South O'Brien hosts alumni basketball game | News – nwestiowa.com


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BOYS BASKETBALL: Fast start not enough for Edwardsville – The Edwardsville Intelligencer


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GODFREY – The Edwardsville Tigers came in as the worst scoring boys’ basketball team in the Southwestern Conference.

For the opening three minutes Tuesday night, they looked like the league’s best. “We made them look pretty good, didn’t we,” Alton coach Eric Smith said.


Edwardsville put Alton down by 14 points early, but the Redbirds rallied to beat the Tigers 61-49 in a SWC matchup at Alton High.

The Redbirds extended their winning streak to six in a row while pushing their record to 15-8 and 4-3 in the conference.

The loss drops Edwardsville’s record to 5-13 and 0-6 in the SWC.

Edwardsville, which has been held to fewer than 40 points in a game eight times and averages 42.5 per game, was brilliant off the opening tip. A pair of 3-pointers from Brennan Weller and a trey from A.J. Robertson in between triggered a surge that left the Tigers up 17-4 after a Malik Robinson basket with 4:48 left in the quarter.


Only then did a reluctant Eric Smith call a timeout to slow the Tigers, who had won five of their previous six visits to AHS.

“They’ve got to figure a way to play through stuff,” Smith said of his team. “In that situation, if it’s something scheme-wise that we need to fix, then I’ll call timeout. But if it’s just lack of effort, they’re going to have to fight their way through it.”

The Redbirds would do just that. Dunks from Donovan Clay and Moory Woods fired up the home crowd and helped the Redbirds get within 19-14 after one quarter. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Clay and Malik Smith opened the second quarter and Edwardsville’s lead had vanished.

“Really good start, really proud of our guys,” first-year Tigers coach Dustin Battas said. “Our preparation was good. To get off to a start like that, they really executed a lot of things we’ve been practicing. Alton’s a tremendous team, they’re really good. So to come here, it’s a bit of a rivalry over the years, we’re really proud of our start.”

The Tigers were down 28-27 at the half and the Redbirds immediately attacked the rim for baskets on three early possessions in the third quarter. “That was the emphasis,” Eric Smith said of driving the lane rather than settling for 3-pointers.


Alton took a 42-37 lead to the fourth quarter and the Tigers would get no closer than five points. Clay led the Redbirds with 19 points, while Woods scored 12 points and Malik Smith finished with 11.

The Tigers have 10 games remaining to pick up the five victories needed to avoid their first single-digit win season since going 9-14 in coach Bud Vallino’s final year in 1988. And the 0-6 start in league play is Edwardsville’s worst since before leaving the SWC in 1979.

Edwardsville could not match Alton’s firepower, but the battle of executing a game plan was a victory for the Tigers.

“I would say the entirety of the game,” Battas said of his team doing as asked. “We executed our set plays well, we handled their pressure for the most part and got open shots. I just thought in the second half, especially the third quarter, it just came down to them making some shots. … They just have good players and Eric does a great job of putting them in places that make you come a long way to help. And they’ve got guys who can shoot.”

Nic Hemken scored 15 points to lead three Tigers in double figures. Weller scored 14 points and Jaylon Tuggle finished with 11 points.

Battas continues to see progress.

“If you watched our games since the beginning of the year, we really struggled to get into offense,” Battas said. “I know we missed shots, but to execute the things we did in the second half is night and day from where we were a month ago. We’ve really come a long way of handling pressure.”

And Battas praised his team’s approach through adversity.

“We’ve practiced well this whole time,” he said. “To the credit of our guys, they come to practice every day and you would have no idea if you came or our practice that we have only won a handful of games.”



DeMarcus Cousins is embracing pure Warriors basketball – ESPN


LOS ANGELES — Hours before DeMarcus Cousins’ second game as a Golden State Warrior, Klay Thompson captured the full breadth of Cousins’ appeal as a ballplayer when he praised him as “such a talented, cerebral player. You can plug him anywhere — he’s going to make the right play.”

