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No. 15 Miami overwhelms Pitt 67-53 in ACC opener

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PITTSBURGH — Anthony Lawrence II doesn’t get homesick much. The way the athletic and versatile Miami forward figures it, the schedule makers can send the 15th-ranked Hurricanes wherever they please. The more nights in a hotel, the better.

“I love to play on the road because it’s a better crowd and the crowd’s against us,” Lawrence said. “We play better.”

Looks like it.

Lawrence finished with a team-high 12 points and Miami smothered Pittsburgh when it mattered in a 67-53 victory on Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both schools.

Five days and five time zones from a third-place finish at the Diamondhead Invitational in Hawaii, the Hurricanes (12-1, 1-0) used their suffocating man-to-man defense and their significant size and talent advantage to end Pitt’s modest three-game winning streak.

Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown Jr. chipped in 11 points each for the Hurricanes and Chris Lykes added 10 points off the bench for Miami, which has spent most of the last six weeks traveling the country far afield from Coral Gables. The Hurricanes have played at Watsco Arena just once since Thanksgiving, while visiting Minnesota, Washington D.C., Hawaii and Pennsylvania in that stretch.

“We feel like we’ve challenged ourselves,” Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said.

One the Hurricanes passed with relative ease against the undermanned and inexperienced Panthers. Miami held Pitt (8-6, 0-1) to 40 percent shooting, outrebounded the Panthers 31-23 and forced 19 turnovers.

“When we needed to get by them, we couldn’t (and) when we did get by them, they’ve got the length at the goal which is a problem,” Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said. “Again, thought our kids played hard, fought hard, we just didn’t have enough answers.”

Shamiel Stevenson led the Panthers with 16 points and Jared-Wilson Frame had 13 points but Pitt simply couldn’t keep up. Miami outscored the Panthers 40-28 in the paint and got to the rim regularly during a 13-1 run at the end of the first half that broke it open. The majority of the run came with Pitt freshman point guard Marcus Carr on the bench with three fouls.

“There are too many possessions feel that like a trip to the dentist,” Stallings said. “It was made a lot worse today without Marcus in the game.”

The Panthers came in having won seven of eight to give their massively overhauled roster a needed confidence boost. Yet all seven wins came against teams from one-bid conferences. The Hurricanes presented a significant step up in class, one Pitt was forced to take without senior forward Ryan Luther, who missed his fourth straight game with a foot injury.

Luther is Pitt’s lone experienced post player. Still, the Panthers actually hung around for the first 13 minutes or so until the offensive issues that have dogged them at times against quality opponents resurfaced. Once the Hurricanes figured out they could get into the lane whenever they wanted, the Panthers offered little resistance.

Miami used a late surge to go up 30-19 at the half. Newton opened the second half with a runner, Brown hit consecutive layups and Ebuka Izundu followed with a dunk during a quick burst to start the second half that put the Hurricanes up 16 and Miami was never in trouble again.

LUTHER’S STATUS

Luther is averaging 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds for Pitt and his presence gives the alarmingly young Panthers a calming presence. Yet he remains sidelined by a stress reaction in his right foot. Stallings think it’s unlikely Luther will be available for Tuesday’s trip to Louisville. The Panthers, picked to finish last in the ACC, need Luther if they want to be remotely competitive in arguably the nation’s toughest conference.

BIG PICTURE

Miami: The Hurricanes have a mix of size and quickness that will make them a difficult matchup. Miami was never in any real trouble against Pitt even with freshman Lonnie Walker in the midst of a slump. The McDonald’s All-America finished with eight points in 27 minutes and is 2 for 13 from the field over his last four games.

Pitt: Stevenson could end up being the best of the seven freshmen on the roster. His jumper remains a work in progress but he has touch around the rim and the body (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) to withstand the grind that awaits in the ACC.

UP NEXT

Miami: Visits Georgia Tech on Wednesday. The Hurricanes are 6-2 against the Yellow Jackets under Larranaga.

Pitt: Travels to Louisville on Tuesday. The Panthers are 0-6 to the Cardinals since Louisville joined the ACC in 2014.

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.