The Dagger

  • Underachieving Washington has too many issues for Markelle Fultz to fix

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 20 hrs ago

    Less than two minutes into the second half of his team’s 98-71 demolition of Washington on Wednesday night, Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski found himself in a position he has seldom experienced before.

    The plodding center beat every Huskies player down court, caught a perfectly weighted pass in stride and threw down an uncontested two-handed transition dunk.

    That sequence perfectly captured the essence of what’s wrong with Washington. Only a team as undisciplined as the Huskies could allow a 7-foot, 300-pound man to blow by them on a fast break. And only a coach as lenient as Lorenzo Romar would let that slide without calling timeout to yank each of his players off the floor.

    Disorganized offense and lackluster defense quickly doomed Washington’s hopes of staying competitive in Spokane. Eighth-ranked Gonzaga led by 21 points after eight minutes, by 25 at halftime and by as many as 34 early in the second half en route to an overpowering win in the first scheduled meeting between the two in-state rivals since 2006.

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  • Poor non-league performance could haunt the Atlantic 10 in March

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    In the past nine years, the Atlantic 10 has never received fewer than three NCAA tournament bids.

    That streak could be in jeopardy this season the way the league has sputtered out of the starting blocks the past four weeks.

    Only one Atlantic 10 team has notched a victory over an opponent in Ken Pomeroy’s top 50, Rhode Island’s 76-71 neutral-court win over Cincinnati on Nov. 19. The closest thing the league has to a marquee win besides that is Dayton’s road win over middling Alabama, VCU’s rout of disinterested LSU or George Washington’s victory at erratic Temple.

    The Atlantic 10’s best teams have compensated a bit by avoiding sub-100 losses, but the rest of the league has been far more generous. Among the most damaging of the league’s 15 sub-100 losses include Fordham falling to Sacred Heart, St. Bonaventure falling to Arkansas-Little Rock and La Salle falling to Texas Southern.

    Those results leave the Atlantic 10 seventh in conference RPI, well behind the Big East, Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12. More alarmingly, there aren’t too many Atlantic 10 teams who have asserted themselves as potential at-large contenders.

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  • Luke Kennard has emerged as an unlikely savior for injury-plagued Duke

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    As he walked back on defense late in Tuesday night’s 84-74 victory over Florida, Duke guard Luke Kennard could not resist mouthing off a little.

    He flashed a cocky grin, shook his head back and forth and shouted, “Cmon man!”

    Kennard has earned the right to talk trash given his contributions to a Duke team riddled with injuries. The 6-foot-6 sophomore has teamed with senior forward Amile Jefferson to carry the Blue Devils at a time when preseason All-American Grayson Allen has been hampered by an ailing toe and elite freshmen Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Marques Bolden are recovering from offseason injuries.

    In 10 games this season, Kennard has averaged a team-high 20.4 points per game on ultra-efficient 52.2 percent shooting. Kennard has has scored in all sorts of ways too, from the spot-up 3-pointers that were his trademark as a freshman, to smooth mid-range pull-ups, to deft floaters in the lane.

    Such talk has to be pretty stunning for a guy who was not among the most heralded players entering the season on a star-studded Duke team.

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  • Stunning loss to Florida Atlantic could be damaging for Ohio State

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Ohio State’s bid to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for a second straight season veered off course Tuesday night.

    The Buckeyes suffered a damaging upset loss that will shrink their margin for error in the coming months.

    With the score tied late in overtime, Florida Atlantic coach Michael Curry called a play for sophomore guard Nick Rutherford and told the rest of his team to get out of the way. Rutherford got Ohio State’s Kam Williams off balance with a crossover dribble, attacked the basket off the bounce and banked in the go-ahead runner with one second left, giving the Owls a stunning 79-77 road victory.

    Florida Atlantic upset Ohio State in overtime tonight.

    Here's the game-winning bucket with one second left. https://t.co/AcqmXeGVIK

    — Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 7, 2016

    To put into perspective how dismal a loss this was for Ohio State, consider how bad Florida Atlantic has been recently.

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  • Dunk of the year nominee: Arizona State's Obinna Oleka

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    At 5-foot-10, Purdue guard P.J. Thompson isn’t exactly a fearsome rim protector.

    Thompson found that out the hard way Tuesday night when he foolishly attempted to break up an alley-oop pass from Arizona State’s Shannon Evans to 6-foot-8 Obinna Oleka.

    Holy Obinna Oleka! Guarantee we talk about this dunk tonight on Sports Report… @SunDevilHoops @Pac12Network pic.twitter.com/22J2Ky483e

    — Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 7, 2016

    Of course, Thompson isn’t the first player to land on the wrong end of a YouTube clip at the hands of Oleka. The bouncy Arizona State forward did the same thing to Arizona’s Ryan Anderson in a Pac-12 game last January.