Thompson experienced these qualities up close on Monday night in the second quarter of the Warriors’ 130-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

First, Cousins freed him up with a pin-down screen, allowing Thompson to catch the ball and go to work at the top of the floor. Then, when Thompson hit traffic, Cousins was available on the wing for a pass. From there, the two-man game ensued.

Thompson darted behind Cousins, playing hide-and-seek with Kyle Kuzma in pursuit. With his gaze straight ahead, Cousins dropped the ball behind his back off the wood so that it bounced directly into Thompson’s hands as he skirted by — basketball choreography of the highest order. And when Kuzma met Thompson on the top side, the sharpshooter reversed course behind Cousins, took a single dribble and launched a 3-pointer.

It wouldn’t be the only time Thompson and Cousins would team up for a nifty dribble-handoff set — the pair clearly have some big man-shooting guard telepathy. And it wouldn’t be the only time over the course of the Warriors’ holiday weekend in Los Angeles that Cousins would reveal the tendencies that make him a natural fit.

This is Warriors basketball at its purest, and although Cousins has logged all of 36 minutes over two games, the style and sensibility appear to be a handsome fit for the six-time All Star. Because for everything that has defined Cousins’ nine-year career — the heft, the histrionics and all the rest of it — Cousins is at his essence the thinking person’s big man.

Though Cousins is more than capable of playing bullyball in the post and excelling in mismatch basketball against smaller defenders (a brand of play Warriors coach Steve Kerr loathes as a matter of principle), his versatile playmaking has a true home with Golden State. Like Andrew Bogut, circa 2015, or Draymond Green, Cousins is an unselfish passer who willfully and often brilliantly facilitates offense from the elbow. Those vintage Warriors splits and staggers, the back doors that so often are available because defenders gravitate to the perimeter against Warriors shooters — Cousins can conduct any and all. He already has tallied eight dimes. Among centers and power forwards, only Nikola Jokic assists at a greater rate.

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In this sense, Cousins is as much a creature of 2014-16 Warriors basketball as he is the new Kevin Durant-propelled model. On those occasions when Cousins was spoon-fed the ball in the post with an entry pass, he usually didn’t hold the rock for long. Whether he was hitting Stephen Curry beautifully Friday night or Jonas Jerebko on Monday on basket cuts, Cousins seems cognizant of the Warriors Way — if he’s desperate for a shot out of the post, he’d better sprint the floor for an early seal. Otherwise, unless it’s garbage time, it’s a menu item reserved strictly for Mr. Durant.

As Cousins showed against the Clippers, he’s also an affiliate Splash Brother — a giant cannonball Splash Brother. The smooth-shooting 7-footer who can trail the play, receive the ball and fire from 24 feet. On Friday night, he buried three of his four attempts from beyond the arc, and he went 0-for-2 on Monday from long range. Overall, Cousins shot 7-for-20 from the field and 7-for-9 from the line — a healthy free throw rate that would rank among league leaders.

Those concerned about his conditioning would’ve gotten whiplash watching Cousins sprint down the full length of the floor on a Warriors break, eager and ready to receive a pass from Thompson underneath. Somewhere, George Karl is scratching his head. In both games, Cousins actively ran the floor in both directions, off makes and misses, as is mandatory in a Warriors uniform (except when he was arguing with officials after non-calls on shot attempts).

Defensively, the Warriors have done a nice job of keeping Cousins out of space, using coverage schemes more reminiscent of those of Bogut. Rather than switching onto a ball handler or be up on the screen, Cousins drops back — and the results so far have been positive. The Clippers put Cousins into 14 direct picks — and scored all of five points off those actions, per Second Spectrum data. The Lakers utilize the high screen from their center measurably less often, but on drives, Cousins corralled penetrators capably. He has an enormous reach and quick hands, and they served him well.

Cousins always has been prone to fouling — he has led the league in fouls per game in each of the past five seasons — and the two games in Los Angeles followed form. He was disqualified on Friday, and he racked up four fouls in 21 minutes on Monday. He also is routinely among league leaders in charges drawn, and he took one in each of the games in L.A.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that his first reaction to learning that Cousins had signed with the Warriors was happiness for the injured center in landing with a squad for which he could rehab without undue pressure. But after that immediate-release empathy, Rivers thought, “That’s not right.” The sentiment was shared by many fans of 29 teams, players and league executives. Never mind that Cousins’ reps were cold-calling front offices to peddle his services to anyone who would listen — the Warriors had once again stacked the deck.

