Seton Hall Athletics

Braeden Anderson’s journey from academic ineligibility to law school

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Today, Braeden Anderson is the NCAA’s poster boy, everything they could dream a student-athlete to be.

He finished his undergraduate degree with two years of eligibility remaining, transferring from Fresno State to Seton Hall so he can use scholarship money to pay for his first two years of law school. He did that despite being uprooted from his first school midway through freshman year. He did that despite being in a car accident that should have left him paralyzed.

Today, Braeden Anderson is talking to the media about the importance of student-athletes being, yanno, students. He’s trumpeting the value of an education. He’s pleading with his basketball and football-playing peers to take advantage of the scholarship that’s put in front of them.

“The benefit that you’re getting, the reason that schools are able to make millions off of you, is because you’re getting an education,” he says, as if reading off of a notecard that Mark Emmert slipped him before answering a call from NBCSports.com. “You better be actually taking advantage of that education. That’s what you’re getting paid with!”

But four years ago, an NCAA ruling made it clear that the association did not believe that he would be capable of handling the rigors of a college classroom. Shortly thereafter, a Big 12 ruling forbid him from taking advantage of the scholarship that he had been given by Kansas head coach Bill Self. He wasn’t, they said, enough of a student to be an athlete in the NCAA.

My oh my, how time flies.

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Tacko Fall was the latest social media cause célèbre in the fight against the NCAA, a battle that was won by the masses on Friday. Braeden Anderson knows all too well about the fight that Fall had on his hands.

Fall is a freshman at Central Florida, a 7-foot-6 center from Senegal that is getting As and Bs in Calculus, Chemistry and Engineering classes as we speak, yet the NCAA, last week, told Fall that he was no longer allowed to practice. According to the NCAA, Fall was not prepared to handle the academic rigors of a college curriculum.

Laughable, I know.

It all stems from some bad advice that Fall got when he first arrived in this country in 2012. He spent a year bouncing between sketchy prep schools before finally landing at Liberty Christian, a school that is under extended evaluation by the NCAA. He spent two years there, which is part of the reason the NCAA initially only accepted 7.5 core credits.

It’s not that Fall didn’t do the work, it’s that the NCAA does not trust the school he did the work at, a school he probably never should have been at in the first place.

The good news? The NCAA reversed course and cleared Fall to play this season.

Anderson, however, was nowhere near as lucky.

Despite getting a 1450 on his SATs and earning two As in summer school classes when he first arrived at Kansas, Anderson was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA. He was allowed to go to school and practice with the team, but he was not allowed to suit up on game day. An academic redshirt, if you will. The Big 12, however, decided against allowing him to receive his scholarship, and Anderson, as a result, was forced to leave the school that September, transferring to Fresno State, because he could not afford to pay his own tuition. He sat out the 2011-12 season and was forced to miss the first 20 games of the 2012-13 campaign.

A member of the high school Class of 2011, Anderson didn’t see his first minutes on a college court until February 6th, 2013.

That initial eligibility ruling?

It essentially cost Anderson two years.

And like Fall, it all stemmed from some bad advice Anderson, a native Canadian, received when he came to this country. Anderson followed his AAU coach — Ro Russell, who founded the Grassroots Canada program — to North Carolina with the intention of attending Christian Faith Center Academy. This was back in 2009, before Canadians like Andrew Wiggins and Tristan Thompson made our neighbors to the north the latest recruiting hotbed. “I was really, really good over there,” Anderson, who was averaging 30 points and 15 boards as a 14 year old, “but I couldn’t get any exposure. It wasn’t like it is now.”

But Russell’s promises never came to fruition, and it’s unclear if the school, as Russell described it, ever actually existed. According to an investigation by the CBC’s Fifth Estate — Canada’s equivalent to Dateline NBC — the 11 players that Russell brought to North Carolina weren’t enrolled at CFCA. Instead, they were in a school with a similar name that was owned by Russell. They practiced at CFCA’s gym and, as Anderson put it back in 2011, “our basketball jerseys said ‘Christian Faith Center’ on them,” but they didn’t attend class, according to Fifth Estate. They took online courses while their parents continued to send tuition money to Russell.

