Jeff Eisenberg

  • Frank Kaminsky helps Wisconsin stay in control in the Big Ten

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 14 hrs ago

    To avoid relinquishing first place in the Big Ten for the first time this season, Wisconsin had to survive a far tougher game at Michigan than many surely expected.

    Only a big overtime period from national player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky enabled the Badgers to escape Ann Arbor with a 69-64 victory.

    Kaminsky gave Wisconsin the lead for good on the opening possession of overtime by getting into the middle of Michigan's three-two zone, attacking the rim and drawing a foul for a three-point play. The skilled 7-foot senior added five more points later in overtime and finished with a game-high 22 as Wisconsin salvaged a win despite blowing an 11-point second-half lead. 

    Wisconsin's victory elevates the Badgers to 18-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten, a half game in front of second-place Indiana entering the Hoosiers' visit to Ohio State on Sunday. The only two games Wisconsin has lost this season are a December showdown with a Duke and a stunner at Rutgers in which the Badgers were without Kaminsky and lost starting point guard Traevon Jackson to injury. 

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  • Brilliant length-of-the-floor inbound play saves West Virginia

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 17 hrs ago

    The difference between a good season and a special one is sometimes as simple as winning a few games that probably ought to have been losses.

    Eighteenth-ranked West Virginia got one of those Saturday against visiting TCU.

    The Mountaineers won 86-85 despite blowing an eight-point lead in the final nine minutes of regulation, trailing for almost the entire overtime and surrendering an apparent game-winning shot in the game's final seconds. It was TCU's Trey Zeigler who sank that shot, burying a short jumper in the paint to give his team a one-point lead with only two seconds remaining.

    What saved West Virginia was a brilliant length-of-the-floor inbound pass that led streaking freshman guard Jevon Carter toward the basket and enabled him to draw a foul on Kyan Anderson as he attempted a game-winning layup. Carter coolly sank both foul shots with only 0.9 seconds remaining, sealing a win that didn't seem likely to be so difficult when the game began.

    As West Virginia celebrated the victory at mid-court after the final buzzer, TCU coach Trent Johnson made a beeline for the referees and had to be held back by his assistants.

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  • Kansas wins at Texas to tighten its grip on the Big 12

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 18 hrs ago

    Three of Kansas' first six Big 12 games this season were on the road against some of the top teams in the nation's deepest conference.

    The Jayhawks finished that stretch atop the league anyway, which does not bode well for the rest of the Big 12's chances of preventing them from capturing an 11th straight conference title. 

    Kansas pulled away from 17th-ranked Texas for a 75-62 victory in Austin on Saturday afternoon to improve to 5-1 in Big 12 play. With Iowa State losing at Texas Tech, the 11th-ranked Jayhawks will enter next week alone in first place, a game up in the loss column on Kansas State, Iowa State and West Virginia.

    Considering Kansas has lost only five home games in the past eight years and is already done with road games at Iowa State, Texas and Baylor this season, the Jayhawks have to feel good about their chances of hoisting another league title trophy in March. The toughest road games they have left in Big 12 play are at West Virginia on Feb. 16, at Kansas State on Feb. 23 and at Oklahoma on March 7.

    It was a fitting moment because these days even on the road, Kansas is feeling right at home.

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  • DePaul briefly got so confident it passed up open layups for threes

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 21 hrs ago

    Having won at Seton Hall on Thursday night to move into a first-place tie atop the Big East and snap a seven-year losing streak against ranked opponents, DePaul entered Saturday's road game at Xavier overflowing with confidence.  

    In fact, the resurgent Blue Demons are so brash these days they're passing up wide-open layups for 3-pointers.

    It was guard Aaron Simpson who pulled that unlikely move late in the first half on Saturday, catching a pass all alone in transition, dribbling directly to the left wing and burying a 3-pointer before the Xavier defense could recover. That shot gave DePaul a 10-point lead and seemed to signal that the Blue Demons might be capable of pulling off a second surprising road win in three days.

    In retrospect, perhaps that was a bit premature. Xavier rallied for an 89-76 victory when DePaul's 63 percent first-half shooting from the field and 11 of 19 first-half shooting from behind the arc did not carry over after the break.

    Xavier earned a much-needed win to get back to .500 in league play. DePaul falls to 11-10 overall and 5-3 in the Big East, a far cry from NCAA tournament contention yet still a huge improvement over previous years.

  • Duke's Marshall Plumlee will join the U.S. Army after graduation

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Marshall Plumlee intends to trade one iconic uniform for another when he's done at Duke.

    The 7-foot center formally committed to join the U.S. Army after graduation by completing his contracting ceremony on Friday morning at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He will become an army officer after he finishes his ROTC requirements in spring 2016.

    The Duke Chronicle reported Thursday that the inspiration for Plumlee's interest in joining the military was the Oct. 2012 trip to Fort Bragg that Mike Krzyzewski organized for the Blue Devils. The former West Point cadet, player and coach had his team go through a day of physical training before holding an open practice in front of a few hundred soldiers.

