UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS & PR
DEC. 28, 2020
JOE CRAFT CENTER – LEXINGTON, KY.
HEAD COACH JOHN CALIPARI
On his team as it opens conference play …
“Obviously we’re struggling. There are unhappy (people) here, including me, and there are a lot of happy people around the country. But here is what I will tell you: There is no—you would think locker room issues, player issues. There are none. I mean, we had an issue with one of our players, sent him home and he’s back now. Smile on his face. Instead of angry, a smile on his face. He told the team, ‘Don’t do what I did. You don’t want to go home. I mean, this is where you want to be.’ They want to be coached. They’re fighting. They’re defending. They’re rebounding. We turn it over too much. Working on that. Miss a lot of shots, but the biggest thing is our execution on offense has got to get better, and we’ve got time to continue to work on it. The frame of mind, I’ve had a lot of individual (meetings). More individual (meetings). ‘How are you feeling? How is your mentality?’ I told each of our players, ‘Be with at least one of our coaches. Even if you’ve got to go stay with them.’ This stuff is different. I’m always asking, ‘How are you feeling? Where are you mentally?’ But I haven’t lost any faith in the team. I wish we would have won a couple of games. It’s kind of like buzzard luck. Nothing will die. We can’t kill anything. This shot misses by this. This shot misses by that. We don’t finish a game. We turn it over here. But most of it is self-inflicted. But I’m happy they’re fighting. Now we got to finish off a game and it’s not going to get easier. We’re in a tough league. It’s going to be hard. No one is going to give us a game and no one feels bad for us. We’re going to have to go take one. And so that’s the mentality, but I’m focused on how do we get the execution offensively so we can get better shots – shots we can make.”
On what the conversations were like about adding a game midweek …
“There were two teams in the MTE that we had that didn’t play: Detroit, and their league would not let them play, and Hartford, who was in the MTE. We thought about it. But the other side of it is, we were going back and forth and I was like, do we really want to prepare for another team when we’re concerned about our team? There are things that we got to get better. We’ve got to execute better. I’ll give you an example: We had about 10 stops in a row (vs. Louisville) and we come up dry. Like, eight out of 10. You can’t. But listen, four of those were turnovers where they got a layup coming down the other way. Well, you can’t win games with those. So, you’ve got to really zero in and really break down offensively because you can’t just skirt through it and think they know it because they don’t. It’s an inexperienced team. What we were talking about what that and it’s not going to happen. So, we’re focused on how do we do this? How do we continue to compete and get better?”
On who he might consult with about the start or what past examples he might lean on …
“I’ve had a lot of friends of mine call and just say, ‘My team started this way. We lost five in a row and went on to win a national title. My team was 5-7 and went on to win the Big Ten. And my team was this.’ There are multiple examples. But they had won games along the way and then they hit a skid. Different boat right now and just trying to get these guys to—in their mind, let’s paint our own picture. This could be one of the great stories in the last five years if we can do this right. We’ve been right there in a bunch of these games, and you would have thought, OK, one of them falls your way or one thing finishes your way, and they’ve all went the other way. So, let’s hope as we go forward, usually you get a couple that fall your way. Now sometimes – I don’t want to say this – it’s the next season. You’re hoping it’s your own season. You get out of 2020. I think the good news is, not only do I want out of 2020, I think the whole country wants out of 2020 and let’s start anew.”
On how Florida’s Keyontae Johnson’s situation impacts perspective on basketball …
“I had it with Marcus Camby when I was at UMass. Fell out right before (the game). He was in the hallway getting ready for the game where he was walking out in the St. Bonaventure game up there and it happened. He was in the hospital a week. It took two or three weeks before they let him come back on the court and did all the stuff. You look at everything you’re doing, and in this case, anyone that has already had COVID you’re like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute now. Are we sure?’ You check with your medical people. I’m just happy the kid is safe, that he’ll come back from this. You can see why there are guys that say, ‘Hey, what are we doing,’ because of that kind of situation. Yeah, we’re all concerned. I’m just as concerned with mental health. I keep coming back to it. I had a bunch of kids over my house at Christmas. And I know, ‘Well, you gathered.’ Come on now. We’ve been tested 19 times a week and they were just them, my wife and I. But I just think it’s important. I’ve had guys come stay at the house. For me, I haven’t been through many years like this. I’ve been through stretches, but not the beginning of seasons like this. I’m feeling OK, but you sit there and you’re not feeling like you normally do – what are these kids feeling like here where it’s like the weight of the world on their shoulders? I want to let them know, ‘Come on now, we’re going to be fine. We’re going to get better.’ And the other thing is, I say it all the time, there are fans that are really into this and will be all for these kids and there are others that won’t be, and my hope is they’re on me about it. The start and all that, be on me. Let these kids alone. This is hard enough getting through COVID, being at Kentucky where we’re 1-6 and whatever, and there are celebrations after beating us. I mean, literally, not just one team. ‘We just beat Kentucky!’ Yeah, we’re 1-4, 1-5, 1-3. So, it is what it is. You’re at Kentucky, it’s added. So, it’s not just that myocarditis, not just that, I’m talking about mental health too. I’m probably doing more things together with my team knowing that if something happens, it may slow us down, but I think it’s important.”
On his conversations with Cam’Ron Fletcher being back with the team …
“We did a call with mother, his high school coach, and me and Cam, and I told him what the expectations were. I’ll just go over one. I told him, ‘You may not play a minute this year. How are you going to deal with that? What if you don’t play?’ I wanted everybody to hear that so that we understood that this is for the long haul. This is to get you to change. There were a couple of other things that I said to him that I absolutely expected, that if you wanted to be a part of it, this is how this would be. And he was great. I think the kid feels bad, but he had to have a wake-up call. The conversation was, he came in and he hugged me. ‘Coach, I’m telling you, I’m going to be a different guy.’ Perfect. Because that’s why you do it. I’m not doing it to prove a point. All of you on this call know I discipline kids and not one of you ever know it. So, then it became, why this? Obviously it went to a length that, within disciplining wasn’t working. He’s not a bad kid or anything like that, but he’s back now. Now he’s back and the team was all happy that he was back. They knew he needed to change, and we move on. It’s a blip in the screen. We’ve still got some injured guys. I told some guys, ‘OK, you’re going to have an opportunity if this stays the way it is and now you’re going to have to go and have some fun and do what you do. Next man up.’ Here’s the issue with being at Kentucky, say you’re here and you’re a pretty good player and you’re behind two first round draft picks. Why didn’t he play more? Should have played 25 minutes a game, who is behind two first round draft picks or two big guys that are first-round draft picks or lottery picks or whatever. This is a different deal. Sometimes you have to wait for your chance and then prove yourself. And I’m rooting for all of these kids. I want them all to make it. I’m so proud of Mychal Mulder and what he’s doing. Mychal Mulder was behind first round draft picks, even his senior year played seven, eight minutes. And I even tell him, ‘Look, I had nothing to do with helping you.’ And he’ll argue the point, but he did this because he learned to fight, and that dude never lost his spirit and his ability to fight. His point was, if I can play against these guys every day in practice and hold my own, why can’t I play in that league? And that’s what he’s doing. And so this is, we’ve got some guys now – how about Jacob (Toppin) when he got his opportunity? How’d he look? Jacob was like our most aggressive offensive player. How did he look? ‘Well he didn’t play a whole lot and you didn’t play him.’ Well, he waited for his chance and he went and did what he did. How about Davion (Mintz)? Davion wasn’t playing much early. At the end of the day, the guys that – I’m in practice every day with these kids and I know everybody thinks they know my team better than I do and I’m fine. Let me tell you, the greatest thing about Kentucky is that you have a raging fan base. But when things are going south, you’ve got to be able to deal with that or you’re not going to have a raging fan base. You go like we are and they say, ‘Ah, next? Who cares?’ Not here. So, having to deal with that is all part of growth. And I keep telling them, this is a great thing to go through. Go through it now, so you know everything’s going against you and you’re working. Stuff doesn’t happen on your timetable. We’ve got a tough game coming up. It may not happen on our timetable. We want to win. We wanted to beat Louisville and we played that way. But you know what? The shot went (imitates noises like clanking off a basket) boop, boop and out. So now it’s not on our timetable. Am I happy? No. I wish that shot would have went down. I wish we wouldn’t have broke down. I wish he wouldn’t have banked that one two in. I could tell you a 1,000 things, but it’s not always on our timetable. I’m still focused on how do I get these guys better. How do I keep them going? How do I have fun? Listen folks, if I don’t have fun doing this I can’t help these kids and I’m having fun. I had fun at the Louisville game until the very end, that last play that didn’t go in and then BJ (Boston) got a good look at a 3 and then I was really unhappy, but not with him. After the game, I kissed Olivier (Sarr) on the forehead and said, ‘I’m going to go at you again in this situation.’ I called him in the office and I’m probably breaking confidence. I said, ‘I have so much confidence in you to make that.’ He said, ‘Why do you have confidence in me to make it? I missed it twice now.’ And I said, ‘Because I coached Brandon Knight who missed four or five of those and then we made shots in the NCAA Tournament one after the other. They got us to the Final Four. So, I believe in you. You just keep playing.’ Here’s the last thing I’m going to say, and hopefully Craig (Pinkerton) we’re done. When you’re playing like my team, buzzard luck – you’re fighting, you’re defending, you’re rebounding, you’re giving yourself a chance to win, nothing’s going your way, offensively you’re not executing, you’re not finishing, you’re not making shots – you have to get away from skill and talent and worry about effort, high energy, fight. You ready for the last thing? Execution. Worry about those. Those don’t take skill or talent and that’s what I’m trying to convince them of. What happens to us a lot of times is we’re so into what I’m doing, you break down on our team stuff. But we’re working on it and like I said, this isn’t where I want to be. I’m not used to being here. Am I up for this challenge? Yeah. I’m ready. Let’s go. Am I mad at players? Absolutely not. I’m not mad at one player on this team. Could we have done some things different? Yeah. Do I know that fans are upset? Yeah, I’m at Kentucky. They’re probably losing – now I don’t look at it, don’t read it, don’t look at the newspaper, don’t look at the local news so I don’t know what anybody’s saying. No one listens to me anyway. My wife, my dogs. I can’t even get my dogs to sit with me right now. But we’re going to prepare for the next one, prepare to play as well as we can play, prepare to execute better, continue to fight, defend and rebound and see where it goes.”
UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS & PR
UK at MISSISSIPPI STATE PREGAME MEDIA
DEC. 31, 2020
JOE CRAFT CENTER – LEXINGTON, KY.
