The Dagger

  • Gonzaga's stunning loss to BYU will do the Zags more harm than good

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 16 hrs ago

    You’ll probably hear some folks argue that a loss is the best thing that could have happened to Gonzaga, that it will ease the pressure on the Zags going into the NCAA tournament, that it will remove the target on their backs.

    Don’t buy that.

    The primary burden on Gonzaga remains trying to reach its first Final Four after so many past near misses. Whatever extra load the Zags would have faced entering March unbeaten was worth it if it meant already achieving something rare and historic.

    Gonzaga’s bid for a perfect regular season fell one game short Saturday night when the Zags suffered a stunning 79-71 home loss to BYU. In their regular season finale, in front of an enthusiastic home crowd ready to celebrate history, the Zags instead squandered a 10-point second-half lead and tasted defeat for the first time after 29 victories in a row to start the season.

    With the score tied at 71 apiece and just over a minute remaining, BYU forward Eric Mika recognized that Przemek Karnowski was giving him too much space and sank a tie-breaking 18-foot jump shot. Mark Few’s decision to not call timeout to set up a play then backfired as Josh Perkins committed a costly turnover.

  • UCLA uses defensive switch, offensive rebounding to beat Arizona, keep Pac-12 wide open

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 18 hrs ago

    The 180-degree turning point of UCLA’s biggest win of the season wasn’t a Lonzo Ball dunk, wasn’t a Bryce Alford bomb, wasn’t a TJ Leaf drive. It wasn’t a flash flood of a fast break, wasn’t a 3-point barrage, wasn’t a crafty set play. No, it was something UCLA hasn’t often been praised for this season.

    It was defense.

    Oh, and rebounding. Rebounding too. Specifically offensive rebounding, the one facet of the nation’s top offense that isn’t typically anything special.

    The fifth-ranked Bruins, who trailed No. 4 Arizona by four at halftime in the first Pac-12 game between top-five teams in nine years, used a zone defense and nine second-half offensive rebounds to beat the Wildcats, 77-72, and ensure that the Pac-12 race will come down to the regular season’s final weekend.

    Arizona closed the first half on a 16-5 run behind 16 first-half points from Allonzo Trier, and led 43-39 at the break. But in the second half, UCLA head coach Steve Alford went primarily to a 3-2 zone that interrupted everything Trier and the Wildcats were doing well offensively.

  • Lonzo Ball's father says son will 'only play for the Lakers,' later clarifies statement

    Malika Andrews at The Dagger 18 hrs ago

    UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is still in college but his father, LaVar, already knows where his son is going to be playing after college: The Los Angeles Lakers.

    “My son will only play for the Lakers,” LaVar Ball said on The Kevin and Mike Show, a local Arizona sports radio show.


    Lavar Ball: “My son will only play for the Lakers.”

    — Michael Luke (@ironmikeluke) February 25, 2017

    LaVar later cleared up the comments, telling ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, “All I said was that my boy is going to play for the Lakers, and I’m going to speak it into existence. I want him to be a Laker, but I wasn’t saying he’s only going to play for the Lakers. I’m not trying to say he won’t play for a different team.”

    If that is going to happen, the Ball family has to hope that the Lakers can hang onto its 2017 pick. The only way they will get a first round selection in the upcoming NBA Draft is if it is one of the top three picks.

  • Kelsey Plum explodes for 57 points to set new women's Division I career scoring record

    Malika Andrews at The Dagger 20 hrs ago

    Kelsey Plum made history on Saturday night, surpassing Jackie Stiles’ 3,393 points to become the new all-time leading scorer in Division I women’s basketball. Plum scored a career-high 57 points in the No. 11 Washington Huskies’ 84-77 win over Utah.

    Plum entered Saturday’s game needing 54 points to claim the record but wasn’t expected the break it until tournament play. But she hit 19-of-28 shots against Utah to reach 3,397 all-time points. The record-breaking basket came off of a left-handed running floater with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

    It was a perfect way for Plum to end Senior Day. She checked out 44 seconds remaining to a standing ovation and was greeted on the bench with hugs from teammates and a slew of photographers snapping pictures of the moment.

    WNBA player Sue Bird even weighed in on Twitter to congratulate Plum.

    Maybe. Congrats @Kelseyplum10!

    — Sue Bird (@S10Bird) February 26, 2017

  • Baylor women's coach says parents concerned about sexual assault scandal should be 'knocked right in the face'

    Malika Andrews at The Dagger 21 hrs ago

    Kim Mulkey, the head coach of the women’s basketball team at Baylor University, had strong words for parents who were concerned about female students’ safety on campus.

    After the women’s team clinched the Big 12 regular season title on Saturday, Mulkey used her postgame speech to defend her school, which has been under fire for a sexual assault scandal under former football coach Art Briles.

    Kim Mulkey sounds off on recent national scrutiny about #Baylor and female student safety on campus after Lady Bears' win.

    — John Elizondo (@JohnElizondo25) February 25, 2017

    “If somebody is around you and they ever say, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you should knock them right in the face,” Mulkey said as the crowd cheered. “Because these kids are on this campus. I work here. My daughter went to school here and it’s the damn best school in America.”

    Her players then told her to drop the mic, which she did.

