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First Four: 5 things to know about Wednesday night’s games

Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2018 @ 4:09 PM


            NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 07: Tyus Battle #25 of the Syracuse Orange dribbles down the court in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second round of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 07: Tyus Battle #25 of the Syracuse Orange dribbles down the court in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second round of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The eighth edition of the NCAA First Four wraps up Wednesday at UD Arena.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion North Carolina Central (19-15) plays Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Texas Southern (15-19) in the first game, starting at 6:40 p.m., followed by a matchup between Syracuse (20-13) and Arizona State (20-11).

»RELATED: 7 things to know about First Four field

»RELATED: First four full of well-known programs

Here are five things to know about the two games:

1. How they got here

NCCU returns to the First Four for a second straight year after beating top-seeded Hampton, 71-63, to claim the MEAC championship and earn an automatic bid. Texas Southern beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 84-69 to win the SWAC title for a bid, which marks the Tigers’ second First Four appearance after also coming to Dayton in 2014. The two No. 16 seeds are playing for a chance to meet top-seeded Xavier in Nashville on Friday.

Syracuse lost to North Carolina in the second round of the ACC tournament but earned an at-large bid to make its 39th NCAA tournament appearance. Arizona State fell to Colorado in the Pac-12 tournament opener but will be playing in its 15th NCAA tournament. The winner advances to play No. 6-seeded TCU in Detroit.

2. Boeheim and Hurley

Two well-known basketball names take the court against one another Wednesday when Syracuse plays Arizona State.

Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim is in his 42nd season with the Orange, while Bobby Hurley, the son of legendary St. Anthony’s High School coach Bob Hurley Sr., is in his third season at Arizona State.

Boeheim said he has known the Hurley family for about as long as he’s been coaching. He even tried recruiting Bobby Hurley before he chose Duke, where he played from 1989 to 1993.

“No one has more, has worked harder at the game than Bob Hurley did,” Boeheim said. “I’ve been around him for a long time and watched him and watched his practices and teams and there’s nobody more prepared and more involved in coaching than Bob. And Danny and Bobby are very, very similar. They’ll never be as good as their father, but they’re pretty good. Bob Hurley is one of the great coaches that ever coached basketball anywhere.”

3. HBCU championship

The only two HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) teams playing in the NCAA tournament are facing each other in the First Four.

North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton said he was glad to be returning to the tournament – the Eagles lost to UC Davis in the First Four – but didn’t agree with the matchup.

“I hate it,” Moton said. “I hate that it has to be two HBCUs clashing, because I have the ultimate respect for (Mike Davis’) program. And truth be told we’ve kind of been the representation of each league, and I wanted the world to be able to see what each league can offer. It’s unfortunate, but it’s best to be on this side of the coin than on the other side not getting a bid at all and not having to play anyone and having your season be over with.”

4. Battle-tested

Texas Southern lost its first 13 games of the season but went 15-6 the rest of the way, including seven straight heading into Wednesday.

That 0-13 stretch included games against six NCAA tournament qualifiers, including top-seeded Kansas, No. 4-seeded Gonzaga, No. 5 seeds Ohio State and Clemson, No. 6-seeded TCU and fellow First Four team Syracuse.

“Our schedule was designed for us to get to this point,” Davis said. “People talk about us being 0-13. And there’s not one team that we played in non-conference that we was favored to win.”

The Tigers also had some suspensions and injuries midseason, but have been at full strength since the start of their seven-game win streak.

5. Facts and stats

Syracuse is the tallest team in the country with an average height of 80.1 inches, according to stats on KenPom.com, but the Orange also are one of the most inexperienced teams in the NCAA tournament field (only Duke, Alabama and Kentucky are younger).

Arizona State is way down the height list with an average height of 76.2 inches and middle of the pack in experience (average of 1.79 years, compared to the Orange’s 0.95 years).

Texas Southern guard Demontrae Jefferson is one of the most exciting players in the First Four field. The 5-foot-7 sophomore averages 23.4 points and 4.5 assists. He served a five-game suspension but returned to lead Texas Southern to a Southwest Athletic Conference Tournament title. He scored 29 against TCU, 24 each against Kansas and Baylor, 22 against Clemson and 20 against Gonzaga.

