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No. 23 Tennessee rallies to beat No. 17 Kentucky 76-65

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Admiral Schofield had 20 points and nine rebounds Saturday night and No. 23 Tennessee rallied in the second half to beat No. 17 Kentucky 76-65 and end a two-game skid.

This marks the third consecutive season that Tennessee (10-4, 1-2 SEC) has beaten Kentucky (12-3, 2-1) in Knoxville. Kentucky entered the night leading the overall series 153-69, but no team has beaten the Wildcats as often as Tennessee.

The Volunteers had blown leads of at least nine points in each of its four losses this season – including its first two SEC games – while Kentucky had rallied from halftime deficits to beat Georgia and LSU in its first two SEC matchups.

This time, it was Tennessee staging the second-half comeback.

Grant Williams scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half as Tennessee erased an eight-point halftime deficit. Lamonte Turner added 11 points and five assists.

Quade Green scored 14 points to lead Kentucky. PJ Washington had 13 points and Wenyen Gabriel added 11 points, but both missed much of the second half. Washington limped to the locker room with about 12 1/2 minutes left and didn’t return, while Gabriel fouled out with just under 12 minutes remaining.

After Kentucky built a 37-29 halftime lead, former Tennessee star and SEC player of the year Ron Slay went onto the Thompson-Boling Arena court and delivered a pep talk to the sellout crowd. The Vols responded as soon as the second half began.

Williams tied the game at 39-all with 17:28 left and he then drew his third foul 11 seconds later when he was defending Gabriel and the two players collided. Tennessee argued the call, and technical fouls ended up being assessed to both Vols coach Rick Barnes and Kentucky coach John Calipari.

This marked the first time a Tennessee coach had picked up a technical foul since Bruce Pearl received one on March 11, 2011. A total of 216 games had elapsed since a Tennessee coach had been assessed a technical foul.

Williams put Tennessee ahead for good with 12:37 left as part of a 10-0 run that eventually gave the Vols a 54-47 lead with 11:12 remaining. Washington got injured and Gabriel fouled out during that spurt.

Both teams had been dealing with flu bugs this week.

Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo and forwards Sacha Killeya-Jones and Nick Richards were feeling sick Wednesday in a 74-71 victory at LSU. Tennessee’s Jordan Bone also had the flu this week.

Diallo scored five points in 16 minutes before fouling out. Killeya-Jones had four points in 16 minutes and Richards had nine points in 24 minutes. Bone was Tennessee’s starting point guard but played just 9 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats built their first-half lead by working the ball inside on offense and containing Williams on defense. They weren’t nearly as effective doing either of those things in the second half. After outscoring Tennessee 22-6 in the paint in the first half, Tennessee had a 24-10 edge in that category in the second half.

Tennessee: The Vols badly needed this victory to avoid falling to 0-3 in SEC competition with three of their next four games on the road. Barnes had criticized Tennessee for playing too casually in a 94-84 loss to Auburn on Tuesday, and the Vols’ second-half comeback was an impressive response.

NEXT UP

Kentucky hosts No. 11 Texas A&M on Tuesday.

Tennessee is at Vanderbilt 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?