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VIDEO: Sean East II drains full-court buzzer-beater to end half for UMass

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UMass guard Sean East II made a ridiculous full-court buzzer-beater to end the first half as the Minutemen hosted Northeastern on Tuesday night.

In the midst of a tight game, East took the inbounds roll from teammate Samba Diallo and drained the improbable jumper — taking it from beyond the opposing free-throw line. The massive heave gave UMass a 36-34 halftime lead as they’re still battling Northeastern in the second half.

(H/t: UMass Basketball)

Santos-Silva leads No. 25 VCU past St. Francis, 72-58

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RICHMOND, Va. — Marcus Santos-Silva joked that he has a habit of stealing rebounds from teammates.

His guys weren’t the only victims on Tuesday night as he had 21 points and 18 rebounds for No. 25 VCU, which used a big early run to take command in a 72-58 victory over St. Francis in the season opener for both teams.

The Rams are not the biggest team, and Santos-Silva is just 6-foot-7, but the junior said size might be overrated.

“We just play with heart. We feel like we can beat anyone,” he said. “Height and stuff don’t matter to us. If we just go out there and play how we play, we can compete with anyone in the country.”

Coach Mike Rhoades said his big man’s secret is simple.

“You know how he rebounds everything? He goes after everything, and that’s his mentality. That’s huge,” Rhoades said.

The Rams looked sharp from the start, using a 23-5 spree to open a 25-9 lead with just over eight minutes left in the first half. Six players scored in the run, while the Red Flash missed 12 of 14 shots and turned the ball over six times.

“Against a team like that, at home, talented, the style they play, you can’t dig yourself that kind of a hole,” St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel said. His team finished with 19 turnovers against the Rams’ pressing, trapping defense, leading to 20 points for VCU.

Rhoades found plenty for the Rams to work on.

“We had some good stretches throughout the game but not enough long stretches,” he said. The coach also could have done without a few attempts at highlight reel alley-oop plays and other plays he described as “cute.”

“We got the jitters out. We got the first game out of the way,” Rhoades said.

The Red Flash, regular-season co-champions in the Northeast Conference last season, trailed by as many as 21 in the second half, but rallied to within 55-45 with 7:23 to play. But Marcus Evans scored the Rams’ next six points in an 8-2 run that pushed the lead back up to 16.

De’Riante Jenkins added 16 points and Evans scored 12 for the Rams.

Isaiah Blackmon scored 15 and Keith Braxton had 11 for the Red Flash. They finished 21 of 65 from the field, just 24.2%, with 19 turnovers.

BIG PICTURE

St. Francis: The Red Flash rely heavily on the tandem of Braxton, the reigning NEC player of the year, and Blackmon, but both struggled in the opener. They were both 2 for 9 from the field in the opening half as VCU opened its big lead. Neither ever found his stroke with Braxton finishing 4 for 15 and Blackmon 5 for 14.

“We wanted to make sure we wore Braxton down the whole time,” Rhoades said. Braxton played just over 35 minutes.

VCU: The Rams emphasized defense last season and were among the national leaders in several categories. They appear to have picked up where they left off. They forced eight first-half turnovers and limited the Red Flash to 23.5% shooting (8 for 33) and just one 3-pointer in 10 attempts in a dominant first half. Trying to come back, the Red Flash finished 6 for 21 from beyond the 3-point arc.

UP NEXT

St. Francis will again be in Richmond to face the Richmond Spiders on Friday night.

VCU remains at home and will play North Texas on Friday night.

Saint Louis freshman Carte’Are Gordon expected to transfer

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Saint Louis freshman big man Carte’Are Gordon is expected to transfer, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The news was first reported by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.

The former top-100 prospect sent out a cryptic tweet saying goodbye to Saint Louis earlier on Wednesday. The 6-foot-8 Gordon is expected to officially move on from the program by the end of the week.

Gordon was one of the highest-rated Saint Louis recruits in years as he was seen as a centerpiece for head coach Travis Ford to potentially build with. Gordon has been committed to the Billikens since late in 2016. During freshman season, Gordon was averaging 8.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while playing in 24.5 minutes per contest.

Saint Louis is expected to be a major factor in the Atlantic 10 race this season, as losing Gordon right before conference play is a major blow for the Billikens.

Atlantic 10 basketball returns to NBCSN for 2018-19 season

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Atlantic 10 men’s basketball returns to NBCSN for the 2018-19 season as the network will feature 33 conference and postseason matchups, the league announced.

Coverage will begin with five games during the weekend of Jan. 5-6 that concludes with a tripleheader on Sunday, Jan. 6. A quadruple-header also goes down on Saturday, Jan. 19, along with three total doubleheaders. The conference tournament will also be covered as the second round and quarterfinals will be on NBCSN for eight total postseason games.

All Atlantic 10 games featured on NBCSN will also be available for streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. The A-10 featured three NCAA tournament teams in 2018 as Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure and Davidson all played in the Field of 68.

Saint Louis lands graduate transfer guard Tramaine Isabell

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Saint Louis added a quality graduate transfer guard on Friday as Drexel’s Tramaine Isabell pledged to the Billikens.

Returning to the state of Missouri after starting his college basketball career with two years at Mizzou, the 6-foot-1 Isabell had a breakout junior season with the Dragons in which he averaged 21.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

Immediately eligible for next season, Isabell was one of the most productive guards left on the transfer market as this is a great get for head coach Travis Ford and Saint Louis. The Billikens have a talented team coming back for the 2018-19 season as Isabell gives them a noted scorer and a much-needed perimeter shooting threat.

Contenders in the Atlantic 10 next season, Saint Louis has a lot of promising pieces returning, including Javon Bess, Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French. With the Billikens also securing a quality recruiting class — including in-state forward Carte’Are Gordon — expectations are going to be high for the upcoming season.

Heart ailment sidelines UMass G Jaylen Brantley

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 18: Reed Tellinghuisen #23 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits fouls Jaylen Brantley #1 of the Maryland Terrapins as Keaton Moffitt #12 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits looks on in the second half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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In his first season as head coach at UMass, Matt McCall inherited a couple players capable of aiding in the rebuilding process in guard Luwane Pipkins and forward Rashaan Holloway, and he added a transfer guard in Jaylen Brantley. Brantley, who played two seasons at Maryland before returning to his home state, was expected to be an immediate factor in the Minutemen rotation this season.

Unfortunately that will not be the case, as it was announced Tuesday that Brantley’s career is over after a previously undetected heart ailment was found during a medical exam. UMass has a medical policy in which it administers an electrocardiogram (EKG) test as part of its initial examination of incoming athletes, which is how Brantley’s heart ailment was detected.

“While knowing my basketball career will be over, the fact that I will be able to live a healthy, normal lifestyle does give me peace of mind,” Brantley said per the release. “This has been a hard process, but I am thankful for the support and guidance of Coach McCall, the medical staff at UMass, my teammates, my mother and my family.

“It’s certainly a difficult diagnosis to receive, but there is so much I want to do in life and knowing this early will help me in the long term. I thank God that this condition was detected and may have saved my life and, for that, I will be forever grateful.”

While Brantley’s career coming to an end is certainly a negative, it is good for his sake that this situation was detected. Brantley, who transferred to UMass as a graduate student, will remain on scholarship while helping the program in what was termed as a “leadership role” in the release.

As for how Brantley’s situation impacts UMass on the court, the team’s depth at the point takes a hit with Pipkins and redshirt freshman Unique McLean being the other available scholarship options. Keon Clergeot, who began his collegiate career at Memphis, will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.