Tra Holder leads Arizona State with 25.3 points per game, and Tyus Battle averages 21.4 points per game for Syracuse.

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES

North Carolina Central vs. Texas Southern, 6:40 p.m., TruTV

Syracuse vs. Arizona State, 9:10 p.m., TruTV

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Former Dayton Flyers center finds new home for basketball career

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 8:44 AM

Dayton’s Jordan Pierce shoots at practice in September at the Cronin Center. David Jablonski/Staff
Staff Writer
Dayton’s Jordan Pierce shoots at practice in September at the Cronin Center. David Jablonski/Staff(Staff Writer)

Former Dayton Flyers center Jordan Pierce will continue his basketball career at Odessa Community College in Odessa, Texas.

Odessa announced the addition of Pierce on Wednesday night. Dayton announced in March Pierce was leaving Dayton after one season. Four other players decided to transfer or turn pro.

Xeyrius Williams transferred to Akron. Kostas Antetokounmpo hopes to hear his name called in the NBA Draft on Thursday. Matej Svoboda returned to the Czech Republic to play pro basketball. John Crosby, who has one season of eligibility remaining, has not announced if he will continue his basketball career.

» RELATED: Former UD assistant says Flyers are on a mission

Dayton listed Pierce at 6-foot-11. Odessa called him a 7-footer in its announcement.

Pierce has three seasons of eligibility remaining. He appeared in two games and played a total of two minutes last season as a freshman.

Pierce signed with Dayton during Archie Miller’s final season and recommitted to the program after the hiring of Anthony Grant.

Odessa has played in three straight National Junior College Athletic Association tournaments. It finished 28-5 last season under coach Tra Arnold, who left to become an assistant coach at Iona. Its new coach is Kris Baumann, who was previously an assistant coach at the University of Texas at El Paso.

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Back-to-back homers lift Reds to 5th straight vs. Tigers

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 3:43 PM
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 3:57 PM

Suarez homers off former team to lead Reds win

What at first appeared to be a premature detonation turned out to be the appropriate celebration when the umpires changed Eugenio Suarez’s double into a go-ahead home run Wednesday afternoon.

The Suarez blast, which prompted the fireworks to be set off while he was standing on second base, came one pitch after Scooter Gennett hit a game-tying, two-run homer off Detroit starter Michael Fulmer, enabling the Cincinnati Reds to post a 5-3 victory before a crowd of 19,177 at Great American Ball Park.

“I knew that was a homer,” said Suarez said, who had struck out on three consecutive fastballs in his previous at-bat. “I knew he'd come in with a breaking ball, and he hung it and I got it.”

The win was the Reds’ sixth in seven games against the American League this year and their fifth in a row against Detroit dating back to 2015, marking their longest active streak against any team.

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Fulmer (3-6) was one strike away from setting a season-high with 10 strikeouts while taking a 2-0 lead into the seventh, but Gennett crushed a 1-2 fastball into the seats in right field to tie the game with his 13th home run of the season.

Then Suarez hit the next pitch off what appeared to be the yellow padding in left field. But after a crew chief review it was determined the ball cleared the padding for Suarez’s team-leading 15th home run of the season.

The back-to-back blasts – the third of the season for the Reds – made a winner of Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle, who allowed two runs in six innings with eight strikeouts and four walks.

›› RELATED: Reds notes on Peralta’s struggles, Hamilton’s surge, Votto’s climb

“Tyler did a great job,” Reds manager Jim Riggleman said. “Getting six or eight innings out of your starters gives you a chance to win and use your bullpen the way you want to use them.”

Mahle (6-6) gave up solo home runs to Jeimer Candalario in the first and Niko Goodrum in the fourth before stranding a pair of runners in the fifth and, after a visit from Riggleman, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth with a strikeout of Fulmer.

“That was huge,” Mahle said of Riggleman’s decision to leave him in the game. “Sometimes we get pulled before we want to, but today when he went out there I expected to get pulled. Two outs and I walk a guy and give up a double. In a situation like that you expect to get pulled, or at least I do."

But after Riggleman ordered an intentional walk of Dixon Machado to load the bases, Mahle punched out Fulmer for season high-tying eighth strikeout.

