Quinn Cook

Duke holds off VCU to advance to Battle 4 Atlantis final

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Duke handled the “havoc” VCU pressure and escaped the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis with a 67-58 win.

Mason Plumlee had 17 points and 10 assists to led the way for Duke. He also helped break the Rams’ full court pressure defense. VCU missed six consecutive free throws (two of them were the front-end of a one-and-one) when the Rams trailed the Blue Devils 56-50 for a scoreless stretch that lasted nearly three and a half minutes.

But the biggest factor in Friday night’s game was the play of Duke sophomore point guard Quinn Cook and Duke’s ability to limit turnovers.

In the quarterfinals against Memphis, VCU’s havoc pressure forced 22 turnovers, but against Duke, the Rams could only come away with eight. Duke was rushed at moments, but for the most part kept composure, kept the floor spread and most importantly got to the line, where they shot 24-of-27.

Cook’s play in the last possession of the first half and the initial run of the second half was the turning point for the Blue Devils. Cook to a tough right-handed layup that banked in to give Duke a 29-28 lead going into halftime. To begin the second half, the first nine points for Duke came off passes from Cook.

On the first play, Cook was able to find Plumlee at the hoop for an easy bucket. Later in transition, Cook took a lead pass from Rasheed Sulaimon and like a hot potato quickly got rid of it to Plumlee for the alley-oop. Duke started off the half on a 15-4 run to open the lead to 44-32.

VCU came back, gaining momentum, cutting the lead to 54-50 with a Juvonte Reddic layup with over nine minutes to play. Cook scored on a layup from Plumlee to make it 56-50 and that’s when the free throw woes began for VCU. At the time the Rams were 10-of-11 from the line, but six straight free throws clanked off the rim at a crucial moment of the game. Following Cook’s layup at 8:18, Duke didn’t score again until a pair of Seth Curry’s free throws at 4:58 remaining.

What Duke did was it took away two of VCU’s strengths. Duke only coughed the ball up eight times – three were from Cook, who had a game-high nine assists. The Blue Devils defense also didn’t let the Rams connect from deep, only shooting four-of-20 from behind the arc.

Duke got 15 points from Curry, with Sulaimon adding 12. Cook scored nine points. VCU was led by Reddic’s double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Duke plays the winner of Missouri-Louisville.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Duke, Cincinnati lead Hall of Fame Tip-Off

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) Duke and Cincinnati, 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, highlight the eight-team field for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

The participants for the Nov. 19-20 event were announced Wednesday.

Also in the field are Rhode Island, Penn State, Grand Canyon, Albany, Marist and Brown.

The teams, split into two four-team brackets, will play two doubleheaders at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Duke, Cincinnati, Penn State and Rhode Island will meet in the Naismith Bracket, while the others will play in the Springfield Bracket.

The teams will play two early round games at campus sites from Nov. 11 through Nov. 16.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.