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No. 5 Nevada dominates USC in 2nd half of 73-61 victory

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LOS ANGELES — Struggling offensively, Nevada went into halftime trailing by one in front of a partisan crowd. The Wolf Pack’s seniors emerged with a different mindset.

“We just have to come out with that intensity, come out with that fire,” Jordan Caroline said. “We got to play like we’re behind. We got to go make a big run, and that’s what we did.”

Caroline scored 22 points and No. 5 Nevada took control with a dominant second half to beat Southern California 73-61 on Saturday and equal its 8-0 start from last season.

Tre’Shawn Thurman added 14 points and nine rebounds and Caleb Martin had 12 points for the Wolf Pack, who outscored USC 39-26 over the final 20 minutes.

“It was a tough early game and really focusing on the importance of the game,” Martin said.

It marked a major turnaround from the first half, when the Trojans shot 50 percent from the field and led by as many as seven points. The Wolf Pack missed more than half their field goal attempts and leading scorer Martin had just seven points, leaving them trailing by one at the break.

“Historically, we’ve been a really good second-half team, so far this year it’s kind of mixed results,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “We just felt like we didn’t have good enough rhythm to start the game and we felt like USC was controlling the pace. We had to play better defense.”

Nick Rakocevic had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Trojans (5-3) as their three-game winning streak ended. Bennie Boatwright, their leading scorer at 16.8 points, was held to seven points.

USC came out aggressively to start the game, driving to the basket, crashing the boards and closely defending Martin, who entered the game averaging 21 points.

Caroline and Thurman carried Nevada in the first half, each scoring 11 points.

“Jordan Caroline absolutely killed us,” Rakocevic said. “We kind of gave him a lot in the paint, just kind of gave him everything he wanted.”

USC didn’t appear to be the same team in the second half, when the Trojans never put together a scoring run.

“I thought the first half was a really good sign that we could be one of the top teams and compete, but we’ve got to come out better in the second half,” Rakocevic said. “We just came out flat. Defensively, I think we just had too many breakdowns.”

The Wolf Pack turned things around quickly, outscoring USC 9-0 to open the second half. It was the start of a 31-11 run that produced Nevada’s largest lead, 65-46. The spurt included three consecutive 3-pointers by Jazz Johnson (two) and Thurman.

“A team that averages 90 points, you’re not going to be able to hold them down the whole game, but when they go on runs you have to score with them,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.

TIP-INS

Nevada: The Wolf Pack’s point total was a season low. … Los Angeles Lakers player JaVale McGee, who played two years at Nevada before leaving for the NBA, sat courtside wearing a Nevada hoodie. His Hall of Fame mother, Pam McGee, who starred in basketball at USC, wore a Trojans jersey. … More than 20 pro scouts were in attendance. … The teams played each other for the first time since 1976. The Wolf Pack trail the series 2-1.

USC: The Trojans’ point total was a season low. … G Charles O’Bannon Jr. is expected to have the cast on his left pinky finger removed on Monday. He had surgery on Nov. 13. … G Kevin Porter Jr., the Trojans’ third-leading scorer, returned to play in the second half after missing two games with a right quadriceps contusion. He was scoreless in four minutes. … Enfield needs one win for his 100th at USC. He is 99-79 in his sixth season. … Before the game, Boatwright received the ball used to score his 1,000th career point against Texas Tech, on Nov. 19 in Kansas City.

ATMOSPHERE

Musselman used to visit Galen Center when he was an assistant at Arizona State. The crowd of 5,844 was small but loud in urging on the Trojans. “This place is not like it was today,” he said. “It was electric.”

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

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.