Derrick Gordon

Derrick Gordon’s last-second bucket lifts UMass past Providence in overtime

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AMHERST — Trey Davis told UMass coach Derek Kellogg he was confident he could take his man off the dribble and win the Minutemen the game. He did his typical jumpstop into a floater, but his shot came up a little bit short. Luckily the ball landed right into the hands of sophomore guard Derrick Gordon, who put in the game-winner with 1.1 seconds to play as UMass won an overtime thriller, 69-67, over Providence on Saturday night at the Mullins Center.

“It looked good,” Gordon said of Davis’ shot. “But it just happen to bounce my way.”

With 1:36 remaining in regulation, UMass point guard Chaz Williams picked up his fifth foul, as the Minutemen held a five-point lead. Bryce Cotton was looking to draw contact, and as he leaned in Williams backed off. Cotton hit the deck, and Williams was sent to the bench.

“I didn’t touch him, so I don’t see where the foul call came from,” Williams said.

With Williams out, PC rallied to tie the score and force overtime. It looked like the Friars would take control in the overtime period, but missed free throws  by Providence and a team grittiness from UMass kept the shorthanded Friars from picking up the win.

“I looked at everyone on the floor and they gave me a head nod like they was ready to win this game and that’s what they did,” Williams added.

UMass bounces back after suffering its first loss of the season last Saturday, as Florida State slowed down the game. Despite losing and shooting poorly, the Minutemen still had a chance to win the game, showing they can win regardless of tempo and style.

“This is probably the first team we’ve had that can win in a lot of different ways,” Kellogg said. “We can win when the game’s fast, we can win in the half-court. That just shows the guys have matured and we’re better as a team and a program.

“We can lock up and make plays in the half-court and I actually think we can get better on our press. I don’t think our press is where it needs to be quite yet. We’re not as aggressive as I’d like to be.”

Against Providence, UMass proved it could win without its star point guard, who missed the final 6:36 of the game. Trey Davis and Maxie Esho both shined off the bench — scoring 23 opposed to Providence’s zero bench points — while Gordon, who can be a big piece for the Minutemen moving forward, ended as the hero.

Moving forward this is a big game for the Minutemen. They showed maturity, especially when Williams went out , and maybe a game-winning bucket, in front of a sold-out crowd, can get Gordon — the Western Kentucky transfer — going offensively.

UMass concludes its non-conference slate next Saturday against Miami (OH). Providence begins Big East play on Tuesday, hosting Seton Hall.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.