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.

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: