Davante Gardner

Marquette gets 26 from Gardner in victory over Syracuse

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Marquette’s Davante Gardner must’ve taken something from Otto Porter’s performance on Saturday.

Two days after Georgetown’s leading man hung 33 on Syracuse in a win, Gardner put up his own big game with 26 points and eight rebounds in a 74-71 home win over the Orange.

Gardner mixed in few mid-range jumpers — he hit all seven of his attempts on the night — along with his work around the basket and got to the free throw line often, hitting 12-of-13 from there.

He paced the Golden Eagles, who hit 29-of-35 free throws (82.9 percent) on the night. On the other side of the free throw spectrum, Syracuse was only 5-of-7 from the free throw line on the night.

Jamil Wilson and Junior Cadougan chipped in 12 points each as no. 22 Marquette (20-7, 11-4 Big East Conference) had 16 assists on 20 baskets and shot 42.6-percent from the field. C.J. Fair led no. 12 Syracuse (22-6, 10-5) with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Michael Carter-Williams scored 14 with five assists and committed four turnovers. James Southerland dropped in 15 points, including 4-of-11 threes.

With the win, Marquette moves into sole-possession of second place behind Georgetown in the Big East. The loss drops the Orange into a tie with Notre Dame for fourth place.

It was a breakout game for Gardner, a 6-8, 290-pound junior, who is averaging 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds this season.

The game was also indicative of the type of season Gardner has had and how Marquette’s run almost parallel with his performance. Gardner has failed to score in double-figures in seven games this season. The Golden Eagles have lost five of those games. The two Marquette did win? Both wins over South Florida (eight in one game, four in the other), with a two-point effort in a loss to Louisville sandwiched in-between.

Gardner is also coming off a two-point, 1-for-4 effort in 11 minutes in a 60-56 loss at Villanova on Saturday.

An equally impressive stat is that with all of his consistency in scoring this season, Monday night’s effort was his first outing of 20+ points. It’s also his fourth game of 10+ free throws on the year and his second perfect shooting night, adding on to a 6-for-6 night in a 74-67 overtime win at Pittsburgh.

The big man is a necessary cog for Buzz Williams’ team, which virtually locked up an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament with the win on Monday night, if it hadn’t already. Marquette had an RPI of 16 headed into the game.

Gardner’s scoring numbers essentially pacing Marquette’s outcomes is staggering. And it’s something to watch as we get closer to conference tournament time. Gardner is the Golden Eagles’ primary low-post threat and has proven to have the type of game that allows him to the go-to guy they need. That could carry Marquette to an extent in the Big East Tournament, when the seeding fate will be decided.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.