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No. 10 LSU stays hot, beats Florida 79-78 in OT in rematch

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Getting to overtime was the tough part for LSU.

Winning in the extra frame? That’s pretty much what the Tigers have done all season.

Tremont Waters dribbled the length of the court for the tying basket with 3 seconds remaining in regulation and hit a 3-pointer early in overtime, helping No. 10 LSU escape Florida with a 79-78 victory Wednesday night.

The Tigers (25-5, 15-2 Southeastern Conference) improved to 5-1 in OT games in league play.

“It’s kind of what we’ve done all year,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “It’s not very pretty.”

The Gators had a chance to win it with 7.8 seconds left in the extra period, but Jalen Hudson slipped and then KeVaughn Allen failed to get off a shot before the final buzzer.

“Golden opportunity,” Florida coach Mike White said. “To not get a shot off on your last possession is very disheartening. We had done so many positive things to be in that position.”

LSU nearly gave the game away in the final minute of regulation. Waters coughed up a turnover that led to a dunk at the other end and Skylar Mays missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Hudson, who scored 16 straight points in the second half in his final home game on “Senior Night,” looked as if he delivered the winner after Mays’ miss. His 3-pointer from the elbow rattled around the rim and fell through with 6.2 seconds left, putting the Gators (17-13, 9-8) up 72-70.

But that was enough time for Waters to go coast to coast while splitting Florida’s half-hearted defense.

“I don’t think any one man can stay in front of me,” Waters said. “So I just went by (Andrew) Nembhard and created that play.”

Waters finished with 19 points, six assists, six turnovers, three rebounds and three steals.

“Tremont did what he does,” White said.

Javonte Smart added 15 points for the Tigers, who have won eight of nine and avenged their only loss — to Florida in overtime — in the last month.

Emmitt Williams chipped in 13 points and 14 rebounds. Williams scored 11 straight in the first half, helping LSU build a double-digit lead.

“He was phenomenal,” Wade said.

The Gators stormed back in the second half behind Hudson, who finished with a season-high 33 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Hudson struggled the first three months of the season but has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games.

“It does beg the question,” White said, wondering aloud where that kind of performance has been all season. “He got it going.”

Allen, Florida’s leading scorer, had another poor shooting performance. The senior, one of three honored before the game, had four points on 1 of 6 from the field. He has missed 21 of his last 25 shots, all in the last three games.

The Tigers pounded Florida on the glass and in the paint, enjoying a plus-10 rebounding advantage and outscoring the Gators 44-26 in the lane.

“We just needed to get the ball on the backboard,” Wade said.

BIG PICTURE

LSU: The Tigers can clinch a share of the SEC regular-season title with a victory Saturday against lowly Vanderbilt. They already have locked up a double-bye in next week’s conference tournament and continue to improve their NCAA Tournament seeding.

Florida: The Gators are playing consecutive games against Top 10 teams for the first time since the 2007 Final Four. The Gators won both of those a dozen years ago to clinch the national championship. They might need to upset Kentucky on Saturday to secure a spot in this year’s NCAA Tournament field.

STRETCHER HELP

LSU forward Naz Reid was limped to the bench in the final few seconds and was later helped off the court on a stretcher.

Wade said Reid was dehydrated and on the stretcher only as a precaution. Reid finished with nine points and five rebounds.

FRESHMAN RECORD

Florida’s Noah Locke broke the school’s freshman record for 3-pointers when he hit his second of the game and 75th of the season early in the second half. Anthony Roberson set the previous mark in 2003.

UP NEXT

LSU hosts Vanderbilt in the regular-season finale Saturday. It will be “Senior Night” for the Tigers, who will honor forward Kavell Bigby-Williams.

Florida plays at No. 6 Kentucky on Saturday. The Wildcats won the first meeting 65-54 in early February.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

New-look Virginia back to work after winning NCAA title

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Tony Bennett’s first offseason as a national champion coach has come with benefits on the recruiting trail. His first season at Virginia after winning the title, however, will bring challenges.

Five players who helped Virginia beat Texas Tech to capture the first basketball title in school history are gone, and that’s four more than expected. Center Jack Salt graduated, and guards De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy declared for the NBA draft. Seldom-used Marco Anthony transferred.

Recruiting was already well underway before the Cavaliers won it all, but Bennett said Wednesday the result “certainly can’t hurt and I think it has helped. It validates a lot of good stuff that’s happened in the past.”

Virginia hopes the spoils of those improvements are evident quickly in incoming freshmen guard Casey Morsell, big men Justin McKoy and Kadin Shedrick and junior college shooting guard Tomas Woldetensae.

Virginia opened its summer practice period on Tuesday, and Bennett said he’s not sure just yet who will be ready to contribute.

“Everyone will have ample opportunity, the newcomers, so to speak,” he said. “To say who, you just don’t know. … There are some opportunities out there. So it’s the returners and we can go down the list of the guys we brought in, but I think they’re excited about the opportunity.

“There’s always a learning curve any time you go from whether it’s high school to college or junior college to college or coming from a redshirt to being eligible. … Going up a level and playing in the ACC, for any of these guys, there’s the challenge of the physicality and the level of talent and the speed.”

Woldetensae, a left-handed shooter, averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range last season at Indian Hills Community College.