    Duke players spent a night in the barracks before waking up at dawn, marching to physical training and tackling an obstacle course that left each of them caked in dirt and mud. Plumlee, ironically, could not participate since he was on crutches and wore a walking boot on his left foot, but the experience apparently rubbed off on him anyway.  

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  • Impatient Duke fans once wanted Mike Krzyzewski fired

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Three years into his tenure at Duke, the man now known as his era's most successful coach didn't appear to be on the road to shattering records or hoisting championship trophies.

    In fact, a vocal segment of the Blue Devils fan base wanted Mike Krzyzewski out.

    One of Duke's Tobacco Road rivals had just completed a stunning championship run under beloved coach Jim Valvano. The other was at the apex of its power under legendary coach Dean Smith. The Blue Devils on the other hand had just concluded back-to-back 17-loss seasons under Krzyzewski culminating with a 43-point shellacking in the 1983 ACC quarterfinals against Virginia.

    "Durham was not a pleasant place to be in 1983," said former Duke forward Jay Bilas, a freshman on the 1982-83 team. "There was a lot of discontentment around the program, and it was vocal. Heck, there was a petition circling around calling for Mike to be fired. I saw it. One of the Iron Dukes showed it to me, which I thought was kind of a classless move. But there were a lot of people who were really unhappy."

    Later in the meal, Dwyer suggested an uncommitted prospect that Duke could still pursue.

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  • Bobby Portis' improbable tip-in at the buzzer saves Arkansas

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Bobby Portis found a perfect way to atone for an unfathomably bad decision at the end of regulation Thursday night against Alabama.

    The Arkansas forward beat the Crimson Tide in overtime with a tip-in at the buzzer.

    With the score tied at 91 and just a few seconds left in overtime, Arkansas guard Ky Madden dribbled through heavy traffic and hoisted a heavily contested runner that missed the rim by two feet. That would have forced a second overtime except Alabama's Shannon Hale got caught watching the ball and failed to block out Portis, enabling the 6-foot-11 sophomore to swoop in to give the Razorbacks a 93-91 victory.

    Portis' game-winning shot ensured Arkansas would avoid a three-game losing streak and a second straight home loss. The Razorbacks (14-4, 3-2) were coming off back-to-back losses to Tennessee and Ole Miss, raising questions over whether they're consistent enough to lay claim to the title of the SEC's biggest challenger to top-ranked Kentucky. 

    It didn't happen because Michael Qualls scored eight of his game-high 30 points in overtime and Portis asserted himself at just the right time.

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  • D'Angelo Russell dazzles with another brilliant bounce pass

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Any future NBA first-round pick can leave TV viewers slack-jawed with a dunk. Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell is making a habit of doing it with bounce passes. 

    The gifted 6-foot-5 freshman followed up the dazzling pass he threw Saturday against Iowa with another beauty Thursday against Northwestern. High-flying Sam Thompson curled around a screen and cut as though he was going to receive a lob pass at the rim, but Russell fed him by threading a bounce pass through traffic instead. 

    Whereas Thompson failed to finish the layup Russell created for him against Iowa, he did not make the same mistake twice. The senior forward easily threw down a two-handed dunk to help Ohio State hold on for a 69-67 road victory at Northwestern.

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  • Arizona State students have perfected the art of free throw distraction

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Forgive Arizona State fans if they're not overly disappointed these days when their team commits a second-half foul during a home game.

    Only then does the Sun Devils student section get to unleash college basketball's most creative method of free throw distraction.

    When an opposing player shoots free throws toward the Arizona State student section, students seated closest to the floor will set up a pair of black curtains directly behind the basket. The Curtain of Distraction then parts to reveal an often hilarious, always weird mystery character, from a gyrating Elvis Presley, to a diaper-clad Cupid, to a pair of kissing unicorns, to Miley Cyrus with a wrecking ball.

    "Some of the things that come out of that curtain, you can hear the whole crowd laughing," Arizona State senior Nick Granillo said. "You know there's no way the free throw shooter could have blocked out what's coming out. He had to have taken at least a quick peek at what it is."

    There's no denying the Curtain of Distraction has been a success either, both as a means of generating fan enthusiasm and diverting the attention of opposing free throw shooters.

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  • Baylor's game against an NAIA team was supposed to be part of a movie

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 3 days ago

    Skim through Wednesday night's college basketball scores, and you might have the same two questions I did a few minutes ago.

    Who on earth are the Huston-Tillotson Rams and why would 21st-ranked Baylor schedule them three weeks into league play?

    The answer is much wackier than the Bears merely seeking a confidence-building blowout in the midst of the rugged Big 12 slate. Baylor associate director for athletic communications David Kaye said Wednesday night that coach Scott Drew initially scheduled the Austin-based NAIA school in hopes the game would be featured in an upcoming movie.

    Ken Carter, the coach whose life story inspired the 2005 film "Coach Carter," opened a basketball academy three years ago 30 miles south of Baylor's campus. He has since struck up a good enough relationship with the Baylor program that he visits practice on occasion. 

    What initially made Carter's story worthy of a movie starring Samuel Jackson was his drive to improve the lives of his players.

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