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C.J. Leslie, No. 20 NC State hand No. 1 Duke first loss of season

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At home against a No. 1 team that was without one of its biggest assets, this was No. 20 NC State’s best opportunity to make a statement, and it did.

The interior combination of Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie took control in the second half to hand No. 1 Duke its first loss of the season, 84-76, at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

Leslie finished with 25 points and six rebounds and Howell was a dominating force on the interior to tally 16 points and 18 rebounds.

On the perimeter, Lorenzo Brown outplayed Duke’s Quinn Cook at the point guard spot, scoring 12 points and dishing out 13 assists.

The win gives NC State its first win over a No. 1 team since it defeated Duke on Feb. 15, 2004.

Duke outrebounded NC State from the tip in the first half, exploiting the Wolfpack’s desire to get out in transition to beat them on the boards and get second-shot opportunities.

Player of the Year candidate Mason Plumlee was a big part of Duke’s early 14-4 advantage on the boards, which helped the Blue Devils take a 27-19 with 8:53 to play after a big Plumlee dunk.

On the following possession, NC State guard Scott Wood his a three-pointer and was fouled by Duke’s Tyler Thornton. The two exchanged words and were both charged with a technical foul.

That seemed to spark a fire under the Wolfpack, who ripped off a 14-2 run to take a four-point lead, 33-29, with 3:50 left in the first half.

Without sharpshooting forward Ryan Kelly in the lineup due to injury, Duke turned to freshman Amile Jefferson, who had seen limited minutes in his time with the Blue Devils. He came out hot against NC State.

Jefferson, a Philadelphia native, shot 4-of-5 from the floor in the first half for eight points and added three rebounds and two blocks. He finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

In the second half, NC State cleaned up the rebounding differential, translating into less second-chance opportunities for Duke.

Jefferson, so effective in the first half, picked up his fourth foul with just under 15 minutes to play and was forced to the bench. He came back into the game, but picked up his fifth with 8:07 to play.

NC State responded immediately with a basket from Purvis, plus the foul, which extended the lead to double digits, 67-57, the Wolfpack’s largest of the night.

A Seth Curry three-pointer pulled Duke within four points with 3:49 remaining, but that is as close as the Blue Devils would get.

Curry was injured in the final minutes after slipping under the basket and did not return.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Auburn continues to stockpile talent, adds top 50 prospect in 2017

Bruce Pearl
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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Auburn’s hire of Bruce Pearl was almost universally lauded as the first step towards the return of relevance for the Tiger basketball program.

And while the results have yet to shine through on the floor, Pearl is unequivocally stockpiling the kind of talent that will allow him to push for trips to the NCAA tournament and maybe one day contend for a league crown with Kentucky.

The latest step came on Sunday, when Pearl landed a commitment from Chuma Okeke, a top 50 wing prospect out of Georgia.

“He is a versatile wing who can handle and score,” said NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “Coming off of a big July, Okeke could move up the national rankings and Auburn pounced on him right away.”

Okeke joins big man Austin Wiley, a top ten player in the class, and Davion Mitchell, who is likely one of the five best point guards in the country, in what is currently the nation’s best recruiting class in 2017. That’s before you consider that Pearl already has Mustapha Heron, a top 25 prospect, joining the mix this season.

“This group has the makings of a monster recruiting class for Auburn,” Phillips said.

Okeke picked the Tigers over Florida State, Georgia and a number of other programs across the southeast.

VIDEO: Watch Virginia freshman Jay Huff dunk from the free throw line

Tony Bennett
AP Photo/Nell Redmond
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Jay Huff is a member of Tony Bennett’s best recruiting class to date, a 6-foot-11 top 50 recruit from North Carolina.

He also happens to be pretty athletic.

Don’t believe me?

Check out this video that McDonald’s All-American Kyle Guy tweeted out on Sunday night:

Yup, that’s Huff taking off from the foul line to dunk.

Not bad, young fella.

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

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armour
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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.