Joe Jackson’s block sparks second-half rally for No. 24 Memphis (VIDEO)

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No. 24 Memphis was struggling in the first six-plus minutes of the second half in their non-conference battle with No. 23 Gonzaga. Gonzaga led by just three point at the half, but they outscored the Tigers 17-9 to open the second stanza and led 42-31 with 13:41 remaining. Memphis needed a spark, and it was at this point that Joe Jackson (on his birthday) made a play.

7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski went up for the dunk attempt, and with the 6-foot-1 Jackson being the only person between he and the basket it seemed certain that the sophomore big man would extend Gonzaga’s lead to 13 points. But Jackson had other ideas.

That block would spark an 11-2 run to pull the Tigers to within three points, and Memphis would use a 12-2 run later in the second half to grab control of the game. Memphis would go on to win by the final score of 60-54, scoring the final ten points of the game. Memphis ramped up the intensity on the defensive end of the floor, suddenly keeping the Bulldogs out of the paint and making them hoist up challenged perimeter shots that missed their mark.

Gonzaga scoring 20 of its 25 points in the paint, with Shaq Goodwin picking up his second foul making it easier for the Bulldogs to work the ball inside. Frankly, Memphis was soft defensively. They got tougher in the second half, with Jackson’s block serving as the catalyst the Tigers needed.

And that carried over to the offensive end as well. Memphis scored just 16 points in the paint in the second half but they attacked, and the result was 24 free throw attempts (making 17) after attempting just three free throws in the first half. Michael Dixon Jr. scored all 11 of his points in the second half and freshman Nick King, while he did struggle at the foul line, provided a much-needed spark on the boards.

The question for Memphis in the aftermath of this comeback win is why don’t they play like this consistently? On too many occasions this season Josh Pastner’s team has settled for rushed perimeter shots instead of attacking the paint, either by way of dribble penetration or the pass. Memphis has some more big games in front of them with Louisville, UConn, Cincinnati and SMU all on the schedule, so there are opportunities for more quality wins.

And if they bring the effort they put forth in the final 12 minutes against Gonzaga, Memphis is certainly capable of taking advantage of those opportunities.

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.