NCAA Hoops: UConn overcomes No. 17 Notre Dame

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NCAA Hoops: UConn overcomes No. 17 Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame had a chance to make history, including matching a mark set by the Fighting Irish squad that famously ended UCLA's 88-game winning streak. Instead, they saw a repeat of history against Connecticut.

The Huskies outscored the Irish 7-0 in the final minute to win 65-58 on Saturday and end a long home winning streak by No. 17 Notre Dame (14-2, 2-1) for the third time in four years. The loss prevented the Irish from getting off to their best start ever in the Big East and their best start overall since the 1973-74 squad led by John Shumate and Adrian Dantley and coached by Digger Phelps opened 24-1.

"We played with a little bit of the weight of the world on our shoulders," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "That took its toll on us a little bit."

Shabazz Napier scored 19 points, Tyler Olander scored 12 of his career-high 16 points in the second half to pace UConn (12-3, 2-1), who outplayed the Irish in the final minute.

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UIC can't fend off Green Bay rally

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Alec Brown scored 21 points, one short of his career high, and pulled down eight rebounds Saturday, helping Green Bay rally in the final minutes for a 53-47 victory over Illinois-Chicago.

Brown, a junior, was 6 of 13 from the field, including two 3-pointers, and 7 of 8 from the line. Brennan Cougill added nine points for the Phoenix (8-9, 2-2 Horizon League), who have won their last nine home games against Illinois-Chicago.

Gary Talton led the Flames (10-7, 1-3) with three 3-pointers and 11 points.

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Akron breezes past NIU

DE KALB, Ill. (AP) Reggie McAdams scored 20 points, making all six of his shots from the field, and Akron breezed past Northern Illinois 68-53 on Saturday.

McAdams made all four of his 3-point attempts for the Zips (11-4, 2-0 Mid-American), who have won seven in a row. He missed one of his five free-throw tries.

Nick Harney had 12 points and seven rebounds, Demetrius Treadwell had 11 points and nine rebounds and Deji Ibitayo also had 11 points for Akron.

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Bradley no match for UNI

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) Marc Sonnen tied two career highs Saturday with 21 points and seven 3-pointers, leading six Northern Iowa players in double figures in an 84-53 blowout of Bradley.

Sonnen, a senior and a 3-point specialist, was 7 of 9 from behind the arc for the Panthers (9-8, 2-3 Missouri Valley), who also got 15 points from Deon Mitchell, 13 from Seth Tuttle and 11 apiece from Jake Koch, Matt Bohannon and Anthony James. Koch led UNI with 11 rebounds and Mitchell dished out seven assists.

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Western records 11th straight win

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Terell Parks had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Western Illinois won its 11th game in a row, defeating Nebraska-Omaha 89-74 on Saturday.

Don McAvoy III scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting for the Leathernecks (14-3, 6-0 Summit), off to their best start since the 1957-58 team won its first 23 games. The winning streak is WIU's longest in 30 years.

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ISU drops fifth straight to open conference slate

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) Chris Hines and Ben Simons scored 23 points apiece as Drake defeated Illinois State 82-78 Saturday night.

Jordan Clarke added 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs (7-9, 1-4 Missouri Valley), who snapped a four-game losing streak. Joey King had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Johnny Hill had a career-high 24 points (all in the second half), Bryant Allen added 22 and Jackie Carmichael had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Illinois State (9-8, 0-5), which has lost five straight.

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SIU collects first MVC victory

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) Desmar Jackson scored 29 points and grabbed eight rebounds to pace Southern Illinois to a 76-71 victory over Indiana State on Saturday night.

Southern Illinois (8-8, 1-4 Missouri Valley) got 11 points from Anthony Beane Jr. and 13 rebounds from Jeff Early.

Indiana State (10-6, 3-2) had four men score in double figures. Manny Arop scored 16 points, Jake Odum and Lucas Eitel had 15 each and Justin Gant had 10.

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EIU collapses late in loss to Jacksonville St.

CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) Tarvin Gaines scored 22 points including an 8 for 9 mark from the free-throw line and Jacksonville State outlasted Eastern Illinois 61-55 on Saturday night.

Jacksonville State (12-5, 4-2 Ohio Valley) shot 47.7 percent from the field and only took its biggest lead of the game after a Gaines free throw put the Gamecocks up 33-26 at the start of the second half.

Eastern Illinois led 48-45 with 7:08 remaining in the game but the Gamecocks went on a 8-2 run sparked by Brian Williams, who scored four straight buckets to give Jacksonville State a 53-50 lead and they never trailed again.