Whether this was a scam by Russell or simply a way for him to try and work around a delay in student visas is unclear. What is clear, however, is that it was those online courses that weren’t accepted by the NCAA, and Anderson was far from the only player that got caught up in the wake of the scandal.

“I was not a bad student when I was ruled a partial,” Anderson said. “I cared about education more than most kids.”

The irony here is that Anderson is actually thankful for the opportunity that Russell provided him, even though the mess Russell created at CFCA cost Anderson a chance to play at Kansas, even though he went 20 months between his first college class and his first college game. The school may not have been real, but the exposure was. The recruiting letters and scholarship offers were, and Anderson firmly believes that, were it not for that school year, he would not be in a position today to be receive an athletic scholarship to attend law school.

“Am I mad at him? Of course not,” Anderson said. “If it wasn’t for him giving me that first shot, I wouldn’t have had all the other opportunities that came after that.”

“At that point I had options I didn’t have before. Basketball-wise, it was great. The legal, technical stuff, that was a mess.”

That mess may have damaged Anderson’s basketball career, but it couldn’t put a dent in his spirit.

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The a typical day for a first-year law student that plays college basketball in the Big East begins at roughly 6:00 a.m. That’s when Braeden Anderson gets out of bed to make the protein shake that he drinks every morning while reading over the roughly 100 pages of notes that he took for class that day.

He’s in class by 7:30 most mornings, although a couple days a week he has the luxury of waiting until 8:30 before the learning commences. He’ll be in class until 12:30, when he has a chance to head back to his apartment to get some food before practice. He’s usually there more than an hour early so he can get treatment, watch film and maybe get a quick lift in — his morning classes mean that he’s not there for Seton Hall’s individual workouts, team lifts or film sessions — before practice, which normally lasts until about 6:00 p.m.

After he gets dinner, Anderson’s night consists of … studying. He’ll read, take notes and prep for the next morning’s rigorous course load.

“Law school is different from normal school in the sense that they’re not there to teach you what the law is. They’re not there to teach you what you need to know,” he said. “Your job is to go home and teach yourself the law through what you read, and when you come to class you need to be prepared to solve problems with the tools that you learned on your own time.”

He’s normally in bed by 1:00 a.m., giving him a full five hours of sleep on a good night.

“I could do a half-assed job and get to bed by 10, but I want to be doing my best. I want to really understand everything and I’ve done everything that I’m expected to do,” he said. He wants to get the most out of that $90,000-a-year law school education. “Sleep is not one of the luxuries I have at the moment.”

Seton Hall Athletics
Seton Hall Athletics

“He’s a very determined young man,” said head coach Kevin Willard, who recruited Anderson knowing exactly what he would be doing this season. Anderson’s official visit dealt more with law school than it did with basketball. “He’s very smart and very opinionated, which will probably make him a good lawyer.”

“He has a very mature presence about him, which is really nice in the locker room,” Willard continued. “That’s what I’ve seen, that some of the grab-ass that my younger guys used to do [has ended].”

That’s the result, Willard believes, of just how much Anderson has been through in his life. Because forget moving to a new country at age 15. Forget having to wait 20 months to play college basketball. Both of those pale in comparison to the fight Anderson had on his hands after the car accident that should have ended his career.

It happened on September 3rd, 2013. Anderson was a passenger in a car driven by a Fresno State walk-on Kyle Jackson. Two other teammates were in the car when it was involved in a wreck caused by a drunk driver. One person died in the accident No one else in Anderson’s car was injured, but Anderson’s neck hit the ceiling of the vehicle that he was in. He fractured and displaced his C5 and C6 vertebrae, an injury that surgeons told him had a 0.4 percent chance at a full recovery. He had multiple surgeries. He spent a month and a half in the hospital, losing 60 pounds while spending his days getting poked and prodded with so many needles — getting blood drawn, getting morphine pumped into his veins — that his veins turned rock hard.

“They call them heroin veins,” Anderson said. “one nurse came in and tried to do an IV and asked me if I was a drug addict because my veins were so bad.”