ASSISTANT COACH JOEL JUSTUS
On Dontaie Allen and his frame of mind …
“There’s no difference in that, you know, then what we do every single day here with our guys, our young guys here every single year. We have daily conversations with all of our players. And I think that’s a big thing that Cal is on right now, our entire staff is on right now, is we’re looking to build each one of our guys. That’s important. Early in the season, whether you’re undefeated or you’re in a situation like we are right now, we’re looking to build up each one of our guys every single day, every single rep. You do that by executing. You do that by working on your motor, by working hard, by cutting hard, by passing the ball to your teammates the right way. And that’s something that we’re looking to give them that confidence. As we build, you know, their mental picture of who they can become as an individual, the mental picture of who we can become as a team, you do that by practicing well. You do that by working out, spending extra time. I think with Dontaie, with all of our guys, we’re looking to have those conversations and build them up each and every day.”
On what the staff hopes to get out of closed scrimmages …
“Well, I think as Coach (Cal) has mentioned and as our staff is continuing to coach our guys. We are talking about execution. We are talking about building each one of our guys up. We are talking about having a very clear mental picture of who they are individually, a very clear mental picture of who we can be as a team, and that is not unlike last year or the previous five years that I’ve worked for Coach Cal. That is what he does at this time of year. We played seven games. In a normal year, we would have played two exhibitions and five real games at this point. So, you’re still trying to build each one of your guys up. You’re still trying to provide each one these new guys that now have seven games of college basketball under their belt. You have to give them the mental picture. You have to build them up. You have to show them what they can be and what you expect them to be as their head coach, and that is what Cal has done and is continuing to do every day and our staff is doing. So, whether you’re doing that in a practice, whether you’re doing that in games at this point you have to provide that for our guys.”
On the team lacking offensive confidence around the basket …
“I think you’d have to ask each one of the guys that are kind of making those plays to comment on that. I think our job is to provide a clear picture of what we want on the offensive end. We want to build each one of these guys up to have the confidence on the offensive end, to know where they’re supposed to be, to have not only the mental picture of what they can do on the offensive end, but also have the confidence that they can go out and execute. That is where on the offensive end you have to have the confidence to go and make plays. Like I said, this is a very young season. Played seven games against human beings that have a pulse, that have a heartbeat, that are trying to stop our guys from scoring. We have the same issues probably every single year against seven games on the offensive end where you have new guys that are playing together, that are competing against other people, that are trying to stop you. And I think we’re getting closer. I think we’re focusing, and Coach Cal is focusing on execution and building that picture in their mind of what they can become both individually and collectively.”
On if the start of SEC play offers a fresh start to the season and has the schedule impacted the development of the team …
“I think to answer your first question, I think for us we take it day by day right now. We’re focused on ourselves. I would have probably answered that question the same way last year at this time if you would have asked me, and matter of fact, I think I have answered it that way. And I think Coach is the same way. We are worried about ourselves. We are worried about getting better. We’re worried about execution. We’re worried about building each one of these guys mental picture of who they are and who we can become and that’s a team that’s going to play hard, that’s a team that’s going to compete on the defensive end and a team, that’s going to execute on the offensive end. When you do those things, you’re going to give yourself a chance to win. And that’s what we’re focused on doing on Saturday is executing, playing hard, and hopefully if you worry about and focus on those small details the big things will come about. The schedule is what it is at this point. You look at the big picture. You lost at this point, I think we’ve lost 1,400 minutes. You lose 200 minutes in an exhibition game. The first time, I don’t know who that team was as I sit here, but you have two of those. You have 400 minutes where essentially there’s no score kept. But most of the time, you can go out, you can make mistakes and be totally penalized for them. And the way that our schedule has been laid out this year, if you make a mistake, you’re going to feel the pain on the scoreboard and ultimately in the win-loss columns. So, I think for us focus on that is not something that we can do anything about. I think for us, we’re coming in here every day, building a mental picture of who we can become individually, building a mental picture of who we can become as a team, and that is focusing on execution, focusing on our spirit, focusing on our togetherness, focusing on who we can become not who we are or where we’ve been.”
On if the program needs to establish more continuity while recruiting …
“I think that Kentucky is not for everybody. We say that. We talked about that in recruiting and our job as assistants or even as a staff is we have to go and find the right people that are a great fit not only for our basketball team, but for this fantastic university, for the city of Lexington and who are going to be great teammates. That’s our job, and when you find those guys, you identify them, you evaluate them and then ultimately you recruit them. So, for us, I think you go into the process, and like I said, you evaluate. You get the most information on them as people. And then you go and then you ultimately bring them in. And I think with our track record of who we have brought here and who we’ve coached and who has quote-unquote made it, I think we’ve identified and then recruited the mission-appropriate guys for what Coach Cal is looking for and who we want to be here. So, I think we’ll continue to do the best that we can in that regard. Like I said, the most important thing is to provide a place for people to chase their dreams, to walk with them, to have their dreams become ours, and to provide them the stage to compete. And I think when you do that, you find the right people and you have their dreams at the forefront of what you’re doing, good things are going to continue to happen.”
On what he’s seen from Mississippi State …
“Well, I think you talk about their size. It jumps off the page at you immediately at all of their positions. They’re a physical team. You talk about a group that looks very similar to North Carolina in terms of how they attack the offensive boards. That’s something that we obviously have to continue to address, and as we went into the North Carolina game, we talked about that with our guys. Our guards, you know, answered, answered the bell that game and I think they’ll have to do the same in Starkville on Saturday. But they have a good group of guards that have returned, that are playing well. They have experienced big guys inside that have played and played well. So, I think it’s a tremendous challenge for our young guys. Like I said, I think we’re mainly focused on ourselves, getting better, working on our execution, continuing to provide the mental picture of who we can become and who we want to be on Saturday.”
On an update on Cam’Ron Fletcher and Keion Brooks Jr. …
“You know, I think both of those guys are doing what they’re allowed to do. As you know, Cal said that everyone has a great attitude and we continue to move forward. So, we’ll see what this afternoon looks like when we practice at 3 o’clock and we’ll go from there.”
On what he means by saying the team needs to have a clear mental picture of themselves individually and collectively …
“Well, I think whenever you’re new, you have a team full of young people, as a coach and as a head coach, what Cal is doing is you’re trying to empower them to play their best. You’re trying to work with them daily to improve their skills, but also play within the framework of the team. When you’ve only played seven games, when you’ve only been together as a group, sometimes that changes. As we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, we’ve had injuries. We’ve had injuries for the whole season. In other cases you’ve had things that change and over the season. There’s ups and downs, and I think for us and for Cal, what he’s just trying to do is to clear things up, talk about execution, and once again just to continue to add a little bit more to what we’re trying to do, but also then sharpen how we do it. That’s the big thing for us because we are close as we’re seen in certain games. I think our guys and their spirit in practice this week has been tremendous. I think for us as coaches, once again, you have to be there with them. You have to let them know that you’re there for them and their job is to work hard and to be a great teammate.”
UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS & PR
MISSISSIPPI STATE PREGAME MEDIA
DEC. 31, 2020
JOE CRAFT CENTER – LEXINGTON, KY.
#23 Isaiah Jackson, F, Fr.
On why they need to be “built up” …
“Coming from high school to college, I think we just have to be built up as players in general because it’s two different physicalities with high school and college. So, just us building each other up in practice, I feel like that helps us a lot during the season and stuff like that. When we play other teams that’s like us, we’re already used to playing against tougher guys. It makes it easier for us.”
On who some of his teammates are that are good at building each other up …
“I mean, everybody, from the guards to the bigs. For me, just playing against Olivier (Sarr), Jacob (Toppin) and Lance (Ware) every day, it’s tough. Some of the moves you made during high school, you have to readjust and do other things that you can do to make it easier to score or get your teammates open.”
On how he balances aggressive defense with staying out of foul trouble …
“I was reading an article the other day and it was saying most of my fouls are when my hands are down and not really blocking shots. I feel like if I just keep my hands active and actively moving around, I feel like those cheap fouls won’t be called or anything. If I just play smart, because sometimes I get lazy or tired and just foul. But if I play smarter or if I need a break, tell Coach to sub me so I won’t get in foul trouble.”
On what he would say if someone told him at the beginning of the season that they would lose six of their first seven games …
“I would have told them they were lying, but this is where we are as a team. I mean, league starts Saturday, so I feel like that’s a fresh start for us. These are the games that truly honestly count, in my opinion, to build on to when we get into March Madness, winning the league and things like that. We had a good week of practice this whole week. We’re practicing real hard. I feel like we’re ready.”
On how much they needed a fresh start to set the past aside …
“I felt like we needed one bad. We were just trying to chase a win. Like Louisville, we were trying to pick up our momentum. I just feel like we can start winning. And now everybody on this team has got that mentality of just wining and just trying to win. It’s a fresh start. Everybody’s got the mentality of a fresh start. We’re just going to come out and hoop and do our thing.”
On if he feels like they aren’t confident on the offensive end of the floor and how they build that up …
“I think that has a lot to do with execution on offense. I know you guys probably can’t see it, but when we watch film and stuff, sometimes I’ll be on the wrong spot when we’re running a play and it really messes it up, so it’s hard for us to score like that. That’s all we’ve been working on this week in practice is just execution. Getting in the right spots on offense, running the right plays in transition, getting out in transition of course and just playing as a team. I feel like if we do that, execute every time on the offensive end, we can score. Instead of going on droughts where it’s back and forth where we get a stop and they get a stop, we can execute and actually score.”
On how he gets fired up for Mississippi State …
“Just playing with the same momentum we’ve been playing with. I feel like all the games we were playing, we were executing on defense but we just couldn’t score. After a while, then it was like we can’t get stops on defense. Then they start scoring. It all just breaks down. I mean, it’s a fresh start. We’re still going to come out with that same mentality of going out there and trying to get stops, trying to score. But it doesn’t matter who is in front of us; we’re still going to go out there and just play.”
On if they are doing different things in practice to correct the shooting woes or if it’s just about repetition …
“I think it’s repetition. All this week during practice we’ve been shooting. Especially with Coach, we’ve been trying to work on our shot because a lot of guys dip before they shoot. He was just telling us, ‘When you catch it, just let it go. Don’t dip because it can alter your shot different ways.’ Us, as a team, that’s just repetition. We’ve been working hard every day, so that’s going to get better as time goes on.”
On this group not getting to experience the best part of this fan base so far because of the pandemic and the start …
“I actually deleted social media. A lot of the guys on the team have too. So, I haven’t been looking at it. But after we lost a couple, I mean, they’ve been on us. That’s something that, I feel them, but at the same time we’re just young and we’re still trying to work to come together as a team. It’s just going to take time. As the ball gets to rolling, they’re going to be surprised. We’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
On how important it is for them to finish the easy plays around the rim …
“Yeah, of course. I mean, who wouldn’t want an easy bucket? I feel like those are something that we should just go to every time. If he’s in the post, just give it to him and let him work. If he misses, we’re there to rebound it. I mean, of course we want easy buckets, but I think that’s just us overthinking it on offense and sort of passing it sort of too much. That’s really what messes us up sometimes is just not passing it at all.”
