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Silva’s 32 lead Gamecocks to 80-77 win over No. 16 Auburn

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — One of Frank Martin’s best coaching moments this season for South Carolina came away from the games or the practice court. He counseled his senior leader Chris Silva to forget about the team’s early problems and savor every minute he had left to play.

Silva has taken that advice and powered the Gamecocks’ surprising run through the Southeastern Conference.

Silva was nearly unstoppable, with career highs of 32 points and 14 rebounds, to lead South Carolina to an 80-77 victory over No. 16 Auburn on Tuesday night. He made 11 of 12 shots, 10 of 11 foul shots and had four of his team’s eight blocks. Silva’s relentless play underneath was also a factor in two of Auburn’s post players fouling out.

“Silva was the difference,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “We had nobody to guard him.”

It wasn’t that way through much of the pre-SEC schedule for South Carolina (10-8, 5-1), which lost to mid-majors Stony Brook and Wofford along with heavyweights Michigan and Virginia to enter league play 5-7 overall.

Silva, the 6-foot-9 forward who tested his NBA value last year as a junior, acknowledged the frustration of some of the early losses.

“Frank told me to enjoy the game and that’s what I’m doing right now, enjoying the game,” Silva said. “And when I enjoy the game, the emotions come out of me.”

Silva leaped high when the horn sounded, celebrating with teammates and cheering fans over the Gamecocks’ fifth victory in six league games.

Felipe Haase’s 3-pointer with 30.3 seconds left put South Carolina ahead for good, and Silva’s final two foul shots sealed the win.

The Tigers (13-5, 2-3) used a late 12-0 run to wipe out South Carolina’s 71-61 lead. They were still ahead 77-75 after Jared Harper’s two free throws with 56.3 to go. That’s when Haase nailed his long-range, go-ahead basket from the right corner.

Chuma Okeke missed a 3-pointer and Danjel Purifoy couldn’t connect on a driving basket on Auburn’s next possession before Silva came down with his 14th rebound and got fouled with 2.5 seconds to play.

Silva made both, and Auburn threw away the pass on its final possession to lose its second straight heartbreaker following an 82-80 loss to Kentucky last Saturday.

Pearl said games like the past two are just part of the SEC grind, and he’ll make sure his players don’t get too down on themselves.

“You’ve got to keep your locker room and you’ve got to fight through some adversity,” he said.

Auburn appeared to be finished after Hassani Gravett’s floater went in just as the shot clock expired for a 71-61 lead with 6:33 to go. But the explosive Tigers shot their way back in it, making five of their next six attempts in a two-minute span.

Okeke’s 3 from the left front put Auburn ahead 73-71 with 4:01 remaining, capping a 12-0 surge.

Brown and Harper scored 17 points each for Auburn.

THE BIG PICTURE

Auburn: The Tigers showed spurts of stellar play amid several long stretches of offensive struggles. They started the game going 4 of 14 from the field before their closing run. They fell behind 62-53, and then scored six points in four seconds to tighten things up.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks have found their stride at the perfect time with Silva in charge. He has become the team’s most accomplished and capable scorer.

MISSING WILEY

Auburn played without 6-foot-11 Austin Wiley, who has averaged 10.8 points and 6.1 rebounds this season, for a second straight game. The Tigers could’ve used his size and strength against South Carolina’s post players. Forwards Horace Spencer and Anfernee McLemore fouled out.

MARTIN’S MINDSET

Martin had wondered at times earlier this year who would step up as leaders. And he was pleased that his team returned from its only SEC loss — last Saturday night at LSU — with a strong resolve to correct mistakes.

“That’s leadership,” Martin said.

NUMBERS

Gravett had three 3-pointers and was South Carolina’s only other double-digit scorer with 13 points.

It was Silva’s 20th career game with double-figure points and rebounds.

UP NEXT

Auburn plays at No. 22 Mississippi State on Saturday night.

South Carolina visits Oklahoma State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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.