Chaz Williams

UMass bounces back with a 90-52 Atlantic 10 win over Fordham (VIDEO)

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UMass, the No. 13 team in the nation, saw its late-game magic run out in a loss, on the road, against Richmond on Wednesday night. The Minutemen used come-from-behind wins against St. Joesph’s, St. Bonaventure and George Mason in three of the four games leading up to its matchup with the Spiders.

And on Sunday afternoon at home, UMass appeared to be off to another slow start with Fordham racing out to a 7-0 start, while the UMass offense shot 0-for-4 from the field with four early turnovers. However, UMass quickly regrouped. The Minutemen set the tempo, and used its height advantage to control the glass (43-31) to get back in the win column with a 90-52 victory over the Rams.

After allowing the first seven points of the day, the Minutemen went on a 24-5 run, which doubled up Fordham’s score. UMass entered the break with a 40-24 lead. Maxie Esho energized UMass when he came off the bench to score the first four points of the game — the first off an offensive rebound, followed by a dunk in transition.

From there Chaz Williams ran the show, scoring 14 of his 18 in the first, including four 3-pointers while dishing out eight assists on the afternoon, a brief afternoon at that. All 11 UMass players scored including Raphiael Putney with 13 with Trey Davis and Esho scoring 13 and 10, respectively, off the bench.

UMass refused to take its foot off the gas to start the second half, going on a 17-0 run in the first four-plus minutes to stretch its lead from 16 to 33.

Jon Severe began the game with an open 3-pointer. Other than a transition dunk, that was the only good look he got in the first half. UMass swarmed him, and the entire Rams offense, allowing a 32 percent shooting on the afternoon. The Rams was limited to 6-of-27 from beyond the arc (four of which came with Fordham down 30-plus). Severe ended 2-of-14 for seven points. Chris Whithead had 13 points, followed by Branden Frazier with a dozen.

UMass head coach Derek Kellogg opened up his rotation on Sunday afternoon with Clyde Santee, Seth Berger and Demetrius Dyson all seeing action in the first half along with regular reserves Esho, Davis and Tyler Bergantino. The expanded rotation is an effort to reduce the mileage on UMass’ core contributors as well as a way to develop some younger talent.

The Minutemen have been in some fights this season in conference so far, and they’ll need their starters and bench guys at full strength as the Atlantic 10 season progresses with VCU and Saint Louis still needing to make the trek up to Amherst while UMass also has a date with George Washington in the Nation’s Capitol for a good road test.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.