Big Ten basketball makes itself at home on East Coast

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WASHINGTON — The Big Ten Conference displayed its broader footprint Thursday with a landmark visit to the nation’s capital.

All the league’s men’s basketball coaches and many of the best players gathered for the first Big Ten Media Day held on the East Coast. Even more significant: The conference tournament will take place in Washington from March 8-12.

The addition of Maryland and Rutgers has enabled the Big Ten widen its scope. Although the conference has maintained its deep roots in the Midwest, the league has an office in New York and its annual tournament is on the move. In addition to setting up shop in at Verizon Center next March, the Big Ten will decide its 2018 champion at Madison Square Garden.

“It really is an example of a traditional conference that continues to change,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. “Our actions are aligned with our plans. This is a very important part of the country for us.”

The league’s basketball coaches seemed enthused about the shift in the conference landscape.

“It’s great for us to branch out,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “We recruit in this area. Our alums are in this area, and we’re just excited about this new opportunity that we have to play and to be here today in D.C.”

Michigan coach John Beilein said: “It really is something really unique, to be able to do this. I think it’s a fantastic idea. When I walk out on these streets in Washington and in New York, the amount of `Go Blues’ I hear is incredible.”

Some things to know about the upcoming basketball season:

THE FAVORITE

Wisconsin has the bulk of its roster back, including Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Nigel Hayes, which makes it the team to beat.

“Each team has lost some key people, whether it be an Indiana or even a Purdue,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Wisconsin has lost the least. So I think everybody has picked them to win it, and rightfully so.”

This was the first media day for Badgers coach Greg Gard, who took over last December after Bo Ryan announced his retirement.

REPLACING YOGI

Defending Big Ten champion Indiana will need to find a replacement for Yogi Ferrell, a four-year starter at point guard and the school’s career assists leader. Unfortunately, the heir apparent is still recovering from knee surgery.

“If there was one guy that was going to be that guy, it would probably be Collin Hartman because of his experience,” coach Tom Crean said. “But he has to do that from the sideline now, so what we have to get is responsibility for one another.”

FEELING MELO

Maryland’s best returning player is guard Melo Trimble, who opted to stay for his junior season rather than enter the NBA draft.

“He is at great peace,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “I think all along Melo wanted to stay. He knew it was the best thing for him, and he’s been very happy since he made that decision.”

Trimble is the lone returning starter from a team that reached the Sweet 16 last season. He led the Terrapins in scoring and assists.

BRING IT ON

Purdue has an ambitious non-conference schedule that includes games against defending NCAA champion Villanova, Notre Dame and Louisville. Coach Matt Painter hopes those matchups – and a preseason scrimmage with ball-hawking West Virginia – will help his team overcome its most glaring weakness of last season.

“We struggled after getting leads in late games and taking care of the basketball,” he said.

THE ROOKIE

Rutgers first-year coach Steve Pikiell knows he’s got quite a task trying to rebuild the program. Rutgers finished 1-17 in league play and is an overwhelming pick to come in last again.

“I’ve talked about this from the first day I got the job, about embracing the challenge,” he said. “We’re trying to change the culture here.”

BEST OF THE BUNCH

Hayes was also a unanimous selection to the preseason All-Big Ten team by media that cover the league. He is joined on the team by Badgers teammates Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig, Trimble, Illinois’ Malcolm Hill, Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr. and Thomas Bryant, Iowa’s Peter Jok, Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan.

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 Tuesday night 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.