On if he’s watched Mississippi State and what challenge the Bulldogs present …
“I didn’t really watch them, but I heard they’re a big, physical team. Sort of like North Carolina, just big, burly guys who offensive rebound and things like that. I feel like if we execute on offense and rebound, like bigs and guards rebounding, I feel like we can come away with the win. Just getting easy buckets, scoring on offense, executing, we can come out with a win.”
On if they feel beaten down by the schedule and if they needed a breather at some point …
“Not really. I mean, before the season even started, we already knew it was going to be a tough season. In my opinion, with my experience, it didn’t really put me down, but it was sort of a wake-up call because I’m a freshman; this is my first time playing college and I know it’s like that for a lot of people on the team. It’s our first year and we’re just trying to get acclimated to everything.”
YPSILANTI, Mich. (EMUEagles.com) — After 10 days away from the court, the Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team is set to return to action when it welcomes Kent State to the Convocation Center for a Mid-American Conference showdown with the Golden Flashes Saturday, Jan. 2. Tipoff is set for 12:04 p.m.
Fans can watch the game on ESPN+ where Ryan Wooley will have the call. He’ll be joined in the booth by longtime Division I men’s basketball coach Steve Hawkins, who most recently served as the head coach of Western Michigan’s men’s program from 2003-20. The game will also be aired locally on WEMU 89.1 FM with Tom Helmer and Greg Steiner serving in the play-by-play and analyst roles, respectively.
Fans are encouraged to continue to follow @EMUWBB on social media and visit EMUEagles.com for the most up-to-date information on all things EMU women’s basketball.
THE GAME IS HERE – 296 DAYS LATE: This year’s EMU-KSU matchup will be accompanied by some extra motivation, as the two teams were set to square off in the 2020 Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals, Friday, March. 13, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. Although that game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday’s matchup will feature two squad’s with high hopes for capturing the 2021 MAC championship crown.
AWESOME AUTUMN: Senior center Autumn Hudson has not only embraced her helping role to the tune of 4.3 points per game and 4.0 rebounds per game during the 2020-21 campaign, but she has reinvented herself at the charity stripe. The Richwood, Ohio native is shooting 75-percent from the line this season, the second-best of any player on the team (minimum eight attempts). That mark is an incredible jump over her career average of 32.1-percent entering the season. Hudson has improved at the line in each season with Eastern, starting her career with a 21.4-percent clip in 2017-18 before raising that number to 34.0 and 40.9-percent, respectively, in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
ALL A(BOARD) THE SKANES TRAIN: Redshirt sophomore forward Ce’Nara Skanes continues to prove herself as one of the very best players in the Mid-American Conference as the 2020-21 campaign rolls on, and that was no different in Eastern’s game against Tarleton State, Dec. 21. The final contest of the team’s appearance at the 2020 Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic saw Skanes break an all-time program record for rebounding as she hauled in an impressive 23 boards against the Texans. That number is the most in a single game by any player in the 45-year history of EMU women’s basketball, and is the most rebounds in a single-game by any player (male or female) in the NCAA this season.
Skanes nearly outrebounded the entire Tarleton State roster in the game, as the Texans finished with just 31 boards.
The effort is the first 20-rebound game for an Eagle since the 2014-15 campaign when Brianna Puni grabbed 20 in a game against Drake, March. 20, 2015. Skanes added 12 points to secure her third double-double of the season, which leads the team and the Mid-American Conference. The 20-rebound performance is the first, and only, by any player in the conference this season.
Furthermore, the contest secured Skanes as the only player in the conference that currently averages 10.0 rebounds per game, and the only player in the MAC that is averaging a double-double on the season. Through seven games, Skanes ranks first in the MAC in rebounds (70), rebounds per game (10.0), and double-doubles (3).
JENNA HITS THE JACKPOT IN VEGAS: Junior point guard Jenna Annecchiarico was nearly unstoppable in EMU’s two games at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic, Dec. 20-21, in Sin City. The Baldwin, N.Y. native began the two-game stint with a season-high 27 points against No. 25 Gonzaga as she stayed on the court for all 40 minutes against the Bulldogs, Dec. 20. Her seven field goals, which included a season-best and team-high four three-point makes, are the most for Annecchiarico in a game this year. Additionally, she shot a perfect 9-for-9 from the charity stripe, her best effort of the season, and added a game-high six assists.
Annecchiarico followed that performance with a nine-point, seven-assist performance against Tarleton State on Dec. 21. Annecchiarico paced the team in three-pointers for the second-consecutive contest with her three makes from behind the long line.
Annecchiarico’s 38.47 minutes per game is the most of any player in the MAC and ranks 19th in the country.
CAN’T LET THEM SCORE 70: Although many factors contribute to the end result of a game, one thing is for certain; 70 is kryptonite for Eastern Michigan. This season, the team is 0-2 when allowing 70 points in a game. Moreover, EMU is 8-30 when allowing 70+ points since the start of the 2016-17 season.
When Eastern scores 70, it is 1-0 this season and 13-7 since the 2016-17 campaign.
KEEP THEM UNDER 60: While a team scoring 70 typically favors EMU’s opponent, the Eagles are dominant when holding their competition under 60 points in a game. This season, the team is 3-0 when holding its opponents under the 60-point plateau. Furthermore, Eastern in 19-5 during the Fred Castro era (2016-Pres.) when keeping its competition below 60 points.
FIRST HALF FORTUNES: It is often said that games are won in the second half, but Eastern Michigan’s stats disagree. EMU is 3-0 this season when leading at the break, and just 1-3 when attempting a second-half comeback. Since the start of the 2016-17 campaign, the Eagles are 31-14 when holding an intermission lead, and just 15-64 when trailing at the half.
SHOOT WELL, AND YOU WILL WIN: The team that has shot the highest percentage from the floor has emerged victorious in each of EMU’s seven games this season (EMU 4, opponents 3). That trend holds consistent during the last five seasons; the Eagles are 40-13 when outshooting opponents in that stretch, and are just 10-64 when scoring at a lesser clip than its competition.
COMPETITIVE AGAINST THE TOP-25: Although EMU was unable to pull out a win against the 25th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs on Sunday, Dec. 20, its nine-point margin of defeat, 77-68, was its best showing against a top-25 team since the 2014-15 campaign. That season, the team finished within eight points of No. 14/15 Michigan State, Nov. 16, 2014.
COMBS’ STREAK COMES TO AN END: Redshirt senior Areanna Combs saw a 29-game double-digit scoring streak come to an end against Gonzaga, Dec. 20. One of the most impressive individual feats in program history, Combs averaged 19.6 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting during the stretch. She also totaled 74 steals and also contributed 6.2 rebounds per game during the 29 games. Although the 29-game streak ended, she quickly began anew with her outstanding 20-point effort against Tarleton State, Dec. 21.
PLAY ALL DAY: Junior guard Jenna Annecchiarico is one of the most relied upon players in all of Division I basketball. No player in the MAC has logged more minutes than Annecchiarico this season, who checks in at 269:18 through seven games. Her 38.47 minutes per game average is the best in the conference, and ranks 19th nationally.
DOMINANT DEFENSE: EMU’s defensive efforts have been strong through seven games this season. The Eagles are the best in the conference in the scoring defense category, allowing just 61.7 points per game. Additionally, Eastern is second in the MAC rebounding (288), and rank sixth in the MAC in blocked shots (16).
DOING THE DISHES: Junior floor general Jenna Annecchiarico is no stranger to good assist numbers. In fact, she has led the MAC in assist-to-turnover ratio in each of the previous two seasons (1.8). The Baldwin, N.Y. native displayed those talents against SEMO, Dec. 6, as she recorded a team-high eight helpers in the contest. That number, which ties a career-high for Annecchiarico, is the most by an Eagle this season. Annecchiarico’s 32 assists rank second in the MAC while her 4.6 assists per game in 2020-21 ranks third in the league.
STEAL THE DEAL: Last season, the Eagles were fantastic at stealing the rock, finishing fourth in the Mid-American Conference with 8.57 steals per game. Redshirt senior Areanna Combs was first on the team and fourth in the MAC with a 2.2 SPG average in 2019-20.
The Eagles appear to be off to a great start on the defensive end of the floor once again in 2020-21. EMU racked up an incredible 11 steals en route to turning Southern Illinois over 18 times on Nov. 25, before nabbing 18 steals against UIC, Nov. 29, and 13 at Ball State, Dec. 2. The 18-steal game is just one behind EMU’s top mark in the 2019-20 campaign (19 at UIC, Dec. 18). EMU is second in the MAC in both steals (70) and steals per game (10.0), numbers which sit at No. 39 and No. 63 in the nation, respectively. Combs and junior Jenna Annecchiarico are first and third in the MAC, and 14th and 21st nationally with their respective 3.1 and 2.7 steals per game averages. Annecchiarico’s eight steals against UIC, Nov. 29, was a career-high.
ALL-TIME AGAINST KENT STATE: Saturday’s showdown between the Eagles and Golden Flashes marks the 69th time the two teams will battle on the hardwood since the series began during the 1980-81 campaign. Kent State holds the edge in the all-time series, 40-28, but EMU has won 12 of the last 18 matchups between the two schools.
LAST TIME AGAINST THE FLASHES: EMU fought off a late comeback attempt from its opposition en route to its fifth consecutive victory, Jan. 8, 2020, against Kent State, 74-69, at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center.
With the win, EMU moved to 2-0 in conference play for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign. Additionally, the win was the first for Eastern over Kent State since the 2016 season, and the first in Kent, Ohio since EMU topped the Flashes, 70-53, Feb. 4, 2015.
Dominant in every aspect of the game, Eastern saw team single-game season-highs in free throw attempts (35), free throw makes (28), free throw percentage (80%), and three-point field goal percentage (67%). Eastern’s 8-for-12 three-point effort tied for the second-best single-game three-point percentage in EMU women’s basketball history, its best performance since it shot the same 67 percent against Idaho State, Nov. 22, 1997.
The Eagles were led by the duo of Areanna Combs and Jenna Annechiarico, who each contributed 15-point efforts in the win. Defensively, Autumn Hudson paced the team with a nine-rebound performance.
LAST MEETING AT THE CONVO: Sophomore Autumn Hudson paced EMU with a career-high 13 points while pulling down seven boards, including four on the offensive end, but the Eagles ultimately fell at home to KSU, 67-54, Feb. 13, 2020. While both programs shot 40 percent from downtown, EMU finished 32.8 percent (20-of-61) from the floor, while KSU ended the night with a 41.5 percent (22-of-53) efficiency. The Eagles matched the Golden Flashes with 22 points in the paint and tallied 19 points off turnovers, but were narrowly out-rebounded by the visitors, 41-37.
EMU-KSU TRENDS: A back-and-forth series since the 1998 season (modern statistical era), the EMU-KSU series has seen three stretches of six-or-more consecutive wins by one team in that span. Kent State started the century in hot fashion as it won seven straight between 1998-2003. The Eagles got revenge with an 11-game stretch of their own between 2010-16, before the Flashes came right back with six consecutive wins over EMU between 2017-19. Eastern won the most recent matchup, 74-69, in Kent, Ohio on Jan. 8, 2020.
