No. 5 Oregon beats Arizona State 80-57 in Pac-12 quarters

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Oregon had a hard time stopping Torian Graham in the first half, allowing Arizona State to keep it close. The Ducks still didn’t have an answer for Graham in the second, but they shut down everyone else to earn a spot in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.

Dillon Brooks scored 22 points, Tyler Dorsey added 21 and No. 5 Oregon pulled away in the second half to beat Arizona State 80-57 Thursday in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals.

“They’re an elite team and have the type of defense that’s going to keep them in games as they play championship-level basketball,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said.

Oregon (28-4) tightened up defensively after a close first half, holding Arizona State to 8-of-33 shooting in the second. That set up transition baskets and allowed the Ducks to pull away from the eighth-seeded Sun Devils.

Dylan Ennis had a career-high 12 rebounds and five assists for the top-seeded Ducks, who move on to face the winner between California and Utah in the semifinals Friday night.

“I thought our defensive energy was pretty good,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “They did get a couple good looks, but mostly those were pretty contested shots.”

Arizona State (15-18) matched Oregon almost shot for shot in the first half before succumbing to the Ducks’ length and pressure in the second.

Graham, a senior, had 32 points and made seven 3-pointers, but the rest of the Sun Devils’ starters were a combined 5 for 30 from the floor.

“I don’t really want to talk about points because we lost,” Graham said. “I just want to talk about the team and the things that we can work on as a team or what they could do to move forward. I just try to help the young guys prepare themselves for next year.”

The Ducks were co-champions of the Pac-12 with Arizona, earning the No. 1 seed in the tourney with their victory over the Wildcats in their lone meeting.

Arizona State had given Oregon all it could when it made the trip to Eugene, losing 71-70 in a game that had 15 lead changes and nine ties. The Sun Devils had just six turnovers in that game, but Brooks scored the final 12 points for the Ducks to earn the victory.

Arizona State needed to shoot well in the rematch to have a chance and did just that early on, scoring its first 12 points on 3-pointers. The Sun Devils continued to hang with the Ducks throughout the first half behind Graham, who was 4 of 6 from 3-point range and had 16 points.

Brooks had 11 for Oregon, which led 34-31 at halftime.

The Ducks gained a little separation to start the second half, opening with an 8-2 run.

Oregon got out to Graham much better and hounded the Sun Devils all over the floor, pushing the lead to 45-33 as Arizona State missed 12 of its first 13 shots.

The Sun Devils had one more run to get within eight, thanks to Graham, but Oregon gradually stretched the lead back out.

“We rebounded well. We got defensive stops and we’re going to have to continue doing that throughout the tournament,” Ennis said. “But overall I think we did a great job today.”

BIG PICTURE

Oregon looked every bit the top seed in the conference and a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in the second half, overmatching the Sun Devils at both ends.

Arizona State will have to replace Graham and forward Obinna Oleka next season, but Hurley has a strong recruiting class coming in.

DUCK BLOCK PARTY

Oregon led the nation in blocked shots per game at 6.8 and is closing in on a couple of records.

The Ducks blocked four shots against Arizona State, giving them 216 this season. That’s five from tying the school single-season record and eight from matching the Pac-12 record of 224, set by Washington in 2015-16.

GRAHAM’S TREYS

Graham’s seven 3-pointers were the second most in Pac-12 Tournament history and most by an Arizona State player. He finished with 108 3-pointers this season, sixth most in Pac-12 history. UCLA’s Bryce Alford is still active and has 104.

UP NEXT

Arizona State’s season is over.

Oregon faces the winner between Cal and Utah in Friday’s semifinals.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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!”