MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic

Florida State hands No. 22 UMass its first loss of the season

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Florida State dictated tempo and slowed down unbeaten No. 22 UMass and senior point guard Chaz Williams as the Seminoles held on for a 60-55 victory in the Orange Bowl Classic.

Despite a controversial ending that featured a missed foul call on a Cady Lalanne dunk that would have cut UMass’ deficit to a point with seconds left, Florida State held on by slowing down the tempo and limiting Chaz Williams. Lalanne was called for hanging on the rim and the basket was waved off by officials.

The Seminoles made it a point to slow down Williams (10 points, 4-for-14 shooting) any chance they could and it didn’t help that the 5-foot-9 senior point guard couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch. Also credit Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton for throwing a zone at UMass after the Minutemen called a timeout with under a minute left, trailing by only a point, as it caused confusion for the UMass offense and led to a turnover.

Boris Bojanovsky (four points, three rebounds, four blocks) did a nice job defending the rim for Florida State near the end of the game and the Seminoles perimeter defense was solid for the whole game, as they limited the Minutemen to 1-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc in a game in which both teams struggled to produce points and get open looks.

Although Florida State will have a hard time scoring sometimes, their defense will keep them in most games and if they can slow the game down, dictate tempo, and get Aaron Thomas (game-high 18 points) or Ian Miller going they could be dangerous come tournament time. This Seminoles group is big and physical on the defensive end and can cause a lot of problems at the rim or on the perimeter.

UMass may have left the ranks of the unbeatens, but despite their poor outside shooting and Chaz Williams having an off-night, they had a chance to take the lead — and/or tie the game — multiple times in the final minute against a long, athletic and physical Florida State team, so they shouldn’t feel too down about the loss.

UMass has now showed in the non-conference portion of its schedule that it can play in any type of game with any type of opponent and still have a chance to win and that is the mark of a good team.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.