Scores

Today is Thursday, February 22, 2018.

Thursday, February 22, 2018
National Basketball Assoc.
Knicks vs. Magic 7:00 (EST) Preview

Magic get Gordon, Vucevic back for Knicks game

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:23 PM (EST)

The Orlando Magic are getting a dose of good news while the last three weeks have been nothing but bad news for the New York Knicks.

The Magic are expected to get Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic back from injuries Thursday when they host the Knicks, who are trying to stop an eight-game losing streak.

Gordon is returning after missing nine games because of a hip flexor injury after missing time earlier in the season because of a calf injury and a concussion.

Vucevic is coming back from missing nearly two months because of a broken bone in his left hand.

Orlando (18-39) went 4-5 in Gordon's absence with four defeats by single digits and a stirring comeback victory from 21 points down against Cleveland on Feb. 6.

The Magic are 5-13 in the 18 games Gordon has missed.

Gordon leads the team in scoring at 18.4 points per game. He is shooting 44.7 percent after shooting 32.8 percent in his last seven games following a 30-point showing against Cleveland on Jan. 6.

The Magic were 7-16 without Vucevic and most of the losses piled up early in his absence. The Magic dropped eight of the first nine games without him, but since Jan. 12, they are 6-8.

Vucevic is third on the team at 17.4 points per game and leads the team in rebounding with 9.3. Before getting hurt, he was averaging 22.1 points and 13 rebounds in his previous eight games.

Instead of going on vacation during the All-Star break, Vucevic continued working out to improve his conditioning.

"I felt like it was much easier for me to stay here and get the work done in our gym with everything available," he told reporters following practice Monday.

"I did some work every day but (Monday), which was my day off. It was good for me to do some conditioning and shooting, so I'm in better shape and I'll use (the two practices) and then be back Thursday to play."

Without Gordon and Vucevic, Mario Hezonja received ample playing time. Hezonja averaged 16.8 points while playing 25 to 35 minutes in Gordon's absence.

Although Orlando headed into the All-Star break with a three-game losing streak following a 104-102 loss to Charlotte on Feb. 14, Hezonja scored at least 20 points for the third straight game.

"People step up and Mario is playing great and hopefully he can keep that up," Gordon told reporters.

Orlando beat the Knicks twice earlier this season when New York was at or above .500. The Knicks (23-36) are 12-25 since a 105-100 loss to the Magic in New York on Dec. 3 when Tim Hardaway Jr. injured his leg.

Since getting to 17-14 with a victory over the Boston Celtics on Dec. 21, the Knicks are 6-22. They enter Thursday on their sixth losing streak of at least eight games since the start of the 2013-14 season.

New York's skid continued when it blew a 27-point lead in a 118-113 home loss to the Washington Wizards on Feb. 14. Hardaway scored 32 of his 37 points in the first half, while Enes Kanter totaled 24 and 14 and Michael Beasley finished 16.

That trio will comprise New York's starting frontcourt since Kristaps Porzingis is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee, though Beasley missed practice with a right ear infection and might sit out Thursday.

The starting backcourt will be different, with veteran Jarrett Jack going to the bench while the Knicks see how young guards Frank Ntilikina, Emanuel Mudiay, and Trey Burke perform with increased minutes.

"Just giving the young guys some more chances," New York coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters at practice Tuesday. "We might win with those guys. So, we'll throw them out there and they'll take their lumps probably at times, but you got to get through that, you got to battle through that, learn and build up the consistency."

Ntilikina averaged 5.2 points and 3.2 assists while playing 20.1 minutes in his first 56 NBA games, Burke is averaging 7.4 points on 54.1 percent shooting in 13 games since joining the Knicks last month, and Mudiay scored 29 points in his first three games after being acquired from Denver on Feb. 8.

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Nets vs. Hornets 7:00 (EST) Preview

Hornets begin playoff push versus Nets

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:43 PM (EST)

The Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets will each feature a new look when they return from the All-Star break to duel Thursday night in Charlotte, N.C.

Star point guard D'Angelo Russell is expected to make his first start for the Nets since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in November.

The team's leading scorer has played 13 games as a reserve under a minutes restriction since returning from his two-month absence.

He averaged 18.3 points in 28.7 minutes in his last three games before the break. That, coupled with the additional week off, has gotten him deemed ready to resume the starting role he had to begin the season.

The Nets, already well out of playoff contention and without their first-round pick this June, are seeking to gather momentum for the 2018-19 season with improved play in the "second half," as they thought they'd done last year when they finished 11-15 after going into the break with just nine total wins (9-47).

"We'd love to have any facsimile to that," assured Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who won the skills competition at the All-Star Game. "We'd love to go .500 or roughly .500 or above .500 and kind of turn our season around a little bit to have a little more optimism heading into the offseason."

The Nets entered the break with a 19-40 record, having lost seven in a row. They have yet to play Charlotte this season.

The Hornets won last year's season series 3-1, with all four games featuring tight finishes. The total margin of victory in the four games was 17 points.

Surely, having three games remaining against the Nets is one reason for optimism for the Hornets, who haven't given up hope of returning to the NBA postseason after having missed the playoffs last season.

The Hornets (24-33) will begin the "second half" with the 10th-best record in the Eastern Conference, trailing No. 8 seed Miami by 5 1/2 games.

Charlotte has no games remaining against the Heat, which might be a good thing. Miami swept the season series 4-0.

Eleven of the Hornets' next 18 games are against teams with losing records, giving a club that went into the break with four losses in its last five games something positive to look forward to during the week off.

"Not only physically do guys feel a lot better, but just mentally," Hornets forward Marvin Williams tweeted during the break. "Sometimes, the All-Star break is a great time to step back from basketball, decompress a little bit and refocus on what we have to do to make this playoff push the next couple of weeks."

While the players were decompressing, Hornets chief decision-maker Michael Jordan was busy firing general manager Rich Cho this week.

Assistant GM Buzz Peterson has been promoted while Jordan interviews candidates for Cho's fulltime replacement. Former Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is said to be among the candidates.

One of Cho's final acts as GM was dealing away a pair of second-round draft choices, along with Johnny O'Bryant, to the New York Knicks for Willy Hernangomez.

Hernangomez saw no action in his first four games with the Hornets after the trade.

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76ers vs. Bulls 8:00 (EST) Preview

76ers playing for playoff position, Bulls playing for future

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:42 PM (EST)

CHICAGO -- The Philadelphia 76ers will spend the rest of the regular season attempting to position themselves for a spot in the playoffs. The Chicago Bulls, meanwhile, will spend it focusing largely on the future.

The 76ers come out of the All-Star break as the Eastern Conference's No. 7 seed. But they will enter Thursday's game against the Bulls at the United Center well within reach of the No. 4 seed.

As they begin to approach the season's stretch run, the 76ers do so understanding that they their play will determine what their postseason chances look like, which provides plenty of incentive to build some momentum against a Chicago team that will devote chunks of the remainder of the regular season looking to develop young talent.

Philadelphia enters Thursday's game having won its last five games.

"The last couple of games, we've been playing great," 76ers center Joel Embiid told Philly.com. "So we just have to keep the same momentum."

In addition to angling for playoff positioning, the 76ers will begin the final 27-game stretch with the understanding that if they can get to within the top four seeds, they will begin the postseason with home-court advantage. Each of Philadelphia's past five victories all came at home.

The 76ers (30-25) are just two games back of No. 4 seed Washington and will face only seven teams with winning records the rest of the way. The Bulls are among the 20 opponents that are playing sub-.500 basketball, which should make for an easier road for Philadelphia.

But the 76ers also realize they must take advantage of the opportunity in front of them.

Embiid will return on Thursday after missing the final game before the break with an ankle injury. But even without him, Philadelphia was able to extend its winning streak behind Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Marco Belinelli -- all of whom reached double figures in a victory over the Heat as the 76ers erased a second-half 24-point deficit.

The 76ers won for just the third time in 11 games while playing without Embiid.

"So that was kind of great for the guys to know that they didn't need me all the time," Embiid said.

The Bulls (20-37) have lost eight of their past 10 games as they prepare to finish the regular season in experimental mode. While the Bulls have gotten solid performances from its young core of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and rookie Lauri Markkanen, Chicago is committed to seeing what it can get from younger players who have spent this season performing mostly as reserves.

Thursday against Philadelphia, Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba will replace Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday in the starting lineup as Bulls executives strive to better understand what they have in place as they start to enter the next phase of what is expected to be a multi-year rebuilding process.

"You can't play 12 guys in our game. Nine or 10 is the most. And it's just the position we're in as a young team, (with a) 20-37 (record), with a lot of young guys and several who we haven't really had the chance to see play much this year," Bulls executive vice president John Paxson told the Chicago Tribune. "For us to make the proper evaluation in terms of who fits us moving forward, this is something we have to do."

Paxson added: "We have to look at the big picture."

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Wizards vs. Cavaliers 8:00 (EST) Preview

Cavaliers look to continue surge against Wizards

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:37 PM (EST)

Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said the team's four new players forgot all the plays over the All-Star break, so Wednesday's practice was a busy day to re-teach and re-learn.

No one is forgetting about the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavs now, especially since LeBron James has awakened from his January slumber.

So has his team.

The Cavs resume play after the All-Star break by hosting the Washington Wizards on Thursday. Cleveland has won four straight and James is averaging 30 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 13 assists in those games.

Two of those wins came with new players George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. - all of whom were acquired at the Feb. 8 trade deadline. They are averaging 48.5 points and shooting 51.4 percent from the field as a group.

"I don't see them being scared or being afraid of the moment," Lue said Wednesday.

The Cavs were 7-13 since Christmas leading up to the deadline, needing a serious injection of attitude and energy. The same went for James, who saw major dips in production in January while the Cavs struggled.

General manager Koby Altman traded away six players Feb. 8 -- including Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Derrick Rose -- and the mood around the team has been noticeably lighter since.

James is back to being, well, James. He was named the NBA All-Star Game MVP for the third time in his career Sunday, and his team (named Team LeBron, because of the new format) edged Stephen Curry's team 148-145.

With the hoopla from the All-Star weekend in Los Angeles behind him, James is ready to begin talking about the Cavs contending for a title -- something he hadn't been able discuss over the past month.

"We have a lot of work to do," James said. "We just added four new guys before the break, and we have a lot of work to do. So I really don't like to think that too far ahead. But obviously winning championships is what it's all about. That's what this league is all about and hopefully at the end of the road then I have the Cavs there to actually compete for one, to be in a Finals representing the East. So that's my goal. Getting back."

Cleveland sits third in the East, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Wizards. Washington has been hot lately, winning two straight and seven of their last nine, and has been largely riding the hot play of All-Star Bradley Beal (36 points in his last game against the Knicks).

Otto Porter Jr. is averaging nearly 20 points over his last nine games.

All-Star guard John Wall is expected to be out until mid-March after knee surgery before the All-Star break.

The Wizards have the third-toughest schedule in the NBA after the All-Star break, according to basketball-reference.com

"We take advantage of (the All-Star break) because we got a lot of guys banged up," Beal said, according to the Washington Post. "We still got John out. So, we got to get as much rest and take care of our bodies as much as we can. I think (the break) came at a good time, although we were definitely on a nice, little run. We finished off well, going into All-Star (weekend), and we've got to pick it up right where we left off."

Wizards guard Tim Frazier (broken nose) is expected to play against the Cavs and wear a mask.

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Thunder vs. Kings 10:00 (EST) Preview

Streaky Thunder face Kings, look for consistency

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:45 PM (EST)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- An air of mystery about the fate of the Oklahoma City Thunder surrounds the team as they prepare to embark on the final 23 games of their season.

The Thunder remain optimistic they possess the talent to move up another couple rungs in the Western Conference. Their critics remain steadfast that the inconsistency Oklahoma City showed in the season's first half may continue to bite them now that the All-Star break is over.

The Sacramento Kings only wish they had such problems. With them, there's no mystery whatsoever.

The Thunder (33-26) and Kings (18-39) resume the regular season Thursday night at the Golden 1 Center. To say the two teams are headed in different directions is an understatement.

Oklahoma City, considered among one of the Western Conference favorites before the season after acquiring Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to complement reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, experienced a first half of fits and starts. Oklahoma City rolled through separate eight- and six-game winning streaks, but it also struggled through two four-game losing streaks, the second of which followed their season-best winning streak.

The Thunder lost six of nine heading into to the break. They sit two games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the third spot in the Western Conference and one game back in the loss column behind fourth-place Minnesota.

Anthony has been particularly inconsistent. His 41.2 percent shooting from the field in the season's first half is a career-worst mark, as is his 17.1 points per game.

A season-ending injury to Andre Roberson on Jan. 28 only seemed to add to Anthony's struggles. According to the Daily Oklahoman, Anthony has the team's second-lowest net defensive rating (point differential per 100 possessions when in the game) since Robertson's injury, with a mark of negative-1.

"I haven't really got a chance to sit down and kind of breathe a little bit and relax," Anthony told the Daily Oklahoman on Wednesday. "Everything's happened so fast. So this past week (of the break) was very helpful for me."

Westbook and George each enjoyed big first halves. Westbook, who averaged a triple-double (31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists) in his MVP season, is only slightly off a triple-double pace this season (25.4 points, 10.4 assists, 9.4 rebounds). George is averaging 22.5 points and career-high and league-best 2.2 steals.

The Kings, now a full year removed from the trade of All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, start the second half of their season with far less fanfare than a season ago. The team has been open about a rebuilding effort that started from ground zero after the Cousins trade, and their first half went about as expected.

That said, they've seen glimpses of promise, particularly from the backcourt. Rookie De'Aaron Fox averaged 11.3 points and a team-best 4.3 assists in 27 minutes per contest. Fellow rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic totaled 11.5 points in 27.4 minutes while canning 40 percent of his 3-pointers.

Bogdanovic also provided one of the Kings' highlights by nailing seven 3-pointers in 22 minutes and earning MVP honors in the Rising Stars Challenge. He scored some of those points while going against Fox.

"It was fun to play against him," he told reporters. "As you can see, we have great chemistry on the court, and I'm looking forward to transferring that to the Sacramento Kings."

The two teams have split their two meetings this season, with Oklahoma City winning 95-88 at home on Jan. 15 in their most recent contest.

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Clippers vs. Warriors 10:30 (EST) Preview

Clippers hope to continue surge against Warriors

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:35 PM (EST)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Two teams at the opposite ends of the Western Conference playoff race square off to begin the NBA's second half Thursday night when the Los Angeles Clippers visit the Golden State Warriors.

Surprisingly, it is the Clippers who will tip off the game with the better recent form of the two.

The last time they visited Oakland, on Jan. 10, the Clippers were 18-21 and floundering in the West, already a full 14 games behind the Warriors in the Pacific Division.

But the Clippers stunned the defending champs 125-106 that night, triggering a 12-5 sprint to the All-Star break.

They're still 13 games behind the Warriors in the Pacific, but the recent run -- the third-best in the NBA behind Houston (16-2) and Utah (14-4) -- has vaulted them back into the thick of things in the Western playoff chase.

The Clippers (30-26) will take the court Thursday in ninth place in the West and currently out of a playoff position, but they are tied in the loss column with the four teams immediately ahead of them -- Oklahoma City (33-26), Denver (32-26), Portland (32-26) and New Orleans (31-26) -- and just two losses behind the current No. 3-seed (San Antonio, 35-24).

Left for dead when they dealt star Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 29, the Clippers instead have parlayed greater depth and improved health to a 5-2 mark since the trade.

"I think a lot of people slept on us when we got all these players," point guard Austin Rivers said of the trade. "But I think we're getting better and better."

Tobias Harris (17.2) and Avery Bradley (9.2) have combined for 26.4 points per game since moving from the Pistons to the Clippers.

Danilo Gallinari has poured in an average of 20.1 points in seven games since returning from a partially torn glute.

And Rivers has chipped in with 13.3 points per game since rehabbing an ankle injury.

Mix in the consistently high-level play of DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams, who had 50 points in that Jan. 10 meeting with the Warriors, and the Clippers will return to Oakland with an attack far beefier than the one that put up 125 points in their last visit.

Like the Clippers, the Warriors return from the break within arm's length of where they want to be -- atop the Western standings. Their 11-6 record since Jan. 10, a game worse than the Clippers, has caused them to drop below the surging Rockets in the race for the NBA's best record.

Golden State (44-14) will enter play Thursday a half-game behind Houston (44-13), with the Rockets already having clinched a potential tie-breaker by virtue of a 2-1 win in the season series.

The Warriors' biggest problem of late -- first quarters. The team with the league's third-best net points per game (plus-8.1) has trailed after the first quarter in 17 of its last 30 games, and has fallen behind by at least 10 points a whopping 23 times this season.

The Warriors have rallied to win 13 of those latter 23 games, but that's missing the point, guard Stephen Curry said.

"We obviously need to fix the first quarters," he observed. "It's a consistent theme."

The problem was getting progressively worse just before the break. The Warriors were outscored by an average of 34-26 in the first quarter in a four-game homestand against Oklahoma City, Dallas, San Antonio and Phoenix, then got boat-raced 40-27 in the opening period of their 123-117 loss at Portland in their final game before the break.

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Men's College Basketball
Wisconsin vs. Northwestern 7:00 (EST)
Purdue vs. Illinois 7:00 (EST) Preview

No. 9 Purdue hopes to have Vincent Edwards vs. Illinois

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:39 PM (EST)

Purdue senior forward Vincent Edwards, the No. 9 Boilermakers' second-leading scorer and top rebounder who suffered a sprained ankle injury in practice Saturday, said he is a "game-time decision" to play Thursday at Illinois.

The ankle swelled to twice its size, making Edwards (14.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game) concerned that he may have suffered a fracture.

"I was just praying it wasn't broke," Edwards told the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier.

X-rays showed Edwards did not suffer a fracture. He missed Sunday's game against Penn State and has not practiced since sustaining the injury.

Purdue (24-5, 13-3 Big Ten) can earn a share of the conference title if it wins out and Michigan State loses at Wisconsin on Sunday. The Boilermakers are practically locked into a No. 2 or 3 seed for the conference tournament.

Illinois (13-16, 3-13) is coming off an 81-61 loss at No. 2 Michigan State on Tuesday. Junior forward Leron Black notched his third straight game with at least 20 points by scoring 20 for the Fighting Illini.

The defeat, occurring in Michigan State's last home game, was one that gave first-year Illinois coach Brad Underwood an opportunity to show his players how he wanted to emulate Tom Izzo's program.

The Fighting Illini, who have lost five of their last six games and are 0-9 in true road games this season, looked on when Izzo called timeout in the waning seconds to allow his seniors a standing ovation.

"I want them to be able to do that," Underwood said of his players. "I want them to play for being able to kiss the floor in front of 15,000. That's when you're invested in the program. That's the growth I'm looking for."

Illinois will play its last home game of the season against a Purdue team that has lost three of its last four contests.

The Boilermakers have lived on the edge lately, playing five straight games decided by four points or fewer and eight in a row by eight or fewer.

In the 76-73 victory over visiting Penn State on Sunday, Purdue survived without Edwards behind sophomore guard Carsen Edwards' 27 points and three steals, and senior guard Dakota Mathias' 18 points and two steals.

Carsen Edwards, no relation to Vincent Edwards, leads the Boilermakers with 17.4 points per game.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said he believes that when Vincent Edwards is cleared to play, he will be refreshed and that will help the Boilermakers with the NCAA Tournament around the corner.

"For the guy who does get injured to be able to take a step back and watch while some of what goes on while you're getting healthy, it can give you a shot in the arm," Painter said. "It is hard when you're grinding it out. Now you get a little mental reprieve from all of it. You get healthy physically, but mentally you have that freshness.

"NBA people talk about it a lot, when guys get injured and now they come back, it's not just the physical piece."

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Rider vs. Monmouth 7:00 (EST)
Robert Morris vs. Mount St. Mary's 7:00 (EST)
FGCU vs. Stetson 7:00 (EST)
Winthrop vs. UNC Asheville 7:00 (EST)
Delaware vs. Drexel 7:00 (EST)
NJIT vs. USC Upstate 7:00 (EST)
Radford vs. Liberty 7:00 (EST)
Connecticut vs. Cincinnati 7:00 (EST) Preview

No. 11 Cincinnati aims to snap skid vs. UConn

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:31 PM (EST)

Cincinnati has to try to stop a losing streak for only the second time this season Thursday night when it hosts Connecticut.

The No. 11 Bearcats have dropped their last two outings, a 67-62 decision at Houston on Feb. 15, then fell to No. 13 Wichita State 76-72 at home on Sunday.

Both losses were close, and both had several common denominators, most noticeably, an inability to rebound.

Cincinnati was outrebounded 36-27 by the Cougars but outrebounded the Shockers 27-26. Wichita State, though, shot 52.9 percent from the floor including 8 of 18 from beyond the arc.

"(That) is indicative of our lack of defensive communication and lack of our adherence to the scouting report," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "Combined with, they have a very good team. They made a few hard shots, but we gave them way too many wide-open shots. Defensive breakdowns."

The Bearcats had won 39 straight home games before the Wichita State loss, their third this season against a team in the AP Top 25 poll.

Cincinnati's only losing streak occurred when it lost to No. 4 Xavier and then-No. 5 Florida on Dec. 2 and 9, respectively.

"Our defense has to get better," junior wing Jacob Evans said. "We can get better mentally with being locked in all the time. Especially late in the season, every team is better and every team knows us well. They've been watching us all season."

UConn snapped a two-game skid with an 84-80 victory over East Carolina on Sunday but has dropped seven of its last 10 games overall and four of its last five on the road.

Coach Kevin Ollie adjusted his lineup for the ECU game, utilizing a three-guard set that included Antwoine Anderson who made his first start since Jan. 28.

"Really, it was Antwoine for defensive purposes and we know they were going small," Ollie said. "They had a lot guards. We didn't do well starting the game off, but 'Twoine was able to get loose for some assists and get Jalen (Adams) off the ball, where he's not seeing five defenders every time at the top of the key trying to make something happen."

Defense has been a problem for the Huskies, too, of late but they forced nine turnovers against the Pirates and on the offensive end, made 13 of 26 3-pointers and shot 58.2 percent overall.

"We've just got to get better defensively, and we've got to rebound the ball better," Ollie said.

Connecticut is shooting a combined 49 percent in its last four games following a 65-57 loss to the Bearcats earlier this month.

Junior guard Jalen Adams scored 20 points with four assists in that contest but the Huskies made only 36.4 percent of their shots in the loss, their fourth in a row to Cincinnati.

