No. 22 Notre Dame beats No. 16 Florida St to reach ACC final

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NEW YORK (AP) After years of coming up short of the conference tournament title game in New York City as a member of the Big East, Notre Dame will finally get a chance to play for a championship in the Big Apple.

Steve Vasturia and Bonzie Colson each scored 18 points and No. 22 Notre Dame knocked off No. 16 Florida State 77-73 on Friday night to advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title game for the second time in three years.

The third-seeded Fighting Irish (25-8) will face fifth-seeded and No. 14 Duke on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, trying to make it two ACC titles in four seasons as a member of the conference.

In 18 years playing in the Big East, the Fighting Irish never did reach the tournament title game at Madison Square Garden.

“I like this building way more because my record in Barclays is way better than the Garden,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. The Fighting Irish won two NCAA Tournament games at Barclays last year and two more in November at the Legends Classic.

“We were fortunate enough to play in the semis in the Garden, we never got to the Saturday night,” Brey said. “And it was electric. I thought tonight was really good. Both arenas I think are on par. We’ll probably be in that arena someday. I don’t know if I’ll still be coaching when we get there, but we’ll be in that arena someday too.”

Notre Dame has eliminated Duke from the tournament each of the past two seasons, including a semifinal victory in 2015 on the way to the Irish’s first conference tournament championship. That team was led by a strong core of upperclassmen such as Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton and Zach Auguste. Vasturia, Colson, Matt Farrell (15 points) and VJ Beachem (six points and seven rebounds) were the young guys back then. Now they are Notre Dame’s core four.

“You know, it shows up in poise,” Brey said. “It shows up in outstanding leadership. It shows up in great stability in times of taking punches in a league like ours, which we did.”

Dwayne Bacon led Florida State (25-8) with 18 points.

The Irish and Seminoles had a tough act to follow after Duke and North Carolina had the sellout crowd of 18,109 rocking in Brooklyn.

Many fans dressed in blue bailed on the nightcap. Not New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was back at Barclays for a second straight night, sitting behind the Notre Dame bench rooting on his buddy, Brey.

Notre Dame eliminated most of the drama with a 23-8 run to end the first half that put the Irish up 42-26.

Florida State whittled the lead down thanks to Braian Angola-Rodas, who scored 14 of the Seminoles’ 15 points in one stretch, including a 3-pointer that made it 63-55 with 8:23 left in the second half.

A driving hoop by Vasturia and a hustle putback by Colson nudged the lead back to 12 a little more than a minute later.

“I think we just kind of combated every run that they made,” Vasturia said.

The Irish went 13 for 27 from 3.

“They moved the ball around and executed their offense to perfection, and they knocked down some shots that we just couldn’t get to,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Irish have thrived with their small lineup, featuring the 6-foot-5 Colson at center. It puts shooters everywhere on the floor and presents matchup problems for bigger teams – such as Florida State. The Irish forced 18 turnovers to help overcome getting outrebounded 41-23 by the Seminoles.

“We’re bigger, but it was hard to take advantage of our size because they went so small,” Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac said.

Florida State: Even though Florida State held a rebounding edge, it didn’t do enough damage on the offensive boards. After getting 18 offensive rebounds against Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals, Florida State had nine against the Irish for only eight second-chance points.

FOOTBALL SCHOOLS

Florida State and Notre Dame have met eight times on the football field, with the Seminoles winning six. In basketball, this was the seventh meeting, third this season. The Seminoles and Fighting Irish split the first two.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish lost their only meeting with Duke this season, but Brey is 5-3 in his career against his former boss, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, while at Notre Dame.

Florida State: The Seminoles will wait for Selection Sunday to find out their next opponent. They’ll probably be a 3 seed.

Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

More college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org/

Michigan lands four-star 2018 forward Ignas Brazdeikis

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Michigan added to an already strong Class of 2018 recruiting haul on Friday night as four-star forward Ignas Brazdeikis pledged to the Wolverines on Twitter.

The 6-foot-8 Canadian was one of the premier scorers in the Nike EYBL this past spring and summer playing with CIA Bounce as Brazdeikis averaged 21.1 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the floor. Well-rounded outside of his scoring, Brazdeikis also put up 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while also showing a workable jumper that was 26 percent from three-point range.

With the job that Michigan head coach John Beilein has done developing forwards, most recently with the rapid improvement of players like D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner, it’ll be fascinating to see how Brazdeikis will look at the college level after some time on campus. Beilein’s offense is favorable for skilled forwards with a penchant for scoring and Brazdeikis could end up being a tremendous fit for the Wolverines.

Brazdeikis becomes the fourth member of Michigan’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul as he joins four-star forward Brandon Johns, four-star guard David Dejulius and three-star forward Taylor Currie.

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

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MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

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Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.

Five-star forward King picks Oregon

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Oregon has nabbed one of the top players in the 2018 class.

Louis King, a top-20 forward, committed to Dana Altman and the Ducks on Thursday via a video on social media.

“It’s been a tough, strenuous process,” King said, “but today makes all of that worth it. I’ve been blessed with great opportunities.”

The 6-foot-8 New Jersey native selected Oregon over other finalists Seton Hall, NC State, Purdue and Kansas.

“I would like to thank each of them for all the time and effort they put into my recruitment,” King said. “I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates that have pushed me and helped get me to this point in my career. My friends for all their love and support, but most of all I would like to thank my family, who has been by my side through it all.”

King is Altman’s second commit in 2018, joining four-star big man Miles Norris, a top-75 recruit in the class. It’s the beginning of what could be an absolutely dynamic class for Oregon, which still has two scholarships remaining.

“Out of all of my schools I felt like it was best for me and my family,” King said to MADE Hoops. “Coach Altman said that I would have the ball in my hands throughout the season. When I get there, it will be an easy adjustment for me with how I handle rock and get my teammates open. Our goal is to win a national championship next year.”