With two games in the books, the naysayers seem correct about this much: The team least in need of additional talent has just activated one of the NBA’s most talented big men.



Tyler Herro bests Louisville heroics with clutch play in 'bigger game' – Courier Journal


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Kentucky coach John Calipari breaks down a win over Auburn.
Jon Hale, Louisville Courier Journal

AUBURN, Ala. – As Tyler Herro stepped to the free-throw line with the chance to give Kentucky the lead with 24.1 seconds remaining at Auburn, his mind was clear.

“I was like, ‘These are good,’” Herro said. “I feel like I’ve put in a lot of hours, so I know the same muscle memory. I knew that I was going to make it.”

Even after Herro had tied the game at 80 with his first free throw and Auburn coach Bruce Pearl called a timeout to set up the Tigers’ next play and possibly ice Herro at the line, the freshman guard had no trouble nailing the second free throw to give Kentucky a one-point lead.

Read this: Tyler Herro steps up to lead Kentucky basketball’s win over Louisville

The free throws marked the culmination of a late scoring barrage from Herro, who contributed 10 of his 20 points in the game in the final 5:23 of the game.

“He wanted the ball,” UK coach John Calipari said. “He was telling me, ‘Come back to me. Let me do this.’”

While Herro’s play down the stretch clinched the 82-80 win at Auburn, he is not the only Wildcat to step up in tight games this season.

Freshman guard Immanuel Quickley hit 1 of 2 free throws after the Tigers just missed a chance to take the lead following Herro’s free throws. Calipari said freshman guard Keldon Johnson, who scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting at Auburn, was also demanding the ball down the stretch.

Johnson had previously proven his late-game heroics with a half-court heave at the buzzer to send Kentucky’s Dec. 8 game against Seton Hall. He hit another 3 with 42 seconds left in overtime to give UK the lead but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have given the Wildcats the win.

Freshman point guard Ashton Hagans almost pulled Kentucky back in a loss at Alabama with a steal and subsequent assist on a PJ Washington dunk to cut the deficit to one point with four seconds left.

Related: How an f-bomb may have helped spark Kentucky basketball’s turnaround

As a team, Kentucky is shooting 69.2 percent from the free-throw line in the final five minutes of single-digit games and overtime, but Herro (4 for 5), Johnson (7 for 10) and Quickley (5 for 6) are all shooting at least 70 percent from the line in those situations.

“It just all depends on what we need and what’s going on, who we call it for,” Johnson said. “As you all can see, Tyler came down the stretch big time (at Auburn). I’m just proud of him today.”

Herro also had the confidence to take Kentucky’s final shot at Alabama, and while that 3-pointer at the buzzer was no good, the Wisconsin native is averaging 17 points per game on the road this season.

“I just like hitting big shots against people who don’t like us, I guess,” he said. “They don’t like us, we don’t like them.”

The ability of several Kentucky players to step up in hostile environments and in close games speaks well for the Wildcats’ chances to push Tennessee in the SEC title race and make a deep NCAA Tournament run.

And if that happens, expect Herro to be front and center. His eagerness to play the villain translated into a team-best 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting earlier this season at Louisville.

You may like: What we learned from Kentucky basketball’s win at Auburn

But Kentucky held a comfortable lead for most of the Louisville game. That was not the case as the Auburn Arena crowd reached full roar with the Tigers rallying from a 17-point deficit to take the lead in the final minute.

“It was just a bigger game, I feel like because Auburn, they’re a great team,” Herro said. “We’re a good team too, so I feel like tonight was a bigger stage.”

Jon Hale: jahale@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @JonHale_CJ. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/jonh.

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UK freshman Keldon Johnson was motivated by teammate Ashton Hagans’ direction to wake up at Auburn.
Jon Hale, Louisville Courier Journal

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Hey #BBN! If you bleed blue, you just found your new home. Guided by fans and supported by the Courier Journal’s beat reporters, we’re here to give a behind-the-scenes look at the team and chat about what’s on your mind.

