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Thursday, December 12, 2019

College Basketball

USC coach had great reaction to freshman Onyeka Okongwu’s eight-block game

Andy Enfield

Onyeka Okongwu put the college basketball world on notice with a stellar debut on Tuesday, and his head coach thinks the encore might be even better.

Okongwu, the 18-year-old freshman, showed out in the team’s season opener against Florida A&M, racking up 20 points, 13 rebounds, and a USC school record-tying eight blocked shots. The Trojans went on to win by a 77-48 final.

Afterward, USC coach Andy Enfield had a great reaction to Okongwu’s outing.

“If he wants to break the school record, do it in the next game,” said Enfield, per Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the Los Angeles Times.

“He’s relentless. When that shot goes up, he’s going to be somewhere and it’s usually towards the basketball,” Enfield continued about Okongwu. “He’s got some great skills, but it’s really the mentality. I know a lot of guys that are just as athletic as Onyeka, but when that shot goes up, he’s going to get it.”

Okongwu, who is only 6-foot-9, entered college with a lot of hype after being a five-star recruit and winning three state championships at Chino Hills High, the same high school that produced New Orleans Pelicans star Lonzo Ball.

The freshman lived up to all the hype and more on Tuesday though, and he is part of a first-year class that includes some other newsworthy talents as well.

Michigan State mascot Sparty was staring down Tyrese Maxey

Sparty Tyrese Maxey

Tyrese Maxey had a huge game in Kentucky’s 69-62 win over Michigan State on Tuesday night, and the Spartans’ mascot was not having ANY of it.

Maxey, a freshman guard from Texas, was the star of the game. Making his Kentucky debut, Maxey scored 26 points on 7/13 shooting, including a big 3-pointer with a minute left to make it a 5-point game.

Watching Sparty stare down Maxey after the 3-pointer was too much.

That finger wiggle from Sparty really did make it seem like he was thinking about taking Maxey out!

Good thing for Kentucky Sparty didn’t pull anything crazy.

Michigan State entered the game as the preseason No. 1 team, while Kentucky was No. 2. For now, Kentucky has the edge with a head-to-head win.

Texas G Andrew Jones has career-high game in return from leukemia

Andrew Jones

Andrew Jones was already a winner just by stepping onto the floor in the Texas Longhorns’ season-opening game on Tuesday against Northern Colorado. But then he showed that just being on the team is not enough; he intends to be a major contributor.

Jones, a sophomore guard from Irving, Texas, on Tuesday played significant minutes for the first time since being diagnosed with leukemia in January 2018. At first, the broadcasting team on Longhorn Network called Jones the “mascot” for the team, implying he was there to help build team spirit.

But guess what? After scoring two points in the first half, Jones exploded for 18 in the second half and finished with a career-high 20 points.

Jones was 8/13 overall and 4/5 on threes. He bested his previous high of 19 against VCU in December 2017.

Jones appeared in two games last season for Texas while undergoing treatment for leukemia. He played nine minutes in one game and two in the other and did not make a field goal. This was his best game — and marked his first field goal made — in nearly two years. He finished chemotherapy in September and says he is taking things day by day for now.

Oklahoma State lands huge commitment from 2020 guard Cade Cunningham

Cade Cunningham

The Oklahoma State Cowboys landed a huge commitment on Tuesday night.

Cade Cunningham announced in a video on Twitter that he has chosen to commit to Oklahoma State.

Cunningham picked the Cowboys over Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, and Washington. He referenced in his video how Oklahoma State hiring his brother Cannen as an assistant coach this year factored into his decision.

Cunningham is from Arlington, Texas and is listed by 247 Sports as the No. 1 combo guard in the country, No. 1 recruit in Texas, and No. 2 player nationally. He is the second commitment for Oklahoma State’s 2020 class and a huge one for third-year head coach Michael Boynton.

H/T The Spun

Phil Fulmer blasts NCAA after key Tennessee freshman denied eligibility

Phil Fulmer

Tennessee Volunteers athletic director Phil Fulmer is not happy after freshman basketball player Uros Plavsic was denied an immediate eligibility waiver by the NCAA.

Plavsic, a redshirt freshman who transferred from Arizona State after a coaching change, will not be allowed to suit up for the Vols this season. That decision angered Fulmer, who called out the NCAA in a strongly-worded statement.

Tennessee could have used the help. Key names like Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield graduated, leaving the Volunteers in something of a rebuilding state. That fact, combined with Plavsic’s importance as a seven-footer, probably has Fulmer even angrier.

Watch: Tom Izzo shows up to MSU Madness in Incredible Hulk costume

Tom Izzo

Tom Izzo always makes a splashy entrance to Michigan State’s “MSU Madness” before the beginning of their college basketball season. 2019 was no exception.

The Spartans had a Marvel’s “Avengers”-themed evening, which included Izzo dressing up in an Incredible Hulk costume.

At the event, the Spartans raised the banner for making the Final Four this year. Musical artist Quinn XCII also performed at the event.

So how does Izzo’s Izzcredible Hulk costume compare to some of his others over the years? Here’s a look at them:

Our favorite still was probably when he dressed as a member of Kiss.

USC Song Girls will return to home basketball games this season

USC Song Girls

One of former athletic director Lynn Swann’s more unpopular decisions at USC will be reversed this season.

The USC Song Girls will be welcomed back to the Galen Center for home basketball games this season after being blocked from performing on Swann’s orders for much of 2018-19.

The Song Girls were blocked from performing at basketball games in January under bizarre circumstances. The university cited “ongoing game management concerns, time constraints and space issues at the Galen Center,” but there was a belief that Swann had stepped in and blocked them from performing after some members joined in chants calling for the firing of football coach Clay Helton. Whatever the reason, the decision was unpopular, and much of the ire was directed at Swann for the decision.

Swann has since left the school under mysterious circumstances. It’s no coincidence that the Song Girls were brought back barely a month later.