No. 7 UConn advances to fourth NCAA tournament title game


ARLINGTON, Texas — With 9:07 remaining in the first half of Saturday’s national semifinal matchup with No. 1 Florida, No. 7 UConn had managed to score just four points. Leading scorer Shabazz Napier had yet to score, and outside of points at the rim scored by DeAndre Daniels and Amida Brimah the Huskies enjoyed no success on the offensive end of the floor. In need of a boost head coach Kevin Ollie went to a three point guard lineup, inserting freshman Terrence Samuel.

The move turned the tide of the contest, one that UConn would ultimately go on to win by the final score of 63-53. As a result the program will make its fourth national title game appearance Monday night, with this being the first under second-year head coach Kevin Ollie.

Daniels, who has been outstanding all tournament long, paced the Huskies with 20 points to go along with ten rebounds. And despite getting off to that slow start UConn finished the game shooting 56% from the field, taking control of the game and getting many of the quality looks they desired throughout the night.

MORE: UConn beats Florida by … playing like Florida?

Four starters finished the game in double figures, and as a team UConn outscored Florida 36-24 in the paint. While the first meeting between these two teams, a 65-64 UConn win on December 2, can’t be relied for too much it should be noted that the Gators held a 32-14 advantage in paint points on that night.

Florida struggled mightily offensively, shooting 39% from the field and 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. Michael Frazier II was responsible for the lone made three but he was unable to shake free of the UConn defense, attempting just three shots on the night. Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin combined to score just eight points, and that had a major impact on the outcome.

Without the inside-out balance that made the Gators the favorite to cut down the nets this weekend, Billy Donovan’s team was unable to muster up enough offensive production to derail the red-hot Huskies.

“On offense, we just couldn’t really get anything going,” Wilbekin said. “They were being really aggressive and we couldn’t really get into our offense. We weren’t moving the ball as well, and a couple of us were having bad shooting nights.”

As stated earlier the Huskies have made three prior appearances in the title game, winning all three (1999, 2004 and 2011). And given the way Daniels and his teammates have played in reaching this point, UConn is is more than capable of making it 4-for-4.

Stanford loses key veteran guard to stress fracture

Marcus Allen
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Stanford guard Marcus Allen will be out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, the school announced on Monday evening.

“We want to make sure Marcus is fully healthy before returning to the court,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a statement. “Marcus played at a high level during our summer exhibition competition in Italy, where he was one of our leading scorers. We will certainly miss him as we continue to prepare for the season, but we are fortunate that this happened now and he will be back before he knows it.”

The loss of Allen is a potentially brutal blow in an already-thin back court. The 6-foot-3 Allen started 23 games as a sophomore last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards. But he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 boards as the Cardinal made a run to the NIT championship and looked poised to be able to replace the departed Chasson Randle’s production this year.

What’s worse is that without Allen, Stanford does not return a single player in their back court that averaged more than 11.5 minutes. Sophomore Robert Cartwright looks poised to step into the starting point guard role, but neither Dorian Pickens nor Christian Sanders looked like they were ready for that kind of role in the Pac-12 last season. Dawkins does return Malcolm Allen, Marcus’ twin brother, who sat out last season with a broken wrist.

The good news is that Stanford’s front court is strong enough to carry the Cardinal until Marcus is healthy. Rosco Allen, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey will be able to hold their own against any front line in the Pac-12, while Grant Verhoeven and freshman Josh Sharma will provide adequate depth.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.