No. 16 Florida St overpowers valiant Va Tech in ACC quarters

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NEW YORK (AP) Dwayne Bacon scored all but two of his 17 points in the second half and No. 16 Florida State finally overpowered valiant Virginia Tech 74-68 on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

The second-seeded Seminoles (25-7) reached the semifinals for the first time since their 2012 championship and will play Friday night against No. 21 Virginia or No. 22 Notre Dame.

Zach LeDay led the seventh-seeded Hokies (22-10) with 22 points and nine rebounds, but Florida State seized control when he went to the bench with four fouls. Seth Allen scored 17 points for Virginia Tech, which was still leading midway through the second half despite a big disadvantage in size and depth against the Seminoles.

Freshman forward Jonathan Isaac added 11 points and 12 rebounds for Florida State, which outrebounded the Hokies 45-31 and outscored them 42-20 in the paint. Terance Mann had 11 points, nine rebounds and the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 8:49 left during the Seminoles’ decisive surge.

Florida State, with 7-foot-1 Michael Ojo and 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje, have 11 players who average at least 10 minutes per game. They used 12 in all to Virginia Tech’s seven.

Trying to contend with Florida State’s imposing size and depth finally took its toll on the Hokies midway through the second half. That’s when the 6-foot-7 LeDay, doing all he could to hold his own underneath against a parade of taller opponents, was whistled for his fourth foul and went to the bench with Virginia Tech ahead by two.

The Seminoles immediately assumed control for good, going on runs of 13-0 and 18-1 to grab a 68-53 lead with 4:01 left. LeDay re-entered with 6:24 to go and Virginia Tech down nine, but it turned out to be too late.

The gritty Hokies responded with a 10-0 surge, and Justin Robinson’s 3-pointer trimmed it to 68-63 with 53 seconds to go. They were still down five when Allen missed on a contested drive with 31 seconds left, and the Seminoles closed it out from there.

The Hokies never trailed in the first half and led for 17 1/2 minutes before going into the break up 35-33. They extended the margin to five before Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored all the points in a 10-0 run that gave Florida State its first lead.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia Tech: Despite the defeat, the Hokies have almost certainly done enough to earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007 under coach Seth Greenberg. … The last time Virginia Tech advanced to the ACC semifinals was 2011. … The Hokies lost 93-78 at Florida State on Jan. 7 during the Seminoles’ 12-game winning streak. Allen, the ACC Sixth Man of the Year, missed that game due to concussion symptoms. He has scored in double figures in 15 of 17 games since.

Florida State: The Seminoles reached the tournament semifinals for the fourth time since joining the ACC and third time under coach Leonard Hamilton. … Bacon was 4 for 17 from the field, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range, but 9 of 10 at the free throw line.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Expecting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Florida State: A matchup with third-seeded Notre Dame or sixth-seeded Virginia in the second semifinal Friday night.

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!”