Syracuse's Malachi Richardson (23) drives past Virginia's Anthony Gill (13) during the second half of a college basketball game in the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

No. 10 Syracuse rallies from 16-point deficit to stun No. 1 Virginia

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CHICAGO — Syracuse trailed No. 1 seed Virginia by 16 points early in the second half of Sunday’s Midwest Regional final and looked like they were about to get blown out. After shooting only 30 percent in the first half, the Orange gave up an Anthony Gill dunk on the first possession of the second half and Virginia had all of the momentum. A 16-point deficit against a slow-tempo team like Virginia can seem insurmountable.

Then freshman Malachi Richardson took over.

The McDonald’s All-American shook off an 0-for-5 first half to finish with 23 points as his personal 7-0 run gave Syracuse the final push they needed to shock the Cavaliers. Syracuse held Virginia to only four points the final 7:34 of the game as the No. 10 seed Orange advanced to the Final Four with a 68-62 win.

Richardson is a talented wing scorer who got off to a sluggish start on Sunday. After an early turnover in which he tried to take Anthony Gill one-on-one and stepped out of bounds instead of passing to an open Trevor Cooney, Richardson got chewed out during the ensuing television timeout by the Syracuse coaching staff and was benched. The poor first half continued after Richardson re-entered the lineup and couldn’t get going.

At halftime, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim singled Richardson out in front of the entire locker room and let the freshman know that the Orange needed more from him to reach the Final Four.

“He does it in front of everyone,” Richardson said of Boeheim’s message to him with a laugh.

Richardson responded by knocking down tough 3-pointers, attacking the basket and making hustle plays that kept possessions alive.

“Coach Boeheim kind of got on me a little bit and I knew I had to pick it up for my teammates,” Richardson said. “We couldn’t go out how we were going out. We were already down and I just wanted to help out.”

Not only did Richardson have a big second half in the biggest game of the season, he also did so against Virginia senior Malcolm Brogdon, one of the nation’s best perimeter defenders. After burying a stepback 3-pointer to give the Orange a 62-58 lead with 4:40 left, Richardson screamed as the Syracuse faithful reached a deafening pitch. Suddenly, a 15-point Syracuse deficit with 9:33 left had been erased and Richardson was slamming the door with big play after big play.

“Mali likes the crowd, he likes the stage. He likes to play on a big stage,” Syracuse assistant Adrian Autry said. “You never worry about him too much. Sometimes he does need something like Coach did to him. ‘Hey, come on! Let’s go. We need you to wake up. Make simple plays, not hard plays,’ whatever it may be. And he got going.”

Richardson getting going wasn’t the only change from the first half for the Orange. After coming back to beat Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 by incorporating a full-court press, the Orange used it again to speed up Virginia’s tempo and force bad looks. The press forced Virginia into a lot of uncomfortable offensive possessions and it once again changed the course of the game.

For a program known for sticking almost exclusively with a 2-3 zone, Syracuse is probably playing in the Final Four next weekend because of its full-court press.

“We talked about it halftime that we were going to go to it at some point,” Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara said of the press. “Coach usually has a pretty good feel for when to use it. What it did is it got us aggressive in transition offensively and now we started getting some stuff to the rim. Once we started pushing their defense back, Mali hit a couple of difficult looks.”

After blowing the lead, Virginia still had a chance to tie, trailing 65-62, with the shot clock turned off, but Devon Hall missed a clean 3-point look from the left wing as Tyler Lydon (11 points, six rebounds) snared the defensive rebound and iced the game at the free-throw line.

Senior Michael Gbinije finished with 11 points and six assists while junior forward Tyler Roberson added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Orange.

London Perrantes buried five first-half 3-pointers to pace the Cavaliers’ offense with 18 points — with all of his points coming on the long ball. Brogdon struggled to generate offense as he went 2-for-14 from the field. Although he struggled from the floor, Brogdon managed to get to the free-throw line seven times (making all of them) and finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in his final college game.

Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey each added 10 points for Virginia, who finishes the season at 29-8.

Not many expected the Orange (23-13) to be in the NCAA tournament to begin with after losing in the opening round of the ACC tournament (as a No. 9 seed), but Syracuse has made the most of its opportunity in the Big Dance. The Orange’s zone defense has looked very good over the last two weeks, and the changeup to the full-court press has been effective in escalating things quickly for Syracuse.

For Syracuse to reach the Final Four a year after the program’s self-imposed postseason ban shows that they’re already way ahead of where they should be after the scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions. Many shrugged when the Orange beat two double-digit seeds to reach the Elite Eight, but for Syracuse to eliminate a Virginia team that beat them 73-65 on January 24 shows how much they’ve improved over the last few months.

“It was a great comeback, one of the best I’ve coached in, any team I’ve had, in terms of you’re playing, I think, a great team,” Boeheim said. “Virginia has beaten us 15 points three straight times, and they were 15 points up today. They’re a hard team to come back against, and these guys just made some unbelievable plays. They deserved to win this game.”

When the game concluded, former Syracuse players like C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis and Rakeem Christmas took the floor to share in the celebration. The moment was special for Christmas, in particular, since he was a senior on last season’s team that was banned from playing in the postseason.

After clipping off his piece of the net, Orange senior guard Trevor Cooney jogged across the floor and gave a hug to Christmas. The former teammates weren’t able to play in the NCAA tournament together last season, but Cooney feels like Christmas and his inspired play last season helped the Orange reach the Final Four this season.

 

“Those guys all paved the way for us here. We learned so much from those guys. I learned a lot from [Rakeem] about how to be a leader and how to step up my senior year. Those things have paid off for us now.”

Report: New Mexico State adding JuCo transfer

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New Mexico State has landed a commitment from the junior college ranks in shooting guard Chance Ellis.

The 6-foot-5 guard from New York pledged to the Aggies on Tuesday night, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

Ellis started 14 games during his freshmen year at the New Mexico Military Institute, averaging 14.9 points per game while shooting 41.8 percent from the floor and 42.8 percent on nearly nine 3-point attempts per game.

The Aggies return much from last year’s 23-11 squad, but lost big man Patrick Sikiam to the NBA Draft. Ellis’ addition should give New Mexico State quite a bit of options on the wing, and certainly a serious 3-point threat there as well.

 

Wisconsin prep pledges to South Dakota St.

Washington assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger, right, talks with Andrew Andrews at basketball practice Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, in Seattle. Head coach Lorenzo Romar spent the offseason retooling Washington after two straight seasons without making the NCAA tournament. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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One of the top players in the state of Wisconsin is heading to South Dakota State.

Alou Dillon, a Class of 2017 prospect, committed to the Jackrabbits at a ceremony at his high school Tuesday night.

The 6-foot-7 power forward had offers from Milwaukee, Wisconsin-Green Bay and others, but ultimately decided to head west to join South Dakota State and new coach T.J. Otzelberger. Dillon’s decision is an interesting sign for mid-major recruiting in the state of Wisconsin as Otzelberger, a Milwaukee native, recruited the state heavily during his tenure as an assistant at Iowa State. Getting a player of Dillon’s caliber – not a high-major prospect but one pursued by a number of mid-majors – suggests the Jackrabbits will continue to be very active in a state that produces its fair share of Division I players.

South Dakota State went 26-8 and reached the NCAA tournament last year under coach Scott Nagy, who left Brookings after 11 seasons this spring to become the head coach at Wright State. Dillon is the program’s first 2017 commit.

Mizzou gets late 2016 commit

Missouri coach Kim Anderson watches his team play during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Columbia, Mo. Arkansas won 94-61. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
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Missouri has nabbed a late-rising prospect in the 2016 class.

Jakoby Kemp, a 6-foot-9 forward out of Utah, committed to the Tigers and coach Kim Anderson on Tuesday night.

