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NCAA Tournament: Tennessee ends Wright State’s season

A Wright State team built on defense was done in by a bigger, stronger and faster one Thursday as Tennessee overpowered the Raiders in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Volunteers held WSU to its lowest point total of the season and largest margin of defeat in a 73-47 triumph in a South Region game at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

“You can’t play as poorly as we did offensively and win an NCAA tournament game, not against a team like Tennessee,” Raiders coach Scott Nagy said. “We’ve been in some games like this where we’ve played poorly offensively and won, but you’re playing Tennessee, that just isn’t going to happen.”

›› PHOTO GALLERY: See pictures from Wright State-Tennessee game

The loss ends the winningest Division I season in WSU history at 25-10, while the Volunteers (26-8) advance to face the winner of Thursday’s second game between No. 6 Miami and No. 11 Loyola-Chicago.

The Raiders’ first trip to the NCAA tournament in 11 years started poorly and only got worse against one of the top defenses in the country.

With senior guard and leading scorer Grant Benzinger in a shooting funk and freshman center Loudon Love on the bench with trouble for most of the first half, WSU missed 14 of its first 17 shots to fall behind 21-8. And the Raiders recovered.

›› ARCHDEACON: Losing seasons at SDSU made Nagy a better coach, dancer

Benzinger ended his college career with just five points on 2 of 16 shooting, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.

The Volunteers held him scoreless over the final 24 minutes.

“You’re going to have games like that,” Nagy said. “Grant has had people sticking to him all year, so I don’t think that was any different. I don’t know what to tell you. He just had a tough game offensively.”

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Everyone in green did as the Raiders made just 19 of 60 shots, including 4 of 21 from 3-point range against a Tennessee defense that also recorded six steals, six blocks and a 44-32 edge in rebounds.

“We felt coming in that Wright State would be as difficult a team as we’ve played all year in terms of the way they move without the ball,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Defensively we were really pretty good today against a team that’s not a very easy team to guard.”

UT sophomore guard Lamonte Turner, the SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year, came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points, while junior forward Admiral Schofield posted 15 with a game-high 12 rebounds. Sophomore forward Grant Williams, the SEC Player of the Year, added 14 points and nine boards while playing a big role in getting Love into foul trouble.

›› Ryan Custer-inspired mantra fits Wright State to a T

The Raiders trailed by 11 at halftime, but the Volunteers opened the second half on a 14-4 run to coast into the second round.

Love led WSU with 12 points and nine rebounds, while freshman forward Everett Winchester added 11 points, eight of which came in the first half to keep the game from turning into a blowout earlier.

“Tennessee is really physical on defense,” Winchester said. “They’re in the lanes. They attack the ball. And they just pressure a lot. I think we had some pretty good looks out there. We just couldn’t knock down shots.”

As disappointing as the loss was, Nagy said it shouldn’t detract from a record- and barrier-breaking season.

›› RELATED: Revitalized WSU women open WNIT play at Toledo

But getting that message through to the players proved to be as tough as fighting through the Tennessee defense.

“I’ve had to give that speech 23 times now because I’ve ended every one of my seasons with a loss,” Nagy said. “It’s hard for the kids to hear right there. It doesn’t matter what you say to try to make them feel better, they don’t feel better at that point.

“I think as time goes on, they’ll be able to look back and see what a special season this was,” he added. “One thing I told them is that I haven’t enjoyed every team that I’ve coached, but I really enjoyed these guys. This team has been a joy to coach, and for as thin as we were and as young as we are, we accomplished so much.”

Wright State to face Tennessee in NCAA Tournament first round

Wright State will be a No. 14 seed in the South Region and face third-seeded Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday in Dallas. The game will tip at 12:40 p.m. on truTV.

A crowd of 750 packed the Student Union on the WSU campus for a watch party with the team as the Raiders (25-9) found out where they will be going and who they will be playing in their first NCAA tournament since 2007.

RELATED: WSU players recall NCAA Tournament memories

ARCHDEACON: WSU legends weigh in on this year’s team

RELATED: Mike Hartsock’s podcast with Wright State’s Loudon Love

“This is great, but this needs to be a habit,” Nagy told the crowd. “I honestly didn’t expect this kind of turnout. It’s a little bit overwhelming, but we’re so pleased that you came.

