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No. 3 Kentucky survives Alex Len and Maryland, 72-69

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NEW YORK – Kyle Wiltjer finished with 19 points and six boards as No. 3 Kentucky was able to hold off a scrappy Maryland team 72-69 in the inaugural Barclays Center Classic.

Maryland was down by 13 at halftime and as much as 15 in the second half, but the Terps used a 21-4 run to take a 59-57 lead with eight minutes left. Freshman Seth Allen hit the big shots, drilling a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions to give Maryland the lead.

Wiltjer was the star for Kentucky and looks like he may end up being the guy that takes the big shot as the Wildcats look to defend their national title. When Maryland first tied the game at 53, it was Wiltjer that buried a three to give them the lead back. Kentucky also isolated him on the block on a couple of different possessions down the stretch.

Alex Len paced the Terps with 23 points, 12 boards and four blocks, outplaying UK’s vaunted front line of Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel by a wide margin. UK’s twin towers finished with a combined 12 points and 15 boards, and while they did blocks seven shots, they also had a front row seat to the 28 — seriously, 28 — offensive rebounds that the Terps were able to collect. That’s not going to fly.

There really aren’t any bottom-lines to be taken out of this game, especially when it comes to Kentucky. That is a team that is going to develop and grow and work out their kinks. Alex Poythress is going to end up playing a much larger role than he did tonight. Noel and Cauley-Stein will get better on the glass. Ryan Harrow will likely bounce back from a bad opening performance; he’s battling the flu. This is a group of freshmen joining forces with upperclassmen that have never played a role this large for a program this scrutinized before. There is no way you can judge them based off of their first college games.

For Maryland, however, it is a bit of a different story.

Remember how we all said that the Terps were now relevant? How the addition of Dez Wells would be a game-changer and make the Terps a player in the ACC race? Well, it did. And based on the way that Maryland played tonight, they might have been better than we thought without Wells. Len is the real deal, that much was proven tonight. The reason Maryland lost was the horrific shooting performances they got from Pe’Shon Howard, Nick Faust, Dez Wells and Seth Allen. Those four combined to go 9-43 from the floor and 2-14 from three. They won’t shoot that poorly every night.

“Hopefully, some guys will understand that we don’t have to shoot in six seconds every time.

But hopefully, those same guys will understand that the 17:4 assist-to-turnover ratio they combined is the reason they were able to come back.

That’s the more important statistic to look at, and it will be how Maryland competes in the ACC.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Seton Hall’s Derrick Gordon won’t pursue pro basketball to become a firefighter

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12:  Derrick Gordon #32 of the Seton Hall Pirates celebrates after hitting a basket against the Villanova Wildcats during the Big East Basketball Tournament Championship at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2016 in New York City. Seton Hall Pirates defeated Villanova Wildcats 69-67.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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After a successful career that included stops at Western Kentucky, UMass and Seton Hall, Derrick Gordon, Division I college basketball’s first openly gay player, will not pursue professional opportunities and will instead become a firefighter.

The 6-foot-3 Gordon averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a senior for the Pirates, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament during his graduate transfer year. By making the NCAA tournament with Seton Hall this past season, Gordon became the first college basketball player to reach the event with three different teams.

A tenacious perimeter defender who could have earned a pro contract if he stuck with basketball, Gordon will instead pursue a career as a firefighter in San Francisco.

“I’ve had an amazing basketball career and want to thank everybody who has always been there supporting me every step on the way,” Gordon said via his Instagram. “But I’m making a change in my career…I will now be working towards becoming a San Francisco Firefighter!! I’m excited about this and looking forward to having a long career!!”

While Gordon likely would have never made the NBA on talent alone, his defensive prowess would have likely given him a shot overseas or in the D League. It’s hard to say why Gordon is making this decision, but given what we saw with all of the attention surrounding Michael Sam when he tried to play in the NFL, Gordon was probably going to face a lot of scrutiny wherever he decided to play.

Hopefully Gordon finds his calling as a firefighter and brings the same energy and leadership that he brought on the floor to helping other people outside of basketball.

Washington guard Markelle Fultz pulls off sick spin and dunk at FIBA U18 Americas

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Washington incoming freshman guard Markelle Fultz is going to be one of the premier players in the country next season as his unique game is going to be fascinating to watch.

The 6-foot-5 Fultz is currently playing with the USA U18 team in Chile for the FIBA U18 Americas as he’s second on the team in scoring and first in assists as the Americans play Canada for the title on Saturday.

Against the host country, Fultz had an electric spin move in the paint and finished with an easy dunk. If you’re not willing to stay up late to watch this dude play this year, then set your DVRs, because Fultz is going to have some fun moments during the season.

(H/t: Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report)

POSTERIZED: Class of 2016 forward Chris Seeley has a massive dunk on defender

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The Las Vegas AAU events are all going on this week and it’s the final event for rising seniors.

At the Las Vegas Fab 48, forward Chris Seeley of the Splash City 17U team put down one of the best poster dunks of the summer as he skied over a defender for an emphatic finish.

The Class of 2016 forward attends Central High School in Fresno, California as he’s receiving plenty of buzz for his recent play.

 

 

 

Five-star forward Jarred Vanderbilt cuts list to nine

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Five-star Class of 2017 forward Jarred Vanderbilt has been one of the most sought-after recruits in the country since he was a freshman in high school.

The 6-foot-8 native of Houston is beginning to wind things down in the recruiting process as he cut his list to nine schools on Friday. Vanderbilt’s list includes some of the most storied programs in college basketball and plenty of schools from his home state of Texas.

“I just followed my heart. Went with the schools I liked the most and who I have the best relationships with. Thear were the schools I could see myself playing for,” Vanderbilt told NBCSports.com.

Regarded as the No. 13 overall prospect in the Rivals.com national rankings, Vanderbilt is currently recovering from a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot.

Vanderbilt will see a doctor in three-to-four weeks as he’s currently in a boot to help his foot heal.

Report: Michigan State and Penn State will play at the Palestra

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Head coach Patrick Chambers of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has previously expressed a desire to coach a game at the legendary Palestra in Philadelphia and it appears he’ll get his chance in a Big Ten game this season.

According to a report from Brendan F. Quinn of MLive, Penn State will use the Palestra as its home gym for the Jan. 7, 2017 Big Ten game against Michigan State. It is the only time the two teams are scheduled to play during Big Ten season and Penn’s home gym will offer a unique setting for the game.

Since the capacity of the Palestra is 8,722, it should make for a fun atmosphere for both programs since this will be a game both fan bases will likely want to attend.

With Nittany Lions head coach Pat Chambers making Philadelphia a major recruiting priority for his program, a game like this in Philadelphia makes sense while Michigan State has always been open to playing games in unique settings such as aircraft carriers.

The Palestra has been a college basketball mainstay since it was built in 1927 as it hosts all Penn home games and, in the past, hosted a lot of Big 5 Philadelphia college games between La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova.

Overall, a fun idea that should make for an interesting experience for both programs. It’s not often that a team will change its home venue for a conference game, but it could be the start of something we see other schools look to do.