program lore.

The Notre Dame senior guard put on a shooting display for the ages in a 84-67 victory at Boston College.

Farrell finished with a career-high 37 points and drained an absurd 10 of his 12 attempts from 3-point range.

Farrell, who started out a ridiculous 9-of-9 from downtown, tied a Notre Dame record initially set by Kyle McAlanary in 2008 with his 10th 3-pointer late in the second half.

Farrell’s torrid stroke left him only only 3-pointer short of tying the all-time ACC record.

Farrell shot 12-of-17 overall and went 3-of-4 from the free throw line. Farrell also added a game-high seven assists.

Notre Dame improves to 16-11 overall and 6-8 in ACC play.

Next up for Notre Dame is a Big Monday home contest against Miami on Feb. 19 that will be televised at 7 p.m. (EST) on ESPN.

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Kory Holden leaves South Carolina basketball team

Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 9:21 AM

South Carolina basketball

According to a release from the school, redshirt junior guard Kory Holden, a Delaware transfer, has left the South Carolina basketball team.

Holden, who appeared in 14 games this season, missed 11 games with a hamstring injury. He transferred to South Carolina after spending his freshman and sophomore seasons at Delaware.

“He’s in a frustrated place as an athlete, good place as a human being, frustrated place as an athlete, because he can’t get his body to respond,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said, after the win over Auburn.

“He’s catching his breath right now is what he’s doing. Whenever we find out what his next step is, we’ll let you guys know.”

Before arriving to South Carolina, Holden was a prolific scorer, totaling 892 points for the Fightin’ Blue Hens, but he scored just 47 during his time with the Gamecocks.

As a sophomore, Holden averaged 17.7 points and 4.2 assists during and earned second-team All-Colonial Athletic Conference honors.

Holden, who’s originally from Salisbury, Md., has one season of eligibility remaining. When he transferred to South Carolina, ESPN rated him as the No. 2 overall prospect on the transfer market. He was on the bench for the Gamecocks during last season’s run to the Final Four.

The post Kory Holden leaves South Carolina basketball team appeared first on SEC Country.

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WATCH: Kansas men’s basketball honors 2008 national championship team during West Virginia game

Published: Saturday, February 17, 2018 @ 2:05 PM

Kansas Mens Basketball-2008-National Champions-Kansas Jayhawks-Mens Basketball-Ceremony-Allen

It’s been an entire decade since the 2007-2008 Kansas men’s basketball team won it all.

On Saturday, members from that Jayhawks team were back on the court at Allen Fieldhouse to be recognized in a special ceremony.

Ten players from the team were on hand to be recognized. Kansas defeated North Carolina in the Final Four that season before downing Memphis in the National Championship Game.

The Jayhawks are looking to record their 14th consecutive Big 12 regular season title in a row this season. That streak is in jeopardy, however, as No. 7 Texas Tech currently owns a one-game lead over Kansas in the conference standings.

A win over the Mountaineers on Saturday night can keep Kansas’ hopes of maintaining the incredible streak alive — at least for now. The Jayhawks have four games left on the regular season schedule after tonight, including a road game at Texas Tech on Feb. 24.

The post WATCH: Kansas men’s basketball honors 2008 national championship team during West Virginia game appeared first on Diehards.

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