“As we get ready to see where we go and who we play, our expectations are that we will go and win that basketball game.”

›› RELATED: Mike Hartsock talks to WSU freshman Loudon Love on his podcast

Tennessee (25-8) had won six in a row before losing to Kentucky 77-72 in the SEC championship game Sunday afternoon. This will be the 21st NCAA tournament appearance for the Volunteers, and first since they advanced to the Elite 8 in 2014.

It will be the first meeting between Wright State and Tennessee.

The winner advances to play play the victor of the game between No. 6 Miami, Fla. and No. 11 Loyola-Chicago, a team Wright State played in the season opener in Chicago on Nov. 10. The Ramblers won 84-80.

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The Raiders, who earned the Horizon League automatic bid Tuesday with a 74-57 victory against Cleveland State in the championship game, are in the tournament for just the third time in school history.

“There was an article where Thomas Walkup from Stephen F. Austin said, ‘There are two types of teams in the tournament — teams that are just happy to be there, and teams that are ready to take it by storm,” WSU senior and leading scorer Grant Benzinger said. “We intend to be the latter.”

Selection Sunday -- What to know

March Madness is upon us, and there will be a few new wrinkles when the 68-team field is announced Sunday evening.

>> Read more trending news

The “March Madness Selection Show” will begin at 6 p.m. ET, and for the first time in many years it will not be broadcast by CBS. TBS will get the honors this year, and also will televise the Final Four for the first time.

Some of the drama will end early. For the first time, teams that made the field will be announced in alphabetical order. That means that if your team is on the bubble and is not announced, then you can skip the rest of the show unless you are interested in the entire bracket and the seedings.

This is a departure from going through every bracket and listing the teams at an agonizingly slow pace.

Bracket seedings will follow, so get out your pens and put on your bracketology caps.

Providence basketball coach splits pants during intense Big East final

During Saturday’s Big East basketball tournament championship game at Madison Square Garden, Providence coach Ed Cooley refused to throw in the towel.

>> Read more trending news

He needed it because he ripped his pants.

During the second half of the game, eventually won 76-66 by Villanova in overtime, Cooley had a wardrobe malfunction and had to wear a towel around the back of his pants, ESPN reported.

“When I sat down I felt the great breeze in the crack,” Cooley laughed. "My pants ripped."

Villanova coach Jay Wright said he didn’t notice the towel.

“I didn't know until (Big East commissioner) Val Ackerman told me after the game when we were up on the stage,” Wright said. “So I never knew it. I didn't see it.”

Wright confessed that he would be stumped if his clothes ripped during a game, ESPN reported.

“I don't know what I would do, man,” he said. “I think I would try to fake like it didn't happen and hold my coat over it, I think. Thank God I haven't had that yet.”

Cooley wore a sweatsuit for the postgame news conference, ESPN reported. He said he was proud that his team never threw in the towel against Villanova.

“I'm pretty sure some of you are surprised the game was played the way it was, because everybody thought the Friars were going to come in here and lay down,” Cooley said. “No way, man. That team got fight. They've got passion, and we believe.”

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts pays off bet, wears Auburn jersey

It’s easier to pay off a bet when you have a national championship in your pocket.

>> Read more trending news

On Thursday, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts wore the jersey of the Crimson Tide’s bitter rival, Auburn, on campus, ESPN reported.

Hurts had made a bet on Nov. 14 with Auburn alumnus Charles Barkley before the Iron Bowl game between the two Alabama universities. 

"Jalen Hurts challenged me to a bet, and I ain't forgot it, Jalen," Barkley said that day. "I'm either going to wear an Alabama jersey on TV, or he's going to have to wear (an Auburn jersey) on campus. ... I've got the jersey coming.

"My Tigers need to win because I don't want to wear that crap on TNT."

Auburn stunned No. 1 Alabama 26-14, handing the Crimson Tide its only loss of the season.

Hurts paid off the bet Thursday, as the school posted a video on its Twitter feed.