“We thought we needed to add some experience and a quality player on the perimeter and when he was mentioned and we did our homework and watched film and all those kinds of things,” he said. “His personality came out as a young man of character and we always start there. He seemed wanting to challenge himself at a very high level.”

The Cavaliers were delighted that Mamadi Diakite decided to come back for his senior year after testing the professional waters. And they added senior transfer Sam Hauser, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at Marquette. Hauser will be eligible to practice with the team, but won’t be able to play until 2020-21.

Bennett’s offseason included numerous speaking engagements, recruiting, talking to NBA scouts about his players and some time to decompress.

He also checked an item off his bucket list when, with his father, longtime college coach Dick Bennett, he played Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters. That, he said, “was amazing.”

Now, it’s back to work.

“I’m grateful for the busy-ness of it,” he said of the offseason. “It means something good happened.”

Four-star forward commits to West Virginia

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West Virginia landed a top-75 recruit Thursday night.

Isaiah Cottrell, a 6-foot-9 forward from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, committed to West Virginia’s 2020 recruiting class.

Cottrell picked the Mountaineers overs offers from the likes of Kansas, Washington and Arizona, among others. His father, Brian Lewin, played for West Virginia in the 1990s. The four-star prospect continues a promising recruiting trend for Bob Huggins, who landed a top-40 commit in center Oscar Tshiebwe in the 2019 class.

The Mountaineers missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in four years as they slid to 15-21 overall and last in the Big 12 with a 4-14 mark.

John Calipari’s new deal at Kentucky worth $86 million over 10 years

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John Calipari and Kentucky agreed in April to what was described as a “lifetime contract.” Thursday, the exact terms of that deal were disclosed.

The Wildcats coach’s new contract worth $86 million over 10 years.

“I’ve said from day one that this would be the gold standard and it has been for student-athletes and coaches,” Calipari said in a statement released by the school. “As I enter my 11th year, I’m reminded it took me 20 years to get an opportunity to like this. There is no other place I want to be. As I look forward, my mindset is what’s next and how can we be first at it for the young people that we coach.”

Calipari, 60, will likely continue to be a source of speculation for other jobs presuming he keeps things rolling in Lexington as he has for the last 10 years, but what Kentucky is paying him will almost certainly be more than any other program – and potentially NBA franchises – are going to be willing to. Calipari’s success, NBA history and ability to always be central to the broader college basketball conversation means he’ll always be in demand, but it’s hard to picture a situation that could intrigue Calipari enough to leave one of – if not the – best jobs in basketball.

“(Calipari) has added a special chapter to the greatest tradition in college basketball and it’s a chapter we want him to continue writing until the end of his coaching career,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “We are pleased to announce a new contract that will enable him to do exactly that.”

Calipari 305-71 with one national championship, four Final Fours and 26 first-round draft picks in 10 years with the Wildcats. He and Kentucky will likely open the 2019-20 season as one of the frontrunners for the national championship.

Michigan State reports violation for Tom Izzo hosting visit for former high school

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Michigan State self-reported an NCAA rules violation for Tom Izzo hosting Iron Mountain High School for a tour while the team was in town to compete for its first ever state title that weekend.

Izzo unknowingly committed the violation — which only occurred because Iron Mountain was competing in the Breslin Center that weekend — and the Spartans immediately gave notice once they became aware of it. Proud of his alma mater for advancing to Michigan’s final weekend, Izzo was merely taking interest in players and a team connected to his youth. The Iron Mountain program toured the Breslin Center with Izzo and toured Michigan State’s locked room while also watching the Spartans practice before their state semifinal game.

Since it was a special privilege for Iron Mountain, playing in an event there, the Spartans were technically at fault for a violation. The fact that Izzo and Michigan State have to report a violation for this sort of thing is kind of ridiculous since Izzo has a natural connection to the team in question. Although Michigan State likely isn’t going to get hit with any NCAA issues from this, it’s the kind of thing that critics come to question about the NCAA’s rulebook.

Former lacrosse star Pat Spencer commits to Northwestern for basketball

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Northwestern landed a unique graduate transfer on Thursday as Loyola lacrosse star Pat Spencer will spend his final year of college eligibility hooping for the Wildcats, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.

A former high school basketball standout at Boys’ Latin (MD), Spencer was one of the best lacrosse players in the country for the Greyhounds the past four years in college. He was selected in two drafts during the Spring. Spencer was taken first overall in the inaugural PLL College Draft while getting taken seventh overall in the MLL’s Collegiate Draft. Loyola remains in the NCAA tournament as Spencer is playing out his senior season of college.

Spencer is passing up multiple professional lacrosse opportunities to play Big Ten basketball for Northwestern. For a stud athlete in a sport to pass up money to pursue another athletic dream is one of the college basketball’s best things to follow next season.

As if Spencer’s background wasn’t unique enough, he’ll be at a Northwestern team starving for an identity since making the NCAA tournament a few seasons ago. By playing in the Big Ten, Spencer will be thrown against Final Four contenders and potential draft picks, which makes this transition particularly intriguing. It’s a cool story to follow this season as college hoops doesn’t often get athletes from other sports playing in such prominent conferences.

Greg Paulus famously went from Duke point guard to Syracuse quarterback as a graduate transfer, but he was leaving the sport to pursue an opportunity to play football. Spencer choosing basketball over a sure pro shot in lacrosse is an interesting opportunity for him this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can still contribute anything on the hardwood.

(Ht: Jeff Goodman, Stadium)