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No. 24 Tennessee rallies from 10 down, beats Vanderbilt 92-84

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Grant Williams gave a glimpse of just how dominant he can be inside when avoiding foul trouble.

Williams scored a career-best 37 points as No. 24 Tennessee rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat Vanderbilt 92-84 on Tuesday night.

“These officials were amazing,” Williams said after finishing with only two fouls. “Two of them were Final Four officials, and you knew it was going to be a good game, so they did their job tonight. … It was even 22-23, so what more can you ask for?”

With the sophomore forward staying out of foul trouble, Vanderbilt couldn’t handle the 6-foot-7, 241-pound Williams around the basket despite double-teaming him at times. Admiral Schofield tied his career high with 22 points as Tennessee (11-4, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) won its second straight.

“He’s good,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said of Williams. “He’s really good down there when he gets it deep and he goes quick. And we knew. We spent a lot of time expecting double-teams not just on Grant but on Admiral. … He’s only going to continue to get double-teamed.”

Jordan Bowden scored all 12 of his points in the second half for the Volunteers.

Saben Lee led Vanderbilt with 21 points. Jeff Roberson added 19 and Riley LaChance had 16. Matthew Fisher-Davis scored 10 for the Commodores (6-10, 1-3), who had their highest-scoring game yet in SEC play.

“That should be good enough to win games,” coach Bryce Drew said after his team put up 84 points.

The Volunteers trailed 50-40 after LaChance scored the first five for Vanderbilt to open the second half. Vanderbilt still led 56-47 when the Vols went on a 13-1 run to take the lead back on four straight points by Williams, the last two on a layup with 8:11 left in a game with 12 ties and 16 lead changes.

Tennessee didn’t lose that lead again, and pushed it out to as much as 10 down the stretch.

Tennessee opened the game by scoring seven of the first nine points. Then the Commodores started knocking down shot after shot, especially outside the arc. By the time LaChance beat the buzzer with yet another 3-pointer, the Commodores led 45-35 at halftime by shooting 8 of 15 (53.3 percent) from long range.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers have scored the most points they’ve ever managed in Memorial Gym in back-to-back seasons. They scored 87 in a win a year ago and topped that Tuesday night. The Vols have won three of their last four trips to Memorial. They also have won three of four road games this season.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores couldn’t hold onto a double-digit lead on their own court, and a team that shoots 3-pointers so very well in bunches went cold in the second half. The Commodores went just 3 of 11 over the final 20 minutes. Worse, they were only 15 of 22 (68.2 percent) at the free throw line.

NOTABLE STAT

Not only did Williams set a career best for points, he made and attempted a career high at the free throw line, where he went 13 of 15. Tennessee shot 89.3 percent from the line (25 of 28). Williams said he and Jordan Bone talked of how he hadn’t played well in his first two games in Nashville.

“It’s kind of funny that this night turned out the way it was,” Williams said. “I’m glad it happened, glad we got the win.”

QUOTABLE

“Tale of two halves again for us,” Drew said. “Unfortunately, the bad one was in the second half. First half, executed well, moved the ball well. Defensively we were able to get a few more stops on that end, and we outrebounded them, which I thought was a huge key coming in. The second half, they turned the tables.”

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers host Texas A&M on Saturday night.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores host No. 21 Kentucky on Saturday afternoon for back-to-back home games against ranked teams.

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

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Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

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TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

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Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

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For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.