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.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.