“I didn’t know what pain was until I went through this experience,” he continued. “I kind of wanted to die. In a lot of instances, it was like, ‘OK, I lived long enough.’ It was that bad. You can’t sleep for days at a time because of the pain, and all you can think of is pain, for days on end. There goes a point where you’re like, ‘Hey, I’ve lived a pretty good life, I’ve accomplished some things. I’m a good person. You know what? Just take me.'”

He missed the entire 2013-14 season as he recovered.

To look at it another way, Anderson’s first full season of college basketball came in 2014-15, when he should have been a senior.

Those NBA dreams he had when he committed to Kansas four years? They were more or less dashed, and as disappointing as that was, it reinforced Anderson’s belief in the educational system. It opened his eyes to how the value and the importance of the scholarship that he was receiving. That will happen when your basketball career — your ability to walk, your life — is dangled in front of you.

“Not to be dark about it, but let’s be honest, the basketball stops bouncing very, very shortly after college,” he said.

And not just for him.

For the overwhelming majority of college athletes as well.

That’s why he’s speaking out.

“I have a problem with what’s going on right now with college athletics and with my peers and my fellow student-athletes,” Anderson said. “I don’t want to pigeon hole football and basketball into a corner here, but it’s mostly those guys that I want to talk to and want to set an example for.”

“When you’re a college athlete, and the NCAA wants to say, ‘hey, you’re an amateur, you’re a student-athlete’, that’s what you are! The benefit that you’re getting. The reason that schools are able to make millions off of you, is because you’re getting an education. You better be actually taking advantage of that education. That’s what you’re getting paid with right now. And that’s something that’s overlooked by so many student-athletes.”

He’s not saying college athletes don’t deserve more. He believes they should.

So don’t get it twisted.

But even with cost of attendance scholarships, even with stipends and money for books and unlimited per diem, Anderson has has a message he believes college athletes need to hear.

“Find a major. Find a degree that actually falls in line with something you might want to do when you’re done playing ball. Research. Make [education] something that’s important. Think about [your] future after [you]’re done playing the sport. You play pro, great, but you still gotta have skills to fall back on after you’re done playing.”

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The root cause of the NCAA’s need for academic regulation and initial eligibility testing is tied to the idea of amateurism and the student-athlete. They need to keep up the facade lest they admit that the athletes whose performance generates billions of dollars for the school and the association are, in fact, professionals and do, indeed, deserve a bigger cut of the profits.

They’ll sell you on the idea that the existence of the NCAA Eligibility Center is to create a level playing field, that it is to ensure that the athletes that are accepted into, say, Auburn have an academic background that is as legitimate as the athletes that can get accepted by Vanderbilt.

But that’s not really the case.

The truth is that the Eligibility Center exists so that the NCAA can say they are doing everything they can to ensure that the athletes accepting those scholarships are capable of utilizing them. It’s the association’s way of testing the academic aptitude of incoming athletes, making sure that they’re functionally ready for college courses. It’s their way of saying these kids are going to be able to reap the benefits of the compensation they’re receiving for playing their sport.

There are a myriad of lawsuits that the NCAA is facing that could change the system entirely. The charade can’t end now.

The issue is that the current process for determining initial eligibility doesn’t measure an athlete’s ability to handle a college classroom moving forward, it evaluates the decisions they’ve made in the past; decisions that, more often than not, were made by an advisor that shouldn’t have been trusted. Did the kid with a sketchy transcript pick the right diploma mill to attend, the one that the NCAA has deemed worthy enough to accept kids from? Did they take the right online courses? Were they able to obtain an accurate transcript from their school in another country or from the public school they attended early in their high school career in a school district that can barely afford to pay their teachers?

The NCAA has reportedly requested the sixth-grade transcripts of Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo, who has yet to be cleared to play this season. Diallo came to America from Mali when he was in ninth grade, completed his summer school classes at Kansas and is well past the midway point of a full load of courses for the fall semester.

But the NCAA needs evidence from when he was 12 years old to determine if he can handle the college courses currently enrolled in? The classes he’s already completed?

