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No. 25 Cincinnati beats Fairleigh Dickinson 119-68

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CINCINNATI (AP) Mick Cronin suspected his Cincinnati Bearcats could be “devastating” when they’re on target with their shots.

They proved him correct Saturday.

Senior Kevin Johnson scored a career-high 18 points and No. 25 Cincinnati shot a blistering 64.7 percent from the field while rolling to the highest-scoring game of Cronin’s 11-year career as the Bearcats coach, 119-68 over Fairleigh Dickinson.

Johnson was surprised at the rout.

“They’re a good team,” he said of the Knights, an NCAA Tournament First Four team last season. “They were picked to win their conference (in a coaches’ poll) and they have two all-league players. We try not to underestimate any opponent. Really, it’s not about them. It’s more about us. We go into games trying to smother opponents. It was awesome. I felt like we just got into a good rhythm, offensively and defensively.”

Jacob Evans added 17 points and five other Bearcats reached double figures as Cincinnati (9-2) bettered it previous season-high margin of victory for the second straight game, a 38-point romp over Texas Southern on Tuesday.

“I’ve felt like if Jacob and Kevin can get going from the perimeter, we had a chance to get better,” Cronin said. “We can be a devastating team when we shoot the ball.”

Stephan Jiggetts scored 24 points to lead the Knights (2-9), who have lost seven straight and eight of nine. They committed 22 turnovers while connecting on just 20 field goals.

“I talked to Mick and his staff after the game and just kiddingly they said they don’t even shoot that well in practice, so hats off,” FDU coach Greg Herenda said. “Cincinnati has a really, really good team. Obviously today they were firing on all cylinders. They shot it, they shared it, they guarded. They were just too big and too good for us today.”

Johnson also had three steals, leading a Cincinnati defense that produced 13 takeaways. The Bearcats finished with more than 50 deflections, Cronin said, at least 10 more than the goal of 40 they take into every game.

“We’ve never lost when we get 40 deflections,” Cronin said..

Johnson matched his career high by halftime, scoring 15 points as the Bearcats built a 41-point lead before settling for a 65-26 halftime advantage. Evans also scored 15 points in the first half.

That was the most points for Cincinnati in any half since scoring 68 in the first half against DePaul on Feb. 5, 1998.

Cincinnati took the lead for good after Mike Holloway was whistled for a flagrant foul with 17:02 left in the first half. Evans made two free throws and Troy Caupain scored to complete a four-point possession that snapped a 6-6 tie.

BIG PICTURE

Fairleigh Dickinson: The Knights committed 15 first-half turnovers, three shy of matching their season high, allowing Cincinnati to build a 22-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats shot 67.6 percent from the field (23 of 34), including 6 of 11 from 3-point range while scoring 65 points in the first half, just four shy of tying the program record for first-half points, set against North Texas State in the 1957-58 during the Oscar Robertson era.

PILING UP

Cincinnati’s 119 points set a record for a team in the American Athletic Conference, which is in its fourth season and is the fifth-highest total in program history.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Cincinnati will likely move up after winning two games by big scores this week, especially after No. 21 Notre Dame lost 86-81 to 15th-ranked Purdue on Saturday.

UP NEXT

After three straight road games, Fairleigh Dickinson returns home to play a Northeast Conference game on Dec. 29 against Saint Francis (Pa.).

Cincinnati remains home to face Marshall on Thursday before traveling to Philadelphia on Dec. 28 for its American Athletic Conference opener against Temple.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.