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No. 24 Tennessee rallies from 10 down, beats Vanderbilt 92-84

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Grant Williams gave a glimpse of just how dominant he can be inside when avoiding foul trouble.

Williams scored a career-best 37 points as No. 24 Tennessee rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat Vanderbilt 92-84 on Tuesday night.

“These officials were amazing,” Williams said after finishing with only two fouls. “Two of them were Final Four officials, and you knew it was going to be a good game, so they did their job tonight. … It was even 22-23, so what more can you ask for?”

With the sophomore forward staying out of foul trouble, Vanderbilt couldn’t handle the 6-foot-7, 241-pound Williams around the basket despite double-teaming him at times. Admiral Schofield tied his career high with 22 points as Tennessee (11-4, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) won its second straight.

“He’s good,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said of Williams. “He’s really good down there when he gets it deep and he goes quick. And we knew. We spent a lot of time expecting double-teams not just on Grant but on Admiral. … He’s only going to continue to get double-teamed.”

Jordan Bowden scored all 12 of his points in the second half for the Volunteers.

Saben Lee led Vanderbilt with 21 points. Jeff Roberson added 19 and Riley LaChance had 16. Matthew Fisher-Davis scored 10 for the Commodores (6-10, 1-3), who had their highest-scoring game yet in SEC play.

“That should be good enough to win games,” coach Bryce Drew said after his team put up 84 points.

The Volunteers trailed 50-40 after LaChance scored the first five for Vanderbilt to open the second half. Vanderbilt still led 56-47 when the Vols went on a 13-1 run to take the lead back on four straight points by Williams, the last two on a layup with 8:11 left in a game with 12 ties and 16 lead changes.

Tennessee didn’t lose that lead again, and pushed it out to as much as 10 down the stretch.

Tennessee opened the game by scoring seven of the first nine points. Then the Commodores started knocking down shot after shot, especially outside the arc. By the time LaChance beat the buzzer with yet another 3-pointer, the Commodores led 45-35 at halftime by shooting 8 of 15 (53.3 percent) from long range.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers have scored the most points they’ve ever managed in Memorial Gym in back-to-back seasons. They scored 87 in a win a year ago and topped that Tuesday night. The Vols have won three of their last four trips to Memorial. They also have won three of four road games this season.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores couldn’t hold onto a double-digit lead on their own court, and a team that shoots 3-pointers so very well in bunches went cold in the second half. The Commodores went just 3 of 11 over the final 20 minutes. Worse, they were only 15 of 22 (68.2 percent) at the free throw line.

NOTABLE STAT

Not only did Williams set a career best for points, he made and attempted a career high at the free throw line, where he went 13 of 15. Tennessee shot 89.3 percent from the line (25 of 28). Williams said he and Jordan Bone talked of how he hadn’t played well in his first two games in Nashville.

“It’s kind of funny that this night turned out the way it was,” Williams said. “I’m glad it happened, glad we got the win.”

QUOTABLE

“Tale of two halves again for us,” Drew said. “Unfortunately, the bad one was in the second half. First half, executed well, moved the ball well. Defensively we were able to get a few more stops on that end, and we outrebounded them, which I thought was a huge key coming in. The second half, they turned the tables.”

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers host Texas A&M on Saturday night.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores host No. 21 Kentucky on Saturday afternoon for back-to-back home games against ranked teams.

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.”