The largest margin of victory in the stretch came in favor of the Eagles, who dominated Kent State by 36, 83-47, in a game played Feb. 11, 2012. A total of 2,150 points have been scored by EMU in the series since the 1998-99 season, good for a scoring average of 69.35 points per game in that stretch. Overall, Eastern in 16-15 against the Flashes since 1998-99.
ON THE HORIZON: Now fully into Mid-American Conference play, EMU will remain at home for a matchup with Buffalo on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. inside the Convocation Center.
A special year-end edition of this week’s Court Report takes a long gaze at the past 12 months to parse out the most significant headlines to spear the sport. Some are obvious, while others you might be startled to realize really did happen back in January or February. With nods to notables such as Bruce Pearl’s roadside shot during the NBA Draft and Clemson getting its first win at North Carolina in school history, they weren’t quite big enough.
These were the 20 biggest stories of 2020 in men’s college hoops. For more context on all these stories, links to all original headlines are hyperlinked in parentheses where the dates show.
20. NCAA announces it’s moving the tournament to one geographic area (Nov. 16). I first suggested this move in the summer, and by late fall it was finally decided. This is a significant, necessary decision if we are to have a 2021 NCAA Tournament. Normally the men’s tournament takes place in 14 cities across three weeks. For this season it’s going to be in greater Indianapolis, and based on what I’m hearing, it will take approximately two weeks from first tip to final horn. As first noted in last week’s Court Report, expect the NCAA to announce next week that Indianapolis has been secured, with confirmation of the six or seven venues that will be scheduled to house all 67 games.
19. Oklahoma State assessed one-year postseason ban (June 5). A significant headline because OSU was the first school tied to the FBI’s investigation to receive a verdict from the NCAA. The ban came as a shock for Oklahoma State, and in fact, that decision helped prompt schools like Kansas, Arizona, LSU, Auburn and others to apply for the newly formed Independent Accountability Resolution Process (instead of the traditional Committee on Infractions) in hopes to get a more reasonable verdict. Oklahoma State is currently appealing the COI’s ruling, as is custom. The pandemic might force enough delays in procedure that OSU’s appeal drags on long enough to allow it eligibility for the 2021 NCAA Tournament anyway.
18. A Georgia Tech assistant changes Election Day in college athletics forever (Sept. 16). This is when the Division I Council officially passed what was dubbed #AllVoteNoPlay, making every federal election day in November a day with no mandated NCAA activities. It was all sparked by Georgia Tech assistant Eric Reveno, who got the movement going with this tweet, which came in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and landed amid the daily protests for social justice and anti-racism throughout the world.
17. Two prominent commitments within days of each other: Emoni Bates to Michigan State (June 29), Makur Maker to Howard (July 3). Many wrongly assumed that the NBA and the NBPA’s collective bargaining agreement would be ratified to allow 18-year-olds to once again go from high school to the draft by 2022 (Bates’ senior year). In reality, it was always more complicated. Relatedly, there was (and still is) skepticism that Bates, who is one of the best high school prospects in a decade-plus, would play one day in college basketball. We’ll have to wait and see, but his father has maintained to me that it’s always been a serious option. Expect the final answer on this in 2021.
As for Maker, he became the highest-rated recruit in modern history to commit to a Historically Black College or University. The decision received a lot of praise and pub. Unfortunately, Maker has been inactive since the end of November due to a groin injury. Plenty inside college basketball had skepticism whether Maker’s Howard pledge would cause copycat commitments eventually. If there’s going to be a big one, it’s 2023 elite recruit Mikey Williams, who for months has said he will think long and hard about the HBCU route.
16. In light of nine Level I allegations, Arizona puts itself on a 2021 postseason ban (Dec. 29). The most recent headline on this list. The nine Level I violations — first reported by The Athletic in November — are the most attached to any school affiliated with the federal government’s (long-since concluded) investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting. Arizona is 7-1, and on Tuesday it announced, surprisingly, it would remove itself from postseason play for 2021 in advance of the school meeting (many months later into 2021) with the judicial group that is heading up the IARP. Whether this winds up being a smart tactic, no one yet knows.
15. Rick Pitino returns to college basketball (March 14). When he was fired from Louisville in the fall of 2017, Pitino said he couldn’t ever see himself returning to the sport that made him a Hall of Famer. Then, when the Iona gig came open, and some old friends in high places made some moves, college hoops had one of its most successful (and polarizing) coaches in history back. Pitino certainly makes college basketball a bit more compelling. Iona is 5-3 and in the midst of its second coronavirus pause; it is scheduled to resume its season Jan. 15.
14. Season delayed two weeks, unprecedented scheduling upheaval (Sept. 16). There isn’t really one date that can pin this down, but the vote on the start of the season came Sept 16. And this headline is still ongoing, of course. Hundreds of games were rescheduled or canceled in the two months leading up to the start of the 2020-21 season. We are still seeing daily postponements due to COVID-19. The drama of it all played in behind the scenes, though. Almost every day for almost two months there was something to chase with what events and games were and were not happening or who was in or out of an early season event; the multi-team event subterfuge with event organizers, or coaches agreeing to games and then flaking hours later. The backstabbing and the empty promises were wilder than ever before. It will be interesting to see how it affects the way scheduling is done once the 2020-21 season ends.
13. Duke loses two nonconference games at home for the first time in nearly 40 years; Coach K questions the season (Dec. 8). Whenever Duke loses a home game, it’s a story. Whenever Duke loses a home game outside of ACC play, it’s an even bigger story. Whenever Duke loses multiple home games outside the ACC, it’s a once-every-40-years story. And after that happens, and Duke is 2-2, with its worst start in decades, with Mike Krzyzewski publicly calling into question college basketball even playing prior to January amid a once-a-century pandemic? That transcends the sport. Despite K and Pitino, the two most prominent critics of college basketball starting in November, college hoops is completing games as scheduled at around an 80% rate through the first six weeks of the season.
12. Will Wade accused by NCAA of paying at least 11 people tied to recruits (Aug. 26). I know this has been lost a bit amid, well … *gestures at landscape* but read that headline again: Will Wade accused by NCAA of paying at least 11 people tied to recruits. This is the NCAA’s claim: Wade “arranged for, offered and/or provided impermissible payments, including cash payments, to at least 11 men’s basketball prospective student-athletes, their family members, individuals associated with the prospects and/or nonscholastic coaches in exchange for the prospects’ enrollment at LSU.” This came after a documentary was broadcast by HBO in March that, for the first time, publicly revealed audio of Wade talking on wiretap and irreversibly incriminating himself. Wade holding on to his job for as long as this has gone on has vexed many within college athletics. The end figures to be coming in 2021.
11. Bob Knight returns to Assembly Hall (Feb. 8). A lot of people who know Knight well swore he would never return for an Indiana basketball game. But he did. Bygones were bygones, at least for a day, and the General made a brief public appearance during halftime of IU’s 74-62 loss against Purdue. This is something that meant a hell of a lot to thousands of people in Indiana. They can all thank Knight’s former players, who finally convinced him to swallow the grudge and embrace the warmth.
10. Kentucky starts season 1-6 (November/December). Where this story goes in 2021 will be interesting. UK begins its SEC campaign on Saturday at Mississippi State. It’s mired in its worst start in 109 years. Unless it can win the SEC Tournament, UK will not make the NCAA Tournament. No team has ever started 1-6 in a multi-bid conference and made the Big Dance that same season. This has been bizarre, unexpected, but because Kentucky is Kentucky, it becomes one of the biggest stories in the sport, and grows bigger with each subsequent loss, none more damaging to Big Blue Nation’s psyche than falling to Louisville.
9. Gonzaga starts season 9-0, talk of undefeated season increases (November/December). The inverse of Kentucky. Gonzaga sits at 9-0, and thanks to four wins over ranked teams — all victories convincing — there is already deserved chatter about GU’s chances of running the regular season table and becoming the fourth team in 40-plus years to do so. If Gonzaga can make the tourney undefeated, it will easily rank in the top five of the biggest stories in college hoops next year. For now, the All American-level troika of Corey Kispert, Drew Timme and Jalen Suggs have Gonzaga gliding as the biggest story in the sport heading into January.
8. NCAA agrees to (broad) NIL legislation (April 29, Oct. 14). There is still so much to be sorted out with this (the Supreme Court is even going to hear an NCAA case which will impact the boundaries of name, image and likeness legislation), but the bottom line is the NCAA in 2020 finally approved for future bylaws that enable college athletes to make money based off their talents while in college. This was unthinkable, though pushed for, as recently as a decade ago. In January, at the NCAA’s annual convention, the Board of Governors will vote in NIL enactments. The story has much more to go, though, as individual states are granting widespread rights that go beyond what the NCAA wants. The year 2021 will be another huge one for the NCAA, with the very nature of what it means to be a prominent college athlete at stake for generations to come.
7. Dean Dome Double Buzzer-Beater (Feb. 9). We couldn’t go any further without getting to a game result. In fact, this is the only game result of 2020 that feels right to include. College sports’ biggest rivalry turned in one of its most classic chapters in February. North Carolina had practically won this game a half-dozen times, until it didn’t. Duke’s two buzzer-beaters — the first to tie it, the second to win it — were jump-off-your-couch ridiculous. The one lingering negative about this game was the fact both teams wore hideous uniforms, unfortunately tainting the memory of this epic. Nevertheless, Tre Jones went Duke legend in pulling off this win, tossing a depressingly heavy amount of dirt on what was one of the worst seasons in UNC basketball history.
6. Obi Toppin wins National Player of the Year, Dayton becomes national sensation amid greatest season in school history (January-March). Baylor. San Diego State. Florida State. All schools that had their best regular seasons in program history in 2019-20 and could have made a Final Four run. But it is Dayton that will be forever remembered as the team that lost its chance — kind of like the Montreal Expos with the MLB strike of 1994 — to win a national championship (even if Kansas, which Dayton nearly beat in Maui, was the best team). Not only did UD have a gaudy record (29-2), the Flyers were freaking fun to watch and one of the most efficient offensive teams of the past 20 seasons. Toppin became a dunking sensation and was as famous as any player in the sport by February. All of this at basketball-loving Dayton. The season that was. The tournament that never could be.
5. Florida‘s Keyontae Johnson collapses (Dec. 12). Thankfully, this story has taken a turn for the tremendous. Johnson is now acting as a coach with the Gators, though his season almost certainly done. But on the morning of Dec. 12, during Florida’s game at Florida State, a frightening vision for college sports. Johnson collapsed after a stoppage in play while the game was in a timeout. Johnson was taken to the local hospital and remained there for a couple of days before being transported to Gainesville, Florida. Updates were consistent but lacking in detail initially, leading to mounting concerns. In the ensuing two weeks, every statement to come out of Florida’s program was better than the previous one, and now Johnson is doing great. But the questions surrounding his collapse remain huge, and the family says it will be transparent about the nature of this incident as soon as the doctors and science are clear about why this happened.