Like the Bearcats, the Huskies have yet to beat a top five opponent this season, dropping all six contests against ranked opponents this year and 12 in a row dating back to the 2015-16 season.

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Longwood vs. High Point 7:00 (EST)
North Texas vs. FIU 7:00 (EST)
Old Dominion vs. Marshall 7:00 (EST)
North Florida vs. Jacksonville 7:00 (EST)
Rice vs. Florida Atlantic 7:00 (EST)
Clark Atlanta vs. Morehouse 7:00 (EST)
Milwaukee vs. Detroit 7:00 (EST)
Green Bay vs. Oakland 7:00 (EST)
Elon vs. Charleston 7:00 (EST)
Sacred Heart vs. Bryant 7:00 (EST)
Hofstra vs. James Madison 7:00 (EST)
Saint Francis U vs. Fairleigh Dickinson 7:00 (EST)
Gardner-Webb vs. Presbyterian 7:00 (EST)
Wagner vs. Central Connecticut State 7:00 (EST)
UNCW vs. William & Mary 7:00 (EST)
Towson vs. Northeastern 7:00 (EST)
Campbell vs. Charleston Southern 7:30 (EST)
Kennesaw State vs. Lipscomb 7:30 (EST)
UT Martin vs. Morehead State 7:30 (EST)
Charlotte vs. Western Kentucky 8:00 (EST)
North Dakota State vs. Western Illinois 8:00 (EST)
Coastal Carolina vs. Little Rock 8:00 (EST)
South Dakota vs. South Dakota State 8:00 (EST)
Georgia Southern vs. UT Arlington 8:00 (EST)
Oral Roberts vs. Omaha 8:00 (EST)
Southern Miss vs. UTSA 8:00 (EST)
Austin Peay vs. SIUE 8:00 (EST)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. Abilene Christian 8:00 (EST)
UMKC vs. UT Rio Grande Valley 8:00 (EST)
Southeast Missouri State vs. Eastern Kentucky 8:00 (EST)
St. Francis Brooklyn vs. LIU Brooklyn 8:00 (EST)
Louisiana-Monroe vs. South Alabama 8:05 (EST)
Louisiana vs. Troy 8:15 (EST)
Sacramento State vs. Northern Arizona 8:30 (EST)
Appalachian State vs. Arkansas State 8:30 (EST)
Georgia State vs. Texas State 8:30 (EST)
Murray State vs. Eastern Illinois 8:30 (EST)
Tennessee State vs. Tennessee Tech 8:30 (EST)
Portland State vs. Southern Utah 8:30 (EST)
Belmont vs. Jacksonville State 9:00 (EST)
UCLA vs. Utah 9:00 (EST)
Louisiana Tech vs. UTEP 9:00 (EST)
Gonzaga vs. San Diego 9:00 (EST) Preview

No. 6 Gonzaga aims to hold slim WCC lead

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:14 PM (EST)

Gonzaga is a two-game road trip away from yet another West Coast Conference regular-season title.

But it will be a tricky one.

On Thursday, the No. 6 Zags play at defensive-minded San Diego before traveling to face BYU in the regular-season finale.

Gonzaga (25-4, 15-1 WCC) holds a one-game lead over Saint Mary's, which hosts Pepperdine on Thursday and plays at Santa Clara on Saturday.

When the Bulldogs beat San Diego 69-59 on Feb. 1 in Spokane, Wash., they closed the game with a 13-5 run after the Toreros got within two.

Closing out games late has become a theme for Gonzaga over the past month.

On Saturday, last-place Pepperdine also got with two late before the Zags rattled off 11 straight points to start a game-ending 15-3 run.

"It was time to win, time to make the small, little plays that don't show up on the stat sheet that matter," junior point guard Josh Perkins told the (Spokane) Spokesman-Review. "Whether it's diving on the ball or getting a steal or taking a charge ... we did that."

With the 81-67 victory over the Waves, Gonzaga reached the 25-win mark for the 11th straight year -- only Kansas (12) has a longer active streak -- and saved Senior Night.

The Bulldogs had surrendered double-digit leads and lost their final home games the past two seasons.

"We needed to win this game," Zags forward Johnathan Williams said. "And basically, we started getting stops and rebounds."

To get to 10 straight wins, Gonzaga on Thursday will likely focus on Olin Carter III, who made five 3-pointers and scored 21 points in the first meeting.

Perkins and backcourt mate Silas Melson are likely to share that defensive assignment.

San Diego (17-11, 8-8) is coming off an impressive 75-62 win over BYU in which Carter reached the 1,000-point mark for his career.

For the first time this season, the Toreros' two leading scorers, Isaiah Pineiro and Isaiah Wright, did not start the game.

"I thought some of our details had gone away," Toreros coach Lamont Smith told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I thought they needed to understand that no one is bigger than the program."

It worked.

"I was mad," Pineiro said after scoring a game-high 20 points in 24 minutes.

"I didn't like that, of course," said Wright, who had 11 points, three assists and three rebounds. "I'm a competitor."

The Toreros built a 13-point first-half lead against the Cougars and stretched it to 16 in the second half. BYU got within 61-56 before San Diego closed it out with a 14-6 run.

"I'd say the best game we played in conference, for sure," Smith said. "From start to finish."

San Diego, which is tied with San Francisco and Santa Clara for fifth place, clinched a winning record for only the second time in 10 years and stopped a two-game losing skid for the fifth time this season.

"They've been resilient all year," Smith said. "We reached a tough patch, but they grinded for everything, just kept fighting. We could easily have rolled over, felt sorry for ourselves. But we picked ourselves off the canvas."

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Houston vs. Memphis 9:00 (EST) Preview

No. 23 Houston looks to keep momentum during trip to Memphis

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:08 PM (EST)

Surging Houston is back in the top 25 for the first time in 13 years but will have to do some work to stay there, beginning with Thursday's game with resurgent Memphis in what has become a key American Athletic Conference game at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn.

The 23rd-ranked Cougars (21-5, 11-3 in AAC play) have won five straight games (and seven of their past eight), including their latest benchmark victory over then-No. 5 Cincinnati on Feb. 15. Houston followed up that game with a 21-point win on the road at Temple in which the Cougars scored the contest's first 15 points and rolled to the easy victory.

"(The ranking) gives our program great credibility," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. "It gives our kids something they can touch and say 'look what we accomplished.' It means you're one of the 25 best teams in America."

That status has been rare -- and fleeting -- for the Cougars since the early 1980s when they were regularly among college basketball's elite programs. Houston has spent just three weeks in the rankings since finishing as national runner-up in 1983-84. The Cougars were ranked No. 25 for two weeks in 1992 and for one week in December 2005.

In Houston's most recent win at Temple, Corey Davis Jr. scored 20 points (with nine of those on three 3-pointers in the first three and a half minutes) while Devin Davis forged a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The Cougars amassed a 53-22 rebounding edge in the victory.

With its two wins last week and Cincinnati's pair of losses to Houston and No. 12 Wichita State, both the Cougars and Shockers are within one game of UC's conference lead with four games to play.

"Words can't explain what the ranking means to us, because that's one of our goals," Corey Davis said after the win against Temple. "But even after this game, coach is telling us what we need to do better. We get no reward for being 21-5. The season's still going, and we want to stay hungry. There's a lot of things we still want to accomplish."

Memphis (16-11, 7-7 in AAC play) might be playing its best basketball of the season, bringing a two-game win streak (both on the road) into Thursday's game. This surge comes on the heels of a stretch in which it lost five of six games that prompted Tigers coach Tubby Smith to ditch his man-to-man defense in favor of a 2-3 zone.

"One of the things we talked about is being able to fight through those adversities when things are not going well and make the stops, get the stops and the make the plays," Smith said. "Our zone defense has been the key to that."

The move to the zone highlights the length Memphis possesses on the perimeter.

"It's actually helping us a lot because we're not all kind of spread out," the Tigers' Jeremiah Martin added about the new defense. "It's good for us because it eliminates a lot of dribble penetration."

Smith said that the Tigers must improve their footwork, containment and close-outs to compete with Houston, which ranks second in the AAC in scoring and field-goal percentage.

"To bounce back and get these two wins, it gives us a lot of confidence," Memphis' Mike Parks Jr. said. "We just got to keep it up."

This is the only time these two teams will meet this season. Memphis leads the overall series with the Cougars, which began on Dec. 8, 1956, 31-15.

Houston won the most recent meeting and has captured two of the past three games between the two teams, including a 72-71 victory in Memphis last year that snapped a 14-game road losing streak to the Tigers dating back to the 2001-02 season. Memphis owns a 19-4 all-time home record against the Cougars.

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Chicago State vs. New Mexico State 9:00 (EST)
Eastern Washington vs. Weber State 9:00 (EST)
Washington vs. Stanford 9:00 (EST)
Seattle vs. Grand Canyon 9:00 (EST)
Idaho vs. Idaho State 9:00 (EST)
Arizona vs. Oregon State 9:00 (EST) Preview

Arizona-Oregon St. Preview

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Thursday, February 22 at 2:04 AM (EST)

On the surface, No. 14 Arizona facing host Oregon State would look like a one-sided game favoring the Wildcats.

But history has shown the unranked Beavers have been able to knock off the ranked Wildcats six times in 29 seasons, most recently three years ago.

This season, Oregon State (13-13, 5-9 in the Pac-12 Conference) seemingly has all the tools to give Arizona fits when it is on offense. Arizona struggles against a zone defense and in slow-down games.

"They are a very physical team," said Arizona coach Sean Miller, whose team is 21-6 overall and 11-3 in conference. "(They) takes a lot of pride in their half-court defense. They do it by playing a lot of zone (but) not all zone. Even when they are in man-to-man, they are very physical."

Miller pointed to Drew Eubanks, who leads the Pac-12 with 2.4 blocked shots per game.

Eubanks "is one of the more underrated players in our conference. He's very good. Part of Oregon State's physicality is him. He's rugged and he does it on defense and offense."

Miller said in Arizona's 62-53 win earlier this season, the Wildcats could not get enough good shots because of Oregon State's defense.

"We had large segments in that game where we didn't play exceptionally well," Miller said. "We're going to have to be better this time around."

It might be perfect timing for Arizona that it has played some of its best basketball in the last two games, if only in stretches in one and for most of the 40 minutes in another.

Arizona is coming off wins over Southern California and Arizona State, respectively. Against USC, Arizona played perhaps its best game of the season, playing excellent in transition and on defense.

Against Arizona State, the Wildcats jumped out to a 30-15 lead only to lose the lead after a 31-6 run by the Sun Devils. Arizona regrouped and won going away, 77-70.

Miller said he does see "a confidence about us" that is good. Adding that his team does realize March is just around the corner and there is still plenty to play for.

"The end is near and sometimes that can really bring out the best in the group," Miller said. "Hopefully that will be ours."

Senior center Dusan Ristic of Arizona is one win away from tying the school for wins for a career. He has 109 and is one shy of former players Matt Muehlebach (1988-91) and Kaleb Tarczewski (2013-16).

The Beavers are hoping to make an end-of-the-season run.

Last week, despite losing, they played USC and UCLA close. Miller pointed that out and forward Tres Tinkle said: "It's not really out of the question" when asked about Oregon State's postseason hopes still being there.

"We've played with every single team, so if we get this thing flipped I think we could make a run for ourselves in the (Pac-12) tournament," Tinkle told reporters.

Arizona goes into the weekend with a 11/2-game lead on UCLA and USC with four games remaining in the regular season. It's gone 9-2 in the last 11 games.

"I think they are much more comfortable in their skin and everybody (is comfortable) in their roles," Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle told reporters this week. " ...They're experienced, they've been tested. I think they've really matured probably in the last four or five weeks."

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San Francisco vs. Pacific 10:00 (EST)
Loyola Marymount vs. Santa Clara 10:00 (EST)
CSUN vs. Cal Poly 10:00 (EST)
Pepperdine vs. Saint Mary's 10:00 (EST) Preview

No. 22 Saint Mary's hopes to regain swagger vs. Pepperdine

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Wednesday, February 21 at 8:37 PM (EST)

Look past the gloom and doom of Saint Mary's losing two of their past three teams, and dropping from No. 11 all the way to No. 22, and what the Gaels have is a 25-win team that still has a good chance to play into the second week of the NCAA Tournament.

"I told our team this the other day: 'We're in the last week of the season, and all of our goals are still on the table.' That's where you want to be," head coach Randy Bennett told his Gaels via sfgate.com.

Almost every team has a hiccup, especially this season, where it seems every week a handful of high-ranked teams lose on the same night.

The Gaels hit a bump in the road by losing to Gonzaga, 78-65, in a game that wasn't close from the tip. Bennett's squad carried a hangover into their next game, a seven-point loss to San Francisco.

Saint Mary's (25-4, 14-2 WCC) got back on track Saturday in Portland with a 12-point win against the Pilots. On Thursday, the Gaels will welcome Pepperdine (4-24, 1-15 WCC) to McKeon Pavilion hoping to regain some of the swagger and confidence they had built during a school-record 19-game win streak before losing to the Bulldogs.

All-time assists leader Emmett Naar's status is uncertain against the Waves. Naar injured his left ankle in the first half against the Pilots, left the game and didn't return.

"I'm not a fortune teller," Bennett said. "I can't read this thing (perfectly), but I think he'll probably play."

If Naar can't go, Jordan Ford is expected to run the point. Whoever is playing still has All-America candidate Jock Landale in the post.

Landale is averaging 21.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. After being devoured by Gonzaga's defense, which held him to just four shots and four points, Landale bounced back to score 23 points and grab 10 boards against the Pilots.

His execution and play around the basket comes as no surprise to his teammates or opposing coaches.

"It's ridiculous how unsurprising it is," Naar told the (San Jose) Mercury News before the win at Portland. "He's been doing it all year. You look at the stat sheet and he has like 30 and 15. For most players, 'Wow, that's unbelievable.' He's done it so many times now you sort of take it for granted. It's a ridiculous level he's playing at right now."

While the Waves are playing out the string with a lame-duck coach, an upset of the Gaels would be gratifying. And as this season has proven, upsets seem to be the norm, which the Gaels learned first-hand against the Dons.

Pepperdine, which announced on Feb. 13 that head coach Marty Wilson will not return for an eighth season, lost two close games last week.

BYU dropped the Waves in overtime on Feb. 15.

Against No. 6 Gonzaga on Saturday, the Waves trailed 66-64 before the Bulldogs went on an 11-0 run to put the game out of reach.

"Our focus coming into this game was to stay within striking distance," leading scorer Colbey Ross told the Pepperdine Graphic. "Gonzaga is one of the top teams in the country, but we wanted to show our game and not back down to the challenge."

Ross, a freshman guard, tallied a game-high 21 points and recorded six assists. Fellow freshman guard Trae Berhow had nine points and seven rebounds.

In the end, Gonzaga just had too much talent and made plays when it counted.

"We were struggling to stop them and bouts where we were struggling to score ourselves," Gonzaga coach Mark Few told reporters as he credited the Waves for not giving up. "But in the end, we were really solid and made plays at both ends."

[CLOSE]

Utah Valley vs. Bakersfield 10:00 (EST)
UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Irvine 10:30 (EST)
BYU vs. Portland 11:00 (EST)
Washington State vs. California 11:00 (EST)
Arizona State vs. Oregon 11:30 (EST)
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Men's College Basketball
Evansville 53 vs. 58 Indiana State Final Recap

Indiana State beats Evansville 58-53

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:33 PM (EST)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) Jordan Barnes scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Indiana State beat Evansville 58-53 on Wednesday night to sweep the season series against the Purple Aces.

Qiydar Davis added 12 points for the Sycamores (12-17, 7-10 Missouri Valley Conference), who shot just 28.8 percent from the field but made eight 3-pointers, including five by Barnes.

Ryan Taylor's jumper put Evansville up 39-37, but Demonte Ojinnaka's 3 put Indiana State up for good, 40-39, and the Sycamores led by as many as six points. The Purple Aces closed to 56-53 on Taylor's 3 with 13 seconds to go, but Barnes sealed it with two from the line.

The game was tied at 21 at halftime after neither team shot better than 26.7 percent.

Taylor scored 30 points and Dainius Chatkevicius had 10 boards for Evansville (16-14, 6-11), which has lost four straight.

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Binghamton 54 vs. 75 Vermont Final Recap

Vermont wraps up 2nd straight America East crown

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:34 PM (EST)

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) Drew Urquhart scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Ernie Duncan also had 18 points to lead Vermont to a 75-54 victory over Binghamton on Wednesday night and its second straight America East regular-season championship.

The Catamounts bounced back from their only conference loss of the season, 69-68 to Hartford on Sunday, to claim the outright title with their win over the Bearcats and UMBC's loss to Stony Brook. Vermont (23-6, 13-1) is three games ahead of the Retrievers and Hartford (both 10-2) with two games remaining.

Duncan had four 3-pointers and became the 37th player in Vermont history to reach 1,000 points. Payton Henson added 15 points and seven assists and Trae Bell-Haynes 12 points. Vermont shot 53 percent.

Fard Muhammad had 12 points, Caleb Stewart 10 and Thomas Bruce 13 rebounds to go with his nine points for the Bearcats (11-18, 2-12).

Vermont led 34-27 at halftime with a Duncan 3-pointer giving Vermont a 12-point lead with 14:30 left that remained in double figures.

[CLOSE]

Maine 76 vs. 88 Massachusetts-Lowell Final Recap

UMass Lowell trio helps tame Maine Black Bears, 88-76

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:09 PM (EST)

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) Jahad Thomas and Ryan Jones combined to score 50 points and UMass Lowell beat Maine, 88-76 in the River Hawks final home game of the season Wednesday night.

UMass Lowell is in seventh place in the America East Conference with two games remaining, including a game at UMBC on Saturday.

The River Hawks (11-16, 5-9) got 68 of their 88 total points from three scorers. Thomas scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Jones had 24 points, five rebounds and six assists, and Matt Harris added 18 points, six boards and three steals. UMass Lowell shot 52.5 percent from the field, knocking down 31 of 59 shots, including 9 of 15 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Aaron Calixte scored 18 points to lead Maine (6-23, 3-11), with Vernon Lowndes Jr. adding 16 points. Isaiah White and Andrew Fleming had 11 and 10 points, respectively.

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Army West Point 83 vs. 87 Colgate Final Recap

Rayman scores 29, Colgate downs Army 87-83

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:13 PM (EST)

HAMILTON, N.Y. (AP) Will Rayman scored 29 points, Dana Batt added a career-high 18 points, and Colgate beat Army 87-83 on Wednesday night to clinch a top-four seed in the Patriot League tournament.

Sean O'Brien scored 13 points with six assists for the Raiders (16-2, 11-6), who scored 24 points off 17 Army turnovers. Jordan Burns had seven of Colgate's 18 assists.

Colgate led by as many as 13 points, but Army closed to 62-61 on Luke Morrison's 3-pointer and tied it at 77 on Jacob Kessler's layup with 1:38 left. Colgate's Jordan Swopshire hit a go-ahead jumper and Rayman and Francisco Amiel combined for three free throws for an 82-77 lead. Thomas Funk's 3-point play made it 82-80, but the Black Knights got no closer as Colgate sealed it with five free throws in the final 26 seconds.

Funk scored 24 points, Alex King had 17, Morrison 11 and John Emezie 10 for Army (13-15, 6-11), which has lost five straight.

[CLOSE]

Duquesne 67 vs. 73 St. Bonaventure Final Recap

Adams scores 24, Saint Bonaventure tops Duquesne 73-67

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:39 PM (EST)

SAINT BONAVENTURE, N.Y. (AP) Jaylen Adams scored 24 points, leading four into double-figure scoring and Saint Bonaventure held off Duquesne 73-67 Wednesday night, running its win streak to nine games.

Saint Bonaventure (21-6, 11-4 Atlantic 10 Conference) pulled away in the final 1:35 after Duquesne came as close as 65-63 on a Tarin Smith 3-pointer. Adams answered with a jumper that sparked an 8-4 finish for the Bonnies, who had snapped Rhode Island's 16-game win streak on Sunday.

The nine-game win streak is Saint Bonaventure's longest in its A-10 history. Rhode Island rebounded with an overtime defeat of La Salle Wednesday and clinched a share of the A-10 title.

Eric Williams, Jr. led Duquesne (15-13, 6-9) with 19 points, Rene Castro-Caneddy added 15, Jordan Robinson 11 and Smith 10.

Amadi Ikpeze chipped in 13 points and 10 rebounds for Saint Bonaventure, Courtney Stockard added 12 points and Idris Taggee 11 points and eight boards.

[CLOSE]

Canisius 95 vs. 88 Niagara Final Recap

Canisius pulls away midway through 2nd, beats Niagara 95-88

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:33 PM (EST)

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) Isaiah Reese scored 26 points and Canisius beat Niagara 95-88 on Wednesday night.

Canisius (20-10, 14-3 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) rebounded from a one-point loss to Rider on Sunday and has won seven of its last eight games. Niagara (18-12, 11-6) had its four-game win streak snapped.

Reese was 9 of 15 from the floor and made four 3-pointers. Jermaine Crumpton added 16 points for the Golden Griffins, who shot 30 of 59 (51 percent) overall.

Kahlil Dukes scored 23 points and Marvin Prochet had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead Niagara.

The Purple Eagles closed the first half on a 5-0 spurt for a 40-37 halftime lead. It was tied 58-58 with 11:19 remaining when Canisius used a 25-10 run for an 83-69 lead with 5:23 to play and cruised from there.

[CLOSE]

Lafayette 65 vs. 81 Boston University Final Recap

BU carries 2nd-half run to 81-65 win over Lafayette

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:14 PM (EST)

BOSTON (AP) Javante McCoy scored 21 points and Cedric Hankerson 17 and Boston University defeated Lafayette 81-65 on Wednesday.

The Terriers (13-15, 7-10 Patriot League) seized control of the game with a 17-2 run to start the second half, led 53-43 with 14:04 left and were never threatened. McCoy made a pair of 3-pointers and Hankerson and Walter Whyte each added 3s and BU was up 67-50 with 8:07 remaining.

Justin Jaworski and Lukas Jarrett made back-to-back 3s and Lafayette led 37-22 after a 16-4 run before BU closed with a 14-4 spurt in the last six minutes of the first half and went to intermission down 41-36.

Max Mahoney and Whyte each scored 14 for BU.

