Rhode Island upsets No. 21 Nebraska, 66-62, in overtime

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Rhode Island upset No. 21 Nebraska, 66-62, in overtime on Saturday night in front of a sold-out, on campus crowd at the Ryan Center in South Kingstown.

Jared Terrell began overtime with an open three from E.C. Matthews. A poor shooting night as a team from behind the arc (3-for-19) didn’t shake Terrell’s confidence to take a step-back baseline three on the next possession — following two Shavon Shields free throws — to give Rhode Island a two-possession lead at 59-55, marking the first time either team held a lead larger than two since 7:20 left in the second half.

Terrell’s quick rally helped the Rams go on a 9-2 run to start overtime en route to a marquee non-conference win three games into the 2014-15 season, the third under head coach Danny Hurley.

The last time Rhode Island had knocked off a ranked opponent was Dec. 2, 1998 when the Rams defeated No. 25 Utah. That team included Lamar Odom. Almost a full sixteen years later, students on campus are more prone to associate Odom in his supporting role with the Kardashian clan than with their basketball program.

“It was a great night for a fans,” Hurley said in the post-game press conference. “It was a night our fans were waiting for for a long time. We’ve got a great group of young guys here [with] senior leaders. This isn’t going to be our last moment like this. This is a big step forward for us in terms of our confidence and knowing what we’re capable of doing, finishing a game like that against that quality of an opposition. It was an enormous moment for our program.”

There had been smoke in South Kingstown for quite some time now ever since the arrival of Hurley in 2012. He came in having rebuilt Wagner with a 20-win turnaround in just two seasons. He also saw early success on the recruiting trail with his first recruiting class consisting of Matthews and Hassan Martin, both rated in the Rivals150. The next class was headlined by the late addition of Terrell. Matthews shared A10 Rookie of the Year honors last season, a year in which the Rams endure a laundry list of close calls with 11 of 18 losses decided by single digits.

But now, after an upset win over a ranked opponent, there is fire in this upstart Rhode Island program.

source:
Rhode Island’s E.C. Matthews, Nebraska’s Shavon Shields (AP)

Saturday night served as the first tangible evidence that Rhode Island is ready to make the jump to the top of the Atlantic 10 Conference standings aside the likes of VCU, Dayton, George Washington and UMass. This was Rhode Island’s first competitive contest after double-digit wins over Pace and UMass Lowell. The former is a Division II school out of New York, and the latter is a Division I newbie, a ex-conference rival of Pace just two years ago.

The Rams have one of the conference’s top guards in Matthews, who scored 22 of 26 after halftime, getting to the line 14 times, sinking 11 of his attempts. He had struggled to get open looks, but remained steadfast in the second half, something that may not have happened a season ago as a freshman.

“I say my demeanor,” Matthews said when asked what changed in the second half. “Last year, I’d probably hang my head. But I have a great coach and great teammates. They believed in me and told me to stay aggressive.”

That confidence isn’t limited to the star shooting guard. You could see Terrell’s confidence grow as the game wore on, even when he missed 2-of-4 free throws down the stretch, that didn’t deter him from stroking two 3-pointers that sparked the overtime victory.

Terrell was relentless against Nebraska’s Terran Pettway. The all-Big Ten wing did finish with 15 points, but it was off 5-of-18 shooting with three of those buckets coming in transition and another being an uncontested dunk. Terrell provided him little space for Pettway to operate and closely contested every jump shot.

That toughness was also found on the glass where the Rams held a 49-36 advantage, holding Nebraska to seven offensive rebounds on the night compared to Rhody’s 16.

“I think Rhode Island is a pretty good team,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles added. “I haven’t seen the whole A10 so I can speak to that, but Coach Hurley has a physical group.”

For the Rams, they’ll have little time to bask in Saturday night’s win, which included the first court storming of the college basketball season. Rhode Island travels to Florida for the Orlando Classic, where it is pitted against No. 5 Kansas in the quarterfinals.

“I thought they canceled that tournament. I thought we we’re getting Thanksgiving off,” Hurley joked.

“Those guys are a blue blood program, but we’re going to enjoy this tonight. Everyone should. It was magical night here, this did a lot for our brand. We have a lot of work to do. We have a huge, huge tournament against one of the best teams in the country. They probably aren’t in a great mood after their game against Kentucky, but our preparation is going to be good. We’re going to practice the right way and we’re going to have a game plan to be in the mix with them.”

The Rams will have their work cut out for them in Orlando, but Saturday’s win was another step in the right direction. Rhody is rising, maybe sooner than expected.

“First year was a huge task,” Hurley said. “Last year, you start to see it coming together with E.C. and Hassan coming into the mix; these dynamic young players. You start to be more confident and bring in the next class of kids with Jared and Jarvis [Garrett] and Earl [Watson].

“We going to go through ups and downs and growing pains this season. We’re a young, young team relative to college basketball. So they’re will be bumps in the road, but I know these young guys were building this thing with, this core group here, how can you not know what’s coming?”

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.