And that is the fatal flaw in the initial eligibility process.

A year at a shady prep school run by a con man made the NCAA believe that Braeden Anderson couldn’t handle being a college student. They ignored his SAT score. They ignored the As he had already received in college classes. But they can’t ignore that he’s graduated early, and they can’t ignore that he’s currently enrolled in law school while still playing college basketball.

If that isn’t proof that the initial eligibility process is broken, then I don’t know what is.

Saturday’s Things To Know: Ohio State’s awesome, Cowan the savior, Queta’s back

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Football dominated the conversation on Saturday.

That’s what happens when conference championship games determine who will be in the college football playoff. And some of those football games that were played on Saturday were fun!

But there were also some good, meaningful college basketball games that happened as well.

So if you spent the afternoon and evening eating, drinking and watching football, here are the ten things you need to know after a fun Saturday of hoops.

1. OHIO STATE IS PLAYING LIKE THE BEST TEAM IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL

I don’t know if No. 6 Ohio State in the best team in college basketball right now.

I don’t think anyone in college basketball is the best team.

After seeing Michigan State, Kentucky and Duke lose as the No. 1 team in the country, I feel like a man that has had multiple relationships end because he was cheated on. I can’t fall in love again until I can trust again, and I am definitely not ready to trust a single college basketball team with the title of my girlfr-… I mean, the No. 1 team in college basketball.

That includes Ohio State.

But I do think that I can say this and have it be justifiable simply because it can be backed up with facts: Ohio State is playing like the best team in college basketball right now.

On Saturday afternoon, the Buckeyes mollywhopped Penn State, beating them 106-74 as they became the first Big Ten team to put up triple digits in a conference game since 2006. Before you start snickering about how bad Penn State is, remember this: The Nittany Lions entered the day as the No. 23 team in KenPom’s rankings.

Ohio State beat them by 32 points.

And that’s not the only KenPom top 25 team that they have done this to.

They beat Villanova by 25. They beat North Carolina by 25, and that game took place in Chapel Hill. According to the indefatigable Jordan Sperber, there have been just six games this season where a KenPom top 50 team has lost by 20 or more points. Ohio State is responsible for dispensing three of those butt-kickings.

So while I don’t think that Ohio State will find themselves at the top of the polls on Monday morning, I do think that there is probably an argument to be made that they deserve it.

2. ANTHONY COWAN SAVES MARYLAND FROM DISASTER

The No. 3 Terps dug themselves a 15 point hole at home against Illinois on Saturday afternoon, which is hardly an ideal scenario and more or less the kind of thing that the naysayers have come to expect out of Mark Turgeon teams these days.

But Maryland didn’t lose.

The Terps rallied, and Cowan was the savior. He finished with 20 points, seven boards, six assists and three steals to lead the way, which is impressive, but what matters more is that Cowan scored four points in the final 20 seconds – a 28-foot three followed by a steal, drawing a foul and hitting a free throw – to give Maryland a 59-58 come-from-behind win.

Now, on the one hand, this performance is somewhat worrying. Top five teams playing at home should not find themselves in a 15 point hole to anyone. But everyone is going to have rough nights, and while this certainly qualifies as such, Maryland still found a way to win. Winning ugly is still a win.

And in regards to Cowan, I think that it should be noted that these are the kind of performances we’ve been waiting to see from him. Put the team on his back, carry them to a win they’re not supposed to get. That’s the stuff All-Americans do.

3. BAYLOR’S TRISTAN CLARK IS NOT RIGHT

The No. 18 Bears found a way to hang on and beat No. 12 Arizona in Waco on Saturday, 63-58, despite the fact that they had to give away free tickets – many of which were scooped up by Arizona fans – because their football team was playing in the Big 12 title game at the exact same time.

But Clark only played ten minutes after sitting out Wednesday’s game against UMES with a foot injury and a knee that apparently hasn’t quite recovered from surgery last season. He tweaked something in the first half and never came back in.

