Monday’s Things To Know: Baylor keeps winning, Duke dominates and Texas Tech finds Jarrett Culver some help

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There wasn’t much in the way of high-profile matchups or huge upsets Monday, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to catch up on the important action – and trash talking – from across the country. Here’s what you need to know, starting Baylor being…pretty good?

BAYLOR IS GOOD AND NO ONE KNOWS HOW

No one thought Baylor would be particularly good this season. In fact, most thought they’d be bad, having lost the two best players – Manu Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil – off a team that wasn’t all that good a year ago. It wasn’t just media punditry, either. The Big 12’s coaches voted the Bears ninth in the league preseason poll.

So pretty much everyone was expecting Scott Drew’s team to languish through this season, and for the select few, probably none outside Waco, Texas or without a Baylor degree framed on their wall, that actually had some hope, they certainly let go of those dreams when Tristan Clark, this year’s team’s best player, was lost for the season with a knee injury early this month. Surely, that would extinguish any hope of a meaningful season for Baylor.

Well, Baylor just absolutely stomped Oklahoma, 77-47, in Norman on Monday night to win its fifth-straight game and improve to 5-2 in the Big 12, which, would you seriously look at this, is tied for the best record in the conference. It’s honestly amazing – the team picked to finish next-to-last lost its best player and now has the best record in the league almost halfway through the schedule.

If you’re still making Scott Drew Can’t Coach jokes, you really, really need to stop. He’s the Big 12 coach of the year right now, and probably will move into the national discussion if things keep moving in the same direction.

The Bears have morphed into – I kid you not – the Big 12’s best offense during league play, per KenPom. They’re grabbing about 40 percent of their own misses to help offset so-so shooting while hoisting 41.9 percent of their attempts from 3-point range. They’re also assisting on better than 60 percent of their buckets. Makai Mason, whose foot injury made him a true mystery before the season, is shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range during Big 12 play while King McClure and Mario Kegler have helped fill the void over the last month.

So the question here is how real is this? The offensive rebounding, which is powering the offense, seems sustainable given Drew’s teams are always great on the boards. The defense is suspect, though, with Big 12 opponents clocking in at a league-worst 53.9 percent effective field goal percentage. The Bears’ opponents are making 40 percent of their 3s. Not great. Still, though, the Bears’ schedule seems awfully well set up for them to keep the momentum. They’ve got TCU at home this weekend before a trip to Texas, which has lost five of six. Then it’s home dates with Kansas State and the Sooners again. It’s really not too hard to see them at 9-2 or 8-3 there, is it? You get there by the second week of February in the Big 12, and the NCAA tournament seems attainable with just another win or two, no problem.

We’ll see if this magic evaporates, but given what we’ve seen already from Baylor, it would almost be more surprising to see the Bears collapse than it has been to see them get here.

As for Oklahoma, not exactly an ideal way to follow up a 31-point win against Vanderbilt. The team that spent November and December piling up a great resume now has home losses to Kansas State and Baylor along with road Ls to Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas. It’s hard to make sense of the Sooners, but their upcoming stretch (at West Virginia, vs. Iowa State, vs. Texas Tech, at Baylor, at TCU) should rectify that.

DUKE ROLLS

GIven how the highlight reel dunks have become commonplace and the presumption is he’ll go No. 1 in June’s NBA draft, sometimes you can lose sight of how good Duke’s Zion Williamson is. Look at what the freshman did in the Blue Devils’ 83-61 thrashing of Notre Dame in South Bend.

Williamson made 10 of 12 shots from the floor, including his only 3-point attempt, had nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks in 36 minutes. It’s wild what he’s doing, and even wilder that games like this aren’t all that noteworthy any more.

TEXAS TECH BUILDS MOMENTUM

You could be forgiven if your faith in Texas Tech had hobbled over the last couple weeks. That 4-0 start to the Big 12 looked a whole lot less impressive after the Red Raiders dropped three-straight – at home to Iowa State and then at Baylor and Kansas State – followed by a “meh” win at home against Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday.

Texas Tech took a step toward rebuilding that trust Monday.

The 16th-ranked Red Raiders took care of business in Lubbock against TCU with an 84-65 win in which they controlled the game essentially from start to finish.

Undoubtedly the best sign for Chris Beard and Co. was an offense that didn’t rely on Jarrett Culver to do literally everything. Culver, whose usage rate of 32.3 percent is the highest in the Big 12 during conference play, got a ton of help against the Horned Frogs with Matt Mooney scoring 18, Tariq Owens 17 and Davide Moretti 11. Culver still got his with 18 points but the fact that he was 0-6 from 3-point range didn’t haunt the Raiders with the rest of the team going 9-15 from distance.

Culver is going to have to do the bulk of the work for the Texas Tech offense this year – that’s just reality – but if the likes of Mooney, Owens and Moretti can chip in with regularity, that’s going to ease things on the Red Raiders and put way less pressure on Culver to be great and the Texas Tech defense to be near-perfect.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.