4. Kansas State-Kansas fight highlighted by Silvio De Sousa picking up a stool (Jan. 22). Now this is one that feels like 18 months ago, not less than 12. One of the worst brawls of the past 20 years in college basketball unfolded at Allen Fieldhouse, punctuated by a terrible image: KU forward Silvio De Sousa holding a stool over his head as a brouhaha broke out beyond the baseline, spilling into the stands and marring college basketball’s image in the process. De Sousa never played a game for Kansas again. The image of this brawl was as bad as almost any fight in college basketball in the past 30-plus years. Here’s how big it was: Our story about the fight was the most-read college basketball story on CBSSports.com last season.
3. Hall of Fame coaches Lute Olson (Aug. 28) and John Thompson Jr. (Aug. 31) die within days of each other. Olson built Arizona into a top-10 program — after he turned around Iowa‘s program and brought the Hawkeyes to a Final Four. Thompson, who changed Georgetown from a tiny non-entity in college hoops to one of the most dominant programs of the 1980s, is one of the most important coaches in the history of American sports. Both faced health issues in recent times, Olson’s decline being a bit longer than Big John’s. Georgetown basketball defined the 1980s as much or more than any other program in what is regarded as the best and biggest decade in the sport’s history. That Thompson’s death came amid another huge civil rights movement in the United States was a bitter irony. Thompson died at 78. Olson at 85. College basketball lost many greats in 2021; Olson and Thompson passed after Eddie Sutton (84) died in May and Lou Henson (88) died in July. The four men won a combined 2,962 games.
2. Physical and verbal abuse allegations surface against Gregg Marshall, leading to his resignation (Nov. 17). In October, Stadium and The Athletic broke stories on the same night — with disturbing details — about past behavior from Marshall earlier this decade that included punching a player, physically accosting an assistant and nearly coming to blows with an athlete outside the men’s basketball program. Marshall also allegedly taunted a player of Native American descent and was graphically vulgar in other instances. Marshall publicly denied ever assaulting anyone. He could not save his job, and so the most successful coach in Wichita State history agreed to a $7.75 million payout and left the program he built into a top-40 outfit a little more than a week before the season began.
1. NCAA Tournament canceled (March 12). You already knew what was going to be here. I could write 500 words on what this headline wrought, but the link right there tells it best. It’s the story of how the NCAA Tournament fell apart in less than 24 hours. The night of March 11, Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, putting the NBA season on hold. The next afternoon, the expected became official when the NCAA Tournament in men’s and women’s basketball was canceled. It was the only major American sport — team or individual — to not complete a championship in 2020. The decision was necessary, but the ramifications of it will be felt for years and years throughout college sports. And as an event, it will become one of the biggest headlines in college sports for the next 50 years.
Each week I highlight reader questions, so find me on Twitter and @ me with whatever you’d like answered.
Archie Miller is not getting fired this season, and probably not the next one either. As for the Missouri Valley, yes, this league is potentially — MAYBE — setting itself up for a two-bid season. Drake is 11-0, Southern Illinois is 7-1, Missouri State is 4-1 and Loyola Chicago is 6-2. It’s unquestionably a top-10 league in college hoops this season, and its teams are collectively making 38.2% of their 3-pointers, which is the best rate of any conference.
Washington (1-6) is terrible, but I don’t think so. It would have to continue to torpedo.
This is right! The Big Ten has nine teams in this week’s AP Top 25, which is that league’s high-water mark, but the Big East set the record back in 2011. That was also the year the Big East put 11 teams into the NCAA Tournament, also a record. The Big Ten may well tie that mark in 2021.
- History on Wednesday night: Eastern Illinois‘ Mack Smith made a 3-pointer for the 89th straight game, setting the NCAA record previously held by Illinois‘ Cory Bradford.
- D-I college basketball in a pandemic: San Jose State is unable to play in Santa Clara County because of health officials’ edicts. So it’s relocated to Phoenix. On Thursday night, SJSU has a “home” game scheduled against Boise State. The venue is a local fitness club. Seriously!
I confirmed this with Boise State coach Leon Rice. He texted, “Hell yeah and we are so excited to go do it, I got hungry dogs and will play outside if we need to.”
- The Big Sky has canceled — not postponed — two league games due to COVID-19. A double dip between Weber State and Idaho State has been taken off the schedule. At this point, all other leagues are postponing matchups with the hope of makeup dates in January, February or March.
- More cancellations in league play: Detroit is opting out of its next two games, citing mental health needs. This may well be a first in men’s D-I history.
- From earlier this month: some big-name coaches have joined Eracism, another important and imperative initiative to keep social-justice issues on the forefront. Expect to hear and see more from this coalition throughout 2021.
- West Virginia‘s depth took a hit this week with the news freshman big Isaiah Cottrell is done this season due to a torn ACL. Could be an all-league player by the time he’s a senior.
- Another team that lost a good one, but for different reasons: Dayton’s Chase Johnson, who is a good player helping UD post-Toppin, is stepping away in the name of his own health and well-being.
- Some props to 6-3 Saint Louis guard Jordan Goodwin, who is in the running for pound-for-pound most productive player in college basketball. The man has seven double-doubles this season and is averaging 16.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
- Sources: The NEC is going to a four-team tournament for 2021, down from a customary eight-team field.
- I’ve highlighted Jordan Sperber’s work in the Court Report previously, and here’s another dandy. Yes, Northwestern lost at Iowa on Tuesday night, but the Wildcats have hopes of making the NCAA Tournament thanks to a revamped offense. It’s pretty drastic. Here’s how.
The Winthrop Eagles look to stay perfect on the season and sweep back-to-back games over the Big South Conference-rival Campbell Fighting Camels on Thursday. On Wednesday, Winthrop (6-0) held off a late Campbell (4-4) rally by hitting eight of 11 free throws in the final minute to post an 84-83 victory. The Fighting Camels have lost four in a row, while the Eagles have won 11 straight dating back to last season. Winthrop has won five consecutive games in the series.
Tip-off from the Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill, S.C., is set for 1 p.m. ET. William Hill Sportsbook list the Eagles as 14.5-point favorites in the latest Winthrop vs. Campbell odds. The over-under for total points is set at 151. Before making any Campbell vs. Winthrop picks, check out the college basketball predictions from the SportsLine Projection Model.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every Division I college basketball game 10,000 times. Over the past four-plus years, the proprietary computer model has generated an impressive profit of almost $2,600 for $100 players on its top-rated college basketball picks against the spread. It’s off to a profitable start in the 2020-21 season, going 16-12 on all its top-rated picks and returning almost $400. Anyone who has followed it has seen huge returns.
- Campbell vs. Winthrop spread: Winthrop -14.5
- Campbell vs. Winthrop over-under: 151 points
- CU: The Camels have won 72 games over the last four seasons, the most in a four-year span in the program’s Division I history
- WIN: The Eagles have led the Big South in scoring for five consecutive seasons
Why Winthrop can cover
The Eagles are led in scoring by redshirt senior guard Charles Falden, who has scored in double figures in five of six games this season. In Wednesday’s win over the Camels, he scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds, including five offensive boards. For the season, he is averaging 13.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Last season, he averaged 6.7 points and 2.9 rebounds. Falden scored a season-high 17 points in a win over Longwood on Feb. 8.
Also powering the offense is redshirt senior Adonis Arms, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. For the season, he is averaging 12.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Arms has scored in double figures in five of the six games he has played. He is also averaging two assists and 2.2 steals per game. Prior to his time at Winthrop, he played at Northwest Nazarene University, where he was the 2019 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year after averaging 20.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He shot 55 percent from the floor.
Why Campbell can cover
The Fighting Camels are paced by junior forward Cedric Henderson Jr., who averages 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He scored 12 points and grabbed two rebounds on Wednesday. He is hitting 57 percent of his shots from the floor. Last year, Henderson averaged 12.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and shot 58 percent from the floor, while ranking 14th in the Big South in blocks at 0.6 per game. He scored in double figures 23 times, including in 13 of 18 conference games.
Senior guard Jordan Whitfield is also averaging in double digits at 13.9 points per game, connecting on 55.1 percent of his shots from the floor, including 50 percent from 3-point range. He is also averaging three rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals. Last season, he averaged 8.8 points and 2.4 assists, while connecting on 89.2 percent of his free throws in Big South play. He scored in double figures in 12 games.
How to make Winthrop vs. Campbell picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning under on the total. The model also says one side of the spread hits in well over 60 percent of simulations. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.
So who wins Campbell vs. Winthrop? And which side of the spread hits in well over 60 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to find out which side of the spread you need to jump on, all from the advanced computer model that has crushed its college basketball picks, and find out.
An unexpected consequence of the new Brexit rules that will govern transfers in the January window may be an influx of players from the Brazilian, Mexican and Argentinian top divisions.
From New Year’s Day, new regulations for signing foreign players will apply to clubs wanting to recruit in the Premier League and EFL, as result of the UK’s departure from the European Union.
While this will make it harder to bring in footballers from Europe, the change will make it easier to secure players from south America, according to football recruitment analysts.
Not only that, but South American leagues are seen as good value for money in the international transfer markets, being a favourite recruiting ground for southern European clubs, like Porto.
More Brazilians like Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus may be heading to the Premier League
UK leaves the EU
Brexit happened on January 31 and since then the UK has been in a ‘post-Brexit transition period’.
This period ends on December 31 and new rules around immigration come into force at this point, which is what impacts on signing overseas players in elite sport.
The post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU also takes effect at 11pm tonight, after it was signed into law.
Parliament backed the agreement in a on Wednesday. The UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union, but the deal ends the possibility of tariffs on goods.
Until now, clubs have been able to sign players freely if they are citizens of countries in the European Union or Switzerland, whereas those from countries in the rest of the world have had to meet stringent rules.
But on December 31, immigration rules change as we reach the end of the ‘post-Brexit transition period’.
Our departure from the EU brings to an end free movement to the UK for all overseas signings, whether they are from Europe or further afield. All these players will now require a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) from the FA before they can apply for a visa.
A GBE will be relatively easily obtained for a regular international or a star player at a top club, but other players will need to accumulate 15 points or more, based on a scoring system. which takes account of the quality of the league and competitions they are playing in.
Under the new points system, leagues around the world are placed into bands and players performing in the higher bands can claim more points. Brazil, Mexico and Argentina’s top leagues have been placed in band three, improving the chances of those players meeting the required standard.
An influx of Brazilians like Thiago Silva has already raised the standrad in the top tier
‘Whilst the new rules will restrict the recruitment of Premier League and EFL clubs, they will also present new opportunities to sign players from leagues known for producing talented players,’ said Ramm Mylvaganam, founder of Ai Abacus.
‘The top leagues in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico have all been placed in Band 3, which should make it easier to sign players from these leagues based on the new points system.’
