Vanderbilt upsets No. 17 Florida 72-62 OT win in SEC tourney

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Vanderbilt had every reason to give up in January, losing five of its first seven Southeastern Conference games.

Instead, the Commodores stuck together and listened closely to first-year coach Bryce Drew. And it paid off.

Riley LaChance scored five of his 18 points in overtime, and Vanderbilt topped No. 17 Florida 72-62 Friday night in the SEC tournament quarterfinals.

“The resiliency of these guys has been phenomenal the last three weeks, and it was on display full force tonight,” Drew said.

The Commodores (19-14) beat the Gators for second time in seven days to earn a berth Saturday in the semifinals against Mississippi or Arkansas. It’s the first time in the semifinals for Vanderbilt since 2013.

Perhaps more importantly, the win should push Drew’s Commodores firmly into the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year.

“We just want to keep winning games,” said Drew, who moved to Vanderbilt after a successful run at Valparaiso. “Hopefully the committee realizes how well we’re playing, and we get in.”

Florida (24-8) fought back from an eight-point deficit to force overtime thanks to KeVaughn Allen, who made a tying 3 with 1:42 left. The Gators had the ball with the game tied at 58 but missed two shots in the final seconds of regulation.

“It was a good look,” Gators senior guard Kasey Hill said of his missed layup.

Vanderbilt scored the first seven points of OT, with LaChance’s jumper with 4:02 to go putting the Commodores ahead to stay.

Luke Kornet had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Vanderbilt, and Jeff Roberson finished with 16 points. Matthew Fisher-Davis added 11 points.

The Commodores have won 10 of 13 overall, and Kornet said defense has been the key.

“We’re all confident at every single moment, whether we’re down 10 or up 10 and continuing to just play good defense and try to win the game,” Kornet said.

Allen and Hill each finished with 16 points for Florida. The Gators missed what would have been their first trip to the semifinals since 2014, and coach Mike White said he’ll be racking his brain until the NCAA Tournament bracket is announced trying to figure out what they could have done differently against Vandy.

“I thought it was the best that we defended them this year outside of a handful of mistakes,” White said. “We’ve got to find a way to be more disciplined, and that’s on me.”

The SEC’s best 3-point shooters, fresh off beating Texas A&M for a third time this season, had the advantage from beyond the arc against the second-seeded Gators. The Commodores, who matched a season low with only five made 3s against the Gators last Saturday, went 11 of 27 (40.7 percent) from 3 compared to just 6 of 23 (26.1 percent) by Florida.

The Commodores led 33-28 at halftime and were up by eight a couple times, the last with 3:27 left.

The Gators, who lost the regular-season series by a combined four points, tied it up with eight straight points, with Allen’s 3 helping force overtime.

BIG PICTURE

Vanderbilt: Drew now has beaten White, the SEC coach of the year, three times in his first year with the Commodores. He also has two more wins in the SEC tournament than his predecessor, Kevin Stallings, managed over the past three seasons.

Florida: Other losses over the past few days should keep the Gators a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament along with a chance to open in Orlando. The best thing the Gators can hope for is not to see Vanderbilt anywhere in their bracket once the pairings are announced Sunday. White is 0-5 against Vanderbilt.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Gators dropped five spots after their loss to Vanderbilt to end the regular season and now have lost three of their last four. “We obviously have lost momentum,” White said.

UP NEXT

Vanderbilt: Ole Miss or Arkansas in the semifinals Saturday.

Florida: NCAA Tournament.

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!”