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No. 6 Cincinnati routs UCF 77-40 for 15th straight win

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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — Another dominating defensive performance extended a streak that’s become Cincinnati’s point of pride.

Kyle Washington scored 13 points, Gary Clark added 12, and the sixth-ranked Bearcats routed Central Florida 77-40 on Tuesday night to remain perfect at home.

The Bearcats (22-2, 11-0 American Athletic) dug in against a low-scoring team and extended the nation’s longest active home-court winning streak to 39 games. Their younger players inherited the streak, which has spanned two courts and three seasons.

“This home win streak started before we got here,” junior point guard Justin Jenifer said. “Us being here and continuing it is real special. It’s what we’re looking for the rest of the way, being undefeated at home.”

Their defense kept it going.

The Knights managed only 13 points in the first half, matching the fewest that Cincinnati has allowed in an opening half during coach Mick Cronin’s 12 seasons. UCF (14-9, 5-6) was 0 for 14 beyond the arc overall. In the first half, the Knights went more than 12 minutes without scoring.

Ceasar DeJesus had 12 points for the Knights, who shot 28 percent overall.

“I think they are just very active defensively,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “You can tell they all know the game plan very well. That’s something they take pride in. That’s something we take pride in, so I know both sides of it. They did a good job of executing their game plan.”

Clark failed to score in the first half, but made Cincinnati’s first 10 points in the second half for a 43-15 lead.

The game matched two of the nation’s top defensive teams. It showed the last time they played, with Cincinnati grinding out a 49-38 win at UCF on Jan. 16.

The rematch followed the form at the outset. UCF went 12 minutes, 36 seconds without scoring — the Knights missed 14 shots and turned it over six times — as Cincinnati pulled ahead 18-2. The Bearcats led 33-13 at halftime despite shooting 32 percent.

“You give yourself a chance when you play hard on the defensive end,” Cronin said. “The fallacy in college basketball is in order to get to the NBA and play professionally, you’ve got to score points. It’s a joke. I’ve never had one scout ask me a guy’s points per game.”


UCF: The Knights were hoping their offense got a boost when point guard B.J. Taylor returned after missing the first 15 games with a foot injury, but he suffered another setback. Taylor went to the bench with 3:33 left in the first half, got his right ankle examined and didn’t return. He missed all of his five shots and didn’t score. Taylor had scored in double figures in each of the four previous games.

Cincinnati: The last time the Bearcats were ranked No. 6 was Jan. 20, 2004. They haven’t been ranked higher since the 2001-02 season, when they got as high as No. 4 after opening the season unranked.


The Bearcats are 13-0 at Northern Kentucky’s BB&T Arena, where they’re playing while their on-campus arena is renovated. They went 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena last season. Their last home-court loss was 77-70 against Temple on Dec. 29, 2015.


Heading into the game, the Bearcats ranked second nationally on defense, allowing 56.8 points per game. UCF was close behind, allowing 60.6 per game.


It was the fourth time this season that UCF has been held to 45 points or fewer.


Jenifer had nine points in the first half, one more than he had in his last eight games combined. He finished with 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting. He had hurt the thumb on his shooting hand, contributing to the recent slump.

“I had to get back in the gym and get my mechanics right,” he said.


UCF: Plays its second straight road game at Memphis. The Knights beat the Tigers 65-55 on Jan. 3.

Cincinnati: Plays at Southern Methodist. The Bearcats beat SMU 76-56 on Jan. 7.


More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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.”