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Villanova dominates St. John’s in record-setting win

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NEW YORK (AP) Villanova may not have played the perfect game but the Wildcats weren’t far off.

Want some proof?

The second-ranked and top-seeded Wildcats shot 63.2 percent (36 for 57) and committed just five turnovers in a record-setting 108-67 victory Thursday over St. John’s in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.

Villanova shot better than 50 percent from 3-point range (15 for 29), made 21 of 25 free throws and only committed seven personal fouls, none in the first half.

It was the most points and largest margin of victory in the tournament for Villanova and it was the worst loss the Red Storm ever endured.

“That was a pretty good effort for us defensively. It really was,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “And again that is maturity. It’s experience. … I think our guys had a great grasp of the scouting report and I think they played very intelligently.”

Donte DiVincenzo had 25 points and Kris Jenkins added 24 for the Wildcats, who had six players score in double figures.

DiVincenzo, a redshirt freshman who finished 7 of 8 from the field, including 5 of 6 on 3s, surpassed his previous career high of 20 points, also set against St. John’s.

“Going into the game I was confident as in every game,” DiVincenzo said. “But the only thing I can say about the 25 is it’s all because of the seniors and Jalen (Brunson) and E (Eric Paschal). Everybody was making the right play and I found myself open and today I was knocking down shots.”

The Wildcats (29-3) will face the winner of the Marquette-Seton Hall game in the semifinals on Friday at Madison Square Garden.

The Wildcats took command from the start and led 52-26 at halftime.

Villanova shot 51.5 percent (17 of 33) in the first half, including 9 of 20 from 3-point range. The Wildcats committed just three turnovers, held St. John’s scoreless for a 6-minute stretch and outrebounded the Red Storm 21-13. Jenkins hit a long 3 at the halftime buzzer after a Villanova timeout with 3.3 seconds to play.

Bashir Ahmed and Marcus LoVett both scored 12 points for the eighth-seeded Red Storm (14-19), who beat Georgetown 74-73 in the opening round to snap a six-year losing streak in the Big East Tournament. St. John’s had twice lost by 29 points in the tournament.

“Villanova is one of the best teams in the country. So give all credit to them. And we welcome that,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “That was a good position to be in, to be able to play in today’s game. So no regrets.”

Mullin was asked about Villanova not having a foul in the first half.

“It’s pretty good defense,” he said with a smirk.

BIG PICTURE

St. John’s: The Red Storm again followed the pattern of struggling early from 3-point range. They were 2 of 8 from beyond the arc in the first half. … Darien Williams was called for a Flagrant 1 foul against Darryl Reynolds in the first half.

Villanova: Mikal Bridges started for the Wildcats but played just one minute because of a stomach virus. … Villanova swept the season series with St. John’s by an average of 18 points. … Villanova’s previous high for points was 96 in a double-overtime win over Pittsburgh in 1998 and the previous margin of victory was 35 against Marquette in 2015. … Villanova improved its shooting in the second half to 79.2 percent (19 of 24), including 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

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The 41-point margin of victory tied the Big East Tournament record set by Syracuse in a 96-55 win over Boston College in 1999.

UP NEXT

Villanova will face the Seton Hall-Marquette winner in Friday’s semifinals.

For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://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!”