Perkins, Melson help No. 11 Gonzaga top Florida 77-72

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Josh Perkins helped keep No. 11 Gonzaga close in the first half before Silas Melson came up big during the final 20 minutes.

Perkins had 18 points and Melson scored 10 of his 12 during a second-half rally as Gonzaga beat Florida 77-72 on Friday night in a semifinal at the AdvoCare Invitational.

“Silas stepped up,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “I’ve been on him and on him to do that. I think he’s a more confident player this year. I don’t think we were shocked by that.”

After getting down by 11 points in the opening half, Melson hit two 3s during a 15-2 run that put Gonzaga ahead 68-59 with 5 1/2 minutes left. He made two free throws with 22.9 seconds remaining to make it 76-70.

“He didn’t start off the game very well,” Few said. “He was extremely tentative, and just kind of fumbling, stumbling around there. And then he set his feet and played with some pride.”

The Bulldogs (5-0), who will play No. 21 Iowa State in Sunday’s final, got 16 points from Johnathan Williams, while Nigel Williams-Goss added 14.

Devin Robinson led Florida (5-1) with 18 points and KeVaughn Allen had 15.

“It seemed like every time we made a mistake (defensively) they made us pay,” Florida coach Mike White said.

Robinson had 13 points, including Florida’s first nine, as the Gators went up 37-32 at halftime.

“We should have got the win,” Robinson said. “We played hard and took a step forward, but we still lost. Work on the things we didn’t do tonight and come out Sunday and try to get another win.”

The Gators will face Miami for third place.

Gonzaga, which trailed by 11 points with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half, had a late surge keyed by three of Perkins’ 15 first-half points. Zach Collins had a slam that got the Bulldogs within 31-27 right after Florida’s Canyon Barry, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry, misfired on a breakaway dunk attempt.

Rick Barry was at the game.

BIG PICTURE

Florida beat Seton Hall 81-76 on Thursday in a matchup of teams that received votes in this week’s AP poll. The Gators came up short in a bid to start a season 6-0 or better for the 10th time.

Gonzaga improved to 8-0 in the Thanksgiving tournament at Disney formerly known as the Old Spice Classic. The Bulldogs won the event in 2008 and 2012.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Bulldogs could continue to bolster their argument to move into the Top 10 by sweeping all three of their games in the invitational. It should also give them momentum heading into the upcoming week that includes a game Dec. 3 against No. 8 Arizona.

COMING OFF THE BENCH

Barry, who entered leading the Gators with a scoring average of 14.6 points, had 12 Friday. Collins, who also began play as the Bulldogs top scorer (13.8) was held to four.

UP NEXT

Florida will go against Miami in Sunday’s third-place game.

Gonzaga and No. 21 Iowa State will play for the championship on Sunday. “A veteran crew that knows how to win,” Few said of Iowa State. “They’ll go small and they’re very comfortable playing that way. They’re very difficult to guard.”

Report: North Carolina won’t attend White House

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.

Ohio State snags third 2018 commitment in a week with four-star guard Luther Muhammad

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Ohio State continued a strong week on the recruiting trail on Friday night by landing a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Luther Muhammad.

Regarded as a four-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 Muhammad is a tough and rugged perimeter defender who can attack the basket. Also showing some ability to play on the ball as a secondary handler, Muhammad is a very solid addition to Ohio State’s recruiting class since they need to overhaul their roster under new head coach Chris Holtmann.

Muhammad is the third player to commit to the Buckeyes in the Class of 2018 this week as he joins four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington in the current Ohio State recruiting class. Since Washington is a three-point threat and Muhammad is more of an off-the-bounce specialist, the two guards are a good start for Ohio State in this class as they will likely try to find a true floor leader to play with them on the perimeter.