Alex Petrie led Lafayette (9-19, 7-10) with 13 points and Paulius Zalys scored 11. Matt Klinewski grabbed nine rebounds.

[CLOSE]

Navy 61 vs. 85 Bucknell Final Recap

Thomas, Brown combine for 48, Bucknell cruises by Navy 85-61

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:35 PM (EST)

LEWISBURG, Pa. (AP) Zach Thomas scored 23 points, tying a school record with his 16th 20-point game, Stephen Brown added 25 points and Bucknell cruised past Navy 85-61 Wednesday night with each team already assured of a top spot in the upcoming Patriot League playoffs.

Bucknell (21-9, 15-2) had already locked up the league title and home court for the quarterfinals for the fourth-straight season and seventh time in the last eight. Navy (19-11, 10-7) is tied for third.

As the game wound down, the Bucknell seniors checked out one-by-one to standing ovations. They are the first class in Patriot League history to win the league title outright four straight times.

Nana Foulland added 12 points for Bucknell, Bruce Moore 10 as the Bison shot 56 percent (30 of 54) with 10 3-pointers and 16 assists.

Hasan Abdullah led the Midshipmen with 19 points and Ryan Pearson added 14 - each a season high - and Shawn Anderson added 10. The Midshipmen remain one win away from their first 20-win season since 1999-00.

[CLOSE]

Lehigh 80 vs. 74 Loyola Maryland Final Recap

Ross scores 20, Lehigh beats Loyola (Md.) 80-74

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:57 PM (EST)

BALTIMORE (AP) Kahron Ross scored 20 points, Pat Andree added 15 with 10 rebounds, and Lehigh beat Loyola (Md.) 80-74 on Wednesday night to win its seventh straight and snap a three-game skid against the Greyhounds.

Marques Wilson also scored 15 points and Jordan Cohen and Kyle Leufroy added 10 apiece for the Mountain Hawks (15-13, 10-7), who hit 10 3s and scored 24 points off 13 turnovers.

Lehigh led 38-35 at halftime and Andree hit a 3 to spark an 11-2 run to extend it to 62-52 on Leufory's jumper. The Greyhounds closed to 63-62 on Brent Holcombe's 3 with 5:01 left, but Wilson and Ross hit 3s and Loyola got no closer than four from there.

Andre Walker scored 18 points with four 3s, Andrew Kostecka added 14 points, and Cam Gregory had 11 with 12 rebounds for Loyola (8-20, 6-11), which has lost four straight.

[CLOSE]

SMU 77 vs. 58 East Carolina Final Recap

McMurray leads with 20 points, SMU downs East Carolina 77-58

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:27 PM (EST)

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) Jahmal McMurray scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds and SMU downed East Carolina 77-58 on Wednesday night, snapping a five-game losing streak.

McMurray was 6 of 9 from distance for the Mustangs (16-12, 6-9 American Conference). Ben Emelogu II added 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists, Jimmy Whitt had 13 points and five rebounds and Akoy Agau and Elijah Landrum had 11 points apiece.

SMU shot 47 percent from the field compared to 34.5 percent for East Carolina.

The Mustangs got off to a 26-6 start and had a 41-23 advantage at the break.

McMurray hit two 3-pointers and Emelogu drained 6 of 6 free throws as part of an 18-7 run to open the second half that gave Mustangs their biggest lead, 59-30, with 12:01 to play. They led by double figures the rest of the way.

Isaac Fleming scored 21 points with eight rebounds to lead the Pirates (10-16, 4-11) who have lost three of the last four.

[CLOSE]

George Mason 79 vs. 76 Saint Joseph's Final Recap

Boyd buzzer-beater lifts George Mason past Saint Joe's 79-76

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:49 PM (EST)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Ian Boyd picked up a loose ball at the top of the key and drilled a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to give George Mason a 79-76 win over Saint Joseph's in an Atlantic 10 battle on Wednesday night.

The win pulls George Mason into a tie with Saint Joseph's, Dayton and Richmond for sixth place in the conference standings with three games left to play.

Taylor Funk hit three straight free throws to get Saint Joe's within a point, 75-74 with 15 seconds left and Shavar Newkirk tied it with :06 left with two free throws to make it 76-76.

Justin Kier scored 19 points to lead the Patriots (13-15, 7-8). Goanar Mar added 16 points, Otis Livingston II 13 and Boyd 12.

Newkirk scored 23 points to lead the Hawks (12-15, 7-8), with Chris Clover adding 21. Nick Robinson scored 13 points and Funk grabbed 13 rebounds.

[CLOSE]

Fordham 52 vs. 76 Davidson Final Recap

Grady scores 28, Davidson shoots 69 percent in 76-52 win

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:00 PM (EST)

DAVIDSON, N.C. (AP) Kellan Grady scored 28 points and Davidson shot 69 percent in beating Fordham 76-52 on Wednesday night.

Davidson (16-10, 11-4) is tied with St. Bonaventure for second place in the Atlantic 10, three games back of No. 18 Rhode Island with three games left. After playing at Duquesne on Saturday, the Wildcats will finish the regular season at St. Bonaventure and home against Rhode Island.

Peyton Aldridge added 16 points and 12 rebounds and became the fifth player in Davidson history to reach 2,000 points. The Wildcats made 31 of 45 shots and doubled Fordham on the boards 36-18.

Joseph Chartouny led the Rams (9-18, 4-11) with 19 points.

Aldridge scored 19 seconds into the game and Davidson led the rest of way. Aldridge had 12 points and Grady 11 in the first half that ended with the Wildcats ahead 39-25. The lead remained in double figures and reached 33 points with 5:58 remaining.

[CLOSE]

VCU 82 vs. 78 Massachusetts Final Recap

VCU overcomes UMass with an 82-78 victory

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:55 PM (EST)

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) Justin Tillman scored 26 points with 13 rebounds and De'Riante Jenkins scored 17 and Virginia Commonwealth beat Massachusetts 82-78 on Wednesday.

C.J. Anderson's 3-point play put UMass on top 56-54 before Mike'l Simms came right back with a 3-pointer to give VCU the lead with 12:01 left and the Rams never trailed again. Later, Anderson tied it at 65 with a pair of foul shots, but VCU (16-12, 8-7 Atlantic 10) went on an 8-0 run.

Luwane Pipkins - who scored 38 for the Minutemen - made a layup with 46 seconds to go to reduce the margin to 78-75 but UMass couldn't get closer.

Jonathan Williams scored 11 points and passed out six assists for the Rams who shot 54 percent (32 of 59) from the field and distributed 22 assists. Sean Mobley handed out seven assists with no turnovers.

Pipkins shot 8 of 13 from 3-point range, Anderson scored 15 and Carl Pierre 10 for UMass (11-17, 4-11).

[CLOSE]

Texas Tech 71 vs. 79 Oklahoma State Final Recap

Smith's 21 help Oklahoma State upset No. 6 Texas Tech 79-71

By CLIFF BRUNT - AP Sports Writer

Wednesday, February 21 at 10:45 PM (EST)

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma State rewarded fans who braved the snow and ice with a memorable experience.

Kendall Smith scored 21 points to help the Cowboys stun No. 6 Texas Tech 79-71 on Wednesday night. Many students who were part of the crowd of 7,092 rushed the court after the game, though it was tame by Oklahoma State's standards.

''We didn't expect many people here, then once the game starts, it starts filling up,'' Oklahoma State guard Lindy Waters said. ''The students were rowdy as usual. It gives us the energy to keep playing.''

The end of the game wasn't even the most exciting moment of the night. A text circulated during the game that school would be out Thursday due to the weather. The crowd went crazy, and when the text was shown on the big screen, the players knew, too.

''We were like, `For sure, let's get this win so we can chill tomorrow,''' Smith said.

Waters scored a career-high 18 points and Jeffrey Carroll had 14 points to help the Cowboys (16-12, 6-9 Big 12) boost their NCAA Tournament chances. The Cowboys already had four wins against teams that were ranked in the Top 20 at the time they played - Florida State, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas.

''I have no idea how important it is,'' Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. ''I know it doesn't hurt to beat the No. 6 team in the country. That's all I know.''

Oklahoma State shot 52.2 percent overall and 11 of 22 from 3-point range against a Texas Tech team that ranks in the Top 10 nationally in field goal percentage defense and scoring defense.

Zhaire Smith scored 18 points, and Jarrett Culver added 15 for Tech (22-6, 10-5), which needed a win to tie Kansas for the Big 12 lead. The Red Raiders lost their second straight after reeling off seven straight wins.

Tech guard Keenan Evans, the Big 12's No. 2 scorer, finished with two points on 1-for-7 shooting. He missed the second half of Tech's loss to Baylor last Saturday with a toe injury. He started against Oklahoma State and played 25 minutes.

''I know it definitely wasn't 100 (percent), we know that,'' Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. ''A lot of respect for Keenan for trying. He's done everything he could since the Baylor game to put himself in position. I thought he showed a lot of courage and heart even trying to play tonight.''

Smith scored 16 points in the first half to help Texas Tech take a 35-34 lead at the break. Oklahoma State shot 57 percent in the first half but committed 11 turnovers.

Oklahoma State opened the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 43-37 lead and force Texas Tech to call timeout.

It didn't help. Back-to-back 3s by Waters and Carroll put the Cowboys up 49-37 just four minutes into the second half. A 3-pointer by Tavarius Shine made it 59-43. In all, Oklahoma State made its first nine field goals in the second half.

Tech scored eight straight to make it a game, and that helped put the Red Raiders in position to make a run late. A pair of free throws by Zhaire Smith cut Oklahoma State's lead to 70-66 with just over 2 minutes remaining, but the Cowboys held on at the free throw line.

''We didn't play well tonight, but you've got to give Oklahoma State credit,'' Beard said. ''They were the reason we didn't play well tonight. They had four guys in double figures, they outrebounded us, got to the free throw line more and played better than us.''

BIG PICTURE

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders hurt their chances of dethroning Kansas for the Big 12 title by losing on the road against an Oklahoma State team that hasn't been impressive at home.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys continue to rise to the occasion in big games for first-year coach Mike Boynton. The Cowboys lost momentum late in the first half but didn't buckle. They were the aggressors to start the second half, and they cut down their turnovers to give themselves more chances to score.

STAT LINES

Waters made all six of his shots from the floor, including four 3-pointers, and made 2 of 3 free throws. He also went without a turnover and had two steals.

QUOTABLE

Beard on playing Kansas next: ''Is that our next game? Kansas? That's not going to be easy, either.''

UP NEXT

Texas Tech: Hosts Kansas on Saturday.

Oklahoma State: At Texas on Saturday.

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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More AP college basketball at www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

[CLOSE]

Stony Brook 64 vs. 57 UMBC Final Recap

Iroegbu scores 20, Stony Brook upends UMBC 64-57

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:55 PM (EST)

BALTIMORE (AP) UC Iroegbu scored 20 points including four free throws in an 8-0 closing run over the final minute and Stony Brook defeated Maryland Baltimore County 64-57 Wednesday night, foiling UMBC's bid for a share of the America East Conference championship.

UMBC (19-10, 10-4) had won three in a row, but the loss leaves the Retrievers three games behind conference leader Vermont with two to play. Stony Brook (12-17, 7-8) has won its last two and four of five.

Iroegbu made four 3-pointers, Akwasi Yeboah scored 18 points for the Seawolves with three 3-pointers and eight rebounds, Elijah Olaniyi scored 13.

The Stony Brook bench outscored UMBC's 29-8, the Seawolves reserves accomplishing the feat for the 21st time in 28 games.

UMBC picked up 13 steals, forced Stony Brook into 18 turnovers, but only scored 17 points off the miscues. Jairus Lyles led the Retrievers with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six steals. K.J. Maura added 15 points.

[CLOSE]

Richmond 77 vs. 103 George Washington Final Recap

George Washington shoots 69 percent, beats Richmond 103-77

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:32 PM (EST)

WASHINGTON (AP) Yuta Watanabe scored 23 points and George Washington shot 69 percent from the field and rolled to a 103-77 victory over Richmond on Wednesday night for its third straight win.

George Washington (13-15, 6-9 Atlantic 10 Conference) has won four of its last five games and snapped a four-game losing skid against Richmond (9-18, 7-8), which has now lost four in a row.

Watanabe was 8 of 13 from the floor and scored 23 points in his second consecutive game. Arnaldo Toro added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Colonials, who were 42-of-61 shooting, made 10 of 14 (71.4 percent) 3-pointers and 9 of 10 free throws. Bo Zeigler and Terry Nolan Jr. each scored 12 points, and Patrick Steeves and Jair Bolden finished with 10 apiece. Justin Mazzulla had 10 of the Colonials' 30 assists.

De'Monte Buckingham scored 21 points to lead five in double-figure scoring for Richmond.

[CLOSE]

Fairfield 70 vs. 69 Siena Final Recap

Nelson with 18, Fairfield holds on to edge Siena 70-69

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:59 PM (EST)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Tyler Nelson scored 18 points with six rebounds, three assists and three steals and Fairfield rallied in the second half and held on to edge Siena 70-69 on Wednesday night.

Ferron Flavors Jr. added 14 points with seven rebounds for the Stags (13-15, 8-9 Mid-American Athletic Conference) who have won three straight. Jonathan Kasibabu had 13 points and five rebounds and Aidas Kavaliauskas had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Fairfield trailed 36-30 at the break but a Kavaliauskas 3-pointer evened it at 42-all with 14:43 to play. Flavors sank a 3 to give the Stags a 55-53 lead with 7:49 left and a layup by Kevin Senghore-Peterson and two Flavors free throws pushed it to 67-60 with 49 seconds remaining. Siena's Christian Bentley drained a 3-pointer with two seconds to go for the final score.

Kadeem Smithen scored 16 points with six rebounds to lead the Saints (8-22, 4-13) who have lost the last three.

[CLOSE]

North Carolina 78 vs. 74 Syracuse Final Recap

Pinson scores career-high 23, UNC holds off Syracuse 78-74

By JOHN KEKIS - AP Sports Writer

Wednesday, February 21 at 10:46 PM (EST)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) When Syracuse threatened one final time, Joel Berry II had an answer for North Carolina.

Theo Pinson scored a career-high 23 points, Berry added 18, including the tiebreaking layup with 1:36 left, and the No. 10 Tar Heels held off the Orange 78-74 on Wednesday night.

Syracuse had trailed almost the entire game until a late eight-point run knotted the score. Tyus Battle scored six of the points, his jumper with 3:05 to go tying it at 74.

With the clock ticking down inside the final 2 minutes, Syracuse had an opportunity to go ahead for the first time since the second minute. But after towering center Paschal Chukwu snared an important rebound after two straight Orange misses, Berry stole the ball and scored at the other end and the Tar Heels escaped.

''I knew he wasn't a solid player when it came to holding onto the ball,'' Berry said. ''I saw through the span of the game his teammates were throwing it to him and he was losing the ball, so when he put it down it was like, `This is my opportunity to grab it,' and so I just pulled it out and I got it.''

North Carolina (22-7, 11-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won six straight, but this was the most difficult against a team fighting for its postseason life. Syracuse (18-10, 7-8) was coming off an important road victory over Miami and was teetering on the NCAA Tournament bubble entering the game.

''We did everything we could to get back in it,'' Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ''These guys played their heart out. They have all year long. We did everything we could offensively to win. When you're tied, you can't make a turnover in that situation.''

The Orange shot 50 percent in the second half while holding UNC to 13-of-36 shooting (36.1 percent) to rally back, but they missed five shots in the final frantic 74 seconds.

''We just have to do a better job closing out games,'' said Battle, who had 26 points but missed all five 3s he attempted. ''Just missed a couple of shots at the end. We had the game won. We just gave them the ball, gave them plays.''

Sterling Manley had 12 points and top scorer Luke Maye had nine points and three rebounds, scoring only one point and snaring one rebound in the second half for UNC. Maye was averaging 18.4 and 10.5.

Frank Howard had 23 points and Oshae Brissett 17 points and 10 rebounds for Syracuse, the 10th double-double of his freshman year.

UNC built a double-digit lead early and every time Syracuse threatened the Tar Heels had an answer. Berry hit a 3 after Battle's drive had made it a one-possession game, 51-48 with 14:33 left. When Chukwu lost an offensive rebound seconds later, Pinson roared in for a slam at the other end.

''They're fighting to get into the tournament, so you knew they were going to keep coming at you,'' said Pinson, who had seven assists. ''They fought the whole game and I know they wish they had this one.''

Pinson's three-point play midway through the half gave UNC a 61-51 lead, but the Orange weren't through.

Battle's driving layup moved Syracuse back within 68-64 with 6:32 to go as the season-high crowd of 27,165, largest in the nation this season, shook the Carrier Dome walls.

Another 3 by Berry gave UNC an eight-point edge before the Orange made a final push with an eight-point run to knot the score. Battle scored six of the points, his jumper with 3:05 to go tying it at 74.

After Berry put the Tar Heels ahead, he missed a 3-point attempt from the top of the key, giving the Orange the ball with 32.6 seconds left.

Howard missed a 3-pointer with 17.2 seconds left and Berry's two free throws iced it.

BIG PICTURE

UNC: With just two games left in the regular season, the Tar Heels are in the hunt for second place in the ACC. They entered the game a half-game behind second-place Duke, which played Louisville later Wednesday. An upcoming five-day break will give UNC a nice respite heading to the postseason. Carolina has 10 wins over current Quadrant I opponents, most in the country.

Syracuse: The Orange still have games against Boston College and two ranked teams - Duke and Clemson - as well as the ACC Tournament to bolster their resume for the postseason.

NUMBERS

UNC had 25 assists on 29 baskets while Syracuse had 13 on 25.

TOO MANY MEN

UNC used 10 players in the first half and seven scored as its bench held a 13-2 edge over the Orange's reserves. High scorers were Maye and Manley with 8 apiece, Pinson with 7, and Berry 6. As usual, Battle, Howard and Brissett played every minute of the period for the Orange.

UP NEXT

UNC: The Tar Heels have five days off before they host Miami next Tuesday night.

Syracuse: The Orange travel to play No. 5 Duke on Saturday night.

---

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

---

Kekis on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Greek1947

[CLOSE]

Clemson 58 vs. 65 Virginia Tech Final Recap

Hokies continue winning ways, beat No. 15 Clemson 65-58

By JIMMY ROBERTSON - Associated Press

Wednesday, February 21 at 11:00 PM (EST)

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams admitted that he and his team only focus on increments of 24 hours.

''Just be consumed with today,'' he said.

That approach certainly has been working.

Justin Robinson and Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored 14 points each to lift the Hokies to a 65-58 victory over No. 15 Clemson on Wednesday night.

Robinson continued his stellar play of late, scoring in double figures for the 14th time in the past 15 games for the Hokies (20-8, 9-6 Atlatntic Coast Conference), who have won six of their last eight games and moved into a tie for fourth place in the conference standings. Blackshear struggled from the floor, but was 3 for 4 on free throws in the final 33 seconds to preserve the win.

''How we manage the next 24 hours emotionally, physically, mentally . that's going to impact Saturday,'' Williams said. ''The same can be said for Friday. I've allowed our staff to kind of step in front me because they're better at it than me at doing that more.

''I've kind of just tried to help give energy to our guys. Same thing in the game tonight. Very little strategy. Not a lot of technique. I thought we won the game because of energy, and I believe that will be the case if we win (Saturday).''

Virginia Tech, which won its third straight over the Tigers (20-7, 9-6), broke open a close game midway through the second half. The Hokies trailed 38-34 after Clemson's Marcquise Reed hit a 3-pointer with 13:43 remaining, but they went on a 10-0 run punctuated by Ahmed Hill's layup to take the lead for good.

The Hokies led by as many as 14 with 2:33 left before the Tigers put on a furious rally. They used an 11-2 run to cut the lead to 61-56 on a 3-pointer by Gabe DeVoe with 41 seconds remaining.

Virginia Tech scored the next four points - all from the free-throw line - with Blackshear making 3 of 4 and Chris Clarke 1 of 2, which was just enough as the Tigers missed three 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds.

''It's a big step,'' Robinson said of the win. ''We got a win in front of fans. We kind of talked about it before the game. We've got more losses here (at home) this year than the last two. I think it's something in our pride that we took care of tonight.''

Reed paced the cold-shooting Tigers, who now have lost three straight games, with a career-high 28 points, while Elijah Thomas had his eighth double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Clemson shot just 38.6 percent from the floor (22 of 57).

''Both teams defended well and made it hard on each other to score,'' Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. ''I thought our kids competed very well. We're just struggling to score a little bit right now.''

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: The Tigers are struggling at the worst possible time, and much of their troubles can be blamed on injuries. Donte Grantham (14.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is out for the season with a torn ACL and Shelton Mitchell (11.8 ppg, team-best 96 assists) missed his second straight game with a concussion. Clemson plays great defense, but with those two guys out, it needs another scorer to emerge to go with Reed.

''It's hard,'' Brownell said. ''You've got guys playing a little bit different positions. I don't want to take anything away from what Virginia Tech did because those guys played great. They played hard, and they cause a lot of problems. Other teams have injuries, too, but there's no doubt we're not the same team we were when we had Donte and Shelton.''

Virginia Tech: The Hokies are peaking at just the right time and have put themselves in great position to make the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year. Their win over the Tigers marked their third over a team in the top 10 of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and their fourth top-50 win.

MITCHELL GETTING CLOSER TO RETURN

Clemson did receive some good news while in Blacksburg, as the Tigers hope to get Mitchell, their starting point guard, back into the lineup for Saturday's game against Georgia Tech.

''Hopefully he's going to be fine,'' Brownell said. ''I think he had a decent day down there (in Clemson). Obviously we'll know more when he's involved in more contact-type stuff.''

TECH BENCH MAKES BIG STATEMENT

A big part of the game was the Hokies' production off the bench. Virginia Tech got 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists from five bench players. In contrast, Clemson's reserves failed to score and only grabbed one rebound.

''Honestly, I think they all need to play,'' Williams said. ''And I tell them, `Everybody's playing.' . I think (the production) speaks to the unity, to the togetherness, to the metamorphosis, to the narrative of how things thankfully going in the right direction.''

UP NEXT

Clemson: The Tigers host Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies host Louisville on Saturday.

[CLOSE]

New Hampshire 56 vs. 65 Hartford Final Recap

Lynch scores 17, Hartford beats New Hampshire 65-56

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:33 PM (EST)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) J.R. Lynch scored 17 points and Hartford beat New Hampshire 65-56 on Wednesday night.

