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Takeaways from No. 21 Duke’s win at No. 20 Notre Dame

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Duke’s had more than its share of problems this season, but the Blue Devils haven’t struggled to win on the road in recent days.

Twenty-first ranked Duke downed No. 20 Notre Dame, 84-74, on Monday in South Bend to notch its second road win in 48 hours.

Grayson Allen had a game-high 21 points for Duke while Jayson Tatum impressed with 19 points on 14 shots and with 14 rebounds. Luke Kennard added 16 points.

Notre Dame got 20 points from VJ Beachem and another 17 from Bonzie Colson. Notre Dame, one of the country’s top 3-point shooting teams, was 7 of 21 from distance.

Here’s what you need to know about Monday’s game:

1. Duke’s rotation looks to be rounding into shape: All five Duke starters played at least 31 minutes, and that number very may well have been higher if Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard wouldn’t have found themselves in foul trouble and eventually disqualified.

The Blue Devils have gone with the same starting five the last two games with Jefferson at center and Jayson Tatum at the four. Tatum was largely a spectator over the weekend when Luke Kennard went crazy, but he had 19 points (on 8 of 14 shooting) and 14 rebounds in 37 minutes. Meanwhile, Marques Bolden, who started a week ago, did not play against the Irish after seeing just three minutes in Duke’s win over Wake Forest over the weekend. Harry Giles also only logged nine minutes, with four of them coming after Jefferson fouled out.

It’s not to say Duke has found its formula and all is now right in Durham, but the Blue Devils had balanced scoring and solid defense while leaning on its starting five. Those five are likely going to be good enough to win Duke quite a few games, but if Giles and Bolden can just provide some sort of boost as well, that could move the Blue Devils closer to the ceiling everyone saw for them at the start of the season.

2. Have the Irish been solved?: Notre Dame has now dropped three straight, and have failed to score more than 1.06 points-per-possession in any of those losses. That’s particularly problematic for a team that relies on its well-oiled offense to counteract a so-so defense. There doesn’t appear to be a  straightforward formula as Notre Dame struggled to score inside against Duke and Georgia Tech (48.6 and 40.0 percent on 2-pointers, respectively) and from deep against Virginia (16.7 percent).

Is it a fluke, minor blip or something more sinister? It’s difficult to say after just three games, but it’s happen both at home and on the road and certainly something worth monitoring, starting Saturday at North Carolina.

3. Jayson Tatum continues to impress, but the turnover rate continues to be an issue: One of the enduring images of this season will be Dennis Smith, Jr. soaring to a dunk as the buzzer sounded in NC State’s win against Duke. Well, that came to be after a Jayson Tatum turnover, something that happens with pretty solid regularity.

Against Notre Dame, he turned it over five times, a mark on an otherwise super-efficient night in which he scored 19 points on 14 shots, not to mention pulling down 14 boards and being instrumental in the win. He’s turned it over three or more times in eight of the 14 games he’s played, good for a turnover percentage of 19.4 percent. That’s a problematic number for a guy with the highest usage rate on the team.

Tatum has no doubt been one of Duke’s best players and is cementing his place near the top of the lottery in  June’s NBA draft, but securing the ball just a little bit better would go a long way.

4. Notre Dame’s free-throw shooting has been bizarre: The offense’s shooting from the floor was documented above, but the Irish’s issues extend to the free-throw line as well during this losing streak. Notre Dame currently ranks second in the country with a team free-throw percentage of 80.2.

In these past three losses, Notre Dame is shooting just 66 percent on 56 attempts, including a 19 of 28 performance against the Blue Devils. The Irish don’t often get to the line a ton, but when they do, they need to convert at a high clip, especially when the rest of the offense is finding problems.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.

South Carolina fans raise money to send “Gamecock Jesus” to Final Four

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South Carolina fans are sending one of their most recognizable compatriots to represent them this weekend.

Gamecock Jesus is heading to the Final Four.

South Carolina super fan Carlton Thompson is following the Gamecocks to Glendale as his fellow fans have raised over $7,500 to send the man known as “Gamecock Jesus” to Arizona for the team’s Final Four meeting with Gonzaga on Saturday night.

Thompson’s long hair, beard and presence at South Carolina games, even in lean times, earned him his nickname and apparently a following fervent enough to foot the bill for quite the trip.

“I’ve always dreamed it would be like this,” Thompson said last week about fan support at Gamecock games to the Post and Courier. “For years and years, it was so sparse with the crowds at the games. But once they started winning, the crowds started coming.”

Thompson is a 63-year-old VA hospital nurse, and has been attending South Carolina games for nearly 50 years.

Maryland’s Melo Trimble declares for the NBA Draft

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Melo Trimble’s career as a Maryland Terrapin is coming to an end. The junior guard is declaring for the NBA Draft and will sign with an agent.

“I am confident and excited to pursue an opportunity to play in the NBA,” Trimble said in a release. “I am proud of what my teammates and I were able to accomplish these past three seasons at Maryland. I developed many great relationships and friendships and together we able to create some very special moments for Maryland basketball. I want to thank Coach Turgeon for all of his support. He always believed in me. He challenged me and really helped in the development of my overall game. I am a more complete basketball player because of Coach Turgeon and the coaching staff. To stay at home and attend the University of Maryland is the best decision that I ever made and it was truly special to play in front of my family, friends and our amazing fans. Maryland will always be home.”

There was no better winner in college basketball the last three years than Melo. He changed the trajectory of Mark Turgeon’s program, winning 79 games in three years and ending his career 30-8 in games decided by six points or less. As a junior, Trimble and the Terps earned a No. 6 seed to the NCAA tournament, but they lost in the first round to Xavier. It was the only time in Trimble’s career that he didn’t reach the Sweet 16.

“Melo Trimble is a winner,” Mark Turgeon said on twitter. “Humble, hard-working, dedicated. Words can’t express what he’s done for our program. Always #StayMelo!”