Scott Schebler, who went 2-for-5, rode the momentum of that punchout and got the game-winning rally started with a leadoff double in the sixth. After Tucker Barnhart flew out and Joey Votto struck out, Gennett tied the game with his homer, just the fourth hit of the day for the Reds.

And Fulmer never recovered. After giving up the go-ahead homer to Suarez, he walked Jesse Winker to end his day. Fulmer went 5.2 innings, giving up three runs on five hits with nine strikeouts and two walks.

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The Reds got an insurance run in the seventh when Barnhart’s second single of the game scored Billy Hamilton.

Votto followed with a walk to load the bases with no outs. But the Reds failed to blow open the game when Gennett and Suarez each hit shallow fly outs and Alex Blandino struck out.

“We were holding out breath a little bit because we had bases loaded and didn't any any more,” Riggleman said. 

The Tigers got within 4-3 in the eighth on a pair of two-out infield singles. Jacoby Jones hit a high bouncer between Suarez at third and reliever Jared Hughes. Jones stole second and came across an unattended home plate when Machado beat out a 10-foot chopper that pulled Barnhart out of position.

Adam Duvall, who stayed in the game after pinch-hitting in the sixth, got the run back with a solo home run, his 12th homer of the season, with one out in the bottom of the eighth.

›› MORE: Votto does bird a favor with grand slam

Billy Hamilton followed with a ground-rule double for his second hit of the game, giving him three consecutive multi-hit games. That last time that happened was July 2016.

Raisel Igelsias pitched the ninth and worked around a two-out single to record his 11th save.

The Reds win was their sixth in eight games.

“The way we’re playing right now is how we expected to play all year,” Gennett said. “If our pitching can keep us in the game, it’s only a matter of time before we get a few runs across.”

The homestand continues Thursday night when they open a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs.

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Middletown’s Vincent Edwards among NBA draft hopefuls

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 3:33 PM

Middletown's Vincent Edwards (12) fakes out Elder's Joey Sabato (23) during Friday night's Division I sectional boys basketball game Feb. 28, 2014, at Xavier University's Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Middletown defeated Elder 54-47. NICK DAGGY / STAFF
Nick Daggy
Middletown's Vincent Edwards (12) fakes out Elder's Joey Sabato (23) during Friday night's Division I sectional boys basketball game Feb. 28, 2014, at Xavier University's Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Middletown defeated Elder 54-47. NICK DAGGY / STAFF(Nick Daggy)

Middletown native Vincent Edwards will be among the many former college basketball stars hoping to hear his name called during the NBA draft on Thursday night. 

He is projected as a second-round pick by tankathon.com and TheRinger.com

The former projects him going to the San Antonio Spurs with the 49th pick while the latter sees him going 58th overall to the Denver Nuggets

After four years at Purdue, Edwards could arrive at the next level as a ready-made rotation member, but that is not what NBA teams are generally looking for in the draft

Since there are only two rounds, upside is almost always the focus, meaning players with production such as Edwards have to wait until younger players with more perceived potential go first. 

RELATED: Who are the top 5 NBA players from the Dayton/Springfield/Middletown area?

The son of Wright State Hall of Famer Bill Edwards, he was a second-team All-Big Ten pick as a senior when he averaged 14.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists. He shot 47.6 percent from the field and made 39.8 percent of his 3-pointers. 

The younger Edwards is the only Purdue player to score 1,500 points with 700 rebounds and 300 assists in his career. 

According to Basketball-Reference.com, four men born in Middletown have played in the NBA or ABA: Bill Edwards Sr., Bill Hanzlik (Beloit Memorial High School in Wisconsin), Luke Kennard (Franklin High School) and Jerry Lucas. 

The elder Edwards played three games for the Phoenix Suns in the 1993-94 season. 

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Looking back: Negele Knight last Dayton Flyer to be drafted in 1990

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 9:39 AM
Updated: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 9:39 AM

Dayton Flyers in NBA: Top 10 career scorers

Twenty eight years ago this month, the Phoenix Suns drafted Dayton Flyers guard Negele Knight with the fourth pick in the second round. He was the 31st overall pick.

» RELATED: Departing assistant coach says Flyers are on a mission

Knight was the 47th player in Dayton history be drafted and the 11th to go in the first or second rounds. Although four undrafted Flyers (Chris Wright, Chris Johnson, Brian Roberts and Charles Cooke) have played in the NBA since Knight’s career ended in 1999, he remains the last Flyer to be drafted.