Lynch was 6 of 10 from the floor including three from distance for the Hawks (17-11, 10-4 America East Conference) who have won three straight and are tied with UMBC for second place in the conference standings, three games behind Vermont. John Carroll added 13 points with nine rebounds, Jason Dunne had 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Hassan Attia chipped in 10 points with six rebounds and four blocked shots.

The Hawks trailed by one at the break but opened the second half with an Attia dunk followed by a Lynch jumper to take a 35-32 lead. Attia and Carroll each made another dunk after that to help push it to 44-39 with 14:36 to play. New Hampshire tied it at 56-all with 2:48 left but Lynch answered with a 3-pointer and a layup back-to-back to stretch it to 61-56 with 1:09 remaining.

Elijah Jordan scored 14 points to lead the Wildcats (10-19, 6-9) who are on a four-game skid.

[CLOSE]

Michigan 72 vs. 63 Penn State Final Recap

Robinson leads No. 17 Wolverines over Penn State

By TRAVIS JOHNSON - Associated Press

Wednesday, February 21 at 11:21 PM (EST)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) John Beilein has always coveted the type of player with near-limitless energy reserve who can provide a scoring spark off the bench.

Michigan's coach has found his man this year.

Duncan Robinson supported No. 17 Michigan's starters with 19 points and helped the Wolverines beat Penn State 72-63 on Wednesday night.

''I've loved always having this, whether I was at Richmond, West Virginia, Canisius, the guy that can come off the bench with no conscience,'' Beilein said. ''It's very hard to sit there for 10 minutes and then just go in and shoot. And he can do that.''

Moritz Wagner added 18 and Jordan Poole had 13 for the Wolverines (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten) who won their fourth straight.

It got easier for the Wolverines just four minutes in when star Penn State forward Mike Watkins crumpled under Penn State's basket with an apparent right leg injury.

''That certainly was a factor in the game as well,'' Beilein said.

Tony Carr scored 21 points and Lamar Stevens added 19 for the Nittany Lions (19-11, 9-8) who trailed for all but about four minutes.

Michigan took control with a 25-12 run midway through the first and Robinson made Michigan's fifth of 10 3-pointers to put the Wolverines up by 13, their biggest lead of the game, with 3:52 left in the opening half. Back-to-back jumpers from Stevens cut Michigan's halftime lead to 34-26.

The Nittany Lions opened the second with a 13-4 run and took a 39-38 lead when Carr rolled a floater off his fingertips, drew a foul and made the free throw with 16:12 left.

''At halftime, we knew we didn't play well,'' Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. ''We were dealing with some adversity and I thought our guys competed and played hard, to come out and take the lead.''

But the Wolverines went ahead for good on Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's 3-pointer with 10:19 left. Michigan players combined to go 9-for-10 from the free throw line in the final minute to close out the game.

WATKINS HURT

Watkins appeared to be in a good amount of discomfort as he was helped off the court.

Afterward, the forward spent a few minutes on a courtside exercise bike before returning to the bench with 9:28 to play. He lobbied Chambers to let him re-enter the game, but was clearly hobbled before Chambers pulled him out for good moments later.

Visibly upset, Watkins covered his face with a towel then entered the locker room before the half ended.

Chambers said he didn't have an update on Watkins other than the team would wait for test results on his right leg to come back later this week.

It was the second straight game - and second straight loss - where Watkins' presence was sorely missed. He found himself in early foul trouble against Purdue and played just nine minutes in Penn State's 76-73 loss.

''It's tough. They're a team that shoots a bunch of 3s. We weren't surprised that they shot the ball well.''

DEFENDING THE 3

The Wolverines entered the game having made 264 3-pointers, good for second in the conference. They dropped 10 more on the Nittany Lions including a pair of back-to-back shots from Wagner that broke up Penn State's early second-half run.

They were big considering Beilein felt like his squad was squandering most of its chances early in the second.

''They just happened,'' Beilein said. ''He got open, luckily, and he made them both and all of a sudden it's a 1-point game and we're still playing.''

Robinson was 3-for-6 and hit the final 3-pointer to give the Wolverines' a 9-point lead with 1:28 left. Wagner was 4-for-5 from 3-point range while Poole added a pair.

''When you give up 10 3s to Michigan, It's going to be a tough outing for sure,'' Chambers said.

THE BIG PICTURE

Michigan: The Wolverines are guaranteed to be seeded no worse than fifth in the Big Ten tournament with the win. They'll have a chance to improve that as the teams above them in the standings No. 9 Purdue and Nebraska still have games remaining.

Penn State: With a 3-point loss to Purdue in their last game, the Nittany Lions badly needed this one for their NCAA tournament resume. Watkins will be nearly impossible for Penn State to replace if it has to move on without him. The 6-foot-9 forward is third in the country shooting 69.2 percent from the field. He has 13 double-doubles on the season and leads the team with 68 blocks and 258 rebounds. The players who would likely replace his minutes -Julian Moore and Satchel Pierce - have averaged just 10 and eight minutes per game respectively.

UP NEXT

Michigan visits Maryland on Saturday.

Penn State travels to Nebraska on Sunday.

[CLOSE]

Georgia Tech 54 vs. 65 Virginia Final Recap

Jerome leads No. 1 Virginia past Georgia Tech, 65-54

By HANK KURZ Jr. - AP Sports Writer

Wednesday, February 21 at 10:17 PM (EST)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Top-ranked Virginia accomplished its first goal of the season. The next ones on the list will only get more difficult.

Ty Jerome scored 18 points and the Cavaliers held off depleted Georgia Tech 65-54 on Wednesday night, clinching at least a share of the regular season title and the top seed next month in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

''It's definitely a good step in the right direction for what we want to do this year,'' Jerome said after the team's third regular-season title in the past five years. ''We just can't get complacent because we have so much more to go.''

The Cavaliers (25-2, 14-1), who also got nine points each from De'Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite, were sluggish playing for the first time in eight days. They led just 31-30 at halftime and didn't open a double-digit lead until just 5:14 remained.

''We kind of had to earn it and outlast them,'' coach Tony Bennett said.

Jerome scored 15 of his points in the second half, hitting three of his four 3-pointers after the intermission.

''(He) hit some great shots and some tough shots,'' Yellow Jackets coach Josh Pastner said.

Ben Lammers scored 22 points to lead the Yellow Jackets (11-17, 4-11), who lost their sixth in a row and 10th in the last 11 games.

''He told me before the game it's the best he's felt since the UCLA game,'' Pastner said. The UCLA game was played Nov. 10.

Tadric Jackson added 15 but only three other players scored for the visitors.

Still, Virginia led just 49-45 before Devon Hall hit a pair of free throws and Jerome followed with a 3-pointer, starting an 11-4 b burst that ended on a dunk by Diakite that gave them a 60-49 advantage with 5:15 to play. Their largest lead all night was 12.

The regular-season title, which with be the Cavaliers alone with one more victory in their last three regular-season games, is the eighth in Virginia's history, but Bennett doesn't want his team to coast into the tournament.

''Not a whole lot else matters right now except us preparing well, playing to win every time we step foot on the floor and then trying to improve and see what we can learn,'' he said.

The ACC Tournament is March 8-10 at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.

ENGAGEMENT

Kyle Guy, who got engaged on Sunday, finished with eight points, all in the first nine minutes, for the Cavaliers.

''I think he was 100 percent engaged,'' Bennett said of the Cavaliers' scoring leader. ''Locked and loaded.''

BIG MEN ON CAMPUS

Virginia's big men - center Jack Salt and forwards Isaiah Wilkins and Diakite - combined for 22 points and 13 rebounds. Salt had all six of his in the first six minutes, and Diakite had his nine all in the second half when he gave the Cavaliers a much-needed energy boost.

''I thought he played really well,'' Pastner said.

Added Wilkins: ''I thought he gave us a big lift on both ends of the floor.''

BIG PICTURE

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets are up against it, having lost their top two freshmen for the rest of the year with injuries, including No. 2 scorer Jose Alvarado (12.1 ppg), but Lammers and Jackson kept them in the game. Sophomore Josh Okogie started the game 50 shy of 1,000 for his career, but missed 7 of 10 shots and scored just seven points. Reinforcements will be appreciated.

Virginia: The Cavaliers were not sharp at either end in their first game in eight days. It could be that their flatness was in part because, after facing the struggling Yellow Jackets, they are to face a team in even worse shape, Pittsburgh.

UP NEXT

The Yellow Jackets face another ranked team on the road, playing at No. 15 Clemson on Saturday.

Virginia goes on the road to face Pittsburgh, which entered the night winless in league play.

---

More AP college basketball at www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

[CLOSE]

American University 64 vs. 70 Holy Cross Final Recap

Holy Cross comeback beats American, 70-64, takes over 6th

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:43 PM (EST)

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) Jacob Grandison scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the second half as Holy Cross erased a seven-point halftime deficit to post a 70-64 victory over American in the Crusaders' final home game of the regular season Wednesday night.

Holy Cross (11-17, 8-9 Patriot League), which has won six of its last night games, came into the game tied with Lafayette for sixth league standings, but the Leopards lost at Boston University to fall into seventh place. The Crusaders can still catch week the Terriers for fifth place with a win over Colgate Saturday and a BU loss to Army.

Larry Motuzis got the Eagles within two points, 55-53 with 3:42 left in the game, and again after Grandison answered by knocking down a 3-pointer of his own to make it 58-56. Jehyve Floyd dunked to give Holy Cross a two-possession advantage and Austin Butler hit two free throws to make it 62-56 with 1:34 remaining. Grandison made four straight free throws and Patrick Benzan hit three of four in the final minute to put the win on ice.

Butler finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for Holy Cross and Floyd added 14 points, grabbed six boards and dished four assists.

Motuzis made 6 of 10 from beyond the arc and led American (6-22, 3-14) with 21 points. Sa'eed Nelson and Cheikh Diallo each added 11 points.

[CLOSE]

Livingstone vs. St. Augustine 7:30 (EST)
Fayetteville State vs. Shaw 7:30 (EST)
Nicholls 96 vs. 79 McNeese State Final Recap

Rutledge hits record 11 3s, Nicholls beats McNeese 96-79

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:34 PM (EST)

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) Lafayette Rutledge broke a school record with 11 3-pointers and scored a career-high 34 points and Nicholls downed McNeese 96-79 on Wednesday.

Rutledge shot exclusively behind the 3-point arc and made 11 of 19. Roddy Peters scored 24 points with 10 assists

Tevon Saddler also had a double-double for Nicholls (19-9, 13-2 Southland Conference) with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Kimani Jackson scored 10 points.

Jackson's first-half dunk sparked a 12-4 run and Nicholls led 28-18 with 9:03 left before halftime. Jackson responded with a layup, Rutledge buried a 3 and that started a run of 14-7 that McNeese couldn't overcome. Kevin Johnson's 3 made it 48-30 and Nicholls went to halftime with a 53-36 lead and were never challenged.

The Cowboys made 14 of 34 from 3-point range and distributed 22 assists on 34-made shot attempts.

Stephen Ugochukwu led the Cowboys (9-16, 6-9) with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Jarren Greenwood scored 13, Quatarrius Wilson, 12 and Kalob Ledoux 11.

[CLOSE]

Tulane 86 vs. 93 Wichita State Final Recap

Morris helps No. 13 Wichita State hold off Tulane, 93-86

By JEFFREY PARSON - Associated Press

Wednesday, February 21 at 11:09 PM (EST)

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) After seeing his team cut a 16-point halftime deficit down to four with four minutes remaining, Tulane coach Mike Dunleavy hoped a trap would provide a turnover to make it a one-possession game.

Wichita State senior guard Conner Frankamp did not allow that to happen.

Frankamp scored six points in less than a minute to maintain the buffer the No. 13 Shockers needed to beat the Green Wave 93-86 on Wednesday night.

Frankamp finished with 18 points, key in a game Wichita State (22-5, 12-3 American Athletic Conference) played without star guard Landry Shamet due to illness.

''I thought Frankamp was off the chain, great, the difference in the game,'' Dunleavy said. ''We probably let him split us five times in traps. ... He just shredded us and made plays.''

Shaquille Morris had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Shockers. Markis McDuffie scored 15 points, C.J. Keyser had 11, and Austin Reaves added 11.

All those double-figure scorers did not make Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall happy after his team allowed Tulane (13-14, 4-11) - tied for 10th in the conference - to score 55 second-half points on 61.8-percent shooting.

''We can't get stops,'' Marshall said. ''Keeping people in front, contesting shots, it was a struggle. If we don't start defending better, we're fool's gold.''

Melvin Frazier sparked Tulane's comeback, scoring 16 of his 22 points in the second half and finishing with 11 rebounds. His 3-pointer with 39 seconds remaining pulled the Green Wave within four, 90-86.

''Frazier just came at our mouth, and we didn't respond,'' Marshall said.

Four others scored in double figures for Tulane: Samir Sehic (16), Cameron Reynolds (14), Ray Ona Embo (12) and Caleb Daniels (11).

''We attacked and played our game in the second half,'' Dunleavy said, ''did a much better job with rebounding and turnovers.''

Keyser and Morris made free throws down the stretch to seal the victory, part of another big night for Morris.

''My guards kept getting the ball down low and wanting me to dominate,'' he said.

Frankamp admitted he felt extra pressure with Shamet out and was happy to deliver.

''I was able to get past a guy, get in the lane for some easier shots,'' Frankamp said. ''A lot of that was Shaq clearing space. Those shots he creates are easy ones.''

SHAMET SITS

Shamet practiced Tuesday but did not suit up Wednesday.

On the Naismith Trophy's Late Season 30 list, Shamet is averaging 14.7 points and a conference-best 5.2 assists.

''It's something with his stomach, that's what I was told,'' Marshall said.

KEYSER KEY

Shamet's absence and Reaves' foul trouble gave an opportunity to Keyser, who had played more than two minutes in just two of the previous 10 games.

Not only did Keyser play 19 minutes, he was on the court in the final minutes, facing Tulane's press and making four straight free throws in the final 45 seconds. Marshall said he ''grew up tonight.''

Keyser, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, agreed.

''I was gaining confidence with every minute I got,'' Keyser said. ''I was able to get some confidence and then knock those free throws down.''

BIG PICTURE:

Tulane: The Green Wave stayed right with a top-15 team on the road, a good sign for a rebuilding program currently tied for 10th place in the conference.

Wichita State: The Shockers survived and are two road games away from a regular-season finale against No. 11 Cincinnati.

UP NEXT

Tulane: The Green Wave visit South Florida on Saturday.

Wichita State: The Shockers visit Southern Methodist on Saturday

[CLOSE]

Lincoln (PA) vs. Chowan 7:30 (EST)
Virginia Union vs. Elizabeth City State 7:30 (EST)
New Orleans 54 vs. 57 Sam Houston State Final Recap

Sam Houston State holds off New Orleans 57-54

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:05 PM (EST)

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) John Dewey III scored 16 points and Josh Boutte had 12 as Sam Houston State held off New Orleans for a 57-54 victory on Wednesday night.

Sam Houston State (18-11, 12-4 Southland Conference) is now in fourth place in the conference standings behind Stephen F. Austin and Southeastern Louisiana, both 12-3, and Nicholls (13-2). New Orleans (14-13, 11-5) drops to fifth.

Makur Puou had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead New Orleans, which has lost three of its last five games.

Sam Houston State had a 10-point lead with five minutes to play, but Troy Green converted a 3-point play, and Puou and Damion Rosser each made layups during a 7-0 spurt to pull New Orleans to 57-54 with 1:03 remaining. Dionta Champion forced a turnover on the Bearkats' next possession, but Green missed a jumper, and Tyren Harrison missed a 3-pointer with a second left to end it.

[CLOSE]

Winston-Salem State vs. Johnson C. Smith 7:30 (EST)
Virginia State vs. Bowie State 7:30 (EST)
Central Arkansas 62 vs. 97 Stephen F. Austin Final Recap

Stephen F Austin rolls at home, routs Central Arkansas 97-62

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:34 PM (EST)

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (AP) Shannon Bogues scored 18 and Leon Gilmore III added another 17 as Stephen F. Austin pushed its home-court winning streak to 16 straight with a 97-62 trouncing of Central Arkansas in a Southland Conference contest Wednesday night.

With three games left to play, two of them at home, the Lumberjacks are a game behind conference-leader Nicholls and a half-game back of second-place Southeast Louisiana. Central Arkansas entered the game tied with Abilene Christian for seventh. The Wildcats game with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was postponed due to a winter storm.

SFA built a 19-point, first-half lead and cruised to the win, holding the Bears to 32.3 percent shooting from the field (20 of 62).

Bogues knocked down 4 of 5 shots from beyond the arc while dishing out five assists to lead the Lumberjacks (23-5, 12-3). Ivan Canete, John Comeaux and Ty Charles each added 10 points.

Jordan Howard finished with 19 points and Mathieu Kamba added 13 points and grabbed eight boards for Central Arkansas (13-15, 7-8).

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Bradley 82 vs. 78 Missouri State Final Recap

Bradley closes on 8-3 run, beats Missouri State 82-78

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:03 PM (EST)

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) Darrell Brown scored 16 points and led a game-closing 8-3 run to help Bradley beat Missouri State 82-78 on Wednesday night.

Jarrid Rhodes made a pair of free throws to give Missouri State its last lead at 75-74 with 77 seconds left. Nate Kennell made a pair to put the Braves back up for good. Brown made all six of his free throws in a 29-second span and finished 11 of 12 from the free throw line.

Kennell led Bradley (19-11, 9-8 Missouri Valley) by scoring 20 points with six 3-pointers. Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye scored 18 and Donte Thomas and Koch Bar each added 10.

Jared Dixon paced Missouri State (17-13, 7-10) with 24 points, Rhodes scored 20 and Mustafa Lawrence 11. Alize Johnson grabbed 11 rebounds and distributed six assists. The Bears shot 13 of 30 from 3-point range.

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Drake 81 vs. 89 Illinois State Final Recap

Illinois State pulls even with Drake after 89-81 OT win

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:49 PM (EST)

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) Keyshawn Evans and William Tinsley each drilled 3-pointers in overtime and Illinois State held on to beat Drake, 89-81 in the Redbirds home Missouri Valley Conference finale Wednesday night.

The victory pulls Illinois State into a tie with Drake for third place in the MVC standings with one game left to play. The teams split their season series.

Milik Yarbrough tied the game with 19 seconds left in regulation on a layup to make it 69-69 and Illinois State outscored the Bulldogs 20-12 in the overtime period.

Evans finished with 23 points and Yarbrough scored 22 to lead the Redbirds. Yarbrough now has 1,005 career points, with 475 coming during his time at Illinois State. Phil Fayne added 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Yarbrough and Tinsley each had 10 boards.

Illinois State (16-13, 10-7) has played five overtime games this season, winning four.

Reed Timmer scored 26 points to lead Drake (16-14, 10-7), with Graham Woodward adding 16 and Ore Arogundade contributing 13.

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Lamar 87 vs. 73 Houston Baptist Final Recap

Nzeakor opens big 2nd half, Lamar tops Houston Baptist 87-73

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:15 PM (EST)

HOUSTON (AP) Nick Garth scored 22 points, Josh Nzeakor went off for nine of his 19 points in the first two minutes of the second half and Lamar broke open a tight game to pull away from Houston Baptist 87-73 Wednesday night and earn a spot in the Southland Conference playoffs.

Houston Baptist, already eliminated from the playoffs, had beaten Lamar four straight times at Houston but was unable to play spoiler Wednesday. Although the Huskies were trailing by just 36-35 at halftime, Nzeakor, who scored all 19 in the second half, broke the game open right after the break. He opened the second half with a three-point play, added a pair of free throws, a layup and a dunk to stake Lamar to a 47-37 lead.

James Harrison scored 20 points for Lamar (18-11, 10-6) and Torey Noel matched his career best with 10 assists and added five steals. The Cardinals have won their last three.

David Caraher scored 17 points and Edward Hardt added 16 for Houston Baptist (6-22, 2-13), which has lost six of seven.

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Northwestern State 66 vs. 54 Incarnate Word Final Recap

Northwestern State with 1st conference win, 66-54

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:14 PM (EST)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Ishmael Lane scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Northwestern State picked up its first conference win, beating Incarnate Word 66-54 on Wednesday night, snapping a 17-game losing streak.

Lane was 9 of 14 from the field. Czar Perry added 16 points for the Demons (4-22, 1-14 Southland Conference) who shot 47 percent from the field compared to 30 percent for Incarnate Word and had a 42-33 rebounding edge.

The Demons trailed midway through the first period but Perry scored 12 points including a pair of 3-pointers as part of a 15-6 surge and Lane capped it with another 3 to give them a 38-32 lead at halftime.

Incarnate Word cut it to 47-46 with 7:58 to play but the Demons led all the way and Lane scored nine points in the final five minutes to seal the win.

Sam Burmeister scored 19 points to lead the Cardinals (5-20, 0-15). Augustine Ene added 13.

[CLOSE]

TCU 89 vs. 83 Iowa State Final Recap

TCU rallies past Iowa State 89-83

By LUKE MEREDITH - AP Sports Writer

Wednesday, February 21 at 10:57 PM (EST)

AMES, Iowa (AP) A grieving Donovan Jackson played his heart out for an Iowa State team that needed all the help it could get.

In the end it wasn't enough, as TCU eventually overwhelmed the undermanned Cyclones to avoid an untimely bad loss.

Desmond Bane had 27 points, including a crucial late dunk, and the Horned Frogs rallied to beat Iowa State 89-83 on Wednesday night for their second straight win.

Alex Robinson scored 18 points with six assists and Kouat Noi added 17 for the Horned Frogs (19-9, 7-8 Big 12), who reached seven wins in league play for the first time since they went 7-7 in the Mountain West Conference in 2012.

''I proud of the guys and the way they did it because (Iowa State) came out playing with emotion with all the things they have going on,'' TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. ''We responded and held them off.''

Jackson, playing in his first game since learning of his father's death over the weekend, scored 17 first-half points as the Cyclones - who dressed just seven players - jumped ahead 47-41.

But Jackson cooled off and TCU got hot, going on a 15-4 run early in the second half.

Noi then hit a jumper and Robinson added a free throw with 1:16 left to make it 83-78 and Lindell Wigginton turned it over on an air-balled 3. The Frogs then found Bane for an uncontested dunk, and they held on at the free throw line.

''It's going to be a different guy every night. It's been like that the whole season, and tonight happened to be my night,'' Bane said.