I feel for the kid. Last season, when Clark went down, he was arguably the best big man in the Big 12. He was likely a shoe-in for first-team all-conference had he played for the entire season, and the idea of pairing him with Freddie Gillespie, Mark Vital and all of those talented guards was why everyone was so bullish on Baylor entering the season.

And they weren’t wrong.

This is still a top 15 team.

But if Clark can’t get back to being the guy that he was for two months at the start of last season, that’s a pretty big blow to Scott Drew’s frontcourt depth.

4. NEEMIAS QUETA IS BACK

After a full month of nightly speculation about when Utah State would get their 7-foot-1 Portuguese center back from a knee injury, we finally got the answer on Saturday.

Midway through the first half in a home win over Fresno State on Saturday, Queta checked in for the first time this season.

Queta played just 10 minutes, finishing with six points on six free throws, missing all three of his field goals, but it’s his presence and availability that matters. The Aggies have plenty of skill and shooting on this roster. What they have been missing is a defensive anchor and a rim-protector, and those are the things that Queta does well enough to attract NBA attention.

5. MARKUS HOWARD IS BACK, TOO

After missing a game on Wednesday with a concussion, Markus Howard returned to the floor for Marquette on Saturday, and he made a difference.

The Golden Eagles went into the Little Apple and knocked off Kansas State, 73-65, thanks to 19 points from Howard.

6. IT IS TIME TO TAKE BUTLER SERIOUSLY

I know, I know, it’s Florida.

At this point, Florida has made us believers in Florida State, UConn and now Butler. So maybe we should be saying more about the Gators than about the teams they are playing. That’s certainly a conversation worth having at some point.

But I also think that it is fair to point out that Butler, currently sitting 9-0 after a very impressive 76-62 over those Gators – one in which their star, Kamar Baldwin, was just OK – currently has wins over Florida and Minnesota at home, Stanford and Missouri on a neutral and Ole Miss on the road.

This isn’t a fluke anymore.

7. CINCINNATI HAS BIGGER ISSUES THAN JARRON CUMBERLAND’S HEALTH

I don’t know how injured Jarron Cumberland is right now. I know that he had some issues early in the season that kept him out of practice for a few weeks, and I know that he and head coach John Brannen have had their issues. Cumberland has missed two games this season. He only played 18 minutes in a win against Vermont. His numbers are way down from last season.

On Saturday, Cumberland was 4-for-14 from the floor and finished with just 11 points in a 73-66 loss at Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout.

The bottom line is this: Right now, whatever is going on between Cumberland and Brannen is torpedoing what could have been a really good season.

8. KANSAS PASSED ANOTHER TEST AT HOME

I was actually really curious to see how Kansas would bounce back from their win in the Maui Invitational on Saturday when they hosted No. 20 Colorado.

The Buffaloes are tough. They are a veteran group that is well-coached and that defends the paint well. They have the bodies to give Udoka Azubuike some trouble inside. But that didn’t happen. There was no Maui hangover. The Jayhawks picked off the Buffaloes, 72-58, in a game that was closer to 20 in the second half.

That’s a good win in a tough spot.

9. INDIANA TOOK THEIR FIRST LOSS IN THEIR FIRST ROAD GAME

I don’t think I was the only one that thought the Hoosiers were officially back when they managed to beat up on a good Florida State team on Tuesday night, winning 72-58 in Assembly Hall. That win boosted their record to 8-0 on the season, and while all eight wins came at home, it surely had to mean something considering that one of those wins came against the No. 17 Seminoles.

Right?

Well, on Saturday, those very same Hoosiers got absolutely humiliated in an 84-64 loss at now 5-4 Wisconsin. Indiana trailed by as many as 30 points on Saturday. That’s not good.

10. CREIGHTON HUMILIATED NEBRASKA

We knew that Nebraska was in a rebuilding year in their first season with Fred Hoiberg at the helm, and we also knew that Creighton is a team good enough to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid this season.

The Bluejays were always going to be favored.

But this was a rivalry game.

Nebraska would make it interesting, right? Because these are the kind of games where you just throw the records out the window, correct???

Well, no.

Creighton was up 27-4. They led 37-7. I think the worst that it got was 42-11. The final wasn’t quite as bad – Creighton won 95-76 – but I don’t think anyone still cared at that point.

