No. 7 Kentucky tightens D, rallies to beat Florida 65-54

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — PJ Washington didn’t have to say anything to his Kentucky teammates.

They all knew the situation: trailing by 11 points on the road with 13 minutes to play. They all knew what had to happen: lock down on defense or lose for the first time in a month.

Washington simply set the tone for everyone else to follow.

Washington finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, Tyler Herro knocked down a dagger 3-pointer with about 3 minutes remaining, and the No. 7 Wildcats rallied to beat Florida 65-54 on Saturday.

Kentucky (18-3, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) won its eighth consecutive game and ended a two-game skid against the Gators (12-9, 4-4).

“There’s nothing really to say,” Washington said. “We know that we have to come together. You’re down 11 on the road. We just have to come together and have each other’s back and definitely just locked down on defense. We just had to dig down deep, come out and get it done. We didn’t want to lose.”

Kentucky used a 14-0 run during a 5-minute span late in the second half to turn the game around. Herro came up big in the spurt, scoring five points and finding Keldon Johnson in the corner for a 3.

Herro’s clutch shot from behind the arc made it 55-48 and sent Florida fans scrambling for the exits. Herro finished with 19 points and six boards.

But it was the Wildcats’ defense that deserved more of the credit, with Washington leading the way.

Kentucky started switching on every ball screen, preventing Florida from getting to the lane and forcing tough, long-range shots. The Gators made 9 of 33 shots in the second half, including just 1 of 9 from 3-point range, and scored a measly dozen points in the final 13:53.

“For 30 minutes, we played well enough to beat a terrific team that’s playing really, really well,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Just couldn’t hold on.”

The Gators entered the game in desperate need of a resume-building victory. They ended the day looking more like an NIT team than an NCAA Tournament invitee.

“It’s deflating,” White said.

Washington and Herro prevented the Wildcats from a disappointing road loss.

Herro made 6 of 8 shots, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, and Washington was 6 of 13 from the floor. Washington fell short of his third straight 20-point, 10-rebound performance — but ended up with his seventh double-double.

“He’s built his own confidence,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “He’s taking control of games. He’s coaching players on the court. I’ve been waiting a year and a half for this.”

The Gators looked like they might pull away early in the second half. They used a 9-0 run to build an 11-point lead. Kevarrius Hayes was instrumental in the spurt, getting a putback, taking a charge and plucking an offensive rebound in three consecutive possessions.

Kentucky went nearly 6 1/2 minutes without a point, and turnovers were a big reason for the drought.

But the Wildcats settled down, and the Gators went cold.

“We got a little stagnant, so a lot of shots were heavily tested,” Hayes said.

Andrew Nembhard led the Gators with 12 points, but just two in the second half. KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson added 11 apiece. Allen and fellow guard Noah Locke combined to make 3 of 14 from 3-point range.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: Defense continues to be the key to the Wildcats’ winning streak. Kentucky has held five opponents, including Florida, to 55 or fewer points during the last eight games.

Florida: The Gators can look solid at times, but they have way too many cold-shooting spurts to be more than a middle-of-the-pack SEC team.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Kentucky will maintain its top-10 ranking in The Associated Press college basketball poll.

IN THE CROWD

Former Florida standout and current Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons sat courtside. Parsons is not playing while he waits to be traded.

UP NEXT

Kentucky continues its toughest stretch of the SEC schedule against South Carolina at home Tuesday. The Wildcats follow that with games at No. 22 Mississippi State and back home against two more SEC front-runners: 19th-ranked LSU and top-ranked Tennessee.

Florida plays four of its next five on the road, a make-or-break stretch that begins at recently ranked Auburn on Tuesday. The Gators also have road games against No. 1 Tennessee, Alabama and 19th-ranked LSU upcoming.

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

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.

Nance scores 21 as North Carolina survives Syracuse, 72-68

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Pete Nance scored 21 points, capped by a dunk with 19 seconds left that put North Carolina in front for good as the Tar Heels pulled out a hard-fought, 72-68 battle with Syracuse on Tuesday night.

Joe Girard hit from beyond the arc to put Syracuse up, 68-66 with 1:28 left, but after Nance hit the first of two free throws to get North Carolina within one, he missed the second free throw and in the scramble to gather in the rebound, the ball caromed toward the end line and Girard dove to save it. Instead, he flicked the ball right to Nance, who dunked for the lead.

Judah Mintz tried to drive the lane for a go-ahead layup but was called for an offensive foul that was upgraded to a flagrant foul. North Carolina took possession and Caleb Love converted three straight free throws to put the game away.

Armando Bacot scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds with four assists for North Carolina (15-6, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Love finished with 15 points and five assists.

Girard hit 4 of 9 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points to lead Syracuse (13-8, 6-4). Mintz scored 17 points and had three steals and Chris Bell hit 3 of 5 from deep and finished with 15 points.

North Carolina has a week off before playing host to Pitt on Feb. 1. Syracuse plays at Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Green Bay fires Will Ryan after 11th straight loss

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay fired Will Ryan three days after the Phoenix suffered their 11th consecutive loss.

Ryan, the son of former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, posted a 15-61 record in 2 1/2 seasons. Freddie Owens, who had been an assistant coach on Ryan’s staff, will be interim head coach for the rest of the season.

“UW-Green Bay is committed to continuing its legacy as an outstanding Division I athletics program in the future, and Phoenix men’s basketball needs to help lead the way as we work to elevate all of our programs and be a shining light for this region and beyond,” athletic director Josh Moon said in a news release announcing the move.

Moon thanked Ryan and his family for their contributions to the program and said that “we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Stadium first reported Ryan’s firing.

Green Bay dropped to 2-19 overall and 1-9 in the Horizon League with a 72-38 home loss to Robert Morris.

Ryan was hired by Green Bay after going 14-13 in his lone season as the head coach at Division II program Wheeling (West Virginia). Green Bay went 8-17 in Ryan’s debut season and finished 5-25 last year.

Ryan had taken over for Linc Darner, who went 92-80 and posted a winning record in four of his five seasons.