Jackson finished with 27 points for Iowa State (13-14, 4-11), which announced on Tuesday that starters Nick Weiler-Babb and Solomon Young would be out, likely for the rest of a season that could be over in just two weeks, because of knee trouble.

Weiler-Babb had been battling tendinitis for weeks, while Young had successful arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday.

Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said that Jackson learned on Saturday that his father had died of yet-unknown causes, and Jackson returned to Ames after visiting his family in Milwaukee.

Jackson's father's funeral is Saturday, and Jackson will miss that day's matchup against West Virginia.

''I just know that he would want me to come out here and compete,'' said Jackson, who broke down while recalling that his father wouldn't be calling him to dissect how he played. ''He always used to tell me to attack the basket and get to the free throw line, and I got to the free throw line 10 times, so I know he's happy about that.''

BIG PICTURE

TCU: With home games against Baylor and Kansas State coming up, the Horned Frogs have a chance to finish .500 in the toughest league in America. That'll likely go a long way with the NCAA Tournament committee.

Iowa State: This was a culture win for Prohm. The Cyclones had every excuse in the world to pack it in and wait for next season, but they battled for each other and for Jackson after a dismal showing in a loss to Kansas State over the weekend. But it's hard to win a close game down the stretch with six guys, as freshman Terrence Lewis fouled out with 5:26 left.

THE NUMBERS

Wigginton had 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting, and fellow freshman Cameron Lard had 14 points with eight rebounds. ...TCU went 16 of 20 at the line. ...Zoran Talley scored 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting for the Cyclones. ...The Horned Frogs committed 15 turnovers to just nine for Iowa State. ...Vlad Brodziansky had 14 points but just three rebounds for TCU.

HE SAID IT

''It puts a lot of things in perspective. Yeah, you're losing. You want to do a better job. But Donovan is a 22-year-old senior with the whole world in front of him. He'd probably give everything in the world to have one more conversation with his father. I can't even imagine what it's like,'' Prohm on Jackson.

UP NEXT

TCU hosts the Bears on Saturday.

Iowa State plays at West Virginia on Saturday.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

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Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. Abilene Christian Postponed
Loyola Chicago 75 vs. 56 Southern Illinois Final Recap

Loyola-Chicago beats SIU 75-56 for first MVC title

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:38 PM (EST)

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) Clayton Custer scored 16 points and Loyola-Chicago beat Southern Illinois 75-56 on Wednesday night to clinch its first Missouri Valley Conference regular season title.

Loyola-Chicago (24-5, 14-3 Missouri Valley Conference) won its first conference crown since the 1984-85 squad collected the Midwestern Collegiate Conference title. The Ramblers, who have also won a program-best 14 conference games, conclude their regular season hosting Illinois State on Saturday.

Southern Illinois (19-11, 11-6) had its three-game win streak snapped but now has sole possession of second place over Drake (10-7), which lost to Illinois State (10-7).

Custer was 6-of-10 shooting and made three 3-pointers. Aundre Jackson made 7 of 10 field goals and added 15 points, and Cameron Krutwig chipped in 14 points for Loyola-Chicago.

Kavion Pippen scored 16 points and Armon Fletcher had 14 to lead Southern Illinois.

The Ramblers had a double-digit lead six minutes into the game, built a 44-36 halftime lead and cruised from there.

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DePaul 62 vs. 93 Villanova Final Recap

Bridges has 27 points, No. 3 Villanova beats DePaul 93-62.

By AARON BRACY - Associated Press

Wednesday, February 21 at 11:28 PM (EST)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Phil Booth returned to Villanova's lineup, and it looked as if he never left.

Booth had 14 points in his comeback from a broken right hand that sidelined him for seven games, and Mikal Bridges scored 27 points to lead No. 3 Villanova to a 93-62 victory over DePaul on Wednesday night.

Eric Paschall had 16 points, and Jalen Brunson added 11 points and seven assists to help the Wildcats (25-3, 12-3 Big East) beat DePaul for the 16th straight time.

Booth played 16 minutes, going 4 for 6 from the field and 2 for 4 from. He was injured Jan. 23 against Providence, had his cast removed Friday and practiced Tuesday.

Wildcats coach Jay Wright was pleasantly surprised at Booth's speedy recovery - and his play.

''It's great to have him back,'' Wright said about Booth, who entered averaging 11.6 points. ''It's a tribute to him. It looked like he never had anything wrong at practice. He looked good tonight, completely fine. It just amazes me.''

Booth entered 2:53 into the contest and made his presence felt, scoring eight points in eight minutes to help the Wildcats to their 16-point halftime lead.

''It felt good to be back out there,'' Booth said. ''A little rust but I wasn't worried about offense. My hand felt great.''

Max Strus scored 21 points for the Blue Demons (10-17, 3-12).

The Wildcats had a comfortable 46-30 lead at the break. They surged to a 27-point advantage with 17:47 left in the contest by scoring 13 of the first 15 second-half points over 2:13. Bridges capped the run with a 3-pointer that made it 59-32 and practically erased any chances of a DePaul comeback.

''Our hands were down, we were late to a couple of rotations,'' Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao said of the Villanova spurt.

Leitao said the Wildcats have so many offensive options, and adding Booth makes it even harder to defend them.

''They are back to being whole,'' he said.

The game was tied at 16 after a Strus 3-pointer with 11:09 left in the half, but the Wildcats slowly and methodically pulled away.

Bridges had 15 points and Paschall added nine in the opening 20 minutes. Villanova was 10 for 14 from the free-throw line while the Blue Demons didn't attempt a foul shot. For the game, the Wildcats finished 15 for 21 from the line while DePaul was 0 for 1.

BIG PICTURE

DePaul: The Blue Demons need a victory in one of their three remaining games to reach four conference wins, which would be their most since joining the Big East.

Villanova: The four-time defending Big East champion Wildcats also have three regular-season games remaining. They are tied for first place with Xavier but own the tiebreaker with the Musketeers after beating them twice, including Saturday's 95-79 win at No. 4 Xavier.

WRIGHT STUFF

Wright recorded his 411th win at Villanova to close within two victories of tying Alexander Severance for first place in all-time coaching victories. In his 17th season at Villanova, Wright improved to 17-2 against DePaul.

SERIES DOMINANCE

The Wildcats have won 26 of the 34 matchups, with DePaul's last win coming Jan. 3, 2008. Villanova won at DePaul 103-85 on Dec. 27 in the other contest of this season's two-game series.

STRUS FOR 3

Strus made three 3-pointers, finishing 3 for 9, to up his single-season total to 74 and pass Quentin Richardson for second-most in a season. Drake Diener, with 85 in the 2004-05 season, tops the list.

UP NEXT

DePaul: Host Marquette on Saturday.

Villanova: At Creighton on Saturday.

[CLOSE]

Alabama 71 vs. 90 Auburn Final Recap

Harper, Okeke lead No. 12 Auburn to 90-71 win over Alabama

By JOHN ZENOR - AP Sports Writer

Thursday, February 22 at 12:03 AM (EST)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) The Auburn Tigers found a way to win without two key players.

That's nothing new.

Jared Harper scored 21 points, freshman Chuma Okeke had career-highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds and No. 12 Auburn beat rival Alabama 90-71 Wednesday night even without ailing star Mustapha Heron and injured Anfernee McLemore.

''I just knew I had to step up with two of our teammates down,'' Okeke said.

Down to seven scholarship players, the Tigers (24-4, 12-3 Southeastern Conference) turned a five-point halftime lead into a blowout thanks largely to big performances from Okeke and Malik Dunbar off the bench.

Auburn responded with Heron out with a stomach ailment one game after McLemore was lost for the rest of the season to an ankle injury. It's a familiar challenge for a team that's played without Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy all season.

Collin Sexton scored 25 points to lead the Crimson Tide (17-11, 8-7) after missing the first meeting with an abdominal meeting.

''The second half, I felt like we weren't hustling,'' Sexton said. ''They were just driving and when we did help then we wouldn't rotate one more time. That's why they got open 3s.''

Bryce Brown scored 18 points for the Tigers despite shooting just 3 for 14 on 3-pointers. Harper also had six assists after a nine-turnover, one-assist game in a loss to South Carolina.

''He controlled the game tonight,'' Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.

Okeke, who figures to be a key figure on replacing McLemore, scored 13 points in a seven-minute span of the second half.

''When Chuma's playing like that, we're very hard to beat,'' Harper said.

Dunbar also turned in his top scoring performance with 14 points. Desean Murray had nine points and eight boards.

Auburn took command with a 17-2 run after having its lead cut to one early in the second half.

''I told them, `Look, if Mustapha Heron doesn't play tonight, they're still a really good basketball team,''' Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. ''They came out and played with a lot of energy and emotion.

''Teams are always looking for a rallying point and playing with desperation. They played with more desperation than we did.''

Sexton made 8 of 12 shots for the Tide, but other top scorers struggled.

John Petty, who had eight 3-pointers and 27 points in the Tide's January win, missed his first eight attempts and finished with three points.

Donta Hall came in hot but had just seven points and five rebounds. Braxton Key had 11 points and Avery Johnson Jr. scored 10 points, both off the bench.

The Tigers built a quick 14-2 lead and held onto it until a furious close. The Tide tied it up on Sexton's drive to cap an 8-0 run. The Tigers answered with eight consecutive points punctuated by Brown's 3-pointer.

Murray hit a layup off an offensive rebound and pass from Okeke, but Sexton beat the buzzer for a jumper to cut it to 40-35 at the break.

''We did what we had to do,'' Pearl said. ''We had to get off to a good start. We had to hit them in the mouth early.''

BIG PICTURE

Alabama: Had won five straight games over ranked teams and could have made a big statement for the NCAA Tournament. Came into the game giving up a league-best 65.6 points in SEC games and allowed its season-worst.

Auburn: Moved a step closer to clinching its third SEC title and first since 1999. Game had to be a confidence builder for players like Dunbar and freshmen Okeke and Mitchell.

UP NEXT

Alabama hosts Arkansas on Saturday.

Auburn visits Florida on Saturday night.

[CLOSE]

Lane vs. Spring Hill 8:30 (EST)
St. John's 73 vs. 85 Marquette Final Recap

Marquette hits 13 3-pointers, beats St. John's 85-73

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:55 PM (EST)

MILWAUKEE (AP) Sam Hauser made five 3-pointers and finished with 24 points as Marquette rolled to an 85-73 victory over St. John's on Wednesday night.

Marquette (16-11, 7-8 Big East Conference) has won three of its last four games. St. John's (14-14, 3-12) had its four-game win streak broken.

Hauser was 9 of 14 from the floor. Andrew Rowsey added 19 points and made four 3-pointers for Marquette, which shot 31 of 61 (51 percent) from the field and made 13 of 24 (54 percent) from long range. Sacar Anim, Greg Elliott and Jamal Cain chipped in 11 points apiece.

Shamorie Ponds and Bryan Trimble Jr. each scored 19 points to lead St. John's.

The Golden Eagles used a 17-1 run spanning the halves for a 51-35 advantage with 15 minutes to play and cruised from there. The Red Storm cut the deficit to 10 points but didn't get closer.

[CLOSE]

Boise State 87 vs. 54 Colorado State Final Recap

Boise State beats Colorado State 87-54 on Chandler's 27

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:10 PM (EST)

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) Chandler Hutchison scored 18 of his 27 points in the first half for his fifth 20-point game of the season, and Boise State beat Colorado State 87-54 on Wednesday night to secure a top-three Mountain West Conference finish for the fourth straight season.

Justinian Jessup added 16 points with four 3-pointers, Zach Haney had 13 points, and Christian Sengfelder grabbed 11 rebounds for the Broncos (22-6, 12-4).

The Rams led briefly, but Marcus Dickinson's layup put the Broncos up for good, 15-12, and they led 50-29 at halftime, tying a season high for most first-half points.

Jessup's 3-pointer early in the second half sparked a 20-0 run while the Rams went scoreless for nine minutes and the Broncos led by as many as 42 points and cruised.

The Broncos outscored the Rams 34-18 in the paint and outrebounded them 51-31, scoring 25 second-chance points off of 18 offensive boards.

Deion James and J.D. Paige scored 12 points apiece for Colorado State (11-18, 4-12), which has lost nine of its last 10.

[CLOSE]

Louisville 56 vs. 82 Duke Final Recap

Allen scores 28, No. 5 Duke routs Louisville 82-56

By JOEDY McCREARY - AP Sports Writer

Wednesday, February 21 at 11:41 PM (EST)

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Grayson Allen took care of the scoring for No. 5 Duke. Everyone pitched in at the other end of the floor.

A 2-3 zone - of all things - has the Blue Devils playing perhaps their best defense of the season.

Allen scored 28 points and Duke held Louisville to a season-low point total in an 82-56 rout Wednesday night.

Hall of Fame coach - and noted man-to-man disciple - Mike Krzyzewski says the zone defense works with this group because it gets his young players talking to and moving with each other.

''We have length, and we have fairly good lateral movement from each kid,'' Krzyzewski said. ''It may be that having an area allows this group to talk more than if they have a specific offensive situation and man. ... No question, we talk better, and Grayson's kind of able to lead us better.''

Louisville's previous scoring low was 57 points against Purdue, but interim coach David Padgett came away impressed by the Duke defense.

''In a short period of time, they've turned it into a major defensive weapon,'' he said.

Freshman big man Wendell Carter Jr. finished with 18 points and a season-high six assists, and Gary Trent Jr. had 11 points to help the Blue Devils (23-5, 11-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) win their fourth straight game - all coming with star freshman Marvin Bagley III out with a sprained knee.

Ray Spalding scored 17 points, and V.J. King and Deng Adel had 10 apiece for Louisville (18-10, 8-7), playing for the first time since an NCAA panel upheld sanctions against the program in the wake of its embarrassing sex scandal - which cost the school about $600,000 in tournament revenue, 123 victories and its most recent national championship.

The Cardinals were taken out of this one early by a Duke team that shot 48 percent, hit nine 3-pointers - with Allen responsible for six of those - and pushed its lead into the 20s with a 26-6 run midway through the first half fueled by a pair of Allen 3s.

''We kept at it. Early in the year, we got a lead and we got comfortable,'' Allen said. ''Today, we made it a point to, if we get a lead, make it bigger.''

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: It's certainly been an eventful 48 hours for the Cardinals, with former coach Rick Pitino saying the school should consider legal action against the NCAA for making Louisville vacate its 2013 national championship. On the court, the Cardinals' two-game winning streak ended abruptly amid Allen's hot shooting and their own scoring struggles against that Duke zone. Now comes a trip to Virginia Tech, a home game against top-ranked Virginia and a season-ending visit to N.C. State.

''We've just got to focus on what the goal at hand is,'' Padgett said. ''We can't just say, `Oh, well, it's too tough. We're not going to try.' We've got to dig in and give it everything we have.''

Duke: The Bagley saga figures to linger into a third week after the presumptive one-and-done freshman missed his fourth straight game with the injury he suffered Feb. 8 in the loss to North Carolina, and Krzyzewski says he's day-to-day.

As was the case in each of the past three, the Blue Devils didn't need the ACC's top scorer and rebounder - not with Allen reaching the 20-point mark for the third time in that stretch - to remain a half-game ahead of the rival Tar Heels in the race to finish second to No. 1 Virginia in the conference race.

STAR WATCH

Allen finished with his highest-scoring performance since he scored a career-best 37 points in the victory over No. 2 Michigan State in November. He finished 10 of 20 from the field and took 15 of his team's 26 3-point attempts.

HIGHLIGHTS

Even some of Allen's missed 3s led to points for Duke. The prettiest play of this one came with about 9 minutes left in the half. Allen fired up a 3-pointer that bounced high off the iron, and Javin DeLaurier swooped in for a follow-up dunk that gave Duke a 23-15 lead. Two possessions later, DeLaurier followed up another missed 3 by Allen with a stickback dunk that pushed the lead into double figures for the first time.

UP NEXT

Louisville: At Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Duke: Hosts Syracuse on Saturday night.

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More AP college basketball at www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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(This version corrects that Louisville's previous scoring low was 57 points.)

[CLOSE]

Wake Forest 63 vs. 57 Pittsburgh Final Recap

Wake Forest keeps Pittsburgh winless in ACC 63-57

By ALAN SAUNDERS - Associated Press

Thursday, February 22 at 12:20 AM (EST)

PITTSBURGH (AP) The Demon Deacons didn't want to be Pitt's first ACC victim.

Facing the prospect of a winless ACC season, Pittsburgh battled Wake Forest to a close game throughout on Wednesday night. But the Demon Deacons were just a couple shots better, holding off a late Pitt charge to escape with a 63-57 victory.

''We're fortunate to come away with a win,'' Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said. ''We're happy to have it. Hopefully, this can give us some momentum as we move forward.''

The Demon Deacons came up clutch in the end by making six straight free throws to close the game, while Pitt guard Jared Wilson-Frame's dunk rattled out with under 10 seconds to close the upset bid.

When the Demon Deacons needed a basket in the second half, they turned to Bryant Crawford, who finished with 14 points, 12 of which came in the second half. The Wake Forest players believed that Crawford, who is the team's leader in assists, would heat up eventually.

''Always, and that goes for everybody,'' WF center Doral Moore said. ''Make the next one. If you make the next one, you'll be fine.''

Wake Forest (11-17, 4-12 Atlantic Coast Conference) nearly doubled up Pitt in the paint with a 30-16 scoring advantage. Moore led the way with nine rebounds and 13 points.

Pitt (8-21, 0-16) has relied on outside shooting for much of the season and that caused problems in the second half, going 8 of 28 (29 percent) from the floor. Wilson-Frame and Marcus Carr each scored 11 points for the Panthers.

BIG PICTURE

Wake Forest: Crawford was coming off a career-high 29 points against North Carolina State, and had averaged 21.6 points per game over his last five contests. He continued his dominance despite being held to four points in the first half.

Pitt: The Panthers' search for a conference win continues, despite yet another close finish. Pitt lost to Florida State on Sunday after trailing by three with under four minutes to play and has three single-digit losses in conference play.

Head coach Kevin Stallings addressed the prospects of his departure after two seasons at the helm.

''I'm here to help these guys be successful and I'm not doing a good enough job of that right now,'' Stallings said. ''We need to get better. But I'm just not the right person to ask because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what I think.''

TURNING POINT

Wake Forest started the second half on an 8-0 run and changed the tone of the rest of the game from a close battle to the Panthers chasing.

''We start the half, and we have three, four, five just like you're playing H.O.R.S.E. shots, and don't make one,'' Stallings said.

UP NEXT

Wake Forest will wrap up its home schedule against Notre Dame on Saturday. The Demon Deacons have lost five straight games against the Fighting Irish.

Pitt hosts No. 1 Virginia on Saturday. The Panthers last hosted the top-ranked team in 2014, when they lost to Syracuse. Pitt is 1-1 all-time against the No. 1 team at the Petersen Events Center.

[CLOSE]

Florida 57 vs. 62 Tennessee Final Recap

Williams helps No. 19 Tennessee beat Florida 62-57

By STEVE MEGARGEE - AP Sports Writer

Thursday, February 22 at 12:16 AM (EST)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Grant Williams bounced back from one of his worst performances of the season and helped 19th-ranked Tennessee damage Florida's NCAA Tournament hopes.

Williams scored 23 points and Tennessee beat Florida 62-57 on Wednesday night to hand the Gators their third consecutive loss. Williams' big night came four nights after he had a season-low five points in a 73-62 loss at Georgia.

''At Georgia, I was kind of being passive and also I was kind of playing slow,'' Williams said. ''I wasn't playing with pace like I normally do and I wasn't being aggressive. Tonight I was just saying I was going to get the ball where I wanted to get it and put the ball in the basket.''

Williams put up big numbers despite missing about eight minutes in the second half due to foul trouble. He shot 8 of 13 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the foul line.

Admiral Schofield added 16 points and eight rebounds for Tennessee (20-7, 10-5 Southeastern Conference). Williams and Schofield also led a Tennessee defense that caused Florida to shoot just 35 percent overall and 25 percent from 3-point range.

''They're one of the best defensive teams in the country,'' Florida coach Mike White said. ''You've got linebackers like Williams and Schofield that move like guards. They've got great speed and quickness in the backcourt. They've got great depth. They run different guys at you, and they play extremely hard.''

Florida (17-11, 8-7) trailed nearly the whole way, but threatened in the final minute.

Chris Chiozza made a basket to cut Tennessee's lead to 60-57 with 24.5 seconds left, and he got fouled by Williams in the process. But Chiozza missed the ensuing free throw and couldn't get Florida any closer.

The Gators were seeking a quality road win that could boost their NCAA Tournament credentials.

Florida entered the night 65th in the RPI and have a demanding schedule the rest of the way. The Gators host No. 12 Auburn, visits Alabama and hosts Kentucky in their final three regular-season games.

White credited his team's defensive intensity, which has been an issue at times this season. The Gators' problem was trying to solve Tennessee's defense.

''I told our guys I was proud of the effort defensively,'' White said. ''We've got to get to where we see that every night. There's not that many games left. That will give us a chance. On top of that, we've got to knock down some 3's and free throws and of course, when we're within 5 feet, we've got to finish at a much higher rate.''

Jalen Hudson had 13 points for Florida, and Chiozza and Keith Stone each added 11. Chiozza also had nine assists and six rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators continually misfired from 3-point range for most of the night. They missed 15 of their first 17 3-point attempts before making four of their last seven. By the time they finally started to heat up, they already had dug themselves too deep a hole.

Tennessee: The Vols got big efforts from their two top players - Williams and Schofield - and didn't back down when Florida finally started making its shots down the stretch. Williams and Schofield played well enough to help Tennessee withstand the absence of reserve forward Derrick Walker, who missed the game with an ankle injury. Tennessee preserved its lead by going 13 of 15 from the foul line, including 9 of 11 in the second half.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Tennessee had moved down one spot to No. 19 after its loss to Georgia. The Vols could move up a spot or two next week if they win Saturday at Mississippi.

FAMILIAR FACES

The boisterous Thompson-Boling Arena crowd of 16,016 featured a handful of former Tennessee players. Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson, Chris Lofton, Bobby Maze, Jordan McRae and Ron Slay received a hearty ovation when they were introduced during a first-half timeout. Lofton and Slay are former SEC players of the year.

UP NEXT

Florida: Hosts No. 12 Auburn on Saturday.

Tennessee: At Mississippi on Saturday.