He estimates more than 550 players from those three South American leagues currently meet the new criteria and could obtain the GBE.
Some of them from the Brazilian Serie A, Argentinian or Mexican Primera Divisions could soon be winging their way to the English top tier to join their illustrious South American compatriots, Thiago Silva, 36, at Chelsea, Roberto Firmino, 29, at Liverpool and Gabriel Jesus, 23, at Manchester City.
Roberto Firmino is one of a host of top Brazilian players playing in the Premier League
However, the new points system will pose a challenge for clubs wanting to invest in players from lower European leagues such as Budesliga 2 in Germany, or Ligue 2 in France.
These have been favourite hunting grounds for English clubs in the past, with Leicester City sensationally signing Riyad Mahrez, 29, from Ligue 2 Le Havre in January 2014.
Under the new rules, only 14 players in Ligue 2 and 23 players in Bundesliga 2 are eligible to move to the UK, according to Ai Abacus.
Brexit transition period ends December 31 and new rules will govern transfers from January 1
Huddersfield Town’s Christopher Schindler, a German national, has been a mainstay in the Terriers’ defence since he joined from Bundesliga2 side, 1860 Munich in July 2016, and helped them to reach the Premier League. However, if visa restrictions were in place at the time of his transfer, he would not have met the new points-based threshold, according to Charlotte Smith, a senior associate at law firm, Walker Morris.
‘Many current Championship players would not meet the new criteria,’ said the employment and immigration lawyer, who advises football clubs. ‘Whilst the majority of League One and League Two and Women’s Championship players are UK or Irish nationals, prospective recruits from abroad will be unlikely to obtain an endorsement.’
Sportsmail has put together a Q&A for all you need to know about the new rules governing transfers.
Riyad Mahrez joined Leicester from French Ligue 2 side Le Havre, but would new rules allow it?
Post-Brexit Transfers: What is changing?
In a nutshell, the UK’s immigration system.
From midnight on December 31, free movement to the UK for citizens within countries of the European Economic Area as well as Swiss nationals will end.
This is because the Brexit transition period comes to an end and it will affect more than the colour of your passport, (which will be blue when you have to reapply for one if you are a UK citizen).
Players from European Union countries will need to earn 15 points in a new eligibility ruling for transfers once Great Britain completes Brexit and leaves the EU at the start of next year
The change will also have a fundamental impact on the way in which football clubs can sign players from Europe and beyond.
New rules are coming into force, which have been agreed between the Football Association, Premier League, English Football League and government, to manage the movement of players.
In the short term, this means that recruitment departments, already working flat out to identify targets now have to put all their options to their legal teams to find out if they are actually eligible.
EFL clubs will also adhere to the new system regarding player transfer eligibility post-Brexit
What do the rules say?
Anyone wanting to come to work in the UK under post-Brexit rules will have qualify as a ‘skilled worker’ and that is true for footballers and coaches, too.
Unfortunately for football clubs, it’s not enough for the chief scout to think ‘the lad can do a job in the Premier League’ or ‘the boy will make an impact’ in the Championship.
New signings will require a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) from the FA, before they can apply for their visa to enter the country.
A similar system has been in place for players outside of the EU, who wanted to sign for UK clubs, but now it will apply to all non-UK footballers.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said the top flight welcomed the new plan
Which players will clubs be allowed to sign?
The buying club will apply for a GBE, which costs £500, and it will be awarded through a points-based system. A player must earn 15 points or more to qualify.
Points will be awarded for:
- Senior and youth international appearances
- Quality of the selling club, based on the league they are in, league position and progression in continental competition
- Club appearances, based on domestic league and continental competition minutes
Where a player just misses out and achieves between 10 and 14 points, they can appeal to an Exceptions Panel, for a fee of £5,000. The appeal process will only be in place for the January transfer window.
A player with less than 10 points cannot sign for a UK club and clubs will not be able to sign players from overseas until they are 18.
Top players like Kevin de Bruyne would still be eligible to sign for British clubs on the basis of international appearances or due to the fact they play in top leagues and competitions
Can you sign if you are already an international player?
International appearances are the most straightforward way to earn a GBE and they represent the front door to English football for the stars of the world game.
Essentially, if you have represented your country on enough occasions you have a free pass, or more accurately an ‘auto-pass’.
A top player who represents their country regularly, assuming it is ranked within the FIFA top 50 nations, will be eligible for a GBE, but the level of representation required varies according to rank of the country.
So, the rules would allow a player to obtain a GBE if they have played at least 30% of fixtures for a top-10 ranked FIFA nation over the past 24 months, or at least 70% of fixtures for a country ranked from 30 to 50 by the governing body.
How good does the selling club need to be and how often does a player have to play to qualify for a GBE?
These are key questions. A player will receive more points the better the league they compete in, the higher up they finish and the better the level of continental competition they play in.
But they have to actually play, it is unlikely to be enough to simply be in the squad.
The criteria for the GBE have placed football leagues around the world in bands ranked from one to six.
Leagues around the world have been placed into bands in the Governing Body Endorsement criteria – the higher the banding the more points a player in that league can obtain
Band one includes, Italy’s Serie A, Ligue 1, the German Bundesliga, and La Liga.
Playing more than 90% of domestic minutes in La Liga over the past two years, for example, is worth 12 points or winning Serie A is worth six points.
Continental game time also adds points, according to which competition you play in. The Champions League is the top banded competition and a player who has played more than 90% of game time during the last two years earns 10 points.
So, if you are a regular at a good club in a top European league you are as good as in.
What if my club is not signing a mega star?
Well, you could be in difficulty.
The purpose of the policy around immigration post Brexit in it’s wide context, is to promote home-grown talent.
So, it will be harder to sign players who are not demonstrably really good.
Football recruitment consultants Ai Abacus have calculated how many players may be eligible to sign for a British side under the new Governing Body Endorsement criteria
Some leagues that have been traditionally happy hunting grounds for English clubs, particularly for sides at the top end of the Championship, have a low ranking.
French Ligue 2 and Bundesliga 2 have both been relegated to band four with few players eligible as a result.
The football recruitment analysts, Ai Abacus, estimate there are only 14 players in French Ligue 2, who could sign for a UK club, and 23 players in Bundesliga 2.
Does the system protect young British players?
This is what many people hope and this has been a point of division between the FA and Premier League.
The rules will now say, Premier League clubs can no longer sign under-18s. As a result, there was a rush by Premier League teams in the summer to capture the signatures of teenage players.
In theory, the new rules will open space in Premier League academies for local players.
The new system may create more space for young British players in the top academies
The rules do allow some flexibility around players aged 18-21, who may be on the edge of the first team but have not yet accumulated enough points to make a move to the UK.
The GBE has a separate set of criteria governing potential signings for this age group, such as receiving credit for youth international appearances, if they fail to make the required 15 points from the general criteria.
In addition, the number of overseas U21 players a club can sign will be limited to three in the January transfer window and six per season moving forwards.
An impact of new transfer system may be to attract more players from Brazil, like Thiago Silva
So, what will be the impact in the Premier League?
Business as usual at the top end of the market because marquee signings will have bundles of points, well above the 15 needed, which they will have earned through international appearances and regularly turning out in top-ranked European leagues and cups.
An unexpected consequence may be increased interest from Premier League clubs in signing players from the Argentinian and Brazilian leagues. Ai Abacus, have concluded that the new rules governing transfers from these countries are actually less stringent than before.
This, combined with the fact lesser European leagues have become more challenging for recruitment, should open up these markets. In addition, these leagues offer very high value for money.
‘A standout nation is Brazil with their top league having 217 eligible players,’ said Ramm Mylvaganam, founder of Ai Abacus.
‘And we have analysed the value for money of 53 leagues around the world and found defenders and forwards playing in the Brazilian Serie A represent high value for money compared to the top European leagues.’
Roberto Firmino is one of many to bring South American flair to the English top flight
Where will the rules have a big effect?
There are two areas where the changes could have a profound impact.
One of them is in Premier League academies. Reduced access to teenage overseas talent may change the player profile in the biggest clubs’ talent incubators.
This may give more opportunity to British players to gain a place and progress to the edge of the senior side, but Jurgen Klopp, for one, has argued that reducing the quality in academies may just result in British clubs producing fewer top-class players. The best players learn from playing with the best players.
The other major impact is likely to be in the Championship, League One and Two.
As Leicester City were preparing their assault on the Premier League in 2013/14, they signed Riyad Mahrez from French Ligue 2 club, Le Havre.
Players at French Ligue 2 side Le Havre may find it harder to move to British clubs
Mahrez was crucial in helping the Foxes secure promotion to the top flight and subsequently in lifting the title in 2016, however, would he have been eligible under the new rules, with no international appearances to his name? It is debatable. Only 14 players in Ligue 2 would be able to sign for a UK side in this window.
Huddersfield Town’s Christopher Schindler, a German national, has been a mainstay in the Terriers’ defence since he joined from Bundesliga2 side, 1860 Munich in July 2016, and helped them to reach the Premier League.
However, if visa restrictions were in place at the time of his transfer, he would not have met the new points-based threshold, according to Charlotte Smith, a senior associate at law firm, Walker Morris.
Christopher Schindler would not have been able to sign for Huddersfield from 1860 Munich under the new system, according to lawyers
‘Many current Championship players would not meet the new criteria,’ said the employment and immigration lawyer, who advises football clubs.
‘Whilst the majority of League One and League Two and Women’s Championship players are UK or Irish nationals, prospective recruits from abroad will be unlikely to obtain an endorsement.’
What are the rules for the women’s game?
The women’s game has also had a GBE proposal approved by the Home Office. It is similar to the men’s game and will also operate a points-based system, where points are scored on:
• Senior international appearances (but it will not include youth appearances)
• Quality of the selling club, based on the league they are in and former league position (but not continental cup competitions)
• Club appearances, based on domestic league and continental competition minutes
New rules will impact all sports
New rules, which come into force at the end of the post-Brexit transition period on December 31 will impact on all professional sport and apply to players as well as staff.
Each sport will have to agree with governement its own rules to define what is a skilled person. These rules will be set out in Governing Body Endorsements for each discipline.
Not all sports have announced the details of their own rules and some, like rugby, have extended exisiting rules for their current season.
In cricket, there is a particular impact around Kolpak players.
Since 2004, cricketers and rugby players from EU Association Agreement countries –South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tonga, Samoa and several Caribbean nations – have been able to take advantage of their right to work in EU countries.
The Kolpak rule was created when the European Court of Justice decided that a Slovakian handball player, named Maros Kolpak, should not be considered a non-EU player in the German handball league.
This opened the way for English cricket and rugby teams to sign Kolpak players without registering them as overseas players.
However, the changes about to come into force mean Kolpak players lose their right to work in the UK.
In cricket, clubs will be able to field two overseas players instead of one in the County Championship from next season.
Overseas cricketers already have to obtain a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) prior to obtaining a visa, if they want to play in the UK.
