Murray State v Dayton

Belmont’s comeback falls short at Murray State

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It certainly lived up to the hype. Isaiah Canaan had 26 points and six assists. Ian Clark went for 22 points and four assists. The game was tied in the final minute.

Unfortunately for Belmont, the ball didn’t bounce their way.

Belmont erased a 16 point second half deficit as Ian Clark buried a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions to tie the game at 74 with just over a minute left, but Murray State star Isaiah Canaan answered with a three-ball of his own to give the Racers the lead back. On the ensuing possession, Clark got doubled coming off of a ball-screen and lost the ball out of bounds, all but ensuring that the Racers only had to make their free throws to ice the game.

The Racers did.

And the Bruins were sent back to Nashville after suffering their first loss of the Ohio Valley season.

It will be a tough loss for Belmont to swallow, and not just because they battled back from 16 down in one of the toughest places in the OVC to play against the reigning league champs that just so happen to have an all-american on their roster.

The Bruins have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season if they don’t win the OVC’s automatic bid. They had a great RPI heading into tonight (21st) and a win at Stanford, over Middle Tennessee State and, well, not much else. It may be a weak bubble and the Bruins may have a strong RPI, but they still have a number of games against teams with relatively low RPIs to make it through. And with a schedule that weak, a high RPI may not be enough to earn that at-large bid.

And that’s why the loss to Murray State hurt. The Bruins might be able to afford. They might not be able to. We don’t really know.

But what we do know is that their margin for error is now that much smaller.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”