"What's up, Charles," Hurts said. "Obviously, I'm a man of my word. And first off, I'd just like to congratulate Auburn and the Auburn family on their successful season this year. But I think it's time I get to class. I'm running kind of late for English."

Hurts added a “Roll Tide” before walking away.

While Alabama lost to Auburn, the Crimson Tide qualified for the College Football Playoff games and won the national title with a 26-23 overtime victory against Georgia.

Wright State beats Milwaukee to reach Horizon League final

Wright State will play for the Horizon League championship Tuesday night after beat Milwaukee 59-53 Monday night in a sloppy semifinal game at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.

The second-seeded Raiders (24-9) will face No. 8 Cleveland State, which upset No. 4 Oakland in Monday’s first semifinial.

WSU freshman Loudon Love had 18 points and 12 rebounds, while freshman Jaylon Hall added 12 points, including four free throws in the final minute.

The Raiders won the game at the other end of the court, holding the Panthers (16-17) to 31.7 percent shooting (20 of 63)

Mark Hughes spurred the defensive effort, blanking Milwaukee’s Brock Stull in the second half. Stull, who had a career-high 25 in Sunday’s quarterfinal win against UIC, had 11 points in the first half but was 1 for 4 after the break.

Jeremiah Bell, a second-team all-league pick, scored a game-high 22 points, but they came on 8 of 24 shooting.

The Raiders only shot 33.3 percent (18 of 54) and trailed by as many as six in the first half, but WSU went into halftime on a 9-2 run for a 27-25 lead and never trailed in the second half.

The 24 wins set a Division I program record for WSU.

LaVar Ball blasts Trump after report says UCLA players were freed before president stepped in

We now have a LaVar Ball vs. Donald Trump Part II.

ESPN released a report on Saturday chronicling UCLA’s China shoplifting incident involving freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley. The three allegedly had stolen sunglasses from Louis Vuitton, a boutique store and a bracelet from H&M.

>> LaVar Ball pulls son LiAngelo out of UCLA after suspension

ESPN’s Arash Markazi wrote that Trump actually had nothing to do with the release of LiAngelo Ball, Hill and Riley.

Upon hearing the news, LaVar Ball doubled down on his stance that Trump had zero to do with getting the three out of harm’s way.

>> See his tweet here

LaVar Ball and Trump previously got into a spat on social media in the days and weeks after the highly-publicized theft. Soon after the LiAngelo Ball, Hill and Riley were released from house arrest, Trump took to Twitter seeking credit.

LaVar Ball dismissed Trump’s request for validation on multiple occasions.

The two had quieted down their tug of war, but Saturday's news has evidently resuscitated the matter.

>> Read more trending news 

LiAngelo Ball has since left UCLA to play professional basketball in Lithuania. Hill and Riley are currently serving a one-year suspension as punishment for the international shoplifting incident but were permitted to practice with the team on Dec. 26.

Jacksonville State center from Lithuania reunited with mother after 5 years 

A college basketball senior from Lithuania was reunited with his mother for the first time in five years, thanks to his coaches at Jacksonville State University, People reported.

>> Read more trending news

Norbertas Giga, a senior for the Gamecocks, had been invited to watch film with the coaching staff in a hotel conference room Tuesday as the team from Alabama prepared to play in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. 

Giga was told by the coaches that video cameras were present simply to document the team’s postseason run, People reported. Assistant coach Chase Richardson begins the session by asking the 7-footer about his mother’s discipline tactics.

“What did your mom used to tell you about belt whippings? You need them?” Richardson asks Giga. “When’s the last time you had one?”

“Oh man, that was about eight years ago?” Giga said.

Richardson walked to a door near the film screen and told Giga, “I’m tired of belt-whipping you myself. So we got the real thing for you.”

Richardson opened the door and Giga’s mother walked into the room. Giga ran to the opposite side of the room in disbelief, then returns to give his mother a teary embrace.

Giga has been a two-year starter for the Gamecocks since arriving at the school in 2016, CBS Sports reported. Prior to that he spent a season at the junior college level at Midland College and Tallahassee Community College and a year at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, New Jersey, CBS Sports reported.