There are various criteria to qualify for a GBE for first-class cricket including, having played at least one Test Match in the preceding 36 months, or five in the previous 72 months, representing a country that is a full member of the International Cricket Council.
Alternatively, the signing could have played 15 one-day internationals or Twenty20 internationals for their country in the last 36 months, be a centrally contracted player or have played a fixed number of matches in a top-ranked competition.
In Rugby Union, the new rules are yet to be decided.
A spokeswoman for the RFU told Sportsmail: ‘There will be no immediate change to foreign player status in rugby union as all current regulations have been extended to the end of the 2020/2021 season. Any potential changes for future seasons have yet to be announced. ‘
For this season, to qualify for a GBE in Rugby Union, an overseas player must have played in at least one international match in the previous 24 months representing one of the 10 tier one countries, which include the likes of New Zealand, Argentina and Australia.
To qualify from a tier two and three nation, the player must have played more international matches, or a combination of internationals and domestic matches in a top-ranked competition. A player can qualify without international experience if they have played 75% of the fixtures in a top-ranked competition over 24 months.
However, all rules are likely to be reviewed as the system beds in.
‘There will be a lot of bedding in,’ said Professor Chris Brady, Director of the Centre for Sports Business at the University of Salford. ‘It will be reviewed and it will change.’
Men’s Basketball | December 30, 2020
The USC Trojans (5-1, 0-0) will host the Colorado Buffaloes (6-2, 0-1) at the Galen Center on Dec. 31 at 7:00 p.m. The game will air on ESPN with Dave Pasch and Bill Walton calling the action.
USC OPENS PAC-12 PLAY FACING COLORADO — Colorado (6-2, 0-1) is coming off a 74-88 loss at Arizona on Dec. 28, which snapped a four-game winning streak. Senior point guard McKinley Wright leads Colorado with a 15.5 scoring average. USC is 7-13 all-time against Colorado losing both games in each of the past two seasons, after winning four straight from 2016-18.
TROJANS TAKE DOWN SANTA CLARA — USC scored the first four points of the game and never trailed in an 86-63 win over Santa Clara at the Galen Center on Dec. 29. Evan Mobley led USC with 17 points and seven rebounds, while his brother Isaiah added 13 points and also grabbed seven boards. USC made 46.6 percent of its shots, while holding Santa Clara to 37.7 percent shooting. USC outrebounded Santa Clara 44-41 and outscored them 44-26 on points in the paint.
UTAH ON DECK — USC’s next game will be vs. Utah (4-1, 1-0) on Jan. 2 at 1:00 p.m. at the Galen Center. Utah will play at UCLA on Dec. 31 before taking on the Trojans. Junior forward Timmy Allen leads Utah in scoring with a 15.4 points per game average. Eleven of the players on Utah’s young roster are either freshman or sophomores. USC split two games against Utah last season, winning 56-52 at the Galen Center and falling 79-65 at the Huntsman Center. Utah leads the all-time series with USC, 25-20.
MAGIC MARKER — With the 86-63 win over Santa Clara on Dec. 29, USC is now 74-4 in its last 78 games when holding the opposition to under 70 points scored dating back to Feb. 28, 2015.
DOING IT WITH DEFENSE — USC has held its opponents to 35.5 percent shooting this season, sixth-best in the country. The 37.7 shooting percentage by Santa Clara on Dec. 29 was the highest by a Trojan opponent in the last five games. Only California Baptist which shot 45.1 percent from the floor in the opener has shot over 38 percent against the Trojans this season.
USC HOSTING BLOCK PARTY — USC has had 34 blocks in its first six games for an average of 5.7 blocks per game. That average ranks 11th in the country in that category. Freshman Evan Mobley is averaging 3.0 blocks per game, tied for eighth in the country and first among freshmen.
ADD WATERS AND MIX — Guard Reese Waters, a member of this year’s highly-touted recruiting class, has graduated from high school early, enrolled at USC and became eligible for competition on Dec. 12. The 6-5 guard from Long Beach, Calif. made his first shot as a collegian, a three-pointer against Santa Clara on Dec. 29. Waters scored five points and had a rebound in five minutes of action against the Broncos. Waters and attended St. Bernard HS in Playa del Rey, Calif. He was ranked as the No. 4 player in the state of California and No. 50 overall player in the nation by 247Sports.com. Waters averaged 17.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game in leading the Vikings to a 22-7 record last season.
LONDON TO FOCUS ON FOOTBALL — USC basketball guard and football wide receiver Drake London has decided not to join the men’s basketball team this season and to put all of his focus into football. London played in two games for the basketball team last season and had three rebounds in six minutes of action. This past football season, the sophomore had 33 catches for a team-leading 502 yards, along with three touchdowns.
EFFICIENT OFFENSE — USC leads the Pac-12 with an 80.8 scoring average and has the largest scoring margin among Conference teams (+17.2). USC also leads all Pac-12 teams with a 49.2 shooting percentage this season.
EVAN MOBLEY NEAR THE TOP OF THE PAC — USC freshman forward currently ranks among the Pac-12’s top five players in scoring (4th, 17.5 ppg), rebounds (4th, 8.7), field goal percentage (4th, .639) and blocks (1st, 18).
IT’S A TEAM GAME — Eight Trojans have already had at least one game of 10 points scored or more this season. Evan Mobley leads the team scoring in double figures in all six games, while Tahj Eaddy is second on the team with four games scoring 10 or more points.
PLAYING PAINT BALL — USC has outrebounded its opponents 259-209 through the first six games and has outscored the opposition 226-142 on points scored in the paint.
A month ago, Richard Pitino was still searching for an identity for his Gophers basketball team, one stacked with newcomers and no time to mesh.
“I know what this team can become,” the team’s eighth-year coach said. “We have a lot of good pieces.”
He just wasn’t sure how they could all fit together. It took seven games, including an embarrassing 27-point loss at Illinois, but the Gophers’ identity is much more clear heading into Thursday night’s big showdown with No. 6 Wisconsin.
The No. 21 Gophers rely heavily on high-scoring junior guard Marcus Carr making plays. Still, Pitino’s team has shown it can win in the Big Ten by establishing a fast-paced offense inside and out, getting to the foul line and being tougher defensively and on the glass.
“We knew we were going to get better and show who we really are,” center Liam Robbins said. “I think we’ve done that.”
Their next game is against a Wisconsin team that could never be mistaken for going through an identity crisis. The Badgers’ long-established system perfected by Bo Ryan and now championed by his former assistant Greg Gard as head coach has stood the test of time.
These 8-2 Badgers — led by Minnesota natives and seniors Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers — are as formidable as ever with their defensive-minded, slow-paced style. But they will be matched by a Gophers team that appears to have found itself, especially during a three-game winning streak against St. Louis, Iowa and Michigan State.
“We took a major step forward against Michigan State,” Pitino said. “Teams with a lot of newcomers, it’s going to take some time. For us, we’ve been fortunate to win being 9-1. But we still need to get better.”
The Gophers have already improved at attacking the basket rather than settling for jumpers. Getting to the foul line has become a staple, helping them lead the nation with 22.7 made free throws per game. They rank second among high-major teams with 79.4 possessions per game, a product of a more up-tempo approach.
Scoring in transition matters to Minnesota’s offense, which averaged 16 fast-break points the past three games. But Wisconsin will try to slow things down.
In a half-court game, keeping 7-footer Robbins out of foul trouble will be the key for the Gophers against Wisconsin’s talented senior frontcourt of Reuvers, Micah Potter and Aleem Ford.
Carr might be the best player on the floor Thursday, coming off a Big Ten player of the week award. But the Gophers have been better lately when they’ve established themselves in the post as well.
In the past two games, Robbins stayed out of foul trouble to provide an inside presence with 36 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks combined in wins over Iowa and Michigan State. The Drake transfer is averaging 17.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.6 blocks in five games playing 25 minutes or more.
Senior forward Brandon Johnson also came to the rescue with 26 points on eight threes in the 102-95 overtime win against the Hawkeyes. The Gophers are using their big men in pick-and-pop plays more, meaning they set screens and get open for jump shots instead of always rolling to the basket.
“We don’t want it to just be two guys offensively,” Pitino said. “We certainly run a decent amount of pick-and-rolls. If you put Marcus Carr and Liam Robbins in a ball screen, if they run it properly you should get the other guys involved depending on how the defense guards it. We want balance.”
Pitino demands his players play with the team’s motto of 95%. That means doing the things that help the Gophers win in the 95% of the time when you don’t have the ball.
Effort is one thing. Execution is another. It helped the Gophers to know exactly what they can do to be disruptive defensively as a team as well.
Robbins leads the Big Ten with 2.6 blocks per game. Gabe Kalscheur is one of the league’s best on-ball defenders. But the Gophers made their biggest strides in the past three games when they’ve all contributed to locking down opponents and crashing the boards.
The Gophers were outrebounded by 18 vs. Illinois and 17 against Iowa but turned that around beating Michigan State 52-36 on the glass. The Spartans were also held to 25.7% shooting, their worst field goal shooting in a game since 2012.
Making rebounding and defense part of Minnesota’s consistent identity is a work in progress, but the improvement since the Illinois loss has been no small feat.
| Montgomery Advertiser
The game is set to start at 6 p.m. CT.
Auburn enters the game 6-2 overall. Most recently, Auburn beat Appalachian State 67-53 on Dec. 22.
Arkansas comes into the game 8-0 overall. On Dec. 22, the Razorbacks beat Abilene Christian 85-72.
How to watch Auburn vs. Arkansas men’s basketball
Game time: 6 p.m. CT, Wednesday, Dec. 30
On DirecTV, ESPN2 is channel 209. On Dish, ESPN2 is channel 143.
Online live stream: ESPN.com/Watch
Online radio broadcast: TuneIn
Complete list of Auburn men’s basketball terrestrial radio affiliates.
Here’s more Auburn basketball news
Daniella Medina is a digital producer for the USA TODAY Network. Follow her on Twitter @danimedinanews.
| Indianapolis Star
The beauty of the week between Christmas and New Year’s is not limited to an excess of cookies and pie. There are hoops. Holiday hoops.
Some tournaments were crossed off the schedule due to coronavirus. But not all. So on Tuesday morning, I grabbed a couple of cookies for the road and set out to see how much basketball I could pack into a day.
What better place to start than Lebanon, where there are two eight-team boys and girls tournaments underway. Athletic director Phil Levine has played the role of musical-chair coordinator, shuffling teams in when others have been forced to drop out due to quarantine.
Normally, an 11 a.m. holiday tournament setting is not a raucous atmosphere. So COVID-19 can’t steal that from us. But the start of the first-round game between Perry Meridian and Lowell still seems oddly quiet to me. Some things you just never get used to, I guess.