“Humbled to further my education and love for the game of basketball at the University of Missouri,” Kemp tweeted.

Kemp had recently begun to draw significant interest from a number of programs as the calendar continued deeper into the summer, and more and more programs looked to add final pieces to their rosters for the upcoming season. Southern Miss, Memphis, TCU and VCU, among others, had reportedly just entered into the picture.

The Tigers’ scholarship offer to Kemp was reported just hours before his commitment to Mizzou.

Kemp’s decision gives Anderson additional frontcourt depth heading into a season he’ll enter on the hot seat after winning just 19 games in his first two seasons in Columbia since getting hired from the Division II ranks. Options in late-June are always thin, but it appears Mizzou was able to grab a player that many were starting to covet.

Former players, rival coaches react to Pat Summitt’s passing

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UConn head coach Geno Aueriemma: “You can see how difficult it was back then for a woman to try and do something that no one had ever done before or thought could do. Trying to juggle being a mom and being a coach and being a representative for the game. From all the different aspects of looking at what her career was, there was a lot of things that she was the first. There were other people that did it, but nobody did it better or did it longer.”

“In the mid-70s when I was a high school girls and boys basketball coach in the Philadelphia are, and for me, it was a story that I didn’t know. It wasn’t until I got to Virginia in the early-80s that I became aware of what was going on. Then it was all-encompassing. It was all about Tennessee and the Lady Vols and all about Pat. That was what women’s basketball had become. There were others that were pretty good and they took their turns, but the game of women’s basketball was pretty much defined. Other people have defined it for short periods of time, but from the time I got to Virginia in 1981 to when Pat stopped coaching, she was the defining figure of the game of women’s basketball.”

“Lots of people coach the game, but very few get to define the game.”

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski: “There’s no question, [she] was really one of the greatest coaches of any sport. I can remember early in my career when C.M. Newton, one of the great guys in men’s college basketball, wanted to hire her to be a men’s coach. He said ‘Look, you should go to one of her practices because she knows how to coach.’ She really put women’s basketball out there, in other words, what she did with recruiting, accomplishments and championships really set the foundation for where women’s basketball is in our country right now. [She’s] really the gold standard of women’s college basketball. She produced so many pros and set the bar at a really high level for basketball.”

“[Knoxville] was the center for women’s basketball. If you wanted to really look at the start, you would go to Pat Summitt and you would go from there. Obviously, Geno [Auriemma] is doing an unbelievable job at Connecticut, but that would not have been without Pat. [She was] a tremendous person, teacher and competitor. We shared a great honor in 2011 where we were both picked as Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated. We shared a cover, and we joked over the years as we signed so many. Whenever I got one that someone wanted signed, I said ‘If it’s signed by you, then I’ll sign it. What a terrific person and coach.”

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick: “Pat was my coach, my mentor, my colleague and a very dear friend. It is impossible to put into words how much she has meant to me and so many other individuals here at Tennessee and beyond.”

“She played a very significant role in molding me into the person I am, and I will forever be grateful for the genuine care, guidance and wisdom she unselfishly shared with me and so many others through the years. I’ll always treasure the laughter we shared, the stories we loved to tell and certainly those stories we embellished.”

“Pat gave me strength and courage to face anything. She was driven to perfection and always remained true to her standards. That meant doing things the right way, no matter what. In my eyes, there’s never been anyone better than Pat Summitt. She entrusted me with her legacy, and I will continue embracing her passion and doing everything in my power to uphold that.”

Former Tennessee star Tamika Catchings:

ESPN analyst and former Lady Vola Kara Lawson: “I swore my last name was a four letter word there for about two years. She was constantly on me, every day, to get better, and every day, push myself to her standard. You always thought you were working hard, but her level of working hard was so much higher than your’s.”

