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Niagara strengthens grip on first place with wild 93-90 overtime victory over Iona

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The most important game on the MAAC schedule turned into the best game of the night in college basketball. And in the end Niagara tightened their grip on first place in the conference standings.

Despite trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half the Purple Eagles found a way to beat second-place Iona 93-90 in overtime, with Juan’ya Green’s three-pointer with five tenths of a second remaining proving to be the difference.

Joe Mihalich’s team has now won ten straight conference games, and at 10-1 in MAAC play the Purple Eagles lead Iona (8-3) by two games with seven to go.

The Gaels looked to be firmly in control of the the game despite the offensive efforts of Green and Antoine Mason, who finished with a game-high 30 points. But Niagara made their charge, outscoring Iona 22-7 over the final 6:53 of regulation to force overtime.

The final three points Niagara would score in regulation may ultimately rank among the wildest in college basketball this season, as the Purple Eagles missed three attempts at a game-tying three (rebounding each miss) before Green delivered with 4.5 seconds remaining.

The Gaels, who were led offensively by David Laury (26 points, 18 rebounds) and Lamont Jones (23 points, eight rebounds), left the door open by missing the front end of three one-and-ones and turning the ball over twice in the final 1:22 of regulation. Despite shooting 49.2% from the field Iona turned the ball over 17 times, and Niagara made them pay for it.

The teams would go back and forth in the extra session until Green did his best Ronald Moore impersonation (yes, much more was riding on Moore’s two three-pointers) with his second big three of the game.

Niagara’s win avenges their lone conference defeat, which came at Iona way back in late November. And with another break in the form of Canisius’ 91-74 beating of Loyola (MD) coming their way (both Canisius and Loyola are 7-4), the Purple Eagles find themselves in firm control of the MAAC race. That’s quite the feat for a team expected to be nothing more than a possible sleeper by many before the season began.

Green and Mason have played extremely well for Niagara during this current run and players such as Ameen Tanksley (15 points, 11 rebounds) and T.J. Cline (11 points) have chipped in as well.

In a conference like the MAAC success tends to be determined by three or four days in early March, and with Green and Mason leading the way Niagara’s a team more than capable of getting to the NCAA tournament.

Photo credit: Niagara Athletics (Juan’ya Green)

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

Top-100 guard commits to Xavier

Chris Mack has Xavier back in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo)
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Xavier has added a top-100 prospect into its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday.

Elias Harden, a shooting guard from Georgia, pledged to the Musketeers via social media to become the second member of Chris Mack’s next class.

“The recruiting process was not EASY AT ALL,” Harden wrote on Twitter. “I wanna thank all the coaches that took time to recruit me.

“WIth that being said I will continue my academic and athletic career at Xavier University.”

The 6-foot-6 guard is ranked 92nd overall by 247Sports and had offers from Auburn, Maryland, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. He joins Jared Ridder, a Missouri guard, as part of the 2017 Xavier class.

The Musketeers return the bulk of last year’s 28-6 team that narrowly missed out on the Sweet 16.

Clemson recruit to enroll early

Brad Brownell
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Clemson will get a four-star recruit on campus a year earlier than it expected, though his on-court debut for the Tigers will remain on schedule.

A.J. Oliver, a guard from South Carolina, will enroll early at Clemson and redshirt this upcoming season, he announced via social media Wednesday.

“I woke up this morning and realized that the greatest opportunity for me is to enroll early into Clemson,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will redshirt a year & start my college career early.”

Oliver, whose mother is the head women’s basketball coach at Clemson, was a consensus top-100 player in the class of 2017 who committed to the Tigers last December. Texas Tech and the College of Charleston were involved before his commitment.

A three-star shooting guard, Scott Spencer of Virginia, was previously the only member coach Brad Brownell’s 2016 class. While Oliver’s decision to redshirt will keep him off the court for the 2016-17 season, he’ll have spent a full season in the Tiger program before making his debut in 2017

The cupboard isn’t bare in 2017 for the Tigers due to Oliver’s reclassification because Clemson received a commitment from power forward Malik Williams, a consensus top-150 player, earlier Wednesday.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.

South Dakota State gets two commits

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Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.