March 22, 2014 in Sports

NCAA Arena notebook: Harvard players made smart decision

Staff Reports
 

The Harvard players admitted as much Friday. The biggest recruiting draw was the school’s academic reputation.

“Academically, Harvard is second to none, and that was a big reason why I came,” Crimson guard Wesley Saunders said the day after the Crimson’s 61-57 second-round win over Cincinnati.

“Then I came on my visit, I just fell on love with everything about the school – Cambridge, the area, the people, and then these guys.”

That includes coach Tommy Amaker, who according to guard Brandyn Curry, “expects a lot from us but he has all the confidence in the world in us.”

That extends to their shot selection. “I can’t tell you, how every day now I get yelled at for not taking shots,” Curry said.

Spread the wealth?

A day after forward Adreian Payne scored 41 points in a second-round win over Delaware, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo didn’t see any need to balance the scoring.

“Hell no. If he can do that, I’m not going to hold back that horse,” said Izzo, noting that Payne’s numbers were the product of 10-for-15 shooting and 17 trips to the foul line. In other words, cool efficiency.

“I think he did a great job of sometimes being inside, sometimes outside,” said Izzo, criticizing only Payne’s shot selection early in the second half during a brief Delaware rally. But Payne began to rely on the pump fake, driving to the hoop and drawing the foul.

“That’s the best job he’s done of that since Texas,” said Izzo of Payne’s 33-point, nine-rebound effort against Texas in a 92-78 win on Dec. 21.

Bruised Bison

North Dakota State may have beaten Oklahoma on Thursday, but it took a beating on the way.

Taylor Braun spent most of the game playing with a large cut on his right shoulder. That paled in comparison to the inadvertent kick to the back of the head he took in overtime. Braun had already missed significant preseason practice time after diving for a ball and hyperextending his elbow.

Forward Marshall Bjorklund appeared before the media on Friday with a noticeable scratch under one eye, and all four Bison that spoke seemed to have various bumps and bruises.

But the NDSU players say they’re ready for another rumble against San Diego State today.

“It’s just a few scratches, I guess,” Bjorklund said. “Nothing too serious that will keep us out of the game. So, we’re feeling good.”

Not highly recruited

SDSU coach Steve Fisher says he occasionally runs into NDSU coach Saul Phillips on the recruiting trail and that the two get along. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t. After all, they’re not there to recruit the same players.

The leading scorer and rebounder for the Bison, Braun, was a last-minute signee by NDSU after another recruit chose to go elsewhere. Otherwise, he would be playing Division II ball. Lawrence Alexander doesn’t know where he would be playing basketball if NDSU hadn’t offered him. Kory Brown would be at Western Illinois.

“I think you can count the number of offers we four have on our two hands, really,” Bjorklund said.

But the Bison have already knocked off a Big 12 school in Oklahoma. They’ll face another talented team today as many Aztecs chose SDSU over offers from the Pac-12 or other major conferences.

Winston Shepard was one of the nation’s top recruits out of high school, Xavier Thames initially played at Washington State, and JJ O’Brien came to SDSU from Tulane after leading Conference USA in scoring.

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