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Evans scores 17, No. 18 Cincinnati beats Tulsa 80-60

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CINCINNATI (AP) The only thing that Mick Cronin mentioned to his team at halftime was defense. The 18th-ranked Bearcats got the message.

Jacob Evans III scored 13 of his 17 points while Cincinnati took control in the first half, and the Bearcats clamped down defensively in the second half and pulled away to an 80-60 victory over Tulsa on Saturday.

Cincinnati (24-3, 13-1 American Athletic) has won 24 straight on its home court, including a couple of close escapes this season. The Bearcats put this one away early in the second half, limiting Tulsa to two free throws in the first 6:47.

“In the second half, the kids made a concerted effort to do a much better job,” said Cronin, who got his 300th career coaching victory. “They didn’t score a whole lot in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Our defense was way, way better in the second half.”

Kyle Washington added 18 points for Cincinnati while Gary Clark had 14 points and eight rebounds.

Junior Etou scored 22 points for Tulsa (12-14, 6-8) , which has lost a season-high six in a row. The Golden Hurricane were only 6 of 16 from the field in the second half, a reflection of how much the Bearcats took Cronin’s halftime message to heart.

“He’s just worried about our defense and intensity and effort,” Washington said. “He really doesn’t get on us for mistakes. He gets on us for hustle. We make up for it by going 10 times harder.”

Washington had two baskets and a free throw during a 10-point run that put Cincinnati in control late in the first half. Evans made two free throws followed by a steal and a layup as Cincinnati pulled ahead 54-34 early in the second half. The Bearcats led by as many as 27 points.

“We weren’t physical enough to come in here and win that game,” Tulsa coach Frank Haith said.

BIG PICTURE

Tulsa: Offense has been the big issue during the Golden Hurricane’s losing streak. They have been held to 60 points or fewer five times in the six games.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ 24-game home winning streak is their third longest at Fifth Third Arena, which opened in 1989. They won 41 straight at home from 1997-2000, and 25 straight from 1992-94.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Cincinnati slipped from No. 11 after its 60-51 loss at SMU on Feb. 12. The Bearcats have won their two games since, including 68-54 at South Florida on Wednesday.

BENCHED

Cincinnati freshman guard Jarron Cumberland didn’t play because of a curfew violation. Cumberland averages 17 minutes and 7.3 points per game. He had scored double figures in three of the previous seven games.

CRONIN AT 300

The Bearcats honored Cronin on the court following his 300th career victory, giving him a commemorative basketball. He’s 231-132 in 11 seasons at Cincinnati.

“I’ve been fortunate,” Cronin said. “I’ve grown up around great coaches. I’ve been around what it takes to win.”

NOT MUCH HELP

Tulsa’s bench contributed only eight points. The Golden Hurricane’s bench had been averaging nearly 24 per game, accounting for 35.7 percent of their points.

UP NEXT

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane host South Florida on Thursday. They won at South Florida 70-67 on Jan. 21.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats host Memphis on Thursday night. They split their series last season, with each team winning at home.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.