A HUGE Thank You to everybody that was involved in this surprise for me. I can’t even explain how much it means and how this moment feels to me,” Giga wrote on Twitter. “THANK YOU! We are Gamecocks!”

The surprise was not enough to help Giga spark Jacksonville to an OVC title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. After defeating Tennessee Tech 73-70 on Thursday, the fourth-seeded Gamecocks lost 70-63 to top-seeded Murray State in the conference semifinals Friday night, ESPN reported.

Texas college baseball coach fired after email to recruit about Colorado’s drug policies

A Texas college baseball coach and former major-leaguer was fired Thursday, partially because of comments he made about players from Colorado in an email to a potential recruit, the Star-Telegram reported.

>> Read more trending news

Mike Jeffcoat, who pitched in the majors from 1983 to 1994, was dismissed as Texas Wesleyan’s coach Thursday morning, university president Frederick Slabach announced at a news conference.

Jeffcoat, in an email to 18-year-old Gavin Bell of Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, Colorado, cited that state’s politicians and its marijuana policies as reasons not to recruit players from the Centennial State, the Denver Post reported.

“Thanks for the interest in our program,” wrote Jeffcoat, 58, who has been Texas Wesleyan’s coach since 2002. “Unfortunately, we are not recruiting players from the state of Colorado. In the past, players have had trouble passing our drug test. We have made a decision to not take a chance on Student-athletes from your state. You can thank your liberal politicians. Best of Luck wherever you decide to play.”

A screenshot of the email was tweeted out Wednesday afternoon by a Denver radio host.

That email, and violations of National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics rules regarding player eligibility, were the reasons for Jeffcoat’s firing. Slabach said. The school had been investigating the rule violations for about a week and reported them to the NAIA on Thursday, the Post reported.

“Mike Jeffcoat is no longer an employee of Texas Wesleyan University,” Slabach said at the news conference. “He was separated from the university due to the discriminatory remarks contained in the email to a potential recruit from the state of Colorado, and for another factor that we have been investigating for the past week.”

Bell told KCNC, that he "didn't know what to think" when he received Jeffcoat’s email.

"What does it have to do with anything with me playing baseball because of past encounters and not taking a chance with me?" Bell told KCNC.

During Thursday’s news conference Thursday, Slabach said the university, located in Fort Worth, “would love to have Gavin here as a student."

Since sales of recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado in 2014, Wesleyan has had only one other player from the Centennial State on its baseball roster, Eaglecrest graduate Aidan Laurini, the Post reported.

"My intention really wasn't to do anything to hurt anybody or get anybody fired," Bell told KCNC. "It was just me talking to my coaches and my loved ones about what do I do with this."

Jeffcoat had a 25-26 record over 255 games with the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants and Florida Marlins.

Louisville basketball team stripped of 2013 NCAA title

The NCAA stripped the University of Louisville of its 2013 national basketball title and mandated that the school must vacate 123 wins between 2011 and 2015, the organization said on its website Tuesday. The decision by an NCAA panel denied the Cardinals' appeals in a sex scandal case.

>> Read more trending news

The NCAA’s appeals committee also upheld the Division I Committee’s decision in June 2017 to require the university to return money it received through conference revenue sharing for its appearances in NCAA basketball tournaments during 2012 and 2013, when the Cardinals appeared in the Final Four; and tournament appearances in 2014 and 2015.

It is the first time in modern Division I men's basketball history that a championship was vacated. The Louisville-Courier Journal reported.

The decision ended a two-year process that began after a book published by Katina Powell sparked an NCAA probe in October 2015. In “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” Powell alleged that former Louisville basketball staff member Andre McGee paid women thousands of dollars and gave them game tickets to dance for and have sex with players and recruits, the Courier-Journal reported.

Louisville officials imposed a postseason ban for the 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournaments, and then added recruiting sanctions after confirming Powell’s allegations, the Courier Journal reported. Former coach Rick Pitino was suspended for five conference games and appealed the ruling. Pitino dropped the appeal after he was fired in October 2017 after an FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting practices included allegations against the school, the Courier-Journal reported.

In its appeal, Louisville argued that the penalties were “excessive,” the NCAA said. 

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