Johnson, Clark lead No. 18 Cincinnati past USF 68-54

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Cincinnati’s Gary Clark tried to put another rout of struggling South Florida into perspective.

The Bearcats bounced back from their first loss in two months with a 68-54 victory Wednesday night, with Clark leading the way with 13 points and 14 rebounds – his sixth double-double of the season.

“There’s still work to do, a lot of work to do,” Clark said. “The reality is that you’ve still got more games and still have a lot of prepping to do, a lot of growing as a team to do something in March.”

Kevin Johnson scored 14 points, Kyle Washington had 13 points and nine rebounds and Jacob Evans overcame early foul trouble to finish with 10 points and help the Bearcats (23-2, 12-1 American) shrug off last Sunday’s nine-point loss to SMU and surpass their victory total for last season.

USF (7-18, 1-13) snapped a 12-game losing streak last weekend and found a way to keep it relatively close until Cincinnati began the second half on an 11-2 run to build its lead to 41-24. Geno Thorpe led the Bulls with 19 points, but no one else had more than seven.

“They’re not easy to play,” said USF interim coach Murry Bartow, whose team lost at Cincinnati by 41 points on Jan. 29. “They have really, really good players, and I love the way they play. They play the way I like to play. My type of guys, I like a physical team. … They’re big, physical and strong. ”

Cincinnati never trailed and limited USF to 36 percent shooting, while blocking eight shots and forcing 21 turnovers. The Bearcats led 30-22 at halftime and by as many as 24 points after the break.

Clark said defense was the key to the second-half surge.

“Deflections, steals, swarming. Just getting out on the break,” Clark said. “Big steals leading to easy baskets.”

BIG PICTURE

Predictably, Cincinnati rebounded from its first loss in two months in convincing fashion. USF has only won once in 12 games since Bartow took over for Orlando Antigua, who was fired last month. The Bulls haven’t beaten a ranked opponent since upsetting Louisville on the road in February 2012 and lost an earlier meeting with the Bearcats 94-53 on Jan. 29.

COLD-SHOOTING

USF, coming off beating East Carolina last week to end a 12-game losing streak, trailed 30-22 at halftime, despite shooting just under 32 percent (7 for 22). Poor marksmanship and sloppy ball-handling eventually took their toll, with the Bulls missing 10 of 11 shots during the stretch in which Cincinnati built its lead to 17. The Bearcats finished with 13 steals and scored 24 points off turnovers.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Last Sunday’s loss to then-No. 25 SMU sent Cincinnati tumbling seven spots in the poll, while SMU moved up to No. 19. Beating USF won’t hurt the Bearcats, but it’s not likely help them make up any ground that they lost in this week’s rankings.

UP NEXT

Cincinnati returns home to face Tulsa on Saturday. The Bearcats have won 23 straight at Fifth Third Arena.

USF plays Saturday at Tulane, which beat the Bulls 82-67 on the road for the Green Wave’s only conference victory.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

Virginia, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Vandy in NIT Tip-Off

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NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia and Vanderbilt will meet in one semifinal of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off on Thanksgiving Day at Barclays Center.

Rhode Island and Seton Hall face off in the other semifinal with the winners meeting on Friday, Nov. 24.

This is the third straight year the Tip-Off has been held at Barclays Center. Eventual NCAA champion Villanova won the event in 2015. All games will be televised on ESPNU.

Non-bracketed teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off who will play games at campus sites are: Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Oakland City and UNC Asheville.

Miles Bridges explain why he returned to Michigan State

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Miles Bridges changed the landscape of the 2017-18 college basketball season on April 13.

The Michigan State forward spurned the NBA for another year in East Lansing. The decision not only meant that Bridges was a frontrunner for national player of the year, but solidified the Spartans as a national title contender.

But Bridges’ choice to return was still puzzling to many. The 6-foot-7 forward was projected as a lottery pick. Bridges explained his decision to Mike Decourcy of Sporting News in a story published on Thursday.

“He says, ‘You know what, Coach? I want to get better. I don’t want to be in the D-League. I’ve got buddies that are, and I just want to make sure when I go, I’m ready,’ ” Izzo recalled to Sporting News. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Done deal.’ For me, that was a done deal. It was a reasonable, sensible argument.”

Agents, friends, reporters, scouts, acquaintances, fans, strangers and family members — oh and, as we said, coaches — all had one opinion about how Bridges should spend the next year of his life. Miles had another, opposing, viewpoint.

Bridges told Decourcy that support came from his teammates, many of whom were returning to the team as well. Assuming the backcourt of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford make a leap forward, as well as incoming freshman Jaren Jackson providing an immediate impact, the Spartans’ title hopes could become a reality.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman at Michigan State. He’s rated as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

Four conferences sign on to basketball officiating alliance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Four more Division I conferences will join a men’s basketball officiating alliance formed last year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

The Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast and the Patriot League are joining ahead of the 2017-18 season, according to announcements from the leagues Thursday. The alliance launched last summer for conferences to work together on officiating matters and enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s supervisor of officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, will continue to lead the alliance operations.

ACC commissioner John Swofford says the new additions to the alliance “provide an even greater opportunity to build chemistry and quality” across the officiating ranks.

North Carolina to unveil national championship banner in October

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The latest addition to the rafters of the Dean Dome will be unveiled this fall.

North Carolina will raise the banner for its 2017 national championship on Oct. 13, according to a report from Inside Carolina.

The event will coincide with the Tar Heels’ “Late Night With Roy” event that marks the public start to the season for the program and also serves, like many other top programs, as a recruiting tool.

North Carolina won its sixth NCAA national championship in April by defeating Gonzaga, 71-65, in Phoenix to avenge its last-second loss in the title game to Villanova the year prior. It was the Tar Heels’ first championship since 2009.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball highlights

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It was the most anticipated matchup of the summer.

Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball.

People were turned away at the door – and LeBron James reportedly came and went – as the gym reached capacity for SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory over the Big Ballers. That’s Williamson over Ball (LaMelo and LaVar).

The game was mostly spectacle, and you can see it’s top moments right here.