Derek Kellogg

UMass opens season with important win while Boston College looks for key non-conference victory

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BOSTON – In the middle game of Sunday’s Coaches vs. Cancer tripleheader, UMass kicked off its season with a quality non-conference win over Boston College, using a second half surge to propel the Minutemen to an 86-73 victory inside the TD Garden.

“We all knew that this game hurt us or help us down the line when it came tournament time,” UMass senior Sampson Carter said.

Carter scored nine of his 12 points in the second half with the bulk of his buckets coming at crucial portion of the game for UMass. Boston College took a 45-36 lead in the opening minutes of the second half. Carter, who had missed a layup with under 30 seconds to play before halftime, scored seven straight UMass points that cut the lead to 45-41.

“It gave us a huge boost,” UMass senior guard Chaz Williams said. “He sparked the run and we all kind of finished it.”

Williams drilled a three with 13:19 left to play, which capped off a 14-3 run, that gave UMass a 50-48 lead.

Boston College came down to tie the score following a timeout, but after that UMass took command, opening the game up with a lead that got as large as 16. With the smaller BC lineup, the Minutemen dominated on the inside behind the 27-point, 12-rebound game by Cady Lalanne and demolished the Eagles on the glass with a 44-27 advantage and had more offensive rebounds (21) than BC had defensive boards (18).

“I just thought in the second half that they would make the game very simple,” Boston College head coach Steve Donahue said. “They were going to drive the ball, throw it up there, go get it and put it in the basket. They deserve all the credit.”

In Friday night’s overtime loss to Providence, Boston College was beaten on the glass 36-20.

“That’s the way you beat us,” Donahue added. “Both these halves, the second half in particular both teams [Providence and UMass] came out and said, ‘I don’t think they are tough enough to handle us on the glass.’ And that’s what they did.”

Boston College gave itself a tough out-of-conference schedule out of the gate and through two games have come up empty-handed against an up-and-coming Providence program and UMass, a team that should contend in the Atlantic 10. The non-conference slate continues to be tough for BC with games against UConn, Harvard, VCU, and potentially a game against Indiana. None of those games are at home by the way.

“The scheduling is what it is,” Donahue said. “We want to be as good as we can to be, we have to play the schedule and get better. We are going to learn from this. I have great confidence in this team.”

Due to its lineup, which starts Anderson at the five, the Eagles will not only have to tougher on the glass, but also better offensively. The offense has been dominated by Anderson and Olivier Hanlon, who both scored more than 20 on Friday and the only two in double figures on Sunday. Hanlon was hit with foul trouble in the first half and finally got in-sync late in the game though at that point the Eagles were trailing by double digits.

UMass also has a challenging non-conference schedule, and a win against the Eagles is a good start for sixth year head coach Derek Kellogg, who is looking to get his alma mater into the NCAA tournament for the first time in his tenure. Like BC did entering Sunday’s game, UMass will experience a quick turnaround, with its home opener on Tuesday morning at 11 a.m.

“We now have a tight turnaround from a team from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with LSU coming in,” Kellogg said.

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.