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Evans scores 17, No. 18 Cincinnati beats Tulsa 80-60

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CINCINNATI (AP) The only thing that Mick Cronin mentioned to his team at halftime was defense. The 18th-ranked Bearcats got the message.

Jacob Evans III scored 13 of his 17 points while Cincinnati took control in the first half, and the Bearcats clamped down defensively in the second half and pulled away to an 80-60 victory over Tulsa on Saturday.

Cincinnati (24-3, 13-1 American Athletic) has won 24 straight on its home court, including a couple of close escapes this season. The Bearcats put this one away early in the second half, limiting Tulsa to two free throws in the first 6:47.

“In the second half, the kids made a concerted effort to do a much better job,” said Cronin, who got his 300th career coaching victory. “They didn’t score a whole lot in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Our defense was way, way better in the second half.”

Kyle Washington added 18 points for Cincinnati while Gary Clark had 14 points and eight rebounds.

Junior Etou scored 22 points for Tulsa (12-14, 6-8) , which has lost a season-high six in a row. The Golden Hurricane were only 6 of 16 from the field in the second half, a reflection of how much the Bearcats took Cronin’s halftime message to heart.

“He’s just worried about our defense and intensity and effort,” Washington said. “He really doesn’t get on us for mistakes. He gets on us for hustle. We make up for it by going 10 times harder.”

Washington had two baskets and a free throw during a 10-point run that put Cincinnati in control late in the first half. Evans made two free throws followed by a steal and a layup as Cincinnati pulled ahead 54-34 early in the second half. The Bearcats led by as many as 27 points.

“We weren’t physical enough to come in here and win that game,” Tulsa coach Frank Haith said.

BIG PICTURE

Tulsa: Offense has been the big issue during the Golden Hurricane’s losing streak. They have been held to 60 points or fewer five times in the six games.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ 24-game home winning streak is their third longest at Fifth Third Arena, which opened in 1989. They won 41 straight at home from 1997-2000, and 25 straight from 1992-94.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Cincinnati slipped from No. 11 after its 60-51 loss at SMU on Feb. 12. The Bearcats have won their two games since, including 68-54 at South Florida on Wednesday.

BENCHED

Cincinnati freshman guard Jarron Cumberland didn’t play because of a curfew violation. Cumberland averages 17 minutes and 7.3 points per game. He had scored double figures in three of the previous seven games.

CRONIN AT 300

The Bearcats honored Cronin on the court following his 300th career victory, giving him a commemorative basketball. He’s 231-132 in 11 seasons at Cincinnati.

“I’ve been fortunate,” Cronin said. “I’ve grown up around great coaches. I’ve been around what it takes to win.”

NOT MUCH HELP

Tulsa’s bench contributed only eight points. The Golden Hurricane’s bench had been averaging nearly 24 per game, accounting for 35.7 percent of their points.

UP NEXT

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane host South Florida on Thursday. They won at South Florida 70-67 on Jan. 21.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats host Memphis on Thursday night. They split their series last season, with each team winning at home.

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.