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No. 24 Florida State holds on to beat No. 12 North Carolina

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Having lost its ACC opener at No. 2 Duke, No. 24 Florida State entered Wednesday’s game against No. 12 North Carolina in need of a victory. Leonard Hamilton’s team got the job done, hanging on to beat the Tar Heels 81-80 to extend its home winning streak to 28 straight games. Also, the Seminoles ended a seven-game losing streak to North Carolina, with both teams now 1-1 in ACC play as a result.

Here are a couple thoughts on what happened in Tallahassee and how it will affect both teams moving forward.

1. Over-helping off of drivers cost North Carolina in the first half.

Florida State went into the locker room at the half with a 51-40 lead, with the 51 points being the most North Carolina has allowed in the first half of a game this season (previous high: 38). The Seminoles shot 54.5 percent from the floor overall and made nine of its 20 three-point attempts. Florida State certainly deserves credit for knocking down shots, but a big part of the problem for North Carolina was it showing too much respect to dribble penetration.

On multiple occasions such a move would result in Florida State having kick-out opportunities, which its shooters were able to take in rhythm. North Carolina improved in this regard in the second half, with Florida State shooting 2-for-9 from three and 41.7 percent from the field overall. Defending the three has been an issue for the Tar Heels for much of this season, and it was a big reason why they trailed by double digits at the half.

2. Balanced scoring will serve Florida State well in ACC play.

The big question for the Seminoles entering the season was who would pick up the slack offensively, given how much production was lost from last season’s team. Terrence Mann, who averaged 8.4 points per game last season, was the most obvious answer. He’s certainly been a factor this season, but the Seminoles have been able to account for the loss of the likes of Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes by way of their offensive balance and that was the case Wednesday night.

Three players scored at least 17 points, with Braian Angola leading the way with 20, C.J. Walker adding 18 and Mann 17. Trent Forrest chipped in with nine, and that balance was certainly a factor in the Seminoles’ ability to pull out the victory. Phil Cofer had an off night, scoring five points on 2-for-11 shooting, but he entered Wednesday averaging 14.5 points per game on a team with five players averaging at least 9.5 points per night.

There may not be a guy averaging 17 per night like Bacon did last season, but Florida State has enough talent to get the job done offensively. Scoring 93 at Duke and now 81 against North Carolina backs that up.

3. North Carolina’s ceiling will be determined by the consistency of Theo Pinson.

Joel Berry II racked up a game-high 28 points to lead three Tar Heels in double figures, with Kenny Williams adding 18 points and Luke Maye 14 in a losing effort. What Berry and Maye will provide offensively is pretty much known at this point, and Williams’ efforts coming off of a 13-point game against Wake Forest is a positive. But if North Carolina is to reach the heights scaled by the last two teams, Roy Williams is going to need consistency on the offensive end of the floor from Theo Pinson.

Thanks in part to injuries it feels as if we’ve been here for quite some time when it comes to Pinson: while the energy and effort he brings isn’t to be overlooked, by now shouldn’t he be a more consistent producer offensively? After scoring 19 points in the win over Ohio State the senior wing had eight against Wake Forest, and Wednesday night he scored five points on 2-for-6 shooting. Pinson’s certainly capable of being a double-digit scorer on occasion, as he’s done so four times this season, but North Carolina will need him to do so more often if they’re to make a run nationally.

4. Florida State’s late game decision-making left something to be desired.

Turnovers nearly did in the Seminoles especially late, when they made some suspect decisions with regards to passing the basketball. There was a home run attempt that sailed out of bounds, and there was also a cross-court pass picked off by Pinson that led to a Berry three-pointer to cut the deficit to one with 30 seconds remaining. Overall Florida State’s 15 turnovers were converted into 24 points by the Tar Heels, whose plus-12 advantage in points off turnovers made it possible for them to make a run and even take the lead in the second half.

Florida State was able to hang on, but that was a bit of a disappointment after the team did well in valuing the basketball in its loss at Duke. Given how tight the top of the ACC is likely to be, Florida State will need to make sure this was an anomaly — to be fair, they’ve been solid with regards to turnovers for much of this season — from a turnover standpoint.

Former Penn coach allegedly took bribes from potential recruit’s father

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Former Penn head coach Jerome Allen allegedly took bribes from a Miami businessman who wanted his son to get into the school as a “recruited basketball player” — increasing his chances to gain entry to the Ivy League school.

According to a report from Bloomberg’s Michael Smith, David Voreacos and Eben Novy-Williams, Allen was involved with Miami businessman Philip Esformes, who had a son, Morris, who was allegedly recruited by several Ivy League schools. When Philip Esformes was accused of health-care fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and bribery, the government uncovered more than $74,000 in gifts that Esformes gave to Allen in 2013 and 2014.

Allen is identified strictly as “Coach-2” in the indictment that alleges that he took multiple cash payments, paid trips from Philadelphia to Miami, and a private jet trip that included Allen, Esformes and his son. The benefits are alleged to be $74,558 — including three separate wired payments of $15,000, $20,000 and $18,000 to Allen from Esformes.

These alleged incidents took place in 2013 and 2014, when Allen was still head coach at Penn and Morris Esformes was a high school basketball player trying to make it to the Division I level. Esformes was eventually granted admission to Penn as he was allegedly going to be on the basketball team. But Allen was fired before Esformes enrolled at the school. So Esformes went to school at Penn, but he never played for the basketball team. Esformes is currently still a senior at Penn.

Allen has been an assistant coach under Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics since leaving Penn in 2015. He hasn’t been criminally charged for any of these alleged benefits while the NCAA also hasn’t been involved with anything yet.

But this is yet another black eye on college basketball — and this time coming from a prestigious Ivy League institution. It shows that cheating and using leverage happens at all levels of Division I college basketball. Lately, the schools have been paying to get players. This shows there are instances of wealthy people attempting to gain influence through athletics.

This case at Penn is certainly a rare one. Esformes tried to exploit a loophole that would allow his son entry into a great school under the guise that he was a potential Division I-caliber basketball player. And Morris Esformes did end up at Penn — and seems to be doing well. So, this didn’t end poorly for Morris or Allen.

Since Allen is coaching at the NBA level, this likely won’t alter his coaching career, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NCAA get involved with Penn and Allen going forward.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

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Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

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Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”