No. 7 Arizona beats No. 3 UCLA 86-75 in Pac-12 semifinals

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LAS VEGAS (AP) A spot in the championship game secure, Arizona coach Sean Miller called a timeout with 0.9 seconds left against UCLA, threw the ball onto the floor and began shouting in the face of Kadeem Allen.

Miller said it was to give the senior guard his due and make sure his team was poised at the end the game. His actions showed there might have been a little more to it following a celebration by the Bruins two weeks ago in Tucson.

Lauri Markkanen scored 29 points, Allonzo Trier added 20 and No. 7 Arizona shot its way to an emotional 86-75 win over No. 3 UCLA on Friday night in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals.

“We learned from UCLA in that game, making sure your team is poised when they called that timeout,” Miller said. “We wanted to do the same thing, make sure our team was poised moving forward.”

UCLA lost to Arizona at home early in the season and returned the favor at McKale Center with a 77-72 victory on Feb. 25. Coach Steve Alford called a timeout with a second left in that game and it apparently riled up the Wildcats, who were hoping for a rematch after advancing to the tournament semifinals.

Arizona (29-4) made the most of it, advancing to Saturday’s title game against No. 5 Oregon. The co-Pac-12 champion Wildcats shot 50 percent and made 10 of 20 from 3-point range in front of a rowdy crowd that made T-Mobile Arena feel like McKale Center west.

“I guess they were upset when I called timeout at their place,” Alford said. “We made two free throws and I didn’t mean disrespect at all. It put us up five and I wanted to set my defense. We hadn’t won there, so I didn’t want anything goofy to happen. Apparently he thought we were being disrespectful and that was his way of getting back at us.”

UCLA (29-4) won the game in Tucson by outscoring the Wildcats 20-4 on second-chance points. Arizona shored up its rebounding issues and hounded the Bruins into one miss after another.

UCLA shot 4 of 25 from 3-point range, with Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford combining for 13 points on 2-for-16 shooting from beyond the arc.

Isaac Hamilton led UCLA with 20 points and TJ Leaf had 15 before fouling out.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Alford said. “We missed a lot of open looks that we normally make.”

The Bruins and Wildcats played two entertaining games during the regular season, each winning on the road.

The first half of the rubber match between Pac-12 powers was an entertaining mix of athletic plays, superb defensive stretches, followed by runs of fantastic offense.

Arizona had the last burst, taking a 41-35 lead into halftime after making 7 of 13 from 3-point range while the Bruins went 2 for 12.

Ball struggled with foul trouble in the quarterfinals against USC and wasn’t much of a factor in the first half, with as many turnovers (four) as points and assists combined.

Arizona continued to hit shots as UCLA continued to clank, stretching the lead to 63-48 as the decibel level in T-Mobile Arena continued to rise.

The Bruins tried to make runs , but couldn’t get shots to consistently fall to make up enough ground, allowing the Wildcats to get a little payback.

“Never been prouder of a group of kids,” Miller said. “We lost a tough game at home in our last game and I think it really stuck with these guys and motivated them to be better. We had the opportunity and we took advantage of it.”

BIG PICTURE

Arizona can look unstoppable when it’s making perimeter shots and playing defense, which it did against UCLA.

The Bruins had been playing solid defense recently, but struggled to stop the Wildcats and couldn’t outscore them.

MARKKANEN ON THE MARK

Markkanen went through a shooting slump in February, but has found his stroke in Las Vegas.

The Finnish 7-footer went 4 for 10 from 3-point range against UCLA and is 8 of 17 in two games of the tournament.

UP NEXT

Arizona faces top-seeded Oregon in Saturday night’s title game.

UCLA should still get a high NCAA Tournament seed.

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

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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

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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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.