AAC Season Preview: Power rankings, preseason awards, and is Memphis the best team in the league?

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Beginning in October and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2019-20 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the American.


The American is in an interesting spot this season.

On the one hand, there may not have been a more hyped or visible program this offseason than Memphis. On the other hand, it feels like every good team in the league is in something of a rebuilding year while this will be the last season that UConn is a member of the conference.

The basketball gods don’t give with both hands, I guess.

Here is your American Athletic Conference season preview.

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. PENNY HAS THAT THING ROLLING IN MEMPHIS

For my money, Memphis is the most interesting story in college basketball this season.

Penny Hardaway, who would have gone down as one of the sport’s all-time greats had he stayed healthy, returns home to the city he grew up in and the school he played for to bring in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class and turn the Tigers into a recruiting destination on par with Duke, Kentucky and Kansas. Now, with a potential No. 1 pick in James Wiseman starting at center, he will be coaching a team that is the southern version of the Fab Five. He’s reinvigorated a maniacal fanbase that was left dormant thanks to the stewardship of Josh Pastner and Tubby Smith and, in the process, proclaimed that Memphis will win a national title while picking fights with in-state rival Rick Barnes.

The Tigers are a circus is the best kind of way, and I cannot wait to see the fireworks that come this season.

In terms of the actual product on the court, I’m a little bit more worried than most.

Starting five freshmen is never easy, and while the Tigers do have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, it’s different than the typical No. 1 recruiting class. Memphis landed Wiseman and fellow five-star Precious Achiuwa, but the other five guys in the class project more as two or three year players in college. This isn’t like they are bringing in four top 15 prospects, like Duke has done each of the last two years. And while Memphis does have three players returning from last season, one of those three plays essentially the same position as Wiseman and the other two are 5-foot-9 point guards that are going to be fighting for the minutes that Damian Baugh and Boogie Ellis don’t play.

Put another way, the talent and potential is there for Memphis to be a top five team that makes a deep run in March.

But as we have seen with teams that are as young as this Memphis team, trusting 18 and 19-year olds in their first season of college hoops is never a sure thing.

2. CINCINNATI ENTERS A NEW ERA UNDER JOHN BRANNEN

There are six teams in college basketball that have been to the last nine NCAA tournaments – Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State …

And Cincinnati.

That’s what John Brannen is walking into. That’s what Mick Cronin built at Cincinnati, and remember, when he took over, it wasn’t a smooth transition from Bobby Huggins. He got the job after Huggins had his falling out, and when Cronin took the job, there was one player there. He had to recruit football players just to field a team.

I have respect for what Brannen has been able to do as a coach. He went to two NCAA tournaments in four years with a program that has been Division I for seven seasons. That’s amazing. But replacing Cronin at Cincinnati is not going to be easy, especially when Cronin had built a culture within the program that Brannen may or may not be able to replicate. Cincinnati ran itself, in a sense, under Cronin, and with just five players coming back after a series of transfers in the offseason, it’s not going to be easy.

The good news is that a (hopefully healthy) Jarron Cumberland returns to lead the way, and he is the best player in the conference. Throw in his cousin, Jaevin, and guys like Keith Williams and Tre Scott, and there are pieces for Brannen to work with.

It’s a new era, but it should once again be a successful era for Bearcat basketball.

Jarron Cumberland (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

3. WICHITA STATE AND HOUSTON HAVE NOT ENTERED NEW ERAS, AND THAT IS A GOOD THING

At this point, I’ll bet on Wichita State and Houston because Gregg Marshall and Kelvin Sampson have never given me a reason to do anything else.

We thought the Shockers were going to be dreadful last season. After a slow start with a young team, they won nine of their last 11 and 14 of their last 18 games, including road trips to Furman, Clemson and Indiana in the NIT. Houston lost Rob Gray and then went out and fielded a top 12 team in college basketball. Both lose some incredibly important pieces this offseason, but what matters more than anything is that they kept the guys in charge. Marshall still hasn’t gotten a job offer he’s willing to leave for, and Sampson was given a massive deal by the Cougars to keep him from heading to Arkansas.

Yes, there are players I think are in line for big seasons at both schools. Dexter Dennis, Erik Stevenson and Jaime Echenique are going to make a lot of noise, while DeJon Jarreau is going to be this year’s breakout star in the league.

But none of that would be relevant if the guys calling the plays had left.