The stars here are Perry Meridian senior Jayden Taylor and Lowell senior Chris Mantis. Taylor and Mantis are friends, having played on the same travel team together. They are also two of the top scorers in the state — Taylor, the 6-4 Butler recruit, averaging 28.0 points through three games, and Mantis, a 6-6 Appalachian State recruit, averaging 29.8 points through six games.
The shootout is all one-sided, at least early. Taylor scores 10 points in the first quarter on a 3-pointer, two drives and three free throws. Mantis, guarded by Taylor, scores five points but he is getting little help from his teammates. Perry Meridian leads 20-9 by the end of the first quarter.
The next eight minutes are a disaster for Lowell, which was 4-2 coming into the game. Mantis goes 3-for-4 from the free-throw line, but that is all of the scoring for the Red Devils. Reggie McDonald, Perry’s senior point guard, scores nine of his 15 points in the second quarter and the Falcons lead, 39-12.
“He just does the ‘steady Eddie’ things that make your team better,” Perry Meridian coach Mark James says of McDonald. “We knew their offense started with (Tyson Chavez) and that pressure he put on him probably disrupted them as much as anything. Reggie did a hell of a job on him.”
Lowell plays a much better second half, but the outcome is in little doubt. Perry Meridian wins, 73-50, in its most complete performance of the season, a season that started late due to positive cases and contact tracing. Perry Meridian is 2-2 and feeling better about itself going into Wednesday’s tournament semifinal game.
“We needed this one,” McDonald says. “After two tough games against Plainfield and Bloomington North, this one boosted our confidence.”
There is still plenty to be learned, though. Like James yelling out to McDonald twice in the second half to jump stop instead of flying though the air off one foot to make a pass. McDonald smiles when asked about it.
“I’m trying to work on it,” McDonald says. “I know I have to slow down and change speeds.”
Taylor finished with 25 points. Mantis has 21. They share a hug and a photo on the court after the game.
In order to make it to my next game on time, I leave the second game at Lebanon after the end of the first quarter. The host Tigers are leading Gary 21st Century, 15-2. When I arrive in Morristown, my next stop, IndyStar photographer Bob Scheer texts me the final score: Lebanon 44, Gary 21st Century 42.
At Morristown, the fourth of four first-round games is underway. It is a battle of Class 2A undefeated teams: No. 7 Covenant Christian and South Ripley, which is just outside the top-10. This is a smaller and much noisier gym, starting with the Covenant Christian bench.
“We talk about trying to bring energy and juice,” Covenant Christian coach Scott Flatt tells me later. “Because of COVID, we’ve gone with a bigger team (in numbers) and we talked with some of our end-of-the-bench guys, telling them they may not play a lot. But you’re going to practice every day with the varsity, you’re going to get better and it’s your job to bring energy. When we bring that energy in practice, it shows in the games.”
Covenant Christian is leading 14-7 near the end of the first quarter when I arrive. But the Warriors are unable to shake the Raiders in the first half. South Ripley, coming in with a 5-0 record, cuts an 11-point deficit to 30-24 at halftime. Covenant Christian, a running, pressing, physical team with several key players coming off a state football championship, has 12 fouls and South Ripley’s two.
South Ripley coach Tyler Theising knew coming in this would be a good test, win or lose. Theising, a former assistant at Shelbyville, Milan and East Central, is in his third season with a core of a team that improved from 10-14 his first year to 14-9 last season. Led by seniors Cody Samples (22.8 ppg, 6.2 assists) and Jaden Peetz (16.2 ppg, 7.6 rebounds) and junior Nick Schwarte (17.6 ppg, 6.0 rebounds), the Raiders will likely be favored to win Sectional 44 at Milan, where South Decatur and Triton Central could also challenge.
But Covenant Christian is a different team than South Ripley had played its first five games.
“Down in southeastern Indiana, we don’t see that type of talent,” Theising says after the game. “We don’t see that kind of physical play.”
Covenant Christian dominates the start of the third quarter with a 19-4 run. South Ripley does not completely go away, using an extended 1-3-1 zone to help spur a run to get back within 12. But the Warriors have too much firepower, advancing with a 69-52 win behind 22 points from senior Trey Flatt. Caleb Crane adds 13 points and Brock Buckley 12.
“We play in a way where we have to adjust to officiating,” Scott Flatt says when the game is over. “South Ripley played zone, so we know the foul differential is going to be there. In the second half, I thought we did a better job adjusting to how the game was called and how we were pressuring. I was happy overall with how we played. We feel like our pressure is something teams don’t see a lot.”
Theising, despite the loss, is happy his team did see it first-hand. South Ripley could potentially play Covenant Christian in the 2A regional in 2 ½ months. Peetz finishes with 20 points and Samples, after a quiet first half, has 15.
“We said, ‘This is going to be a chance for us to see what they are like,’” Theising says. “Don’t get me wrong. This game meant a lot to us. But our kids have to understand, it’s marathon, not a sprint. Us being undefeated, I could tell in their mind they felt like they could get away with some things. I kind of like this loss because it shows them why we get on them in practice.”
As I leave Morristown, both Covenant Christian and South Ripley stay for another game that evening. South Ripley rolls past Waldron in the losers’ bracket, 72-35. I receive a text at 9:43 p.m. that Trey Flatt scored 52 points on 11 3-pointers in an 85-58 Covenant Christian win over Lawrenceburg in the semifinal and went over 1,000 career points in the process. Dang. I missed it. But you can’t be everywhere.
The next stop is North Central, where the Panthers are hosting their annual holiday classic. It has been renamed in honor of former athletic director Paul Loggan, who died on April 12 after he tested positive for COVID-19. Loggan’s death was one of the first to hit home during the pandemic, especially in the high school sports community.
‘My hero was right here.’: Friends, family celebrate ‘Mr. North Central,’ Paul Loggan
There is another reminder as I enter the gym, where North Central’s 5 p.m. game with Park Tudor has just started. North Central’s coach, Jason Gardner, is not there and assistant Matt Green is coaching the team. Gardner is not sick, but is home in quarantine due to contact tracing.
North Central jumps out to a 14-point lead early in the second quarter and it looks like it might be a runaway. But star junior Leland Walker exits the game for a few minutes with a turned ankle and Park Tudor climbs back into the game, led by Ronald Johnson’s 12 points in the second quarter, and North Central’s lead is cut to 32-27 at halftime.
Park Tudor, coming in with a 1-2 record, has struggled from the free-throw line. The Panthers missed 20 attempts in a 50-44 loss to Beech Grove on Dec. 11, the season-opener.
“You don’t want to make too big of a deal about it because you don’t want 15, 16, 17-year-old kids to be too mental about it,” Park Tudor coach Tim Adams says later. “But it’s costing us games.”
North Central, coming in with a 3-3 record (losses to Plainfield, Carmel and Crispus Attucks), leads 45-43 with 6 minutes left. But B.J. Williams hits a huge 3-pointer and North Central’s lead never gets below four points on its way to a 62-55 victory. Walker, looking stronger in the second half, scores 15 of his game-high 22 points. Quinton Boyd, a 6-5, 225-pound senior, has 10 points off the bench.
Free throws are again a missed opportunity for Park Tudor, which made just 6-for-14 from the line. But it is also clear Park Tudor is much better than its 1-3 record shows. The Class 2A Panthers play in the same sectional with Covenant Christian and will be a factor. Johnson finishes with 22 points and senior teammate JC Glenn adds 21, accounting for 43 of the team’s 55 points.
“We’re close,” Adams says in the locker room after the game. “We’re coming up against some 4A schools here and it’s coming down to the last possessions of the game. We know these types of games now that hopefully we can look back at the end of the year and know we’ve learned from and grown.”
I’m tempted to stay and watch the next game between Hammond and Avon, but saw both teams a couple weeks ago and hope to see Avon again soon in the Hendricks County tournament (Hammond wins, 77-68).
Instead, it’s back to Lebanon where I started the day.
I see Pike coach Bill Zych and his wife, Janet, when I reenter the Lebanon gym. Zych has been watching the Western-Metropolitan game and alerts me to a guard from Western that has 22 points and six 3-pointers after the first quarter.
OK, that sounds interesting.
The guard is Western senior Kyle Sanders. He has 29 points by halftime and 39 with 2:11 left in the third quarter. Sanders, 8-for-10 from the 3-point line, is one 3-pointer and six points away from breaking the school’s single-game records. But the score is lopsided and Western coach Mike Lewis knows there are two games ahead for his team on Wednesday. His starters, Sanders included, are done for the night.
“Coach told me, ‘We’ve got two games tomorrow so take a breather,’” Sanders says after the game.
Lewis calls Sanders, “the best leader I’ve coached.” And he stays engaged in the game, along with the rest of the regulars, as the reserves finish off a 75-51 victory that was not nearly as close as the final score. I ask Sanders about his coach’s comment.
“I think my dad instilled that in me,” Sanders says, “to just have a positive impact. Then coach Lewis, freshman year, always talked about having a positive impact on others. I think it stems from those two guys.”
Sanders laughs when I asked him if he’s been shooting like that all season. Western, now 3-3, had lost three consecutive games after a virus-related stoppage for two weeks.
“Coach brought in the stat sheet and we were all shooting below 30% from the 3-point line,” Sanders said. “It was nice to see the ball go in a couple times early. I just kept finding seams in the back of their press and I got open shots, thanks to my teammates.”
Sanders, a standout golfer, could play both sports in college. Indiana Wesleyan golf coach Kyle Bloom is there to talk to him after the game, along with basketball assistant Jeff Clark.
Western, a late addition in the tournament after New Palestine was forced to drop out, advances to play the winner of the final game of the night between two teams I had not seen in person yet: Pike vs. Mooresville.
Pike is able to get a little separation in the first half, leading 17-10 midway through the second quarter. But Mooresville closes the half strong and trails just 21-20 at halftime. Miles McGowen, a 6-7 senior, is giving Pike problems inside and will finish the night with 17 points and eight rebounds. Pike senior and Missouri football recruit Kyran Montgomery is out due to sickness.
“That’s the first game we saw a team that was really big inside and we couldn’t combat it with our quickness,” Zych says after the game. “They did a good job on their zone. We got a couple steals that kind of got us going a little bit in the second half.”
Pike, leading 33-30 at the end of the third quarter, pulls away with a 12-3 run to start the fourth and wins, 55-43. Sophomore guard Devon Woods is a catalyst for the late Pike run and finishes with 10 points, three assists and two steals. Ryan Conwell has 16 points and Eddie Jones adds 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Pike normally starts each season with a tournament in Illinois. That was wiped off the schedule this year. But Zych likes the opportunity to play in a tournament setting.
“(Wednesday) will be kind of like a regional,” Zych says. “You don’t really have time to prepare for the opponent. It’s not totally like going to Rockford, where you can get away and build some chemistry, but I like the format we’re playing. It’s quick preparation time.”
It’s a few minutes after 10 p.m. when I leave, just after the Mooresville bus takes off. After 11 hours, three sites, and at least parts of six games, my holiday basketball appetite is satisfied for one day.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at 317-444-6649.