No. 2 Kansas hands No. 20 Colorado first loss 72-58

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LAWRENCE, Kansas — Ochai Agbaji scored 20 points and Devon Dotson added 18 points to lead No. 2 Kansas to a 72-58 victory over No. 20 Colorado on Saturday, snapping the Buffaloes’ season-opening seven-game winning streak.

Ten days after claiming the Maui Invitational title, the Jayhawks (7-1) built an early 6-0 lead over their former conference foes. David McCormack fueled the hot start, contributing six of the Jayhawks’ opening eight points.

Holding leading scorer Tyler Bey scoreless from the field through the first half, Kansas used a 9-0 run to build a 19-9 lead. Colorado (7-1) shot 26.9% from the field in the first half and that allowed the Jayhawks to take a 34-22 lead at halftime.

With Bey and D’Shawn Schwartz quieted, Evan Battey lead the way for the Buffaloes, scoring 14 points on a 5-for-8 shooting.

Schwartz picked up a technical foul on a dunk that temporarily quieted the raucous Kansas crowd, and Agbaji knocked down four 3-point baskets in the second half to keep the Buffaloes at a distance.

Colorado forced 21 Kansas turnovers, but the Jayhawks shot 52.9% to outlast the Buffaloes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The size of the Jayhawks overpowered Colorado inside, especially with a two-big lineup, outscoring the Buffaloes 38-22 down low. The Jayhawks also found some late success from outside, shooting 85.7% from 3-point range in the second half after missing all six first-half attempts.

Colorado: With Bey contained by the swarming Kansas defense, the Buffaloes struggled to find any momentum offensively, turning the ball over 17 times and shooting 30% from the field.

UP NEXT

Kansas: Hosts Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Colorado: Hosts Northern Iowa on Tuesday.

Achiuwa, No. 15 Memphis surge back to beat UAB 65-57

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Precious Achiuwa scored eight of his 14 points in the final 4 minutes to rally No. 15 Memphis past UAB 65-57.

Memphis (8-1) trailed 17-0 early and 40-26 at halftime. The Tigers needed a 19-4 run over the final 8 minutes to overcome the Blazers (4-4), who didn’t relinquish the lead until freshman Achiuwa’s tip shot with 2:56 left put Memphis up 56-55.

UAB’s own sensational freshman, Jalen Benjamin, scored 17 points, but the Blazers lost their third straight.

Memphis cranked up the pressure in the second half, and UAB finally cracked in the final minutes. It began unraveling after Achiuwa hit two free throws to reduce the deficit to 44-29.

D.J. Jeffries, another member of Memphis’ heralded freshman class, followed up with two drunks and finished a one-man, nine-point run with a 3-pointer. That cut the lead to 44-38, Memphis outplayed the Blazers the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

Memphis: The Tigers busted out of a first-half slump in a big way, shooting 54% from the floor in the second half. … Memphis improved to 5-0 without its leading scorer, freshman James Wiseman (19.7 points in three games). He is scheduled to return from suspension Jan. 12 after being banned by the NCAA after it was found that coach Penny Hardaway provided money for moving expenses to Wiseman’s family before Hardaway was hired by Memphis.

UAB: The Blazers were doomed by 23 turnovers, a number of key ones in the second half due to Memphis’ full-court press.

UP NEXT

Memphis: The Tigers take a week off before returning to action Dec. 14 at Tennessee in the penultimate game scheduled in the series. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said recently he’s not in favor of renewing the contract following a contentious meeting last season in Memphis.

UAB: Also takes a week off before playing the first of three consecutive games with instate foes. The Blazers host Montevallo on Dec. 14.

Anthony Cowan’s clutch three, steal keep No. 3 Maryland undefeated (VIDEO)

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Anthony Cowan Jr. made a free throw with 2.1 seconds left and No. 3 Maryland erased a 15-point deficit in the second half to rally past Illinois 59-58 Saturday in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

The Terrapins (10-0, 1-0 Big Ten) didn’t lead after halftime until Cowan’s free throw but still matched their best start since winning 10 straight to open the 1998-99 season.