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More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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Follow Steve Megargee at https://twitter.com/stevemegargee

[CLOSE]

Iowa 82 vs. 86 Minnesota Final Recap

Mason's 33 points helps Minnesota snap nine-game skid

By PATRICK DONNELLY - Associated Press

Thursday, February 22 at 1:04 AM (EST)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Nate Mason wasn't going to go out a loser in his last game at Williams Arena.

Mason scored 33 points and dished out six assists as Minnesota snapped a nine-game losing streak with an 86-82 victory over Iowa on Wednesday night.

Dupree McBrayer scored 16 for Minnesota (15-15, 4-13 Big Ten), Jordan Murphy had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Davonte Fitzgerald also scored 10.

Mason, a senior guard, is nine points away from moving into fifth place on the Gophers' all-time scoring list. But a season that began with talk of competing in the Big Ten has been derailed by injuries and a season-ending suspension of a starter, leaving the Gophers reeling through the second half of conference play.

''Emotions were really high, especially before with the senior introductions. We wanted to come out and do everything possible to get this win,'' Mason said. ''We went through a lot of rough times, and to end it like this is amazing.''

Mason hit 11 of 19 field goal attempts and three 3-pointers on the night. He also went 8 for 9 from the line, including five late free throws as Minnesota barely avoided blowing a 10-point lead in the final 52 seconds.

Isaiah Moss led Iowa with a career-high 32 points, including 19 in the final two minutes as the Hawkeyes (12-18, 3-14) fought their way back from an early 20-point deficit. Luka Garza added 16 points and Ryan Kriener scored a career-high 15 as the Hawkeyes lost their sixth straight.

Minnesota stormed to a 22-2 lead thanks in large part to an ice-cold start by Iowa. In the Hawkeyes' first 16 possessions they went 1-for-8 shooting from the floor with no offensive rebounds and eight turnovers.

Meanwhile Mason scored 12 points, the last coming on a three-point play to put the Gophers up by 20 barely eight minutes in.

Then it was Minnesota's turn for a scoring drought. The Gophers went 7 1/2 minutes without a point as Iowa cobbled together an 11-0 run, thanks to seven points by Garza.

''Once we settled down, I thought we'd get back in this thing and we did,'' Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey said. ''I'm proud of the way we fought.''

The Gophers finally responded as Murphy hit a baby hook as the shot clock expired to restore Minnesota's lead to double digits. The junior forward ended the half by slamming home an alley-oop pass from Mason to give Minnesota a 31-19 halftime lead.

Kriener, who scored all of his points in the second half, helped Iowa keep the game within reach. At one point he scored 10 of 11 Hawkeye points, part of a 63-point second half effort for the team.

''The second half we really just came out with a whole different mindset,'' Kriener said. ''We dug ourselves a pretty big hole. We knew that if we wanted a chance in this game we were going to have to come out firing and come out throwing the first punch, and the next punch and the next punch.''

Iowa clawed back to as close as two points in the second half as Moss went on a late tear. His third 3-pointer made the score 84-82 with three seconds left before Fitzgerald hit two free throws to ice it for Minnesota.

Both teams are assured of a bottom-four finish in the conference standings and could face each other again in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday in New York.

INSTANT OFFENSE

How does one player score 19 points in 96 seconds? Moss strung together this remarkable sequence starting with 1:36 to play: 3-point play, jump shot, 3-pointer, 3-pointer, jump shot, 1 of 2 free throws, 2 of 2 from the line and another 3-pointer.

Moss came into the night averaging 10.6 points per game and blew past his previous career-high 25 with room to spare. McCaffrey said he wasn't surprised at the output of his sophomore swingman.

''He has the ability to do that. It's funny because when you have a guy who's a legitimate 6-foot-5 and he can get to the rim, he's got a pull-up game, he's got a 3-point game, and he's quick, all I ever do is encourage him to go,'' McCaffrey said. ''I don't ever have him questioning whether it's a good shot or a bad shot. Just, `you go get buckets. That's what you do.'''

QUOTABLE

Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino joked that he felt bad about needing Mason to play all 40 minutes, robbing him of a chance to walk off to a standing ovation in his final home game.

''I would've subbed him out, but jeez, the way they were scoring I wasn't going to risk that,'' Pitino said.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa: Sophomore guard Jordan Bohannon, the Hawkeyes' second-leading scorer on the season at 13.2 points per game, was held scoreless for the first time all season. He attempted just two field goals but distributed six assists.

Minnesota: On senior night at Williams Arena, Mason got the Gophers offense going with a 3-pointer to open each half. Meanwhile senior center Bakary Konate grabbed nine rebounds in the first half and finished with two points and 10 boards.

UP NEXT

Iowa: Hosts Northwestern Sunday night.

Minnesota: Visits Purdue Sunday afternoon.

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UCF 61 vs. 70 Tulsa Final Recap

Jeffries, Etou spark Tulsa past UCF 70-61 in battle for 4th

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:50 PM (EST)

TULSA, Okla. (AP) DaQuan Jeffries scored 19 points, Junior Etou added 17 and Tulsa defeated Central Florida 70-61 Wednesday night holding onto fourth place in the American Athletic Conference and running its win streak to five games.

The teams came into Wednesday night one game apart in the battle for fourth place that saw 10 ties and 10 lead changes.

Etou and Jeffries took over, scoring all 13 points in a 13-8 run midway through the second half when Tulsa (17-10, 10-5) took control. Etou opened the run with a layup to tie at 42-42, Jeffries followed with a monster dunk and a free throw, he and Etou each added 3-pointers and Etou finished with a layup and a 53-50 lead and the Golden Hurricane never trailed again.

B.J Taylor, limited to 11 games because of injury, scored a season-high 26 points for UCF, and became the 19th member of the school's 1,000-point scoring club.

Dayon Griffin added 12 points for the Knights (17-10, 8-7). UCF had a three-game win streak end.

[CLOSE]

Texas 48 vs. 58 Kansas State Final Recap

Brown's 14 second-half points pushes Kansas State past Texas

By ANDREW HAMMOND - Associated Press

Thursday, February 22 at 12:34 AM (EST)

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) For the third-straight home game, Kansas State went into halftime tied with an opponent, and with the game still in question just under the five-minute mark, Barry Brown showed up when the Wildcats needed him most.

Brown scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and Kansas State pulled away late to beat Texas 58-48 on Wednesday night.

''That was big time for him and for the team,'' Kansas State's Xavier Sneed said. ''We all have confidence in him to just keep playing and keep doing the right things on the court. He is a big-time player and one of the best players in the league in my opinion. It is something we expect out of him.''

In what was a cold shooting affair for both teams, the last five minutes saw Kansas State (20-8, 9-6 Big 12 Conference) close on a 16-4 run. Brown had the hot hand as he knocked down five free throws, two layups and a backbreaking 3-pointer in the final 4:49.

''Barry (Brown) made some plays you have to make plays down the stretch.'' Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. ''That was a good team. We had to be prepared for a grind out game.''

The Wildcats shot 42 percent but just 3 of 13 (23 percent) from long range. Texas (16-12, 6-9) shot 29 percent overall and missed 16 of 18 3-pointers.

Dean Wade added 13 points for Kansas State. Cartier Diarra had 12 points and Xavier Sneed chipped in nine with a game-high 13 rebounds for the Wildcats.

Matt Coleman scored 14 points and was a perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the free-throw line to lead Texas. Dylan Osetkowski finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Coleman made six free throws and Mohamed Bamba added a dunk during an 8-2 surge to give the Longhorns a 44-42 lead with 5:12 left before Kansas State pulled away.

''It is very tough,'' Texas coach Shaka Smart said. ''When you are in the position that we were in up two coming out of a timeout. We have to play better defense down the stretch, but you also have to score. We were not tough-minded offensively.''

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State gets back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

Texas, which beat then-No. 23 Oklahoma 77-66 on Saturday, has now lost four of its last five games.

THEY SAID IT

''It puts us in a position where we have to give everything we have to win our next game. When you lose a game like we lost tonight, the urgency could not be any higher,'' Texas coach Shaka Smart said about the Longhorns tournament hopes following the loss to Kansas State.

STATS AND STREAKS

Xavier Sneed's 13 rebounds was a single-game best for a Kansas State player this season.

UP NEXT

Texas hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Kansas State travels to Oklahoma on Saturday.

[CLOSE]

San Diego State 67 vs. 56 Air Force Final Recap

Mitchell with 17 leads San Diego State over Air Force 67-56

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:57 PM (EST)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) Matt Mitchell scored 17 points and San Diego State beat Air Force 67-56 on Wednesday night.

Mitchell was 4 of 5 from long range for the Aztecs (16-10, 8-7 Mountain West Conference) who have won three straight. Malik Pope added 13 points with five rebounds and Jalen McDaniels had seven points and seven rebounds. Devin Watson also scored seven points and Trey Kell dished eight assists.

San Diego State led by three at the break and Mitchell drained three 3-pointers and McDaniels dunked as part of a 13-2 surge to start the second half that extended the Aztecs advantage to 39-25 with 17:02 to play. Air Force cut it to 64-55 with 2:32 left but could not get closer.

Ryan Swan scored 11 points with eight rebounds to lead the Falcons (10-16, 4-10) who have lost the last three. CJ Siples added 10 points, four assists and three steals.

[CLOSE]

Fresno State 77 vs. 64 UNLV Final Recap

Fresno State trio power bulldogs past UNLV, 77-64

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Thursday, February 22 at 12:41 AM (EST)

LAS VEGAS (AP) The Fresno State trio of Deshon Taylor, Bryson Williams and Jaron Hopkins combined to score all but 15 of Fresno State's points as the Bulldogs hung a 77-64 loss on UNLV on Wednesday night to maintain their hold on third place in the Mountain West Conference.

The top five teams earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament. With the loss, UNLV is tied with Wyoming for that fifth and final bye, with San Diego State a game back with three games left in the regular season. Fresno State has now won 17 of its last 30 road games and earned its 20th win of the season.

Taylor, who entered the game ranked 12th in the nation in free throws made, converted 11 of 14 from the line and finished with 22 points to lead the Bulldogs (20-8, 10-5). Williams and Hopkins each scored 20 points and Hopkins grabbed nine boards and dished four assists.

Jordan Johnson scored 13 points to lead the Runnin' Rebels (19-9, 8-7). Brandon McCoy added 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Shakur Juiston had 11 points and 10 boards and Jovan Mooring scored 11 points and collected six boards.

[CLOSE]

San Jose State 67 vs. 80 Nevada Final Recap

Stephens has career-high 30 points, No. 20 Nevada wins

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Thursday, February 22 at 1:34 AM (EST)

RENO, Nev. (AP) Kendall Stephens scored a career-high 30 points and No. 20 Nevada hit 14 3-pointers in an 80-67 victory over San Jose State on Wednesday night.

Jordan Caroline and Hallice Cooke had 15 points apiece for the Wolf Pack (24-5, 13-2 Mountain West). Cooke scored all his points on 3-pointers in the first half as the Wolf Pack opened a double-digit lead.

Ryan Wellage had 22 points and nine rebounds for San Jose State (3-23, 0-15).

Nevada and San Jose State got caught up in a good old-fashioned 3-point-shooting contest, and that suited the Wolf Pack's Kendall Stephens just fine.

Stephens scored a career-best 30 points and the 20th-ranked Wolf Pack hit 14 3-pointers in an 80-67 victory over the Spartans on Wednesday night.

Jordan Caroline and Hallice Cooke had 15 points apiece for Nevada (24-5, 13-2 Mountain West). Cooke scored all his points on 3s in the first half as the Wolf Pack opened a double-digit lead and never relinquished it.

Nevada coach Eric Musselman praised his team's 3-point shooting and Stephens' performance in particular.

''We believe Kendall is one of the best shooters in the country,'' Musselman said. ''He has NBA range and every time he shoots it, we think it's going in.''

Nevada shot 44 percent from the field, including 14 for 37 (38 percent) on 3s. The Wolf Pack also had 19 assists, including seven each from Cooke and Cody Martin.

''I was impressed with our ball movement,'' Musselman said. ''I thought it really opened up some good looks for us.''

Ryan Wellage had 22 points and nine rebounds for San Jose State (3-23, 0-15). Oumar Barry had 12 points and Jalen James added 11.

The Spartans shot 43 percent from the field, including 10 for 24 (42 percent) on 3s.

Nevada led 42-29 at halftime and quickly stretched it to 47-32 on a 3-pointer by Stephens and a layup by Caroline. The Spartans cut the lead to 10 several times in the second half, but Nevada answered every run to keep its double-digit lead. Stephens 3-pointer with 6:05 left put Nevada ahead 72-57.

The Wolf Pack won despite only 10 combined points from its two leading scorers, twins Cody and Caleb Martin. Cody Martin, who had 30 points in a victory over Utah State last week, finished with two points on 1 of 3 shooting.

''I think that shows you the kind of teammate Cody is,'' Musselman said. ''Here he is coming off a 30-point game and took only 3 shots.''

TURNING POINT

Cooke hit four 3-pointers in a four-minute stretch as Nevada turned a 7-5 deficit in the first half into a 25-14 lead with 11:51 left, and it never trailed again.

UP NEXT

San Jose State hosts San Diego State on Saturday.

Nevada hosts struggling Colorado State on Sunday in its final home game.

[CLOSE]

Cal State Fullerton 65 vs. 69 UC Riverside Final Recap

UC Riverside holds off CSU Fullerton 69-65 at foul line

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Thursday, February 22 at 12:28 AM (EST)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) Dikymbe Martin scored 19 points and UC Riverside maintained distance from CSU Fullerton by making 20 free throws in the second half for a 69-65 win over the Highlanders Wednesday night.

UC Riverside (8-19, 3-10 Big West) shot 21 of 28 from the foul line and was 22-of-55 shooting from the field. Brandon Rosser and Alex Larsson each scored 11 points, Rosser grabbed eight rebounds and Chance Murray scored 10.

CSU Fullerton (15-10, 8-5) led 33-27 at halftime before the Titans went on a 13-5 run to start the second half and led the rest of the way after Menno Dijkstra's 3-pointer made it 40-38 with 13:10 left. Jackson Rowe tied it at 44 but the Titans took control from the line and made 9 of 10 in the final 82 seconds.

Kyle Allman led the Titans with 20 points, Rowe scored 17 with 11 rebounds and Khalil Ahmad scored 11.

[CLOSE]

USC 75 vs. 64 Colorado Final Recap

Metu scores 21, USC beats Colorado 75-64

By BRENT W. NEW - Associated Press

Thursday, February 22 at 2:31 AM (EST)

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) Even if all is not forgotten following last month's feud between USC and Colorado, Trojans junior Chimezie Metu still agreed to take a few selfies with fans as he left the Buffaloes' court Wednesday night.

USC made it clear, its focus was on the bigger picture.

Metu scored 21 points, Jordan McLaughlin added 18 and USC beat Colorado 75-64.

It was the teams' first meeting since the two traded barbs in January. It started with Colorado coach Tad Boyle's comments about taking extra pleasure in beating teams like Arizona, which like USC, are included in the FBI's ongoing corruption probe into the sport. Then USC coach Andy Enfield seemingly retaliated when the two teams met on Jan. 10, calling an unnecessary timeout with 21 seconds remaining in a game the Trojans led by 12.

Neither coach expounded the issue after the game on Wednesday.

Enfield said his team has its eyes on other things as the Trojans continue to make their case for the NCAA Tournament.

''We just focused on the task at hand, that was to try to play our best basketball here,'' USC's coach said. ''We knew it was an important game and now we're going to focus on Utah.''

Tied at 58, the Trojans (20-9, 11-5 Pac 12) pulled away on a 12-0 run in the waning minutes. McLaughlin had two 3s as part of the burst, letting out a victorious scream after swishing the second.

Metu was 10 of 16 from the field and McLaughlin was 6 of 10, including 4 of 6 behind the arc. USC shot 55 percent for the game.

''We've been in a situation before where we were on the road, and up, and needed stops and weren't able to get them,'' Metu said. ''We just buckled down and learned from our mistakes and got the `W'.''

Lucas Siewert led Colorado (15-13, 7-9) with 16 points and a career-most eight rebounds. McKinley Wright IV added 12 points on a night he surpassed former star Chauncey Billups for the most assists in a season by a Colorado freshman.

The Buffaloes didn't score a point for 7 minutes, 28 seconds late in the second half as the Trojans pulled away.

Siewert fueled a 14-0 run, hitting two 3s and converting a 3-point play, to put the Buffaloes up 52-50 with 12:27 remaining.

''We got back into the game and we just couldn't close it out,'' Siewert said. ''That was our problem.''

BIG PICTURE

USC got back on track on the road, snapping a three-game losing streak away from the Galen Center. The Trojans need to win to keep their tournament hopes alive. They have two games remaining before the Pac-12 Tournament.

Colorado, more than a longshot to make the 68-team field, would have loved a chance to deliver a serious blow to USC's tournament hopes while improving their own postseason hopes. Boyle said afterward, however, there was no extra incentive because it was the Trojans.

''This was an important game for us to put ourselves in position for postseason play, which every loss you get further and further away from that,'' he said. ''That's why this loss hurts. It has nothing to do with that other stuff.''

SUSPENDED MELTON LEAVING SCHOOL

USC sophomore guard De'Anthony Melton announced his decision to withdraw from the university Wednesday morning, turning his attention to preparing for the pros. Melton did not suit up for the Trojans this season due to eligibility issues swirling around the FBI's probe into corruption and bribery in college basketball.

''After much thought and consideration, we, as a family, have made the difficult decision for me to withdraw from the school,'' Melton announced on Twitter. ''. I have reached a crossroads wherein I have decided to focus on honing my strengths and improving my weaknesses for competition at the next level.''

In January, the school decided to suspend Melton for the rest of the season after it determined that a close family friend received an extra benefit.

''Well, he's been through a lot this academic year,'' Enfield said. ''We've always been very supportive of De'Anthony. He'll always be a Trojan and we anticipate De'Anthony to have a very successful career in the NBA.''

UP NEXT

USC is at Utah on Saturday.

Colorado will play its final home game of the season against UCLA on Sunday.

[CLOSE]

Georgia 57 vs. 66 South Carolina Final Recap

South Carolina rains 3s in 66-57 win over Georgia

By JEFFREY COLLINS - Associated Press

Wednesday, February 21 at 9:45 PM (EST)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) In the midst of a five-game losing streak, South Carolina coach Frank Martin told his point guards that nothing was going to change unless they started playing better.

Three games later, Martin is praising his ball handlers, especially after the Gamecocks hit 13 3-pointers to beat Georgia 66-57 on Wednesday night.

Wesley Myers led South Carolina (15-13, 6-9 Southeastern Conference) with 15 points, all on 3s, and starting point guard Hassani Gravett had eight points and five assists.

''When your point guards play better, your team plays better,'' said Martin, whose Gamecocks have won two of three since he challenged his point men.

The Gamecocks ended the first half on a 13-3 run to take a 15-point lead at the break.

Georgia (5-12, 6-9) scored on six straight possessions early in the second half, but then suddenly went sloppy and cold. The Bulldogs committed three offensive fouls and turned the ball over twice after cutting the deficit to 47-40.

Georgia also made just three of its next 14 shots, but trailed just 58-50 because South Carolina was shooting poorly. The Gamecocks shot just 8-of-33 in the second half, but five of their made shots were 3s

The Gamecocks also played their cleanest game of the season with just five turnovers. Georgia turned the ball over 17 times.

''When you dig that kind of hole, you have to play almost perfect to get out of it. And we didn't do it,'' Bulldogs coach Mark Fox said.

Chris Silva also scored 15 points for South Carolina despite playing just 19 minutes with foul trouble.

William Jackson II led Georgia with 14 points. Yante Maten added 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The Gamecocks shot 31 percent (21 of 68) from the field. They beat Georgia 64-57 on Jan. 13 shooting just 27 percent.

BIG PICTURE

Georgia: Two wins in a row had the Bulldogs looking like they could crawl back on the NCAA Tournament bubble. But a bad loss and a season sweep now by South Carolina has Georgia a lot closer to playing on the opening day of the SEC tournament than in the NCAAs. The Bulldogs are now tied for 10th in the SEC with South Carolina and Texas A&M.

South Carolina: It's a longshot, but the Gamecocks might be able to sneak back in the NCAA Tournament a year after making it to the Final Four last season. South Carolina finishes the season at Mississippi State, at home with LSU and at Auburn. Win two of those and make a run in the SEC tournament could pull South Carolina into the NCAAs on the back of the one of the deepest leagues in history.

STRANGE GAME

South Carolina made more 3-pointers (13) than free throws (11) or two-point baskets (8).

The Gamecocks got just 25 points from their starters and 41 points off the bench.

But Martin said he is fine with whatever happened because of one thing.

''It's late February. You get a home win against a conference opponent, you take it and you run with it,'' Martin said.

NCAA HOPES

Fox stuck to what he said earlier in the season that he thought 9-9 in the SEC should be good enough to get his team an at-large NCAA bid. Now the Bulldogs will have to win their last three to get there.

But Fox also pointed out that the selection committee keeps shifting criteria. Georgia finished 12-6 and tied for second in the SEC in 2014 and got left out for reasons the coach said he never understood.

''Our hope will be we can get to 9-9 and have that opportunity,'' Fox said. ''But we've got to worry about just winning the next game right now.''

UP NEXT

Georgia: The Bulldogs host LSU on Saturday.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks are at Mississippi State.

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For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter and see his work on apnews.com

[CLOSE]

Xavier 89 vs. 77 Georgetown Final Recap

Marshall helps No. 4 Xavier beat Georgetown 89-77

By BOBBY BANCROFT - Associated Press

Wednesday, February 21 at 10:19 PM (EST)

WASHINGTON (AP) Despite winning four straight games in the nation's capital, Xavier coach Chris Mack is happy that the Big East has never held its conference tournament in DC.

His leading scorer, Trevon Bluiett, has scored over 2,000 points in his Musketeers career but he's combined for just three points in his last two visits to Washington.

Naji Marshall led three Musketeers in double figures with a career-high 21 points as No. 4 Xavier beat Georgetown 89-77 on Wednesday as Bluiett failed to reach double-figures for just the second time this season.

Bluiett, who averages 19.8 points per game, scored a season low two points on 1 for 10 shooting in 23 minutes. Going back to last season, Bluiett is a combined 1 for 20, including 0 for 11 on 3-pointers on Georgetown's home court.

''I hope that the Big East tournament isn't played here,'' Mack said he told Bluiett in jest towards the end of the game.