 

 



Amid Vanderbilt basketball losing streak, what is Bryce Drew saying in timeouts? – The Tennessean


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Coach Bryce Drew’s Vanderbilt team has a 0-5 SEC record heading into Wednesday’s game against Tennessee.
Adam Sparks, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

Timeouts aren’t going to fix Vanderbilt basketball’s problems.

But coach Bryce Drew has still called every timeout available — often in vain — to try to stop the downward slide of a five-game SEC losing streak heading into Wednesday’s home game (6 p.m., ESPN2) against No. 3 Tennessee.

Drew isn’t a fiery coach who breaks clipboards and tosses his jacket on the court to stir up his players. But he still pulls a chair into the team huddle during every timeout to try to redirect the game.

If Drew isn’t blowing his top, what’s being said during those timeouts?

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“There’s strategic stuff in there and then there’s motivation stuff in there,” Drew said. “Obviously, (I tell them) to play harder, to play tougher, to fight together, to stay together, and (I tell them), ‘we’re going to make shots’ to give them confidence in the huddles.”

No new plan until the old one is mastered

Drew isn’t making drastic changes to the game plan during those timeouts. He thinks that would do more harm than good to an inexperienced team that includes five newcomers in a nine-player rotation with only one senior.

“A lot is just reminders of what we practiced, just simple things,” Drew said. “Unfortunately, I can’t create any drills or anything in practice that equals experience. So a lot of times we do it well in practice and then you get into a game and it’s usually underclassmen that just don’t make the simple play that we practiced.”

In a 71-55 loss to No. 23 Mississippi State on Saturday night, Drew called one timeout with his team quickly down 10-0 and another timeout down 25-10. The Commodores scored their first basket after the first timeout and made a 13-4 run after the other timeout, but both spurts were short-lived.

“(Timeouts are) used for us to come together as a team and lock down and make sure we play tougher,” said freshman Aaron Nesmith, who made back-to-back 3-pointers after a timeout. “But we’ve got to do it as a team. We can’t have just one guy constantly providing energy and turning the game around.”

‘Going over and over it again’

Vanderbilt Commodores head coach Bryce Drew during the first half against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Memorial Gymnasium. (Photo: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports)

Drew has made minor in-game adjustments, like switching from man-to-man to zone defense, and other changes have been very subtle. He said he’s spent some recent timeouts talking to individual players about “careless mistakes of guys not getting back on defense,” but he believes the team’s overall effort has been good.

But most of the timeout chatter has been repeating simple instructions from practice.

“As a coach, I’m not going to quit talking X’s and O’s and execution to them until we get it right,” Drew said. “We will keep going over and over it again until we can pick it up and be more successful at it.”

Immediate success would be a single conference win. Vanderbilt’s 0-5 SEC record marks its worst conference start in program history, and the losing streak may extend for a while. After hosting UT, the Commodores play No. 19 Oklahoma and No. 14 Kentucky.

RECAP: Vanderbilt basketball losing streak grows in loss to Mississippi State

JOE REXRODE: Bryce Drew and Vanderbilt are about done — and the Vols will bring the fork

SELLOUT: Tennessee-Vanderbilt basketball game sold out; ticket prices steep on secondary market

MOVING ON: Vanderbilt basketball still under cloud of Darius Garland’s injury: ‘No excuse, but it’s reality’

Reach Adam Sparks at asparks@tennessean.com and on Twitter @AdamSparks.

 



UT Vols basketball, Rick Barnes host Alabama, Avery Johnson – Knoxville News Sentinel


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Tennessee lost 78-50 at Alabama last year in its worst loss of the season.
Mike Wilson, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

Tennessee basketball has the second game of a week-long homestand Saturday when it hosts Alabama.

The No. 3 Vols (15-1, 4-0 SEC) have won 11 games in a row dating back to a Nov. 23 loss to Kansas in the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Vols lost to Alabama (11-5, 2-2) by 28 last season and they’ll be trying to avenge that Saturday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN2).