“One of Pat’s greatest gifts was her ability to read ability and hone in on want made them tick. She did that with me in the recruiting process, understanding what type of person I was, how competitive I was, how I liked to be challenged. That’s what she went after and that’s what she touched in me. There wasn’t really another option in my mind for where I wanted to play.”

South Carolina women’s coach Dawn Staley:

Former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning: “I’ve always been honored to call Pat Summitt my friend. She was always very supportive of my career and I enjoyed seeing her back at a Tennessee football game or when she would come to Indianapolis to see Tamika Catchings play. We would always get together and I made it a point when I came to Knoxville to see her. She was one of the people I consulted with following my junior year when I was deciding whether to turn pro early or stay in college. She gave me some very valuable advice during that time. My teammates and I went to a lot of Lady Vols games when we were in school, and I really enjoyed watching her teams play.”

Kentucky men’s coach John Calipari:

WNBA President Lisa Borders:

Former Tennessee football coach Phil Fullmer: “Pat Summitt was many things to many people. Pat was a great person, loving mother, passionate coach, and loyal friend. We shared a lot of years working together and spreading the word about Tennessee Athletics. We had wonderful personal times talking about life, our respective teams, or helping each other recruit. Her legacy as a basketball coach is iconic, but her greatest legacy may well be through The Pat Summitt Foundation and her role in leading the battle against Alzheimer’s!”

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey: “Pat Summitt transformed the lives of people she touched: her colleagues, her competitors, and especially her players. Through her character, passion and vision, she also transformed the game of women’s basketball, impacting the lives of countless young people and forever changing intercollegiate athletics. The championships she won resulted from the larger influence she had on the people who played for her, worked for her and were fortunate enough to associate with one of the most accomplished persons in the history of college sports. Pat will always have a place of honor in the Southeastern Conference and our prayers are with her family at this difficult time.”

And the kicker, this terrific story from current Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart:

A look at Pat Summitt’s milestone wins

Pat Summitt (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)
Pat Summitt (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)
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Here’s a look at some of the milestone victories Pat Summitt achieved on her way to posting the most career victories of any NCAA Division I men’s or women’s coach:

– No. 1: Jan. 10, 1975 – In her second game as a head coach, the 22-year-old Summitt (then known as Pat Head) led Tennessee to a 69-32 victory over Middle Tennessee State in front of 53 fans in Knoxville, Tennessee.

– No. 100: Jan. 13, 1979 – She reaches the century mark in her fourth season with a 79-66 victory over North Carolina State in Raleigh, North Carolina.

– No. 200: Dec. 3, 1982 – She needs even less time to earn her second 100 wins than it took to get her first 100. Three seasons later, the 200th comes as a 69-56 victory over St. John’s in Detroit as part of the Coca-Cola Classic.

– Olympic gold: Aug. 7, 1984 – Chery Miller has 16 points and 11 rebounds as a U.S. Olympic team coached by Summitt breezes by South Korea, 85-55, in the championship game, giving the U.S. its first gold medal in women’s basketball.

– No. 300: Jan. 4, 1987 – Summitt earns her 300th victory in an 87-68 win over North Carolina in Knoxville in what will become Tennessee’s first national championship season.

– No. 319: March 29, 1987 – She wins her first national championship in Austin, Texas, when Tennessee rolls to a 67-44 victory over Louisiana Tech, which had beaten the Lady Vols nine straight times. Seven times before, Summitt had led Tennessee to an AIAW or NCAA semifinal without winning the title.

– No. 385: April 2, 1989 – Bridgette Gordon scores 27 points as Tennessee beats Auburn 76-60 in Tacoma, Washington, to give Summitt her second national championship.

– No. 400: Jan. 25, 1990 – Tennessee edges South Carolina 70-69 in Columbia, South Carolina, for Summitt’s 400th career victory.

– No. 442: March 31, 1991 – In the first NCAA women’s basketball final to go to overtime, Dena Head scores 28 points as Tennessee wins its third national title with a 70-67 victory over Virginia in New Orleans.

