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No. 16 UCLA blows past Cal State Northridge in 2nd half

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LOS ANGELES (AP) UCLA sustained several blows in the first half against Cal State Northridge, then delivered a knockout punch in the second half.

That’s the way UCLA coach Steve Alford saw it as a poor first half, muddied by turnovers and missed shots, had the Bruins trailing at halftime. The No. 16 Bruins scored 62 second-half points and struck first, early and often as they dominated Cal State Northridge 102-87 on Sunday night.

Freshman Lonzo Ball made a 3-pointer and went coast-to-coast with a one-handed dunk to start a span of seven consecutive points by UCLA. The Bruins took a 47-42 lead.

“How he started the second (half), he was a heavyweight fighter ready to knock you out,” Alford said. “How we started the first half, we wanted to rope-a-dope. We don’t have anybody in our locker room that’s Muhammad Ali. They don’t understand the rope-a-dope. They’re too young. We wanted to come out throwing punches first and early and I didn’t think we did that. It’s not necessarily their fault. It’s a learning process.”

Isaac Hamilton had 22 points, and Bryce Alford 20.

The Bruins had 20 turnovers, which was troubling, but used an improved second-half shot selection and made 58.8 percent of their shots compared to just 39.4 percent in the first half.

“They came in with a chip on their shoulders,” Hamilton said. “Being ranked, a lot of teams will do that and play hard. What we have to do, and Coach says, first five minutes, you have to throw the first punch and continue from there and let the momentum swing our way.”

UCLA (2-0) had 11 turnovers in first half, shot 39.4 percent from the field and trailed 42-40.

Kendall Smith scored 21 points for the Matadors (1-1). Aaron Parks and Tavrion Dawson each added 18 points.

“I told the guys, if you believe in yourself and we can play this hard every night and push the ball with this type of energy, we’re going to win a lot of basketball games,” Cal State Northridge coach Reggie Theus said. “The hard thing about nonconference games, and we have a really tough nonconference schedule, is that you can play well and still lose. This game was probably won in a matter of 5-8 minutes where it got out of hand for us.”

Cal State Northridge has beaten UCLA just one time in the 10-game series history, but in the game’s first 20 minutes it appeared the Matadors could do it again. The Matadors beat the Bruins 78-74 in Pauley Pavilion on Nov. 22, 2000, almost 16 years ago. CSUN would go on to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history that season.

BIG PICTURE

Cal State Northridge: This is just what Theus – the former NBA player and coach – wanted in terms of a test by scheduling difficult preseason road games. Playing difficult opponents should serve the Matadors well in terms of confidence and better prepare them to try to contend for a Big West Conference title.

UCLA: The Bruins took a step backward in struggling against the Matadors for 20 minutes. Their undisciplined play resulted in turnovers and those mistakes must be cleaned up before the Pac-12 schedule starts. The Bruins executed much better offensively in the second half and made the right adjustments.

SUCCESSFUL TRANSFER

CSUN Guard Kendall Smith, a transfer from UNLV, played well against the Bruins and had 12 of his 21 points in the second half. Smith, who is in his second season with CSUN but first full season, had several fastbreak, uncontested dunks, including two in the first half that propelled CS Northridge to the halftime lead.

QUOTABLE

“That’s the mindset we’ve got to have. I don’t know if … any of our other guys had that mindset to start the game. That’s kind of the mindset you learn. You’re not going to go from one game to the next and score 119 points again and win by close to 40. It doesn’t work that way. These are all learning things. We’ll get it.” – Alford on how the Bruins went from a 39-point win in their first game to trailing at halftime in their second.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

UCLA didn’t do itself any favors by trailing at halftime against Cal State Northridge, but the Bruins pulled away in the second half and shouldn’t lose any ground with a 15-point victory.

UP NEXT

Cal State Northridge continues its tough preseason schedule with a second consecutive road game at a Pac-12 school on Tuesday night at Stanford.

UCLA has several days off before hosting San Diego on Thursday, the third of four consecutive home games in a friendly stretch at Pauley Pavilion to start the season.

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

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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

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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.