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Smallest player, but big man on campus Thursday at Wooden Legacy

By Phil Collin

Fullerton, Calif., November 22, 2018 – The smallest player on the floor was the big man on campus Thursday in the first round of the 2018 Wooden Legacy at Cal State Fullerton.

Chris Lykes, a 5-foot-7 guard, scored a game-high 18 points to lead five players in double figures as Miami sprinted to an 85-49 victory over La Salle.

Guard DJ Vasiljevic added 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists, Zach Johnson scored 12 points off the bench and Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu each had 10 points as the Hurricanes jumped out to their fifth consecutive 4-0 start to a season.

“We got off to a great start, we played great in the first half,” said Miami coach Jim Larranaga, whose team jumped out to a 49-18 halftime lead. In the second half La Salle did a really pressuring us and forcing some turnovers. We got a little bit careless with the ball but overall a very good neutral-site game victory for us. We’re looking forward to the semifinals tomorrow.”

Miami will face Fresno State in the first semifinal in Titan Gym.

The 36-point margin of victory was the second-largest in Wooden Legacy history. San Diego State scored an 89-52 victory over Sacramento State in the 2017 edition of the event.

The Explorers (0-5), still looking for the first win under new coach Ashley Howard, were knocked off-balance by foul trouble to point guard Traci Carter. After picking up his second foul, La Salle was down by two points in the opening 2 ½ minutes. By the time he returned to the court 10 minutes later, Miami had built a 31-11 lead.

“It’s a difficult loss to start this tournament. We came into this tournament optimistic to come in here and turn the corner and we really looked forward to playing against Miami.

“Losing Traci Carter early in the first half really impacted pour team’s ability to function in the first half,” Howard said. “I felt like we sort of fell apart. But in typical La Salle fashion we battled until the end. We competed in the second half. Our challenge now is to put together a 40-minute game where we’re getting that type of effort, not just for 20 minutes.”

Forward Jared Kimbrough scored 10 points to lead La Salle, making all five of his field-goal attempts. But the rest of the team made only 16 of 55 shots (29 percent).

Fresno State 78, Northwestern 59 – All five starters scored in double figures and the Bulldogs (2-1) kept the Wildcats (3-1) at bay in their inaugural foray into an ESPN Events tournament.

Guard Braxton Higgins led Fresno State with 17 points, forward Sam Bittner had 14 points while making four of five 3-pointers, guard New Williams also had 14 points and Nate Grimes and Deshon Taylor each scored 12 for the Bulldogs, who shot 50 percent for the game.

“Sam really started us off strong,” said Fresno State’s first-year coach Justin Hutson. “You come in and play in a great tournament like this against a good team and he really started us by not only hitting four out of five 3s, but he played great defense and did a lot of things that don’t come up on the stat sheet.

“They were bigger than us, definitely, and we wanted to spread them out and use our quickness and be able to drive it in and get a layup or a kick-out for an open 3. And when we kicked out to Sam, he knocked them down.”

Forward Vic Law scored 13 points to lead Northwestern, which was held to 35.3 percent shooting and made only 6 of 22 3-point tries. Dererk Pardo added 11 points and seven rebounds.

“Certainly a disappointing day for us,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “Credit Fresno State, I thought they were terrific. From the opening tip their energy, their pace, they dictated the tempo on both ends with their pressure defense and with the way they were playing offense. They got us spread out and they made shots.

“We have a chance to bounce back and see how we respond to some adversity. Until you play teams like this, you don’t know your strengths and weaknesses. These early season games are good for that.”

Seton Hall 82, Grand Canyon 75 – Guard Myles Powell equaled a Wooden Legacy scoring record with 40 points and hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:06 left to lead the Pirates (2-2) into the semifinals.

Powell’s point total matched the regulation mark set by Arizona State’s James Harden in 2008. Santa Clara’s Jared Browning scored 44 points in overtime in the 2017 tournament.

Guard Damari Milstead hit a jumper from straightaway to break a 73-73 tie with 1:33 to go leading to Powell’s 3-pointer from the left wing. Guard Quincy McKnight hit two free throws to give Seton Hall some breathing room before Powell added a layup and Myles Cale thundered down a windmill dunk in the closing seconds.

“That’s the Myles Powell we usually see in practice,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “I said this at the beginning of the season, you’ll see a lot of that this year. You’ll see some 40s, you’ll see some 45s, but he’ll also have some nights when he struggles.

“We just have to get him to understand that he always has to play with the intensity required but no, I’m not shocked by what he did tonight.”

Forward Alessandro Lever had 20 points and six rebounds and Milstead came off the bench to score a team-high 21 for the Lopes (3-2), who were boosted by a raucous who traveled from Phoenix.

“Our guys are disappointed, I’m happy with our effort, it was just too much Powell,” GCU coach Dan Majerle said. “He just had one of those games and we knew he was able to do it.”

Hawaii 90, Utah 79 – Guard Brocke Stepteau scored a career-high 24 points to lead five players in double figures and the Rainbow Warriors (4-1) took control with a 20-6 run to open the second half to reach the semifinals.

Eddie Stansberry added 15 points for Hawaii, which led by as many as 23, shot 52.8 percent from the field and made 25 of 28 free throws. Forward Jack Purchase had 14 points, guard Sheriff Drammah 11 and point guard Drew Buggs added 10 points, five assists and no turnovers.

“This is one of the most complete performances in the last couple years and we’ve had some good ones,” Hawaii coach Eran Ganot said. “But the stakes, playing on a neutral court against a program like Utah we have great respect for, I was proud of the way we came out of the gate.

“We said from the start we have to stay aggressive. I don’t think anybody’s very good and we aren’t very good when we’re on our heels. There was a stretch when we started the second half (the lead) got up to 15 pretty quick. We don’t want to keep (the lead), we want to extend and it got to 20 then 23.”

It was only the third win for a Big West Conference team in 12 first-round tries in the Wooden Legacy.

“We felt comfortable here, we play here once a year,” Stepteau said. “We said before the game if anyone’s comfortable in this gym, it should be us.”

Forward Donnie Tillman and freshman forward Riley Battin scored 16 points apiece for the Utes (2-2).

“We just got our butts kicked,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “We didn’t have a lot of attention to detail, we didn’t play as hard as we needed to win the game and Hawaii was well prepared and played great. We just kind of got punched in the mouth.

“When you get punched and you’re laying on the tarmac with your hands and your feet in the air, it certainly feels better to watch our guys compete and free up their minds and get back into the ballgame. Some of this education is for the coaches too, for myself, to see what we’re made of and guys stepping up. Maybe it was a little enlightening in some of those categories for our development. In this type of tournament you’ve got to bounce back quickly.”