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Grant Williams scores 20, No. 3 Tennessee holds off Florida 78-67

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Grant Williams did just about anything he wanted to against Florida.

He even called for — and delivered — one of his more precise passes of the season in crunch time.

Williams scored 20 points and found Admiral Schofield for a clinching 3-pointer in the corner with 41.3 seconds remaining to help No. 3 Tennessee beat Florida 78-67 on Saturday for the team’s 10th consecutive victory.

“We knew we were going to get Grant the ball at the elbow and we knew they would collapse probably,” Volunteers coach Rick Barnes said. “He told those guys, ‘You get where you’re supposed to be and I’ll make the right pass.’ He found Admiral, and that was big shot obviously.”

It was the biggest shot, although it came after Williams appeared to get away with a travel in the lane.

Jalen Hudson misfired on the other end, and the Gators (9-6, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) committed two turnovers in the waning seconds to turn a one-possession game into a lopsided final score.

“One of those games where every possession was a critical one,” Barnes said.

Jordan Bowden added 17 off the bench for Tennessee (14-1, 3-0), which last enjoyed a double-digit win streak in 2008.

Bowden accounted for 14 consecutive points late in the second half with Schofield on the bench with four fouls. He made five free throws, two driving layups and a 3-pointer. He also dished to John Fulkerson for another layup.

Equally huge for the Vols were two second-half baskets that each came after two offensive rebounds. Williams scored on both.

“Those were some big opportunities for us,” Barnes said.

Williams made 8 of 11 shots to go along with nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.

“If we played man-to-man for 40 minutes, Grant Williams might have had 60,” Florida coach Mike White said. “And we might have all fouled out, including me.”

KeVaughn Allen had 18 points for the Gators, and Noah Locke added 16 points.

Florida led 38-35 at the half thanks to nine 3-pointers. But Tennessee did a much better job guarding the 3-point line and closing out on shooters after the break, allowing just 3 for 10 in the second half.

Still, the Gators had chances to pull off an upset. They missed two treys in the final 1:14, including one wide-open look off a turnover.

“We’ve got some areas where we’re just average or below average,” White said. “If we don’t get more disciplined, more mentally tough, pay closer attention relative to scouting, this is going to happen much more.”

Tennessee players mockingly performed the “Gator chomp” to fans after the final buzzer.

“I’m not one for it. I thought it was kind of low, but whatever,” the Gators’ Kevarrius Hayes said. “I just think people got to have more pride and understand that we are Florida and everybody wants to beat Florida. We can’t go easy.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Tennessee: The Volunteers have won five straight true road games, a clear sign of their talent and depth.

Florida: The Gators went toe-to-toe with a top-five team, but just don’t have the fire power to score 80 to beat many elite teams.

MULLEN HYPE

Florida football coach Dan Mullen addressed the sellout crowd before the game, crediting his team for a 10-win season that included a win against Michigan in the Peach Bowl.

“The Gator standard is to not be in second in the SEC, the Gator standard is about being first in the SEC,” Mullen said. “The challenge for all of us, the challenge for the players, for coaches and everybody in Gator Nation, what we did last year was good enough for 10 wins and No. 6.

“This year we’re going to ask you for a whole ‘nother level. I challenge you to bring back that Gator standard not to be No. 2, but to be at a championship level.”

FAMILIAR FACE

Former Florida guard Walter Hodge, a two-time national champion, was in attendance. Hodge currently plays for Homenetmen Beirut in a professional league in Lebanon.

UP NEXT

Tennessee begins a two-game homestand against Arkansas on Tuesday night.

Florida plays at No. 14 Mississippi State on Wednesday night.

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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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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.