Updated: Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 2:29 PM
Omari Spellman is 6-foot-8 and 255 pounds and has proved he can bang inside, but the Wildcats’ redshirt freshman center feels right at home outside the three-point arc, creating a matchup nightmare for opponents.
Spellman knocked down a career-high six three-point baskets in seven attempts on his way to 26 points in Sunday’s win over Seton Hall. He now owns a unique double, ranking third in the Big East in three-point shooting at 46.7 percent, and second in blocked shots at 1.4 per game.
“When we recruited him, he was a perimeter player, so this isn’t any surprise to us,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. “He grew after we recruited him and grew into a big, strong rebounder and post player. So this is really natural for him to be on the perimeter and on the ball, and I think it gives him a quicker path to being a complete player.”
While sitting out last season as an academic redshirt, Spellman worked on his conditioning while learning about what Wright demands in his program.
“He did a lot of the conditioning work, he changed his diet, he learned everything we did, so he’s not your basic freshman,” the coach said. “I think you’re seeing now, some of that rust from a year not playing is starting to come off. He’s a freshman that has learned a lot in a short period of time.”
Wednesday vs. St. John’s (WFC), 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Saturday vs. Butler (WFC), noon, Fox29
The Owls have started to figure out a way to win the close games, coming off a week when they upset No. 16 Wichita State in overtime and then avenged an earlier loss to Tulane on the road in a seven-point win in which they had just a three-point lead with 1:21 to play.
Asked about what has turned things around, coach Fran Dunphy replied, “You wish you knew so that you could employ those tactics all the time.”
Regarding Tulane, Dunphy talked about a three-pointer by Quinton Rose with the Owls down by four, and a runner in the lane by freshman Nate Pierre-Louis that came “a little earlier in the shot clock than we would have liked or expected.”
“It’s just guys stepping up and making plays, as much that as anything else,” he said. “We’ve got stops at end of games that we have won – Tulane late, Wichita State late, Penn late – that have really helped us get over the hump here a little bit. But we’ve still got a long way to go.”
The win over Wichita State was the Owls’ 11th game this season decided by five points or fewer, and improved their record to 6-5 in those contests.
Wednesday vs. East Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPNNEWS
Saturday at South Florida, noon, ESPNU
The Dragons have won four straight, with perhaps the best victory of that stretch coming Saturday at William & Mary, a 91-79 decision in which they limited one of the top shooting teams in the nation to 33.3 percent from the floor in the second half.
“There’s no magic formula,” coach Zach Spiker said. “We’re playing connected on both ends of the floor. Guys are helping each other on the defensive end and jumping out.
“To hold William & Mary – who I think is one of the greatest offensive teams in the nation; statistically, it’s unbelievable what they do – in the second half certainly reinforces our process. We don’t want to get overly confident, but I think it’s great for our guys to connect what we talk about, what they’ve got to do, and see it translate into success.”
Spiker said his team’s improvement might have started in the last game it lost. After a 90-68 defeat at Towson on Jan. 18, the Dragons went to James Madison two days later and battled the Dukes down to the wire in a 75-73 defeat.
“I thought we showed pretty big improvement in a short turnaround,” he said.
Thursday vs. Towson, 7 p.m.
Saturday at Charleston, 4 p.m.
Senior forward B.J. Johnson came up with a couple of milestones in scoring 25 points Saturday in the Explorers’ win over St. Joseph’s.
Johnson surpassed 1,000 career points during the game, counting the 118 he scored in the two seasons he spent at Syracuse before transferring. He has 894 points as an Explorer, putting him on the path to become the 56th 1,000-point scorer in school history, and only the sixth to achieve that figure in his first two seasons in the program.
On a more personal note Saturday, he passed his father, Bobby Johnson, who scored 878 points in 109 games at La Salle from 1986 through 1990.
The first five players who reached 1,000 career points at La Salle in their first two seasons were Lionel Simmons (1,462), Michael Brooks (1,275), Kareem Townes (1,226), current assistant coach Donnie Carr (1,131) and Tom Gola (1,021).
Wednesday at George Washington, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Saturday at St. Louis, 8 p.m.
In what has to be an extremely rare occurrence, the game between the Hawks and the Explorers yielded a second 1,000-point career scorer. In addition to Johnson, St. Joseph’s senior guard Shavar Newkirk poured in a career-high 30 points and finished with 1,017 points, making him the 55th player in program history to reach the milestone.
Newkirk has played in 101 games. He missed 19 last season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Dec. 30, 2016.
The Hawks continued to be unlucky in close games. Going into Tuesday night’s game at Davidson, they had lost by three points at St. Bonaventure, by one at home to St. Louis and by three points at La Salle in the last two weeks.
For the season, they are 2-8 in games decided by fewer than five points, with those eight defeats coming by a total of 23 points.
Saturday vs. Massachusetts, 4 p.m.
The math is a little daunting for the Quakers: Seven of their last nine regular-season Ivy League games are on the road, starting with Tuesday night’s contest at arch-rival Princeton, after a long Palestra stand got them off to a 5-0 mark in Ivy play.
But coach Steve Donahue said he thought his guys were “hungry to get on the road.”
“Part of college basketball is loading up the bus, getting in there and being the villain, and going in there and playing,” he said after Saturday night’s win over Yale. “I think we’re looking forward to that.”
The Quakers finished a nine-game run at home with games that featured wildly contrasting styles: a 95-90 overtime win over Brown followed by a 59-50 victory against Yale, which shot 1 for 19 from three-point range.
Penn faces a rare three-game week in the Ivy, including a trip to Harvard, the first of two showdowns against the preseason pick to win the league.
Friday at Dartmouth, 7 p.m.
Saturday at Harvard, 4 p.m.
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