Plenty of positives for LSU in loss to UMass

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AMHERST, Mass. — Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee are seen as the three top teams in the SEC this season. LSU, like the Vols, is much improved heading into this season, and despite a 92-90 road loss to UMass on Tuesday afternoon, the Tigers showed a lot of promising in their opening game of the 2013-2014 season.

“I thought our guys did an excellent job of continuing to battle regardless of guys on the bench with foul trouble or injuries,” LSU head coach Johnny Jones said. “And I thought they did an excellent job of hanging in there, battling until the end, hitting big shots. We didn’t make enough stops against a good team.

“I think it’s great experience for us. We played a very experienced basketball team on the road, the first game of the season for us. And I thought our guys passed the test in a lot of areas, unfortunately the score wasn’t too our liking at the end, but I thought a lot of positive things happened.”

The opening minute could not have been more of an ominous sign for the Bayou Bengals. Jarell Martin, a five-star forward and the prize piece in Jones’ recruiting class, went to the bench with an ankle injury and did not return. Jones didn’t want to risk it, he needs the 6-foot-9 Martin during conference play, not to get a November win.

In his absence, another freshman, Jordan Mickey stepped up with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in 38 minutes during his collegiate debut.

“Jordan helped a lot,” LSU junior forward Johnny O’Bryant added. “I told him after the game, even at halftime, that I was proud of the way he played. Jarell goes down and he stepped up.”

The first half saw 34 fouls called with UMass taking one more field goal than free throws through 20 minutes. O’Bryant, who had 14 points and six boards in the first half, picked up his third foul late, and then his fourth foul with 13 minutes to go and LSU trailing 64-59.

UMass opened up its second double-digit lead a little more than a minute after O’Bryant was seated on the bench. Following an LSU timeout, the Tigers went on a 13-2 run — with key buckets from Mickey, Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey —  that cut the lead to one with 10 minutes to play.  The Tigers cut it to one two more times, but could not tie or take the lead.

Still, Mickey’s impressive debut, contributions from other players not named O’Bryant and Martin, and a narrow loss to a contender in the Atlantic 10 isn’t a bad way to start off the year if you’re the Tigers.

“It was a challenge,” Jones said. “That’s something that we needed and something we have the opportunity to grow from.”

LSU will look to do just that on Saturday against Northwestern State.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson throws down a vicious putback

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Zion Williamson made another highlight-reel play on Saturday outside of Atlanta as he threw down a vicious putback dunk at the Best of the South.

The five-star prospect has returned from a minor knee injury this spring to look like his old self in July as he’s entertained packed gyms of fans and college coaches the last two weeks.

The Class of 2018 star is currently regarded as the No. 3 overall prospect in the latest Rivals.com national rankings.

(h/t: Courtside Films)

Five-star 2018 point guard Darius Garland cuts list to six schools

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Five-star Class of 2018 point guard Darius Garland revealed the final six schools that he’s considering on Friday.

The N0. 12 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals, the 6-foot-0 Garland is one of the top floor generals in the nation as he is still considering Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and Vanderbilt.

A native of Nashville, Garland is a potentially elite perimeter threat at the college level as he’s one of the more deadly three-point marksmen in the nation.

Garland spent this spring and summer playing with Bradley Beal Elite in the Nike EYBL as he averaged 16.8 points and 4.8 assists per game in the league this spring.

VIDEO: Kentucky’s John Calipari participates in the #DriveByDunkChallenge

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The #DriveByDunkChallenge is sweeping the nation on social media this summer.

Rules to participate are pretty simple:

  1. Drive around in your vehicle.
  2. Find a basketball hoop (or a basketball ring if you’re Ted Cruz) on a random driveway.
  3. Run out of your car and dunk on that random hoop while a friend films.
  4. Run back to your car and drive away.

Let Anthony Davis show you how it works:

Pretty simple, right?

The #DriveByDunkChallenge isn’t raising money or awareness for ALS like the #IceBucketChallenge did three years ago, but it’s something harmless and fun to do to pass the time during the dog days of summer.

Sensing an opportunity to join an Internet craze, while also following in the footsteps of his former player Kentucky star, Wildcats head coach John Calipari got involved with his own dunk late Friday night.

And his video is much funnier than I thought it would be.

While most #DriveByDunkChallenge videos are done by healthy and spry teenagers who are cruising neighborhoods during the day, Calipari, and his hip replacement, got in on the fun with a late-night dunk.

I love that Calipari ditched the ball behind his back while running back to the car after the dunk.

Most people who participate in the challenge usually have their own ball and keep it with them through completion. But Calipari either picked up a random ball in the driveway or just he lost the handle with his own ball and had a turnover.

The next time Calipari goes hard on one of his point guards for losing control and playing too fast, remember this moment.

Creighton’s Khyri Thomas posterizes defender

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Creighton rising junior wing Khyri Thomas, like several of his teammates, are taking part in the Omaha Summer League this offseason.

On Thursday night, the 6-foot-3, 205-lb. Thomas eviscerated a defender with a one-handed posterization.

Thomas is coming off a breakout sophomore campaign for the Bluejays. He started all 35 games, averaging 12.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Aside from the increase in offensive production, Thomas served as one of the top defenders in the Big East. He shared the Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award with Villanova’s Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges.

Zion Williamson throws down 360 windmill dunk

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Zion Williamson added another jaw-dropping dunk in the layup lines on the first night of the second live evaluation period.

Williamson and his SC Supreme team took on Each 1 Teach 1 at the Hoopseen Best of the South at the LakePoint Sporting Community in greater Atlanta.

The 6-foot-7 power forward threw down a 360 windmill dunk during his pregame routines.

Each 1 Teach 1 would pick up a 70-67 victory over SC Supreme. Williamson would end with a monster stat line of 37 points and seven rebounds.