– No. 500: Nov. 21, 1993 – Vonda Ward’s 17 points and 11 rebounds help Summitt earn her 500th career win with an 80-45 rout of Ohio State in the inaugural State Farm Classic in Jackson, Tennessee. Ohio State is coached by Nancy Darsch, who had been an assistant on Summitt’s Tennessee staff from 1978-85.

– No. 596: March 31, 1996 – After beating Connecticut in an overtime semifinal, Tennessee rolls to an 83-65 win over Georgia in Charlotte, North Carolina, to give Summitt her fourth national championship. Chamique Holdsclaw and Tiffany Johnson each score 16 points.

– No. 600: Nov. 23, 1996 – Summitt receives a cake from Vermont Gov. Howard Dean after Tennessee beats Marquette 83-68 in the Howard Bank Classic at Burlington, Vermont. The victory improves Summitt’s career record to 600-134.

– No. 625: March 30, 1997 – Chamique Holdsclaw scores 24 points as Tennessee earns its second straight national title with a 68-59 win over Old Dominion in Cincinnati. The latest title gives Summitt a career total of five national championships.

– No. 664: March 29, 1998 – Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Semeka Randall combine for 62 points and 25 rebounds as Tennessee caps an undefeated season by winning its third straight national title with a 93-75 victory over Louisiana Tech in Kansas City, Missouri. The 39-0 season ends with Summitt’s sixth national championship.

– No. 700: Dec. 5, 1999 – Tennessee’s 85-62 victory over Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, allows Summitt to join Texas’ Jody Conradt as the only women’s basketball coaches at the time with 700 career wins.

– No. 800: Jan. 14, 2003 – Summitt gets a cake during a postgame ceremony that includes fireworks, balloons and flowers after Tennessee trounces DePaul 76-57 in Knoxville.

– No. 876: March 4, 2005 – Summitt ties Adolph Rupp for second place on the all-time wins list by any men’s or women’s coach as Tennessee beats 64-54 Auburn in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals at Greenville, South Carolina.

– No. 877: March 5, 2005 – Summitt passes Rupp when Tennessee beats Vanderbilt 76-73 in the semifinals of the SEC tournament in Greenville, South Carolina. Tennessee would go on to win the tournament.

– No. 879: March 20, 2005 – Tennessee’s 94-43 over Western Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Knoxville allows Summitt to tie Dean Smith for first on the all-time win list among men’s or women’s coaches.

– No. 880: March 22, 2005 – Summitt passes Smith when Tennessee beats Purdue 75-54 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Knoxville. The school honors the coach in a surprise ceremony by naming its basketball court at Thompson-Boling Arena “The Summitt.”

– No. 900: Jan. 19, 2006 – Alexis Hornbuckle scores 15 points as Tennessee rallies from a 14-point deficit to give Summitt her 900th career victory in an 80-68 win over Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee.

– No. 947: March 3, 2007 – Candace Parker scores 17 points and Nicky Anosike gets 16 rebounds as Tennessee beats Rutgers 59-46 in Cleveland to give Summitt her seventh national championship.

– No. 983: March 8, 2008 – Candace Parker’s 17 points help Summitt win her eighth and final national title with a 64-48 victory over Stanford in Tampa, Florida.

– No. 1,000: Feb. 5, 2009 – Summitt becomes the first men’s or women’s coach in college basketball history to reach 1,000 wins when Tennessee trounces Georgia 73-43 in Knoxville. Tennessee had lost 80-70 to No. 2 Oklahoma at Oklahoma City three days earlier in Summitt’s first attempt at the 1,000th win.

– No. 1,098: March 24, 2012 – Meighan Simmons scores 22 points off the bench as Tennessee rallies from 14 points down to give Summitt her final victory in an 84-73 regional semifinal win over Kansas at Des Moines, Iowa. Tennessee would lose 77-58 to eventual national champion Baylor two days later.