Cowan collected a steal in the closing seconds of a tie game and was fouled in a scrum by guard Andres Feliz. Cowan made the first free throw and missed the second. Illinois (6-3, 0-1) failed to get a shot off in the remaining time.

Here is that entire sequence:

Cowan had 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Jalen Smith (14 points, 13 rebounds) recorded his sixth double-double of the season for Maryland.

Trent Frazier scored 13 points for Illinois, which nearly claimed its first road victory over a top-five team since 1989. The Fighting Illini have lost 15 consecutive road games against ranked teams and six straight conference openers.

Illinois led 39-25 at halftime and briefly pushed its lead to 15 in the second half, but Maryland gradually clawed back.

Donta Scott’s basket with 1:45 remaining got Maryland within 57-55, and Frazier split two free throws 2 seconds later. It remained a three-point game until Cowan hit a deep 3-pointer with 29.8 seconds remaining.

The 14-point halftime hole was the largest Maryland has erased since coming back from a 15-point deficit at the break in an 80-78 defeat of Bucknell on Nov. 18, 2017.

BIG PICTURE

Illinois: After allowing Miami to shoot 59.3% while dropping an 81-79 decision Monday, the Illini were far sharper on defense. It wasn’t enough to avoid enduring a second consecutive one-possession loss.

Maryland: The Terps once again turned in a stellar second half to remain perfect on the season. Maryland has defeated Marquette, Notre Dame and Illinois in a seven-day span.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Maryland avoided joining No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Virginia and No. 7 North Carolina as highly ranked teams to stumble this week. The Terps will likely remain in the top three when the next poll is released Monday.

UP NEXT

Illinois: The Illini host Michigan on Wednesday for their Big Ten home opener. Illinois has lost four in a row and 14 of 16 to the Wolverines.

Maryland: The Terrapins travel Tuesday to Penn State, where they have lost in each of the last three seasons.

No. 8 Kentucky rolls Fairleigh Dickinson, 600th win at Rupp

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — EJ Montgomery scored a career-high 25 points, forward Keion Brooks added 15 off the bench and No. 8 Kentucky dominated Fairleigh Dickinson 83-52 on Saturday for its 600th victory at Rupp Arena.

The 6-foot-10 Montgomery made 12 of 16 from the field, including several dunks to surpass his previous scoring best of 16 on Nov. 29 against UAB.

Forward Nick Richards, at 6-11, had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats (7-1), whose 19-2 run over 6:11 in the first half built a 43-23 halftime lead. Kentucky shot 52% and held the Knights (2-6) to 33% shooting, outrebounded them 42-33 and owned nearly statistic for their fifth consecutive victory after a week off.

The Wildcats became the fastest school to reach 600 wins in an arena in NCAA history. Kentucky achieved the milestone at the 43-year-old building named after coach Adolph Rupp in 670 games, surpassing the pace of UCLA (689 games at Pauley Pavilion) and Kansas (699 at Allen Fieldhouse) .

Kaleb Bishop had 12 points for the Knights, who led only in the early minutes. The Northeast Conference school was coming off Tuesday’s 78-77 win over Quinnipiac that ended a five-game losing streak.

BIG PICTURE

Fairleigh Dickinson: The Knights couldn’t follow up their 50% shooting against Quinnipiac beyond the first couple of baskets as Kentucky’s defense disrupted their flow. They certainly were no match against the taller Wildcats inside, resulting in lopsided gaps in rebounding and paint scoring respectively.

Kentucky: The Wildcats emerged from the week-long break sharper and crisper, especially on defense. At times there were three players battling for rebounds, and they forced eight turnovers in the first half alone. Montgomery’s growing offensive confidence showed with several jumpers and aggression inside. Brooks, a freshman forward, took off in the second half for a career high as well.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

This victory likely won’t change Kentucky’s position in the rankings.

UP NEXT

Fairleigh Dickinson visits St. Peter’s on Wednesday.

Kentucky hosts Georgia Tech on Dec. 14 as it faces Power Five opponents for the remainder of the season.