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No. 19 Cincinnati overcomes poor shooting, beats SMU 76-56

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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — Cincinnati showed that in a matchup of stingy defensive teams, a lot of effort overcomes a lot of missed shots.

Jacob Evans III scored 18 points, and Gary Clark had a big second half as the 19th-ranked Bearcats pulled away to a 76-56 victory over SMU on Sunday, extending the longest active home-court winning streak in the country.

The game matched the American Athletic Conference’s top defensive teams, and it showed in the first half as they went a combined 15-for-52 from the field and the Bearcats led 34-20.

“We’re not always pretty at times, but our effort’s tremendous and as a coach, you appreciate that,” Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin said.

Cincinnati (14-2, 3-0) broke it open with a 12-point run late in the first half featuring Evans’ 3-pointer. Clark scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half as the Bearcats finally got the ball inside and pushed the lead to 20. Instead of allowing SMU to double-team him, Clark started heading for the basket as soon as he got the ball.

“It was more me taking too long,” Clark said. “I’m allowing them to come and trap. In the second half once they got it to me, I was going.”

SMU (12-5, 2-2) shot only 35.7 percent from the field and had 18 turnovers that set up 26 of Cincinnati’s points. Jarrey Foster led the Mustangs with 16 points.

“Beyond frustrating,” SMU coach Tim Jankovich said. “It was as frustrating as any game I can remember in a number of years. Whenever you turn the ball over that many times and just play so sloppy, it’s just really hard.”

The Bearcats have won 35 straight home games on two courts. They’ve gone 9-0 while playing this season at BB&T Arena at Northern Kentucky University while their on-campus arena is renovated. They went 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena last season.

BIG PICTURE

SMU: The Mustangs’ offense unraveled against Cincinnati’s match-up defense. They couldn’t get the ball inside — a typical possession involved passing around the perimeter and forcing one up as the shot clock wound down. SMU’s 20 first-half points were its fewest in any half this season.

“It’s digging in,” Cincinnati’s Evans said. “If we worry about defense and rebounding, we should be fine.”

Cincinnati: The Bearcats survived a poor shooting performance for a 55-53 win at Temple on Thursday, managing only three 3-pointers while shooting 39 percent from the field overall. They were even worse in the first half on Sunday, shooting 28 percent and managing only four points in the paint before Clark asserted himself.

BROOME RETURNS

Cincinnati point guard Cane Broome was back after missing two games with a sprained ankle. He played 12 minutes, missed all of his three shots, finished with three points off free throws, and had three turnovers and two assists.

HORRID HALF

Cincinnati led 34-20 at the end of a first half featuring horrid shooting — SMU 30 made percent from the field, UC 28 percent. It was the fewest points the Mustangs had scored in any half this season.

TOUGH D

Cincinnati led the AAC in defense coming into the game, allowing 58.7 points on average. SMU was second at 59.8 points. The Bearcats were only the second team to score 76 points against SMU this season. The Mustangs’ worst defensive game was a 94-83 loss at TCU.

SMU AGAINST THE RANKED

The Mustangs are 2-2 against ranked teams this season. They’ve beaten Arizona and Southern California. They’ve lost to TCU and Cincinnati.

UP NEXT

The Mustangs host Temple on Wednesday.

The Bearcats begin a two-game Florida swing, playing at South Florida on Saturday followed by a game at UCF on Tuesday.

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?