Wright’s summer of fun includes White House, ESPYs, Spain

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Bang.

Jay Wright calmly mouthed one word when Kris Jenkins hit the 3-pointer at the buzzer that won Villanova a national championship. The Wildcats returned home the next day for a pep rally at the campus football stadium, and their celebratory victory tour has barely slowed down since April.

The White House. Wall Street. The ESPYs. The ticker tape parade. The Philadelphia professional sports teams feted the Wildcats with first pitch, first puck, first tip fun. Wright delivered a pep talk to the Eagles. Basketball and Basilica in Spain. What’s the next chapter? Read all about it in Wright’s upcoming book, “Attitude.”

Wright sat down with The Associated Press to talk about his favorite moments from a summer where the Wildcats reigned as the national champions. Here are some of his memories from what Wright called, “a wild offseason. Wild. And great.”

HAIL TO THE CHAMPS

President Barack Obama welcomed Villanova in May to the White House and congratulated the Wildcats for winning what he described as “maybe the best title game of all time.”

Waiting to be introduced, Wright chitchatted with Obama where the two discussed, well, basketball, of course. Obama’s brother-in-law is former college hoops player and Oregon State coach Craig Robinson and the president fills out an NCAA Tournament bracket every year. He even picked the Wildcats to win the national championship in 2015 (and lost).

“He really knows our business, really knows it well,” Wright said. “It’s funny to hear the president of the United States say how difficult a job we have. And you’re hearing it from the president! But we had a really insightful conversation about college coaching that was awesome to me.”

`CATS & BIRDS:

Wright was invited by the Philadelphia Eagles to give a private pep talk to coaches and players in June.

“It was all about just being loyal to each other, the Eagles, the coaches and players. They’re my favorite team,” Wright said. “I had met (coach) Doug Pederson because of (former coach) Andy Reid and I was friends with Andy.

“I would say the talk with the President was first and then the Eagles, that was really cool.”

EMPTY HANDED

Wright was in Washington for a leadership summit at the Pentagon when he met Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw back in 2014. Kershaw was in town to face the Nationals and the two bumped into each other at the Ritz.

Kershaw was excited to reunite with Wright two years later on the red carpet for the ESPYs .

“He was like, `I want to take a picture with the ring. I’ve got to get one of those, I don’t have one of those,”‘ Wright said, laughing.

Kershaw then threw Wright a curve – that the Wildcats weren’t going to win any awards.

“He said, `Did you win?”‘ Wright said. “I was like, well, we were nominated for three. As he said it, I realized, we would know if we won. He kind of started backing off. `No, no, no. I just remember last year I was up for one and the guy who won knew he won.’ It hit me before we went in there, we probably didn’t win. We would have known if we won.”

MOVING ON

The Wildcats stamped their passports for an eight-day tour of Spain that included three exhibition games against Spanish Select teams . The Wildcats toured Barcelona and Madrid in relative anonymity and avoided mobs of autograph seekers.

Little known fact, Villanova is named for a Spanish Augustinian, Thomas Garc�a (1486-1555), the son of a miller who was born in Fuenllana, a village near Villanueva de los Infantes, Castile, Spain.

Known fact, fans know who the Wildcats are in Philadelphia.

“We got back and people started taking pictures of us again,” Wright said. “It smacked us right in the face. In Spain, no one knew us. No one bothered us. But we got smacked in the face waiting for our bags. Everybody started asking for pictures because we were all together. It was all just a smack in the face of reality.”

INSTANT REPLAY

Wright has watched a replay of the national championship game twice. He watched it with a coach’s eye on the plane ride back from Houston and one more time with his family just days after the championship parade in Philadelphia.

“We listened to timeouts, we listened to Raff and Jim Nantz and Grant Hill,” he said. “We tried to get a feel for what people really saw and listened to. It took us like, three hours to watch the game. We kept rewinding stuff. We had a lot of fun with it. That was it. That was the last time.”

But video of Jenkins’ shot is on a continuous loop plays in the lobby of Villanova’s basketball complex – and the fun hasn’t ended yet.

“It’s been everything,” Wright said. “But we started practice on Friday and I kind of feel like officially, it’s over.”

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.