''I think maybe folks in DC that don't have a TV and come to the games they may think he's an average player, a below average player.''

J.P. Macura added 20 points, including four 3-pointers, while Quentin Goodin had 19 points as the Musketeers (25-4, 13-3 Big East) swept the season series with Georgetown for the second straight season.

Jamorko Pickett tied a career high with 21 points to lead Georgetown (15-11, 5-10) while Jessie Govan added 15 points and 11 rebounds. Pickett made a career high six 3-pointers.

Xavier trailed 40-38 at the half but immediately tied things up to start the second half as Bluiett made his only bucket, a jumper in the lane.

Georgetown took its last lead at 50-47 on a Pickett's fifth 3-pointer but after that Xavier took control. The Musketeers used a used a 12-0 run to take a 59-50 lead with 12 minutes remaining and never looked back. Georgetown closed to 63-58 on a Jahvon Blair 3-pointer but the Hoyas never drew closer.

Blair finished with 12 points for Georgetown while Kaleb Johnson added 11.

Xavier outrebounded Georgetown 38-29 including an 11-6 edged on the offensive glass.

''Bluiett didn't have as big an impact on the game as he did out there,'' said Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing about the team's earlier meeting. ''Like I told the guys, he's just a part of the team. They have a good team.''

Bluiett had 31 points in Xavier's 96-91overtime win over Georgetown on Feb 3.

Although Mack was pleased to win on an off night from his star player, he knows he'll need Bluiett as March nears.

''I'd like him to score a few more than he did tonight as we move forward, I'll tell you that,'' Mack said with a smile.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers kept pace with Villanova for the top seed in the conference as well as kept alive their shot at being a top seed in the NCAA Tournament with the victory. Xavier improved its record to 8-2 against the Hoyas in regular season conference games since joining the league in the 2013-14 campaign.

Georgetown: The Hoyas fell to 0-4 against Top 25 teams this season and have lost seven straight against ranked opposition going back to last season. The last time the Hoyas failed to defeat at least one ranked team was in the 2003-04 season. Georgetown is now assured of its third straight losing season within Big East play.

UP NEXT

Xavier: Musketeers have a week off before hosting Providence on Feb. 28 in their final home game of the season.

Georgetown: Hosts Providence on Saturday and then Marquette on Monday to close out their home slate of games.

[CLOSE]

Seton Hall 56 vs. 47 Providence Suspended Recap

Water on court suspends Seton Hall-Providence game

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:37 PM (EST)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) The Seton Hall men's basketball game against Providence was suspended with 13:03 left in the second half on Wednesday night because of moisture on the Dunkin' Donuts Center court creating unsafe playing conditions.

The game will resume Thursday at noon EST at Alumni Hall on the Providence campus.

Myles Powell scored his 16th point for a 65-44 Seton Hall lead and Providence's Alpha Diallo replied with a 3 when the game was called after multiple players had slipped on the court.

The Dunkin' Donuts Center doubles as an ice hockey rink.

[CLOSE]

Thursday, February 22, 2018
National Hockey League
Blue Jackets vs. Flyers 7:00 (EST) Preview

Mrazek set for Flyers' debut versus Blue Jackets

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:22 PM (EST)

Newly acquired goaltender Petr Mrazek is expected to make his Philadelphia debut Thursday night when the Flyers host the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The 26-year-old Mrazek was acquired Monday night when the Flyers sent two conditional draft picks to the Detroit Red Wings after Michal Neuvirth joined fellow goalie Brian Elliott on the disabled list.

"It's a new chapter, a new life, and I'm looking forward to it," Mrazek told Philly.com on Tuesday after arriving at the Wells Fargo Center.

Mrazek joins a surging Flyers team that has won three straight and earned points in nine games in a row (7-0-2).

On Tuesday night, Jakub Voracek tied the game late and then scored 1:26 into overtime to give Philadelphia (31-19-10) a 3-2 home win against the Montreal Canadiens. Voracek added his 55th assist, tops in the NHL.

For the third straight game, Philadelphia did not have to kill a penalty.

"I don't think we've dominated puck possession over the last couple games, but when we haven't had it, we've worked hard to get it back the right way," Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol told NHL.com. "At this time of year, it's about moving your feet, trying to get above plays and trying to check the right way."

The Flyers moved two points ahead of the New Jersey Devils for third place in the Metropolitan Division. With Mrazek serving as his backup, Alex Lyon made 25 saves for his second NHL win.

Philadelphia trails the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins by two points and the Washington Capitals by three points in the Metropolitan.

"We're done looking behind us, we're looking ahead of us now," Voracek told NHL.com. "I think we've got to a spot where we can look ahead of us. We're looking at Pittsburgh and Washington now."

Columbus (30-25-5) also won Tuesday night, snapping a three-game losing streak (0-2-1) when it defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-1 at Prudential Center.

Boone Jenner and Scott Harrington scored and Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves for the Blue Jackets, who moved into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders.

"Bobrovsky played really well, especially in the second period where we turned some pucks over and didn't give ourselves a chance to forecheck," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella told NHL.com. "He made some key saves there. He's a good goalie and we all know that. He certainly was a big part of it tonight."

The Blue Jackets won despite being outshot 31-19.

"I don't care how we do it, it's two points," Tortorella told the Columbus Dispatch. "I don't think we gave them much. As I've said before, you win games in different ways. We have lost games when we have been lights out and tonight we win when we had struggles. You take the two points and get the hell out of town."

The teams have split a pair of 2-1 decisions. Columbus won on Dec. 23 as Bobrovsky stopped 30 shots in regulation and overtime before going 3-for-3 in the shootout.

Last week, the Flyers won 2-1 in Columbus on Sean Couturier's goal at 1:52 of overtime.

Bobrovsky has a sterling 9-2-1 career mark against the Flyers with a 1.81 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

Mrazek is 1-3-1, 2.79, .913 versus Columbus.

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Islanders vs. Maple Leafs 7:00 (EST) Preview

Islanders hope for better result vs. Leafs

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Thursday, February 22 at 12:00 AM (EST)

TORONTO -- The New York Islanders will be trying to avoid a repeat of their last visit to the Air Canada Centre when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

The Maple Leafs defeated them 5-0 on Jan. 31 and the Islanders return to the ACC needing every point possible in their desperate pursuit of a playoff spot.

The Islanders (29-26-6) are 4-6-1 since the All-Star break and are one point removed from a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference after losing 5-3 to the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

"We're going to play a hungry team with a lot on the line, who didn't have a good night here last time," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday. "They have a lot on the line."

The Maple Leafs (37-20-5) remained third in the Eastern Conference after their 1-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and are playing for their seeding in the playoffs.

"It's an unusual spot we're in, getting points but not really gaining a ton of ground," Maple Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey said. "But we'll keep cranking along, trying to catch (the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning) for home ice (advantage). You get to a Game 7, that's pretty important."

The Maple Leafs, who will host the second-place Bruins on Saturday and visit the Lightning on Monday, have won 12 of their past 15 games.

"I thought we were real loose today in practice and I don't care, but you have to have the intensity and get better each and every day," Babcock said. "Being loose is a sign of feeling good and there's nothing wrong with that, but that doesn't mean you can't prepare right."

Islanders coach Doug Weight, meanwhile, liked the attitude of his team on Wednesday.

"We had really good meetings and a really good purposeful practice," he said. "It's a good feeling in our room right now... I'm excited where we're going. It's a tough road ahead, but we're going to hit it with everything we have."

Before their loss to the Wild, the Islanders had won the previous two games by shutouts. The difference Monday was a three-goal spree by the Wild in a span of 4:12 in the second period.

"The whole game was winnable," Weight said after the loss. "We played well. Three bad decisions. ... If you were playing better, consistent hockey throughout the year, you chalk it up as a couple of bad decisions and you march on. But now the points are so paramount important that it's a big punch in the stomach."

Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss earned his first shutout of the season Friday night but suffered a lower-body injury late in the game. He finished the game but Monday, he was put on injured reserve and Christopher Gibson was called up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League.

"I don't suspect it's going to be a huge amount of time," Weight said. "But I don't want to speak out of turn because if I say two weeks, four weeks, and they find something else, I don't want to put him in that position. Certainly, lower-body injuries for goalies are a little tougher to decipher. But he's on the IR. He played great. Hopefully he can take that energy he had and that feeling and get back quick."

Jaroslav Halak has made most of the starts in goal for the Islanders since late November.

Halak played Monday against the Wild. Greiss was in goal against the Maple Leafs on Jan. 31 and faced 50 shots, stopping 45 of them.

Greiss also stopped 45 shots Friday in his 3-0 shutout against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"The timing is disappointing," Weight said. "Probably some of our worst games were when (Greiss) was in net, and it was kind of disappointing. But he battled and looked better."

The Islanders are 13-15-2 on the road; the Maple Leafs are 20-8-2 at home.

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Wild vs. Devils 7:00 (EST) Preview

Devils' Hall hopes to stay hot versus Wild

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Wednesday, February 21 at 11:35 PM (EST)

To say that Taylor Hall has the complete attention of the Minnesota Wild heading into Thursday's game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center is an understatement.

Following practice Wednesday, Hall was pretty much all Wild coach Bruce Boudreau and his players talked about.

Hall is as hot as any player in the league right now, recording at least one point in all 19 games he played since the calendar flipped to 2018. His goal in Tuesday's 2-1 home-ice loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets extended his red-hot personal scoring streak and gives him 13 goals, 14 assists and 27 points since Jan. 2.

"They read and watch TV, they know what he's doing," Boudreau said of his players. "They will be told, they will be seeing video of him (Thursday). They'll be well-aware of him. I mean, everyone's well-aware of him because he's a really good player."

Added team captain Mikko Koivu: "That's not an easy thing to do in this league. It takes consistency from a great player."

Hall leads the resurgent Devils (31-21-8) with 25 goals and 63 points. He is two goals shy of equaling his career best, and his point total is already 10 better than last season, his first with New Jersey following a trade from the Edmonton Oilers.

"It's going to be a tough challenge, he's got it going right now," Wild defenseman Ryan Suter told reporters. "When you play teams, you try and look at their top players and get familiar with them fast. He was in the West, so it helps a little bit knowing him. Not going to be easy, though."

Devils fans serenaded Hall with chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" in their last game as his Hart Trophy candidacy picks up steam in the season's second half.

"It's cool," Hall of the chant. "I have a lot of fun playing in front of our fan base. It was great to hear and it gives you a little boost. But I just want to keep going."

The Devils had their four-game winning streak snapped Tuesday, but received some good news on the injury front the next day when No. 1 goaltender Cory Schneider took part in an optional practice. Schneider missed the past 13 games with a groin issue, leaving Keith Kinkaid and Eddie Lack to handle the chores between the pipes.

"I'm pretty far along from where I was a couple of weeks ago," offered Schneider after the on-ice workout with a small group of teammates. "I'm just trying to get a feel for where I am at and keep ramping it up. If I come back I want to make sure I am a difference maker and good enough to be who I am."

Schneider indicated he likely will not be ready to play Thursday, but his return is imminent.

Boudreau said Wednesday that backup goalie Alex Stalock will start for the Wild (32-20-7) in New Jersey. Devan Dubnyk will get the call Friday when the Wild close out a three-game road trip against the New York Rangers.

The Wild rallied past the New York Islanders on Monday 5-3 as Jason Zucker scored twice, and Tyler Ennis and Matt Cullen contributed a goal and an assist.

Veteran center Eric Staal picked up an assist Monday and he enters the game against the Devils one point shy of 900 in his career.

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Capitals vs. Panthers 7:30 (EST) Preview

Capitals look to get back on track against Panthers

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:59 PM (EST)

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Washington Capitals lead the Metropolitan Division, but they have lost four of the past six games.

Going back further in this worrisome Capitals stretch, they have lost nine of their past 15 games heading into Thursday night's game against the host Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center.

Capitals star goalie and two-time Vezina Trophy-finalist Braden Holtby has a personal four-game losing streak -- the worst stretch of his career -- and he has taken it upon himself to shoulder the blame during this Washington slump.

"This is on no one but me," Holtby told The Washington Post.

The Capitals (34-19-7), who lead their division by one point over the Pittsburgh Penguins, could face a stiff challenge in the Panthers (26-25-6), who are coming off a successful 3-2-0 road trip.

Florida is out of the playoffs at the moment with just 58 points. They trail the Columbus Blue Jackets by seven points, but the Panthers have played three fewer games.

The Panthers lost 1-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, putting an impressive 40 shots on net despite some tired legs.

"At the end of a long road trip, I thought we emptied our tanks," Panthers coach Bob Boughner told the media. "We did a lot of things right. We did everything but score.

"We're getting there. We're close."

The Capitals hope they are not just close. They hope that Thursday starts the end of their slump and the beginning of their playoff push.

But in order to get there, the Caps must fix their defense, and they recently made a trade they hope will spark change.

Washington acquired 27-year-old defenseman Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks late Monday night, and he is scheduled to make his Capitals debut on Thursday.

Kempny is expected to play along John Carlson, among Washington's top four defensemen.

The Caps need him and their other defensemen to perform well because they are allowing 32.7 shots per game, the highest figure in the league. Last season, the Washington defense ranked fourth-best in the NHL in that category, allowing just 27.8 shots, and the result is an increase in goals given up from 2.16 to 3.00.

Over an adjusted 60-minute span at even strength, the Caps are allowing a stunning 13.6 higher-danger shots per game.

Kempny won't be a solution to all of that on his own, but Capitals coach Barry Trotz feels good about the addition to his roster.

"I liked the first meeting with (Kempny)," Trotz told the Washington Times. "You can tell about the person, if he is uneasy or easy in this situation. He seemed to fit in real well with the guys."

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Lightning vs. Senators 7:30 (EST) Preview

Karlsson on display as Senators host Lightning

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Thursday, February 22 at 12:28 AM (EST)

OTTAWA -- When Erik Karlsson arrives at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday, he'll almost surely end up going straight to the hometeam's dressing room as usual.

But with the Ottawa Senators captain suddenly being prominently mentioned in trade rumors, there's also plenty of speculation he could soon be suiting up with Thursday's visitors.

If the Senators deal Karlsson, it will be because he is expected to demand top dollar when they are allowed to start talking to him about a new contract in July -- one year before his current deal expires -- and the Senators are in retooling mode.

But if the Tampa Bay Lightning -- Thursday's opponents -- want him for two playoff runs at his current wage, they have until Monday to work out what would likely be a complex trade involving many pieces.

The Senators (21-28-10) are expected to make some moves before the deadline in a season that has seen them win only seven of 29 road games, the latest setback being a 3-2 shootout loss in Chicago on Wednesday.

"We definitely could have come up with the win," said Ottawa coach Guy Boucher in what has become his routine of searching for positives. "So it's a hard fought game. I like the way we battled back, we came back twice. So it's a very good night. Our players played good. Second, third and overtime was great, and I think we've just got to keep that up."

The Lightning (40-17-3) had the advantage of resting in Ottawa on Wednesday night, while the Senators were playing three periods, overtime and seven shootout rounds a two-hour flight away.

The Lightning enjoyed the same scenario when they played the Capitals in Washington on Tuesday. The night before, the Capitals were in Buffalo to play the Sabres.

"The big thing for us is we knew they played yesterday," Tampa coach Jon Cooper told reporters after his team scored a 4-2 victory over the Capitals. "The key for that is you've got to get the lead. And that's what we wanted to do."

The Lightning led 3-0 after one period, allowed the Caps to creep to within one, then wound up with a 4-2 victory.

"We know where we want to get to," said Cooper, whose team is in a Presidents Trophy battle with the likes of Boston, Vegas, Nashville, Winnipeg and Toronto. "This is my fifth year in the league and there's not a whole lot of Ws (in Washington). This has been a tough place to play for us.

"It's a confidence builder, that we can go into tough rinks and get wins. It'll be good for our group."

Despite being situated at different ends of the standings, the Senators have played the Lightning tough this season. The Lightning prevailed 4-3 in overtime at home on Dec. 21, but the Senators beat them 6-3 at Canadian Tire Centre on Jan. 6.

Expected to make his return from a finger injury that has kept him out of 10 games will be Senators winger Bobby Ryan, who the Senators would also like to move if they can find a taker for a contract that still has four years left on it.

With Mike Condon tending goal for the Senators on Wednesday, Craig Anderson will get the call between the pipes. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was victimized by the Senators in January, has started three straight and nine of 10 in February.

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Rangers vs. Canadiens 7:30 (EST) Preview

Rangers try to end skid vs. Canadiens

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:39 PM (EST)

The New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens meet at the Bell Centre on Thursday in a battle of two teams playing out disappointing seasons and waiting to see what other changes are looming before the NHL trade deadline Monday at 3 p.m.

The Rangers (27-28-5), an Eastern Conference contender for the last few years, made it clear Feb. 8 they were shifting into a rebuild mode and shipped out defenseman Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins for defenseman Rob O'Gara and a 2018 third-round draft pick Tuesday.

Rangers forwards Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and David Desharnais, who are all on expiring contracts, could be playing their last game for the Blueshirts.

"It's tough to really express what's going on right now," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the New York Post on Wednesday. "This is a little awkward, in the sense that we came out and we said it. A lot of times teams do it but don't say it. So it makes it a little bit more challenging as far as team dynamics."

Rangers president Glen Sather and general manager Jeff Gorton had a press conference Feb. 8 and announced to the New York faithful the goal had shifted to the long term and away from trying to save this season. The Rangers have lost four in a row in regulation and given up 19 goals in those games heading into their game against the Canadiens.

The Rangers will be getting some help against the Canadiens. Veteran defenseman Marc Staal will return. He has been out since Feb. 3 when he sustained a cervical strain, missing eight games.

"It's been hard to watch. We haven't had very much success so it's not easy to sit there and not be in the room with the guys," Staal told the team's website. "I'm glad to be back in and get some good feeling in the room, knock out a couple of wins and go from there."

The Canadiens goaltending situation is up in the air heading into the game against the Rangers. Montreal goaltender Carey Price will not play, according to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, after Price was hit in the head with a shot by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere during the Canadiens 3-2 loss in overtime Tuesday.

Price appeared stunned after the puck deflected off the right side of his head, but he stayed in the game.

The Canadiens (22-29-8) called up goaltender Charlie Lindgren from their AHL farm team in Laval. Lindgren, 24, is 3-4-1 with a .924 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average for The Rocket this season.

It's not known if Lindgren or Antti Niemi will start against the Rangers.

The Canadiens also called up defenseman Noah Juulsen from Laval after the Habs traded defenseman Jakub Jerabek to the Washington Capitals for a fifth-round draft pick in 2019 on Wednesday.

Canadiens coach Claude Julien said defenseman Shea Weber, who has been out for two months with a left foot injury, was to see a specialist Wednesday.

The Canadiens will be looking to put all the injury and trade distractions to the side and end a six-game winless streak.

"Everybody comes to work and everybody comes to try and get better," Canadiens defenseman Joe Morrow told montrealcanadiens.com. "That's just kind of the main mindset of people, is that you individually come in and try to progress in your hockey career and try to progress this team and enjoy the time you have here together. That's all you can do."

Said Julien: "They're frustrated, but they're still working hard and I think they still have the right attitude to try and improve things. When you see that from your players, it shows their character. We're still hungry even if the losses might not show it. The guys are competing hard."

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Sabres vs. Red Wings 7:30 (EST) Preview

Shorthanded Sabres head to Detroit

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:00 PM (EST)

The Buffalo Sabres will have to play the rest of the season without defenseman Jake McCabe.

Buffalo, which visits the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Thursday, announced that McCabe will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. The estimated recovery time is four-to-six months.

McCabe had thumb surgery on Feb. 7, after leaving a 4-3 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 6, in the second period. He has been out since.

"Jake has been progressing well in his recovery from his previous injury, but we decided that this was a good opportunity to take care of a problem that he has been dealing with for a while," Sabres general manager Jason Botterill told NHL.com. "Jake will have time to fully recover before the beginning of the 2018-19 season."

McCabe has three goals and 12 points in 53 games, while averaging 19:30 of ice time per game this season.

Buffalo is also without leading scorer center Jack Eichel because of a high ankle sprain sustained on Feb. 10.

The Sabres lost 3-2 to the Washington Capitals at home on Monday.

Both teams are out of the playoff picture and are sellers as the Feb. 26 trade deadline nears. That process has already begun for Detroit, which dealt goaltender Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2019.

The Red Wings say they will continue to play hard and to win.

"Definitely, we are not going to fold up," goalie Jimmy Howard said after Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators in Detroit.

Said coach Jeff Blashill: "My job is to coach and try and win hockey games. I'm a huge believer in controlling what you can control. I don't control anything to do with (trades). All I control is our effort and how prepared we are and how hard we play."

Both teams have a remaining player who is expected to be moved by the trade deadline. For the Red Wings, it is veteran defenseman Mike Green, who is in the third year of a three-year, $18 million contract and for the Sabres, it is left winger Evander Kane, who is in the final year of a six-year, $31.5 million deal he signed when he was a member of the Winnipeg Jets.

Green has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury but is expected to return on Thursday.

Despite his likely move, things are business as usual for Green.

"My approach to the game doesn't change," he told www.mlive.com. "I just stick to the process. Sometimes that's the only thing you can do."

Kane is taking the same approach.

"It's been talked about. It's been documented. It's unfortunate, but it's the situation we're in and part of the business," he told the Buffalo News. "I'm not thinking about it now too much. I'm trying to focus on the games we have left before the deadline. We'll deal with the move when it happens."

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Sharks vs. Predators 8:00 (EST) Preview

Arvidsson, Predators vie to continue surge vs. Sharks

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Wednesday, February 21 at 9:20 PM (EST)

There was a train of thought earlier this season that Viktor Arvidsson had softened a little bit.

After a breakout 2016-17 campaign when he scored a career-high 31 goals and helped the Nashville Predators reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time, Arvidsson cashed in with a seven-year contract averaging $4.25 million a season.

When Arvidsson's production didn't always seem commensurate with his new deal, some wondered if the big money had made him a bit reluctant to venture into the tough areas a goal scorer has to inhabit.

If that was indeed a question, Arvidsson appears to have answered it. Two goals on Monday night helped Nashville post a 5-2 win over Ottawa, and his third-period marker Tuesday night was the difference in a 3-2 win at Detroit that put the Predators in first place by themselves in the Central Division.

With a team-leading 21 goals on the season, Arvidsson likely will be the focus of the San Jose Sharks' defensive game plan when they try to score a rare win Thursday night in Bridgestone Arena.

