Shabazz Napier

Late Night Snacks: UConn and Florida go down to the wire

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 12 UConn 65, No. 15 Florida 64

Duh.

Shabazz Napier knocked in two ridiculous clutch shots, including a buzzer-beater in which he went 1-for-2 on the trip, in UConn’s 65-64 win over Florida.

It was a tremendous back-and-forth early-season clash of top-15 teams, and although there were a few too many turnovers, there was a lot of high-level play from both sides when the game went to crunch time.

Florida lost a tough one, but I also wrote about what there is to like about the Gators after the one-point road loss to a tough opponent like UConn.

CBT’s Rob Dauster also asked how good UConn really is at this point.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: Texas 70, Vanderbilt 64

This one got really interesting in the final minutes as Vanderbilt cut a 13-point second-half deficit to one with under a minute remaining, but the Longhorns held on and pulled off the home win in the Big 12-SEC Challenge.

You can read more on the Longhorns in this one with my take on CBT here.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) Oklahoma had all five starters finish in double-figures as the Sooners improved to 6-1 (5-0 at home) with a 96 to 82 win over Mercer. Ryan Spangler led the way as the sophomore forward put up 20 points and 13 rebounds.

2) Georgia continued to climb back towards .500 with a home blowout of Chattanooga 87-56. The Bulldogs are 3-4 now on the season and got 14 first-half bench points from junior forward Nemanja Djurisic as Georgia went 14 deep for at least seven minutes of playing time. Can this effort help propel Georgia to play more consistently?

3) California picked up a 73-56 home win over UC Irvine as center David Kravish went for 19 points and 10 rebounds and Richard Soloman went for 13 points and eight rebounds. The win helps the Golden Bears bounce back from a 1-2 Maui Invitational.

STARRED

1) West Virginia’s balanced scoring effort led them to a 96-47 thrashing of Loyola (Md.). The Mountaineers held a 62 to 22 advantage on the glass and slowed down Dylon Cormier — the nation’s second leading scorer at 28.1 points per game — to 11 points as he was the only Greyhound in double-figures.

2) SMU scored plenty in their 88-59 win over McNeese State, but the Mustangs only had two double-digit scorers in a balanced effort. Point guard Nic Moore had 15 points and Ben Moore chipped in 12 as 11 players saw double-digit minutes.

3) Loyola Marymount picked up a nice road win over UC Riverside. The Lions are now 6-2 and 3-1 on the young season and Gabe Levin had 13 points and 14 rebounds while Anthony Ireland went for a team-high 16 points.

STRUGGLED

1) Wright State, a preseason favorite in the Horizon League, is now 5-4 as the Raiders lost to Youngstown State 74-69. Wright State missed the front end of 1-and-1s in the game’s final five minutes.

2) Quinnipiac blew a halftime lead at home and was outscored 37-30 in the second half as they fell to Boston 69-66 on Denzel Irving’s three-pointer with three seconds remaining. Boston moved to 6-2 on the year while Quinnipiac is now 4-2.

3) Western Kentucky trailed by two at the half to Bowling Green on the road but gave up a 15-0 lead early in the second half of a game they never came close to competing in. The Hilltoppers are 4-3 and still seeking their first road win of the year.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 19 Iowa State blew past Auburn 99-60. The Cyclones had 28 assists on the night in the impressive home win.

NOTABLES

  • Seattle junior guard Isiah Umipig had 30 points in a win over UC Davis. The stat-sheet stuffing guard is averaging 18 points, 5.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game this season.
  • Troy needed two overtimes to topple Alcorn State 73-70.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.