The drought could end Thursday. Kostas Antetokounmpo, who played one season with Dayton and left the program in March, is projected as a possible second-round pick.

Here’s a look back at the Dayton Daily News coverage of Knight on June 28, 1990 (story by Bucky Albers):

SUNS SHINE ON DAYTON'S KNIGHT

It came as a complete surprise to Negele Knight Wednesday night when the Phoenix Suns selected him in the second round of the National Basketball Association player draft.

"I never sat down and talked to them and I never heard from them," said Knight, who led the University of Dayton Flyers to a 22-10 record last season. "It's a surprise to me, but it's a good surprise."

Watching the draft on television in Detroit at the home of his brother, Oscar, Knight had to wait almost three hours until his name was called at 10:25 p.m.

He was the fourth player selected in the second round and the 31st overall.

"I'm doing fine . . . now that I don't have to play against K.J.," Knight said moments after he got the news.

K.J. is Kevin Johnson, the starting point guard for the Suns.

"I played against him in our Christmas tournament my freshman year," said Knight, referring to Johnson's appearance in the Merrill Lynch Classic with the California Golden Bears. "People ask me who was the best guard I've ever played against, and that's him."

Guard Negele Knight of the Phoenix Suns moves the ball during a 1993 game. Layne Murdoch /Allsport (Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
 

The Suns, who selected 6-foot-8 power forward Jason Williams of St. John's with the 21st pick in the first round, took Knight in hopes that his presence will enable Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons to give Johnson more rest than he got during the past season.

"Kevin Johnson needs some rest," Fitzsimmons said. "You can ride a good horse to death if you use him too much."

Last year, Phoenix drafted 5-7 guard Greg Grant, the NCAA Division III scoring leader from Trenton (N.J.) State College, in the second round for the same reason, but he didn't get the job done.

The Suns had to press 6-4 shooting guard Jeff Hornacek into duty as a point guard.

Fitzsimmons thinks Knight could be the answer. He was particularly impressed with the numbers the 6-1 senior posted late in the season.

During the last five weeks of the season, Knight sparked UD to an 11-game winning string with a phenomenal scoring spree. He averaged 29.7 points per game. He shot .615 (72-117) from the field, .703 (19-27) from 3-point range and .820 (50-61) from the free throw line.

"He's quick and he's a tough guy," Fitzsimmons said. "You figure the last few games of the season were the toughest, and that's when he was the toughest."

 

Phoenix apparently was debating between choosing Knight and Brian Oliver of Georgia Tech. The Suns decided that Knight had better all-around playmaking skills.

Knight was the fifth true point guard selected. Chosen ahead of him were Gary Payton of Oregon State (2nd by Seattle), Rumeal Robinson of Michigan (10th by Atlanta), Dee Brown of Jacksonville (19th by Boston) and Lance Blanks of Texas (26th by Detroit).

Four other MCC players were selected in the draft. They are: Tyrone Hill of Xavier (11th by Golden State), Anthony Bonner of St. Louis (23rd by Sacramento), Derek Strong of Xavier (47th by Philadelphia) and Tony Smith of Marquette (51st by the Los Angeles Lakers).

Knight, who flew to Portland at the Trail Blazers' request two weeks ago, thought he might be selected by Portland late in the first round, but they picked 6-10 Alaa Abdelnaby of Duke.

Sacramento, which had four first round choices, also had an interest but backed off after landing shooting guard Travis Mays of Texas with the 14th pick.

Knight was mildly disappointed that he wasn't picked in the first round, but no Flyer has been drafted in the first round since 1979 when Jim Paxson was selected by Portland.

"It's Phoenix, they need a point guard and I'm ready," Knight said. "It's a good situation, and it will take some pressure off me. Now I have some kind of focus."

The Suns called Knight's agent, Fred Slaughter, in Los Angeles to inform him of their pick.

"Fred just called me," Knight said, indicating that he got no information about the dates of rookie camp or any other details. "All that will be discussed tomorrow. I'll talk with him again tomorrow night."

Knight, 23, averaged 22.8 points for the Flyers, who won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament championship and played two games in the NCAA tournament.

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