"The kid made another huge play for us," center Ryan Johansen said of Arvidsson. "That's what you need when you're winning games. You need guys making plays and Arvy has been a big reason for our last two wins."

Speed, the willingness to shoot at any moment and the willingness to absorb a beating to make a play have been Arvidsson trademarks. Combine those with linemates like Johansen and Filip Forsberg, and you have a player capable of finding the back of the net on any shift.

Arvidsson's work this week has enabled the Predators (36-14-9) to jump over Winnipeg in the Central and earn a two-point lead with a game in hand.

The Predators also have past history in their favor against San Jose (33-19-8). Even good teams have "jinx" arenas where they can't win no matter what they do, and Bridgestone Arena is one of those venues for the Sharks.

In their last 10 visits to Music City, counting a 2016 Western Conference semifinal series, San Jose has won exactly once -- an overtime decision late in the 2015-16 season. Its only visit last season was a 7-2 loss on March 25.

The good news for the Sharks is that they started a key four-game road trip through the Central Division on Tuesday night with a 3-2 win in St. Louis. Logan Couture notched a goal and an assist, while Martin Jones made 13 of his 31 saves in the third period to protect the lead.

"Each night, a different line has stepped up offensively and scored goals," Couture said to the San Jose Mercury News. "We need to continue that."

It was the third straight win for San Jose, which holds second place in the Pacific Division.

Jones (19-15-5, 2.53 goals-against average, .916 save percentage) is expected to start in goal for the Sharks against a rested Pekka Rinne (30-9-4, 2.35, .926) for Nashville. Rinne took Tuesday night off as backup Juuse Saros stopped 34 shots to beat Detroit.

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Avalanche vs. Oilers 9:00 (EST) Preview

Avalanche, Oilers meet for third time

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Wednesday, February 21 at 10:15 PM (EST)

Lucky breaks have been hard to come by for the Edmonton Oilers in what's been a lost season. Connor McDavid may feel otherwise -- especially this month and against the Colorado Avalanche

The Oilers and the Avalanche meet for the third time this month on Thursday night at Rogers Place.

Edmonton (24-31-4) opened February with a 4-3 overtime loss at home followed by a 4-2 win last Sunday in Denver. Not surprisingly, McDavid is the Oilers' top player with five of the seven goals in the season series. He started the month by scoring twice in the loss, and recorded his third hat trick of the season on Sunday.

The reigning Hart Trophy winner has 15 points (11 goals, four assists) in 10 games to tie Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the league scoring lead in February.

McDavid is also among the league's top scorers with 69 points (26 goals, 43 assists), but he was held off the scoresheet as Edmonton surrendered three third-period goals in a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.

The Oilers are 2-15-2 when McDavid fails to collect a point.

"We just can't catch a break," Cam Talbot told the Edmonton Journal after making 42 saves while losing for the sixth time in seven starts. "It's the way the season's going for us."

Talbot (20-23-2, 3.12 goals-against average, one shutout) lost in his only career start in Edmonton against Colorado in February 2016. The Oilers returned Laurent Brossoit to Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Wednesday, indicating that Al Montoya (1-1-1, 2.73 goals-against average with Edmonton) will be available after missing two games with a head injury.

One bright spot for the Oilers in recent games is the line of Ryan Strome, Anton Slepyshev and Jujhar Khaira. Strome has goals in each of his last two games, Slepyshev has two goals over his last seven games despite playing around 12 minutes per contest, and Khaira also scored versus Boston.

"I've liked Stromer's game the last three. I think he's been around the net. He's had chances. He's shooting the puck more, creating offense for himself and others," coach Todd McLellan said. "Anton has improved immensely over the last little bit ... and J.J.'s finally decided to shoot the puck again."

Colorado (32-23-4) opened a three-game Western Canada swing on Tuesday by rallying from three goals down to top the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 in overtime.

Tyson Barrie joined Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon with a five-point game for the Avalanche this season. Barrie, a defenseman, collected a goal and four assists -- all on the power play -- to eclipse his point total over the previous 13 games.

"He was good. It is not just the points, he was defending with a purpose," coach Jared Bednar told the team's official website. "He was using his body. He gets rewarded for playing a good all-around game I think. The decisions he's making in the offensive zone, especially on the power play, were really good."

Barrie has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 16 career games against Edmonton.

Colorado's top three scorers -- MacKinnon (25 goals, 65 points), Mikko Rantanen (19 goals, 56 points) and Landeskog (20 goals, 44 points) have a combined three assists and a minus-9 rating versus the Oilers in 2017-18.

Semyon Varlamov (15-12-2, 2.87 GAA, two shutouts) is expected to start for Colorado, but he's fared poorly in Northern Alberta. In seven career starts, the Russian is 1-5-0 with a 4.44 GAA and .866 save percentage.

With Jonathan Bernier injured (concussion), Andrew Hammond is the current backup and has not appeared in an NHL game in more than a year.

Both teams are currently outside the top eight in the Western Conference. The Avalanche is in 11th place, but are one of eight teams separated by six points. The Oilers have the second-fewest points in the West with 52.

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Flames vs. Coyotes 9:00 (EST) Preview

Red-hot Coyotes seek fifth straight victory

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Thursday, February 22 at 2:17 AM (EST)

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Suddenly, the Arizona Coyotes are taking on an entirely new look.

They are riding a four-game winning streak -- their first in more than two years. And now, going into their Thursday night home game against the Calgary Flames, they've got a brand-new goaltender in Darcy Kuemper, who was acquired Wednesday from the Los Angeles Kings.

The Coyotes still possess the NHL's worst record at 17-32-10, but the final two months of the NHL season aren't feeling at all like their dismal first four months.

And that back-to-back road trip to Las Vegas and Arizona is feeling a lot tougher for the Flames, who are scratching for points as they try to play their way into the postseason. They lost their third in a row Wednesday night, allowing the final four goals in a 7-3 loss to the Golden Knights. The Flames remain two points -- and two teams -- out of the second Western Conference wild-card spot.

The Coyotes held Chicago, San Jose, Montreal and Edmonton to four goals in four games after leading the league in goals allowed for part of the season.

"As much as I want to push the pace, you have to be a good defensive team and (play) an aggressive style down low," Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. "We're doing that. We're doubling up. We're jumping on pucks. There's no delaying and guys know where they're supposed to go. I've got to give the guys a lot of credit."

The Coyotes look even better defensively now that they've acquired Kuemper, who is expected to sign a two-year contract extension as part of the trade. Kuemper is 10-1-3 with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage, and gives the Coyotes a strong backup behind Antti Raanta, who is in a contract year.

Picking up Kuemper for goaltender Scott Wedgewood and forward Tobias Rieder also gives the Coyotes some protection if they don't re-sign Raanta, who is reigning NHL's No. 2 Star of the Week.

"Darcy is a big, talented goaltender who is having an excellent year," Coyotes general manager John Chayka said. "You need great goaltending in this league in order to be successful and, with Antti and Darcy, we are confident that we have an excellent tandem for the future."

Raanta, acquired last year from the New York Rangers, is a big reason for the Coyotes' first four-game winning streak since Jan. 4-12, 2016. He has won four in a row, giving up only three goals, and five of six (5-0-1).

Raanta is coming off a 1-0 shutout of the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday in which he made 40 saves.

The Flames will be coming off yet another loss in a key game.

Forward Johnny Gaudreau has four goals and 13 points in 11 February games and is among the NHL leaders with 38 points on the road, but four losses in five games badly hurt the Flames' playoff chances.

"At this point of the season, you've got to worry about getting points ... we've got to move on up," Flames defenseman Mark Giordano said. "We have to be (desperate). When you lose a couple of games, even one in overtime, you fall right out of it. We want to wake up every day and be in a (playoff) spot. And to do that we've got to string some (wins) together."

It will be a big night at Gila River Arena for Lynn Hamilton, a former Olympic basketball player for Canada. Not only is she accompanying son Dougie, a Flames defenseman, on the team's annual moms' road trip, her son Freddie is a Coyotes forward. Expect a family dinner afterward. The Flames' Hamilton had a goal and an assist at Las Vegas.

This will be the first of three games between the Pacific Division teams over the closing stretch of the season. Calgary won the only previous game, 3-0 on Nov. 30, behind former Arizona goaltender Mike Smith's 28 saves.

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Stars vs. Kings 10:30 (EST) Preview

New-look Kings host struggling Stars

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Thursday, February 22 at 2:35 AM (EST)

LOS ANGELES -- When the Dallas Stars meet the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night at Staples Center, they will be facing a different team than the one that defeated them in their lone matchup this season.

Over the last eight days, Los Angeles general manager Rob Blake has made significant changes to his roster for the stretch run for a postseason berth.

Los Angeles (33-22-5) will welcome winger Tobias Rieder and goaltender Scott Wedgewood to the lineup after Blake executed a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday afternoon. Backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper was shipped to Arizona for the pair in a deal that saw the Coyotes retain 15 percent of Rieder's $2.25 million salary. Wedgewood and Rieder will be restricted free agents at season's end and the Kings will retain their rights.

"We continue to look for opportunities to improve our team speed and Tobias will bring that dynamic to our club," Blake said.

Last week, the Kings added defenseman Dion Phaneuf and center Nate Thompson from the Ottawa Senators to stabilize their defense and depth forward positions. Los Angeles also announced Wednesday that center Jeff Carter, who has missed all but six games this season because of ankle tendon surgery, has been medically cleared to rejoin the team. He is not expected to face the Stars and will likely return Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.

On the ice, the Kings enter the game with a three-game winning streak that closed a successful seven-game road trip (4-3-0). Alec Martinez registered a goal and an assist and Kuemper made 30 saves in their 4-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.

Los Angeles defeated Dallas 3-0 on Jan. 30, getting three goals from their defensive corps in Drew Doughty, Paul LaDue and Martinez.

The Dallas game is the start of a heavy-laden home schedule for the Kings as 15 of their last 22 games will be played at Staples Center. Los Angeles will influence the other Western Conference playoff race as Thursday's game is the first of nine against Central Division opposition.

The Stars (34-22-4) suffered a frustrating 2-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night, their third setback in their last four games after a five-game winning streak.

Despite dominating play throughout, all 41 shots they registered were turned away by Anaheim goaltender Ryan Miller. The Stars fired 24 shots at Miller in the third period and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:55 in being shut out for the second time in their last four games.

The Dallas special teams play was a major factor, going 0-for-4 with the man advantage and surrendering a short-handed goal to Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf that sealed the loss. Goaltender Ben Bishop stopped 15 shots.

"I think we did a lot of good things tonight, but just couldn't win the special teams," Bishop said. "They won the special teams battle tonight and obviously that was the result of the game. The good thing is, we have a game tomorrow so we can put this behind us."

Stars coach Ken Hitchcock concurred with Bishop, pointing at the special teams' failure at the key to the loss. While he was pleased with the overall effectiveness on the penalty kill, the lack of productivity with the man advantage could be improved with a more direct approach to the opposing net.

"The power play goal that we got scored on, that's a hard one because the rebound was right on the guy's stick. I thought the rest of the time we did a great job killing penalties," Hitchcock said. "We hit three goal posts. I think the one thing we wanted on the slap shots, we weren't on top of the goalie. We were off to the side waiting for rebounds. So Miller got to see even though they full slap shots from the top of the circle."

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018
National Hockey League
Senators 2 vs. 3 Blackhawks Final Recap

Schmaltz scores in 7th round of SO, Blackhawks edge Senators

By MATT CARLSON - Associated Press

Thursday, February 22 at 12:32 AM (EST)

CHICAGO (AP) Nick Schmaltz and the Chicago Blackhawks weren't looking for anything fancy, and the direct approach eventually got them a much-needed win.

Schmaltz scored the deciding goal in the seventh round of the shootout to lift Chicago over the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Wednesday night, just the Blackhawks' second victory in 11 games.

Schmaltz fired a wrist shot between the legs of Mike Condon after Patrick Kane and rookie Alex DeBrincat connected earlier in the tiebreaker. Matt Duchene and Mike Hoffman scored in the shootout for the Senators, who lost their second straight.

Schmaltz said he had a sense of where to shoot against Condon after six rounds in only Chicago's second shootout this season. It was Schmaltz's first score in the shootout on just his second career attempt.

''You kind of just go with your go-to moves, trust them,'' Schmaltz said. ''I got a little bit of a lucky bounce there, but it's good to see one go in.

''Obviously a big win for us.''

Kane scored his team-leading 23rd goal and set up Artem Anisimov's 16th in regulation for the last-place Blackhawks.

''We need every point we can get at this point,'' Kane said. ''There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run, have a big record down the stretch, but take it a game at a time.''

Chicago won for the second time in three games following an eight-game losing streak.

Anton Forsberg stopped 32 shots through overtime and five of seven in the shootout, including final stop on Mark Stone.

''(Forsberg) made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper,'' said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who coached his 1,600th NHL game. Only Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour have coached more.

Duchene and Zack Smith scored for the Senators in regulation, Stone had two assists, and Condon finished with 36 saves through overtime.

The Senators came back twice from one-goal deficits to tie it, then played their best late in the game.

''We adjusted well after the first (period),'' Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said. ''I thought our second period was really good and our third period was outstanding, and the overtime too.

''We've just got to keep that up.''

The Senators and Blackhawks, two teams well out of playoff contention heading into the NHL's trade deadline on Monday, both played their first of three games in four nights.

Kane opened the scoring at 14:19 of the first after taking a drop pass from Vinnie Hinostroza and firing from the slot. The puck slithered under Condon was crossing the goal line before Kane followed through and slammed it in.

Smith tied it at 1-all 1:37 later on a tip-in from the left side of the crease. Derick Brassard set him up with a slick cross-ice pass from the right circle.

Anisimov slipped to the net, tipped in Kane's feed from the right side and put Chicago back ahead, 2-1, at 5:52 of the second.

Duchene replied 6:09 later on a rising shot from slot that ticked off defenseman Jordan Oesterle and landed in the upper right corner of the net.

Neither team generated sustained pressure in the scoreless third, although both had a handful of chances in the final minutes. The Blackhawks failed to convert a power play - one of only three man advantages for both teams combined - late in the period.

The Senators had the better chances in overtime. Erik Karlsson and Ryan Dzingel missed on close-in attempts, and Forsberg got a glove on a shot by Thomas Chabot that then ticked off the post.

NOTES: Ottawa LW Ryan Dzingel, who has 15 goals in his second full NHL season, returned after missing two games due to a family matter in his hometown of suburban Wheaton, Illinois. ... The Senators' bus was involved in a minor accident en route to the United Center for the game. No one was injured. ... Blackhawks F Anthony Duclair was back in the lineup after sitting out two games. Chicago F Patrick Sharp and F Lance Bouma were scratches. ... F Alexandre Burrows and D Ben Harpur sat out for Ottawa.

UP NEXT

Senators: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

Blackhawks: Host San Jose on Friday night.

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Stars 0 vs. 2 Ducks Final Recap

Miller stops 41 shots, Ducks beat Stars 2-0

By DAN GREENSPAN - Associated Press

Thursday, February 22 at 2:04 AM (EST)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Miller couldn't help but crack a smile when remembering the mess the Anaheim Ducks found themselves in.

After two Ducks players put the puck over the glass on back-to-back plays while already on the penalty kill in the third period, Miller just dug in and helped drag Anaheim to its longest winning streak of the season.

Miller stopped 41 shots for his 42nd career shutout as the Ducks beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 Wednesday night for their fourth straight win.

''We can laugh about it now, but when you watch those two float out of the rink you get a little anxious,'' said Miller, who picked up his third shutout of the season.

Ryan Getzlaf scored short-handed and Hampus Lindholm had a power-play goal for the Ducks, who took sole possession of third place in the Pacific Division.

It was the Ducks' second straight shutout, after Miller came on for the third period in relief of an injured John Gibson in a 2-0 win at Vegas on Monday.

Miller made 20 saves against the Golden Knights and picked up where he left off with an early stop on Mattias Janmark's backhand. It wasn't until Getzlaf and Josh Manson each took delay-of-game penalties following a slashing call on Cam Fowler that the veteran goalie showed how locked in he was by turning away dangerous shots by Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza in succession.

''It was a pivotal point in the game, definitely,'' Miller said. ''I just told myself get one at a time and see what we can do.''

Miller stopped seven shots during the 5-on-3, setting the stage for the Ducks to make it 2-0 at 4:28 of the third on Getzlaf's eighth career short-handed goal.

Getzlaf left the penalty box and was on the receiving end of a long pass from Francois Beauchemin. Ben Bishop came out of his crease to play the bouncing puck but Getzlaf chipped it over him before the goaltender could knock it away. The Ducks' captain then composed himself and scored into an open goal for his 11th multi-point game.

''Get there faster than (Bishop),'' Getzlaf said of his mindset during the sequence. ''I just noticed that their D-men had been out there a long time so they were probably going to change thinking I was going off. Clearly, I was fresh.''

Lindholm gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead with 6:45 left in the first, barreling in to bury the rebound of Getzlaf's shot into an open net for his third power-play goal of the season. It was Lindholm's 38th career goal, breaking a tie with Fredrik Olausson for fifth place in franchise history for the most by a defenseman.

''I think we did a lot of good things tonight, but just couldn't win the special teams,'' said Bishop, who made 15 saves.

The Ducks entered the game tied with the Los Angeles Kings for third place in the Pacific Division, and the Stars are in third in the Central Division. Not surprisingly, there was playoff intensity and caginess at the start. The Ducks went into the power play where Lindholm scored with two shots on goal and got two in eight seconds with the man-advantage, their only four shots in the period.

The game also ended on a playoff-like note, with Benn and Corey Perry fighting while teammates on both sides jawed and postured.

Miller wants the Ducks to maintain that feisty play and spirit.

''We recognize where the season is at,'' Miller said. ''We've built a good game. We have to stick with it.''

NOTES: Stars C Martin Hanzal left after the first period and did not return with a lower-body injury. ... The Ducks have won four in a row at home against the Stars. Anaheim hosts Dallas on April 7 to close out the regular season. ... Kari Lehtonen will start in goal for the Stars against the Kings in the second game of a back-to-back on Thursday night.

UP NEXT

Stars: Visit the Kings on Thursday night.

Ducks: Visit the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.

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More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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Flames 3 vs. 7 Golden Knights Final Recap

Tuch gets tiebreaker in 2nd, Golden Knights beat Flames 7-3

By W.G. RAMIREZ - Associated Press

Thursday, February 22 at 3:02 AM (EST)

LAS VEGAS (AP) Another game, another record for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Alex Tuch scored the tiebreaking goal in the second period and the Vegas Golden Knights pulled away for a 7-3 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.

The win moved the Golden Knights back atop the NHL standings with 84 points - a record for an expansion team in its inaugural season - one point ahead of Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay.

Ryan Carpenter, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Luca Sbisa, Erik Haula and Cody Eakin also scored for Vegas, which improved to 23-4-2 at home to also set the record for home wins by a team in its inaugural season. It topped the previous mark set by the Gordie Howe-lead 1979-80 Whalers (22-12-6).

Tuch also had an assist and his first fight of the season, giving him the so-called Gordie Howe hat trick.

''I thought our whole team played really hard, we got production from all our lines and it was really good to see,'' Tuch said. ''I just try to come in here and play hard ... it was good to get my first fight. I wasn't even thinking about the Gordie Howe part of it. We were all pretty high on emotions and everyone was going back and forth. I was getting a little physical and I think (Travis) Hamonic saw that, so we got into each other's faces and he asked me if I wanted to fight.''

Marc-Andre Fleury, starting his ninth straight game, made 28 saves for the Golden Knights, who rebounded from a loss on Monday to Pacific Division-rival Anaheim.

''That's what makes good teams, to be able to bounce back from bad games,'' Fleury said. ''It's good that we're finding ways to put it behind us quickly and move on quickly and get ready for the next one.''

Vegas is now 14-6 following a loss this season, outscoring teams 74-54 in those games.

TJ Brodie, Dougie Hamilton and Matthew Tkachuk scored for Calgary, which was 8-2-1 in its previous 11 road games. David Rittich finished with 19 saves.

With the score tied 3-3 in the second, David Perron found a streaking Tuch, who beat Rittich from a nice angle and went top shelf to give the Golden Knights the lead for good with 6:02 remaining in the period.

Early in the third, the Flames thought they had tied the game, but a challenge overturned Sean Monahan's goal when Calgary was ruled offside.

''It's definitely a momentum swing when you think you tied the game up, and we scored shortly after that to go up by two goals, it's a big difference in a hockey game,'' Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said.

Sbisa took Tuch's pass and launched a one-timer past Rittich to make it 5-3 at 3:17. It was Sbisa's 100th career point.

Haula tipped in Sbisa's slap shot from the point for his 23rd of the season with 8:45 remaining, and Eakin's seventh made it 7-3 about three minutes later.

''We just got outbattled in areas,'' Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said. ''We didn't create as much offense, and in a game like this on the road you've got have a little bit more. We've a got a few guys that were cruising, and it's not a time to cruise, it's a time to push.''

Carpenter gave Vegas a 1-0 lead 2 1/2 minutes in with his sixth goal in nine games, but Brodie's fourth goal of the season tied it with 3:15 left in the first.

Karlsson redirected Reilly Smith's wrist shot to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead in the final minute, giving Vegas a power-play goal in 13 of its last 15 games.

Hamilton tied it for Calgary just 20 seconds into the second period, but Smith put Vegas back ahead 3-2 about a minute later with his 20th.

Tkachuk was credited with his 23rd when Vegas center Cody Eakin lost his stick and attempted to deflect a shot with his skate but tapped it past Fleury to tie the score with just under nine minutes left in the middle period.

Calgary remains two points back of the final Western Conference wild card spot with 69.

''That was frustrating, that loss, that's a bad one that loss,'' Tkachuk said. ''Definitely not coming at a good time, 21 games left.''

NOTES: The seven goals tied the Golden Knights' season high. ... Vegas improved to 25-3-0 record when scoring the first goal of the game. Its .893 win percentage when scoring the opening goal leads the NHL. ... Veteran forward James Neal, whose 24 goals rank second on the Golden Knights, missed his second consecutive game due to an illness he's been battling for more than a week. ... Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan coached the Las Vegas Wranglers for six years when they first joined the ECHL, leading them to five playoff berths, two division titles and one Kelly Cup final appearance. ...

UP NEXT

Calgary: At Arizona on Thursday night.

Vegas: Hosts Vancouver on Friday night.

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