    More consolation for Thompson: His team was humbling Arizona State with just as much authority as Oleka embarrassed him. Purdue led the hapless Sun Devils 47-21 at halftime on Tuesday night.

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  • Ranking the 11 unbeaten teams and projecting when each will lose first

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Three years ago, Wichita State completed the regular season undefeated. Two years ago, it was Kentucky who did it. There’s probably too much parity this season for anyone to match that feat, but 11 teams still have a chance.

    Below those 11 remaining undefeated teams are ranked from strongest to weakest with projections on when they’ll lose first.

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    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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  • Judge dismisses sexual assault charges against Mateen Cleaves

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 3 days ago

    Mateen Cleaves has won the fight for his freedom without standing trial.

    A judge dismissed sexual assault charges against the ex-Michigan State basketball star on Monday because of insufficient evidence. Prosecutors have the right to appeal Flint district court judge Cathy Dowd’s ruling.

    Cleaves, 39, had been accused of unlawfully imprisoning and sexually assaulting a 24-year-old woman at a Flint-area motel last September after a day of partying at a charity golf event. If found guilty, Cleaves could have faced up to 15 years in prison.

    Cleaves met the woman at the golf event and joined her, her boyfriend and some friends and coworkers for drinks at a nearby bar afterward. She then left the bar with Cleaves while her boyfriend drove another friend home.

    Prosecutors alleged that the woman thought Cleaves intended to drive her back to the golf club. He instead drove to a nearby motel, where the woman claimed she was held against her will and assaulted.

    The case against Cleaves drew plenty of media coverage in Michigan because of the Flint native’s stature in his hometown and throughout the state.

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  • How Baylor has emerged as this season's biggest early surprise

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 3 days ago

    Having lost his leading scorer to the NBA, leading rebounder to the NFL and starting point guard to graduation, Baylor coach Scott Drew wasn’t sure how good his team would be this season.

    Only after the Bears began stacking quality wins like pancakes the past few weeks did Drew gain confidence that this year’s team could be special.

    “We felt good about our group, but some teams play better when the lights come on and some teams don’t play as well when the lights come on,” Drew said. “We’ve had a group that has showed great maturity when the lights have come on. Normally with a lot of newcomers and underclassmen, you get a lot more inconsistency, turnovers and bad plays. We haven’t had that, so I’ve been very pleased so far.”

    Baylor is on pace to surpass the accomplishments of last year’s 22-win team despite the departures of Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers and Lester Medford. The unbeaten Bears (8-0) have climbed from unranked before the season to No. 4 in the latest AP poll by defeating five opponents in the top 50 of Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, an achievement no other team in the country has come close to matching.

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  • Gonzaga gets revenge at last on its longtime non-conference nemesis

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 5 days ago

    LOS ANGELES — In addition to toppling a marquee opponent and preserving its undefeated record, Gonzaga achieved something far more satisfying Saturday evening.

    The Zags secured sweet revenge against a non-conference nemesis that has tormented them in recent years.

    Przemek Karnowski scored 18 points and Josh Perkins had 16 as Gonzaga hung on for a 69-62 victory over a 16th-ranked Arizona team decimated by injuries and other issues. The eighth-ranked Zags led by as many as 16 points early in the second half and never trailed the entire game.

    Only once did Arizona mount any semblance of a charge, pulling within five with just over a minute to go after a 12-4 spurt aided by six Gonzaga missed free throws. Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss halted the Wildcats’ momentum with a driving layup and then the Zags sank 4 of 6 foul shots to douse the threat and stave off disaster.

    “There isn’t a program I have more respect for than Arizona,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “They’re a national program and they’re a tough, tough out. The game probably wasn’t aesthetically pleasing by most standards, but at the same time I thought we showed some toughness closing it out.”

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  • Fast-paced, freewheeling UCLA topples No. 1 Kentucky in Lexington

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 5 days ago

    Eight of Rivals.com’s top 25 freshmen. Four projected lottery picks. Two of college basketball’s most storied programs. Bill Raftery on the call.

    Saturday afternoon’s showdown between UCLA and Kentucky featured all the ingredients of an early-season classic, and the game itself did not disappoint.

    Overcoming an unsteady, turnover-plagued start and a mistake-prone, needlessly anxious finish, 11th-ranked UCLA stunned No. 1 Kentucky, 97-92, in Lexington. The Bruins led by as many as 14 points in the second half en route to becoming just the fifth team to defeat the Wildcats at Rupp Arena during John Calipari’s seven-year tenure.

    What was even more impressive than the outcome was the way UCLA did it. The fast-paced, freewheeling Bruins outgunned a Kentucky team that prides itself on excelling in transition, shooting 53 percent from the field and piling up the most points any visiting team has scored on the Wildcats during the Calipari era.

    When UCLA took down top-ranked Kentucky at Pauley Pavilion last December, that win felt like a bit of a fluke.

     

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