Tim Cluess, Kevin Cluess, T.J. Cluess

Late Night Snacks: Lamont Jones, Sean Armand lead Iona past Fairfield

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Game of the Night 

Iona 84, Fairfield 75

In a game the Stags needed to maintain contact with the upper portion of the MAAC standings early foul trouble and 15 first-half points from Sean Armand got them in trouble. Despite the efforts of guard Derek Needham (26 points) Fairfield fell short in New Rochelle, with Lamont Jones heating up in the second half to shut the door. Jones, after a halftime sneaker change, scored 22 of his 27 points in the final 20 minutes to push the Gaels to 6-1 in conference play. Fairfield falls to 2-5 in MAAC play, and they’re in a tie for seventh place with Siena.

Other Outcomes 

1. Vermont 81, Stony Brook 73 

In a rematch of last season’s America East tournament final the Catamounts defended their home floor, winning thanks in large part to Candon Rusin and Clancy Rugg. Rusin, who began his college career at Marist, led all scorers with 22 points and Rugg posted a double-double (19 points, 15 rebounds). Vermont led by as many as 18 in the second half before the Seawolves went on a run to close to within four, with Brian Voelkel’s offensive foul/technical foul combo resulting in his fifth foul and opening the door for a comeback. Dave Coley and Jameel Warney led four Stony Brook players in double figures with 15 apiece, and the freshman Warney also grabbed ten rebounds.

2. Jacksonville 77, North Florida 68 

The Ospreys had a chance to pull even with Jacksonville in the Atlantic Sun standings in front of the largest crowd in school history, but the Dolphins were the ones who left with the victory. Keith McDougald scored 17 points and Javon Dawson added 17 off the bench for Jacksonville, who is now 5-2 in conference play. UNF’s Parker Smith led all scorers with 19 points and Will Wilson fell just short of a double-double with eight points and 11 rebounds.

Starred

1. G Sean Armand and G Lamont Jones (Iona) 

In the Gaels’ 84-75 win over Fairfield the two guards essentially took turns being the primary scorer. Armand scored 15 of his 23 points in the first half, and Jones scored 22 of his 27 in the second half.

2. F Clancy Rugg (Vermont) and G Candon Rusin (Vermont)

Brain Voelkel fouling out opened the door for Stony Brook to mount a comeback, but Rugg and Rusin were the biggest reason why there were unable to do so. The hometown kid (Rugg) finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds and Rusin scored a game-high 22 in the Catamounts’ 81-73 victory.

3. G Derek Needham (Fairfield) 

Needham fought off early foul trouble (three fouls in the first half), finishing with 26 points and six rebounds for the Stags.

Struggled 

1. Denny Burguillos and Cameron Solomon (Georgia State)

The Panthers didn’t play tonight but these two were ruled academically ineligible for the remainder of the season. That, and the fact that there were just three games on the schedule, results in a spot on this list.

2. Stony Brook three-point shooting

The Seawolves struggled from beyond the arc, shooting 6-of-22 in their 81-73 loss at Vermont. The Catamounts weren’t much better (4-of-15) but they made up for it by outscoring Stony Brook 25-17 from the foul line.

3. F David Laury (Iona) 

Laury’s only here for the shooting, as he shot just 2-of-12 from the field (nine points). But if not for his 14 rebounds and five blocked shots with Taaj Ridley (suspension) out of the lineup, Iona would have found it far more difficult to hold off Fairfield.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.