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Sunday, January 20, 2019

College Basketball

Charles Barkley messes with John Calipari during postgame press conference

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley took a moment to mess with John Calipari after Kentucky’s 82-80 win over Auburn on Saturday.

Barkley attended the game to watch his alma mater take on the Wildcats in a matchup between the two 13-3 teams. Afterwards, he interrupted Calipari’s press conference and joked with the Kentucky coach.

Barkley said that Kentucky’s statue for Calipari was too skinny and told the coach he was trolling him from the stands.

Barkley had to take his victories where he could get him after his team lost the game. Kentucky is now up to 4-1 in conference play.

Watch: Zion Williamson goes coast-to-coast for big dunk

Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson remains the best show in college basketball.

The Duke freshman threw down a monster dunk in the first half of the Blue Devils’ game against Virginia on Saturday. He grabbed a rebound on the defensive end and went coast-to-coast before throwing down:

Not only was his ability to press ahead on the fastbreak impressive, but he also got fouled hard on the arm and still managed to stuff it down hard.

Williamson entered the game averaging 21.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 2.0 steals per game all while shooting 66.2 percent from the field. He’s a monster.

Did Lynn Swann ban USC Song Girls over ‘Fire Helton’ chants?

USC Song Girls

Lynn Swann continues to get on the bad side of USC fans, and his latest act will only fray the relationship further.

Swann, the Trojans’ athletic director, has blocked the famous USC Song Girls from performing at USC home basketball games for the rest of the season. The Los Angeles Times reported the news on Friday, saying Swann put the order into effect in late November.

Instead of the Song Girls, a dance group called the Trojan Dance Force performs at basketball games.

When pressed for a reason for the decision, a former Song Girls captain (as well as The Times) received the following statement from USC:

“Due to ongoing game management concerns, time constraints and space issues at the Galen Center, the USC Song Girls will not perform at the remaining men’s and women’s basketball games for the 2018-19 season.

“USC Athletics and the Division of Student Affairs jointly made the decision after trying various options over multiple years to accommodate both the Song Girls and the Trojan Dance Force, which was established in 1994 to support USC basketball, at the arena.”

So their reason is that there isn’t enough room for both groups to perform. But many people are not buying that answer and are wondering why he cut the team so abruptly.

The Daily News’ Scott Wolf wrote on Twitter that some Song Girls alumni believe Swann banned them after being told some of the current members joined in on a “Fire Helton” chant at USC’s football game against Notre Dame in November.

Note that reporter Shotgun Spratling said during the game that some Song Girls had joined in on the chant.

USC lost that game 24-17 and finished 5-7 last season — their worst finish since 2000. The timeline of the Song Girls joining in on the chant on Nov. 24 and being blocked from performing at basketball games a week later seems to sync up.

Swann has already shown defiance towards the fans by retaining Helton. Blocking the Song Girls from basketball games will upset fans further.

Watch: Duke’s Cam Reddish hits game-winning three at buzzer

Duke logo

The Duke Blue Devils pulled out a gutsy win on the road Saturday at Florida State without one of their key players thanks to some late heroics from Cam Reddish.

The Blue Devils trailed the Seminoles 78-77 and it looked like Florida State would get possession until replay review indicated it was Duke’s ball. The Blue Devils took full advantage, executing a perfect play with 2.8 seconds left to isolate Reddish in a wide-open catch-and-shoot situation beyond the three-point line.

Zion Williamson missed the entire second half with an eye injury, and the Blue Devils still walked away with a tough road win against a top-15 opponent. Reddish, another standout freshman who has struggled lately, proved that Duke has other freshman heroes to step up and get the job done.

Scottie Pippen’s son commits to play at Vanderbilt

Scottie Pippen

Scotty Pippen Jr will be playing his college ball not too far from where his Hall of Fame father played his.

Pippen Jr, the son of retired six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen, revealed on Friday that he has verbally committed to Vanderbilt University.

“I’m headed to Vanderbilt,” Pippen Jr said, per Evan Daniels of 247Sports. “I picked them because I have a good relationship with the coaches. I like the school a lot. I think it’s a great fit for me academically and athletically.

“I feel like they needed me at the point guard position,” added Pippen Jr, who stands at 6-foot-1. “They just needed a point guard. They want me to come in right away and be able to play the point and help run the team.”

The three-star 2019 prospect also said that he considered Colorado State, UC Santa Barbara, DePaul, and Washington State in addition to the Commodores.

Pippen Jr averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 assists per game as a junior last season for Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, Calif. He also added 16.6 points and 2.3 assists a game for the Oakland Soldiers, an AAU team competing in the Nike 17U National Championships.

The elder Pippen attended college at Central Arkansas before his decorated 17-year NBA career. As for Vanderbilt, a 9-5 team so far this season, they will have another ex-NBA player coaching the younger Pippen next season.

UCLA star boasts about ‘highway robbery’ after huge comeback win

Prince Ali

Don’t look now, but the UCLA Bruins are on a roll since firing Steve Alford.

UCLA won their third game in a row since Alford’s firing, beating Oregon 87-84 in overtime on Thursday night in Eugene. What’s most impressive is the fashion in which they did it.

UCLA was down 65-48 with under 7 minutes to go, and they were down 74-65 with 48.5 seconds left. Despite the big deficits with little time left, they still rallied to tie the game and then win it in the extra period.

After the game, junior guard Prince Ali exclaimed that UCLA committed “highway robbery” with the comeback win.

The Bruins certainly stole that one.

Ali was 7/10 in the game, including 4/7 on threes for 22 points to lead the Bruins. He scored four points in overtime.

Despite their non-conference woes, the Bruins have the talent to compete for the Pac-12 title in the weakened conference this season.

Kentucky fails to cover on incredibly bad beat

John Calipari

Kentucky failed to cover the spread in their win over Texas A&M on Tuesday night thanks to an incredibly bad beat.

The Wildcats were favored by anywhere from 12-15 points depending on where and when someone bet on them. They were leading 85-71 and were all set to cover for most bettors until a bizarre sequence took place.

Kentucky’s Jemarl Baker Jr. rebounded a Texas A&M miss with around 34 seconds left and the Wildcats were set to dribble out the clock. Right as Ashton Hagans threw the ball up in the air to celebrate victory as the final second was counting off, the shot clock expired. The referees gave the ball to the Aggies with 0.8 seconds left, and Savion Flagg heaved a half-court shot that went in.

Just like that, Kentucky went from covering most bets to winning just by 11 points, 85-74, and failing to cover.