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Chicago native Paris Lee doing all he can to make sure Illinois State's NCAA Tournament bubble doesn't burst

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USA TODAY

Chicago native Paris Lee doing all he can to make sure Illinois State's NCAA Tournament bubble doesn't burst

Dan Muller didn't even have to say anything.

The Illinois State men's basketball coach certainly didn't want his team to lose focus, not with what the game against Bradley meant for the Redbirds' NCAA tournament chances. 

But as Bradley mounted a comeback in the second half of what initially appeared to be a blowout, senior point guard Paris Lee stepped up and delivered all that needed to be said.

"Paris led us like he always does," senior forward Deontae Hawkins said. "The defense was slacking later in the game and Paris called us out and told us, 'We're too old to keep following our old habits.'"

[RELATED —​ MVC tripleheader on CSN Wednesday night, including ISU-Missouri State at 8 p.m.]

The Redbirds wound up cruising to a 64-50 win over Bradley to improve their record in the Missouri Valley Conference to 13-1 (21-5 overall) and Lee took home MVC player of the week honors for his effort.

It was all the more important given the audience at Redbird Arena Saturday night.

At halftime, Illinois State honored the 1998 team, the last Redbirds squad to make it to the NCAA Tournament back when Muller was filling an important role as a player instead of a coach.

Now in his fifth year at the helm of ISU, Muller has improved the Redbirds' record in the MVC in each season. With four conference games left — including Wednesday night's tilt against Missouri State on CSN — Muller has already set a new high mark with 13 conference wins.

And he's been leaning heavily on Lee to do so.

Muller said Lee's impassioned mid-game speech to his teammates has become a common sight this year as Lee — a native of Maywood, Ill. just outside Chicago — has grown more comfortable in a leadership role.

"Paris is pretty locked in," Muller said. "He's been a coach on that floor all year; he has been since he's been here [at ISU]. That's one of the areas he's probably improved the most over the last four — his leadership, his competitive spirit, his comfort level and taking control of the team."

Lee admitted his transformation into a leader was not always a natural fit.

"I feel like I had no other choice but to start maturing because we had a lot of new guys on the team and a lot of younger guys looking up to me," he said. "So I had to. I was kinda forced to grow up. 

"In previous years, I've always had teammates that were able to take the load from me, talk, do everything I should do. But this year, I had no choice but to [step up as a leader]."

Lee is all in — down to his red-tipped dreadlocks that he joked gives him more swag and a pair of sick red Jordans — on getting the Redbirds back to the NCAA Tournament in his final season. He's already set a new career high in assists, thriving as a playmaker/facilitator.

"I'm very hungry, man," Lee said. "I'm gonna continue to play the right way, not try to do too much. Just try to do the right thing to help my team win."

Wednesday on CSN: Missouri Valley with three games on CSN/CSN+

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Wednesday on CSN: Missouri Valley with three games on CSN/CSN+

The Missouri Valley has a busy day night of basketball on CSN and CSN+ on Wednesday night.

It starts at 6 p.m. with Southern Illinois hosting Wichita State on CSN. After that game on CSN, Illinois State will travel to Missouri State in a game that will air live at 8 p.m.

CSN+ will also air another live Missouri Valley matchup at 7 p.m. as Northern Iowa hosts Bradley.

[RELATED - Chicago native Paris Lee doing all he can to make sure Illinois State's NCAA Tournament bubble doesn't burst]

Southern Illinois (14-13, 7-7) is trying to compete for the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament as they get a big opportunity to host a conference leader. Senior guard Mike Rodriguez leads the Salukis in points (12.9 ppg) and assists (4.2 apg).

Wichita State (23-4, 13-1) are not only fighting for the conference regular season title but also a potential NCAA tournament bid. The Shockers are a balanced group led by Markis McDuffie (11.8 ppg). 

The second game on CSN has Illinois State going to Missouri State.

The Redbirds (21-5, 13-1) will have a tough one on the road as they only beat the Bears by three in early January at home. Deontae Hawkins is leading the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game as Illinois State tries to adjust to playing without MiKyle McIntosh. 

Missouri State (15-12, 6-8) has lost three straight games. Junior forward Alize Johnson leads the Bears in scoring at 15.4 points per game. 

The third game of the night will be on CSN+ as Northern Iowa is hosting Bradley at 7 p.m.

The Panthers (13-12, 8-6) have won three straight games as they've made a push into third place in the Valley. Senior Jeremy Morgan (15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds per game) is having a strong season as he's looking like an all-conference player.

Bradley (9-18, 4-10) beat Northern Iowa, 72-61, the last two time these teams met in Peoria as the Braves have lost two straight games. Freshman guard Darrell Brown leads the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game.