    After the speech, Mulkey defended her comments to the local media.

  • Duke, without Grayson Allen, stifled by Miami in second-straight loss

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 22 hrs ago

    One of the most popular narratives of what has been both a turbulent and thrilling season of Duke basketball was the one surrounding the point guard position: Duke didn’t have one, Grayson Allen was forced to become one, and the offense was suffering as a result.

    On Saturday at Miami, another branch on that narrative tree grew: Duke, without Allen, played its worst offensive game of the season, and was upset by Miami, 55-50 in Coral Gables.

    The Blue Devils scored just 0.79 points per possession, by far their worst per-possession output of the year. Jayson Tatum scored just eight points on 16 shots, Luke Kennard scored 16 on 20 shots, and Duke staggered to its second-straight loss.

    Some portion, and maybe even a large portion, of the credit for the 50-point performance goes to Miami, who has been on a roll, both defensively and in general. The Hurricanes smothered Virginia earlier this week, and held the Cavs to 48 points in 45 minutes in an overtime victory on the road. They’ve now held four of their past six ACC opponents under a point per possession, and have won six of their past seven games.

  • Malik Monk's second-half explosion halts Florida, gives Kentucky advantage in SEC

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 1 day ago

    The numbers were downright ugly. Three points. One assist. Five turnovers. Zero flow.

    No. 11 Kentucky was tied with No. 13 Florida at halftime of Saturday’s showdown atop the SEC standings in Lexington, but not because of Malik Monk. The freshman flamethrower put together one of the worst halves of his season, and with their star ineffective, the Wildcats sputtered offensively.

    But Monk, as he has so often this season, went into full-on takeover mode after halftime. He scored 30 second-half points to lead Kentucky to a 76-66 win over Florida, and to the top of the SEC, one game clear with one week to play.

    Monk’s takeovers are like no other player’s in college basketball. They feature 3-pointers off the catch and the dribble, dunks in transition and off ball screens in halfcourt sets, and everything in between. At his most unstoppable, Monk even creates for teammates as well. He did all of those things Saturday.

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    He again force White to take time with a 3 that put Kentucky up 6:

  • Bubble breakdown: Michigan takes down Purdue, nears lock status

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 1 day ago

    What has happened to Michigan?

    Three weeks ago, that was the pertinent question. The Wolverines lost at home to Ohio State, their second-straight defeat, and a team that had returned most of the pieces from an NCAA Tournament team looked destined for the NIT.

    Fast forward to the present, and Michigan isn’t just on the bubble; after an electrifying 82-70 win over Purdue, their second over a Big Ten favorite in two weeks, the Wolverines have skipped off the bubble and likely into the NCAA Tournament.

    John Beilein’s team has won five of six, and has looked extremely impressive in the process. The fun began with a 29-point pounding of Michigan State. It picked up steam with a win at Indiana and home victory over Wisconsin. The latest performance — 1.32 points per possession against a top-15 team — was evidence of Michigan’s rise, from a mediocre team in a mediocre conference to an outstanding offense capable of shooting over, passing around and punishing some of the nation’s best defenses.

    Michigan certainly looks NCAA tournament worthy; barring a collapse, its résumé will too.

    Weekend Bubble Winners

    Weekend Bubble Losers

  • USF lost at Tulsa, then left two players behind at the airport

    Henry Bushnell at The Dagger 1 day ago

    A deflating season for South Florida men’s basketball got even more embarrassing Friday when the team left two of its players behind at an airport in Houston.

    The Bulls, 7-20 and 1-15 in the AAC, lost Thursday night at Tulsa, then flew to Houston, where they would board a connecting flight back to Tampa. However, according to the Tampa Bay Times, two players, Troy Holston and Geno Thorpe, fell asleep at the airport. Nobody noticed, and the two were left behind when the team’s flight took off.

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    USF confirmed the mistake Saturday morning:

    In statement, USF interim coach Murray Bartow apologizes for "unfortunate circumstance" that left two players alone in airport on trip home.

    — Greg Auman (@gregauman) February 25, 2017

    She also went off on Twitter:

  • Brad vs. the Book: Fade or follow Arizona in rematch with UCLA?

    Brad Evans at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Slaying the sportsbook is a monstrous task. Some days bettors take up residence in a penthouse suite. Other times, they curl up in the nearest ditch, shirtless. In an attempt to avoid complete destitution, I will post my picks, whether profitable or penniless, through the NCAA tourney. Check out Saturday’s selections below:

    Florida (23-5) at Kentucky (23-5)

    When the SEC behemoths squared off earlier this month in Gainesville Florida busted out the paddle and spanked Kentucky 88-66. At that time, however, Gators center John Egbunu sported a healthy knee. One torn ACL later and with revenge and a regular season title on the mind for Big Blue Nation, a different scenario may play out.

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    The visitors may be bruised, but their toughness and resolve should keep the rematch competitive.

    Smart money says throw a few greenbacks on the Gators.

    Fearless Forecast: Kentucky 79 Florida (+4) 76

    UCLA (25-3) at Arizona (25-3)

    Fearless Forecast: Arizona (-3) 87 UCLA 81

    Baylor (23-5) at Iowa St. (18-9)

    Fearless Forecast: Iowa St. (-2.5) 70 Baylor 67