No. 7 Arizona beats No. 3 UCLA 86-75 in Pac-12 semifinals

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LAS VEGAS (AP) A spot in the championship game secure, Arizona coach Sean Miller called a timeout with 0.9 seconds left against UCLA, threw the ball onto the floor and began shouting in the face of Kadeem Allen.

Miller said it was to give the senior guard his due and make sure his team was poised at the end the game. His actions showed there might have been a little more to it following a celebration by the Bruins two weeks ago in Tucson.

Lauri Markkanen scored 29 points, Allonzo Trier added 20 and No. 7 Arizona shot its way to an emotional 86-75 win over No. 3 UCLA on Friday night in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.

“We learned from UCLA in that game, making sure your team is poised when they called that timeout,” Miller said. “We wanted to do the same thing, make sure our team was poised moving forward.”

UCLA lost to Arizona at home early in the season and returned the favor at McKale Center with a 77-72 victory on Feb. 25. Coach Steve Alford called a timeout with a second left in that game and it apparently riled up the Wildcats, who were hoping for a rematch after advancing to the tournament semifinals.

Arizona (29-4) made the most of it, advancing to Saturday’s title game against No. 5 Oregon. The co-Pac-12 champion Wildcats shot 50 percent and made 10 of 20 from 3-point range in front of a rowdy crowd that made T-Mobile Arena feel like McKale Center west.

“I guess they were upset when I called timeout at their place,” Alford said. “We made two free throws and I didn’t mean disrespect at all. It put us up five and I wanted to set my defense. We hadn’t won there, so I didn’t want anything goofy to happen. Apparently he thought we were being disrespectful and that was his way of getting back at us.”

UCLA (29-4) won the game in Tucson by outscoring the Wildcats 20-4 on second-chance points. Arizona shored up its rebounding issues and hounded the Bruins into one miss after another.

UCLA shot 4 of 25 from 3-point range, with Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford combining for 13 points on 2-for-16 shooting from beyond the arc.

Isaac Hamilton led UCLA with 20 points and TJ Leaf had 15 before fouling out.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Alford said. “We missed a lot of open looks that we normally make.”

The Bruins and Wildcats played two entertaining games during the regular season, each winning on the road.

The first half of the rubber match between Pac-12 powers was an entertaining mix of athletic plays, superb defensive stretches, followed by runs of fantastic offense.

Arizona had the last burst, taking a 41-35 lead into halftime after making 7 of 13 from 3-point range while the Bruins went 2 for 12.

Ball struggled with foul trouble in the quarterfinals against USC and wasn’t much of a factor in the first half, with as many turnovers (four) as points and assists combined.

Arizona continued to hit shots as UCLA continued to clank, stretching the lead to 63-48 as the decibel level in T-Mobile Arena continued to rise.

The Bruins tried to make runs , but couldn’t get shots to consistently fall to make up enough ground, allowing the Wildcats to get a little payback.

“Never been prouder of a group of kids,” Miller said. “We lost a tough game at home in our last game and I think it really stuck with these guys and motivated them to be better. We had the opportunity and we took advantage of it.”

BIG PICTURE

Arizona can look unstoppable when it’s making perimeter shots and playing defense, which it did against UCLA.

The Bruins had been playing solid defense recently, but struggled to stop the Wildcats and couldn’t outscore them.

MARKKANEN ON THE MARK

Markkanen went through a shooting slump in February, but has found his stroke in Las Vegas.

The Finnish 7-footer went 4 for 10 from 3-point range against UCLA and is 8 of 17 in two games of the tournament.

UP NEXT

Arizona faces top-seeded Oregon in Saturday night’s title game.

UCLA should still get a high NCAA Tournament seed.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

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.