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Northwestern rides hot start to beat Wisconsin 60-52

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A switch to a zone defense may be just what Northwestern needed to get going in Big Ten play.

At the least, the zone has given the Wildcats a spark during a tough road stretch.

Derek Pardon scored 17 points on 8-of-8 shooting, and Northwestern rode a game-opening 18-1 run to beat Wisconsin 60-52 on Thursday night.

Scottie Lindsey added 14 points for the Wildcats (14-10, 5-6 Big Ten), who held the Badgers without a field goal until Brad Davison’s 3 with 13:38 left in the first half ended Northwestern’s spurt.

Coach Chris Collins credits the zone for helping the Wildcats win twice on a three-game road swing.

“It’s enabled us to get off to good starts because it takes a while for teams to kind of see how they can attack it,” Collins said.

But what started as a runway slowed down into a miss-filled mess that allowed the Badgers to hang around in the second half.

Northwestern went 8 of 8 from the foul line to hang on after Aleem Ford’s 3 with 1:21 left got Wisconsin within 52-46. Ford finished with 12 points.

The early struggles caught up with Wisconsin late.

“We got the ball point-blank. We got the ball deep and didn’t complete,” coach Greg Gard said. Northwestern “is too good of a team when you have to dig out of that type of a hole, against a veteran team.”

Khalil Iverson had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Badgers (10-14, 3-8), who have lost four straight games and seven of their last eight. Northwestern held Badgers star forward Ethan Happ to 6 of 13 from the field and 14 points.

Wisconsin did manage to get within two possessions late in the game after playing more active defense and keeping the Wildcats off the glass during an ugly second half for both schools.

The teams combined to shoot 15 of 52 after halftime, including 5 of 18 (28 percent) for Northwestern.

But the game-opening run gave the Wildcats a comfortable cushion the rest of the night. Northwestern attacked the basket and flustered Wisconsin.

“Often in basketball, the way you start the sets the tone for the game,” Collins said. “I thought our energy was good.”

TIP INS

Northwestern: Bryant McIntosh’s assist on Lindsey’s 3-pointer with 15:59 to go in the first half allowed the senior to pass Illinois’ Dee Brown for seventh place on the conference career list. The assist also allowed Lindsey to join Michigan’s Gary Grant and Illinois’ Demetri McCarney as the only players in Big Ten history with 1,650 points and 675 assists. … The Wildcats’ three-game road swing is their longest in league play since the 2002-3 season.

Wisconsin: Iverson continued his midseason surge after entering the night averaging 13 points in his last four games. The 6-foot-5 forward can find holes along the baseline and maneuver his athletic frame for buckets when Happ gets double-teamed.

IN THE ZONE

The Wildcats earlier in the season were giving up too many points in the paint and too many fouls playing primarily man-to-man, so Collins switched to a zone. It helped them open and close their three-game road trip with victories.

“We were having a hard time with communication, with fouling, with dribble penetration,” Collins said, “and I think going to the zone has helped us in all three of those areas.”

HAPPENINGS

Subjected to another healthy dose of double teams, Happ had four of Wisconsin’s eight first-half turnovers. The Badgers, who are plagued by injuries in the backcourt, don’t have enough consistent shooting from 3-point range or enough penetrators to take the pressure off Happ.

UNFAMILIAR GROUND

The Badgers’ steak of 19 straight NCAA tournaments is in serious jeopardy. It’s a young team in which freshmen or less experienced players have been forced to play more minutes because of injuries, especially at guard.

“It’s definitely frustrating. No one here is used to losing,” said Davison, who had 11 points. “We’re going to keep working, keep pushing, keep trying to improve.”

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

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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.