4. USF IS GOING TO BE REALLY GOOD, AND THAT IS NOT A JOKE

I am in on the Bulls this season.

After winning 24 games last season, they return eight of their top nine players. There’s an argument to be made that USF has the best backcourt in the conference with LaQuincy Rideau and David Collins. There’s an argument to be made that Alexis Yetna will have a breakout sophomore season. Hell, I can make a pretty strong argument that USF can will the AAC this season.

I don’t think they are going to be quite that good, but I do think they have a very real chance to finish top four, especially if Cincinnati can’t get healthy.

5. THIS IS UCONN’S SWAN SONG IN THE AMERICAN

The Huskies are headed back to the Big East.

Starting with the 2020-21 season, UConn will be back in the conference that it helped launch. That is a good thing for the UConn program – playing Villanova, Georgetown and Providence every year is certainly going to be more appealing to the Husky fan base than playing Tulsa, Tulane and East Carolina – but it is not necessarily a good thing for the AAC.

Say what you will about what UConn has become since Jim Calhoun retired, but this is still a basketball program that has national appeal, a coach that has proven he can have success coaching in the Northeast and two national titles to their name in the last eight seasons. That’s a big loss for a league that seems to constantly be fighting for relevance in the national landscape of the sport.

Dan Hurley (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

PRESEASON AAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati

This pick had something of a wrench thrown in it when Cincinnati head coach John Brannen came out last week and told reporters that Cumberland has yet to practice this season as he is dealing with a foot injury. He gave no timetable for a return and did not provide any specifics as to what the injury is.

If Cumberland is healthy, he will be the best player in the conference. His ability to score and create on a roster that is going to have a number of new faces this season is going to be incredibly valuable. He will be the rock that Brannen uses to anchor everything that he wants to run offensively.

If he’s healthy.

Here’s to hoping that he’ll be back on the court sooner rather than later.

THE REST OF THE ALL-AAC FIRST TEAM

  • LAQUINCY RIDEAU, USF: Rideau was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year a season ago, and he’ll be back as the anchor of a Bulls team that is a sneaky bet to finish the year in the top 25.
  • QUINTON ROSE, Temple: With Shizz Alston gone, Rose is going to step into a much larger role for the Owls in their first season under new head coach Aaron McKie.
  • DEJON JARREAU, Houston: Jarreau is going to be this year’s breakout star in the AAC. More on him in a minute.
  • JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis: Wiseman is the No. 1 recruit in the country and the kind of talent that should thrive while playing in Penny Hardaway’s uptempo offense.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • ALTERIQUE GILBERT, UConn
  • DAVID COLLINS, USF
  • NATE PIERRE-LOUIS, Temple
  • PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis
  • JAIME ECHENIQUE, Wichita State
DeJon Jarreau (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

BREAKOUT STAR: DeJon Jarreau, Houston

Jarreau is going to be a name that a lot of people know by come February. One time a top 75 prospect, Jarreau originally enrolled at UMass before transferring to Houston. Last season was his first year as a member of the Cougars, and while he only managed 18 minutes a game while playing in Houston’s loaded backcourt, he was really productive in those limited minutes. Jarreau finished second on the team at 19.3 points-per-40 minutes and led the Cougars with 7.4 assists-per-40 minutes.

This year, he’s going to be stepping into a much bigger role. Corey Davis, Armoni Brooks and Galen Robinson all graduate. Those are the three guards that were above him in the program’s pecking order. He has the talent, he’s shown he can produce and now he will get the opportunity to have things run through him. Even with Quentin Grimes eligible, I think Jarreau will be the guy that we are all talking about with this team.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Tim Jankovich, SMU

When Jankovich got the SMU job, they were coming off of three straight seasons where the program had won more than 25 games under Larry Brown. In his first season as the head coach, the Mustangs went 30-5 with three NBA players on the roster and won the AAC regular season and tournament titles.

This year, SMU is projected to finish 10th in the league. They lost their two best players from a team that went 14-16 overall and lost nine of their last ten in AAC play. It’s doesn’t seem that long ago that SMU was the trendy team in Texas. Now, they aren’t even the trendy team in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …

We should have listened to Rob when he said Memphis was going to be a No. 6 seed in the tournament.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT …

Seeing how Kelvin Sampson can work his magic and make Houston the best team in the American.

Again.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR

  • 11/6, Cincinnati at No. 25 Ohio State
  • 11/12, No. 21 Memphis at No. 12 Oregon
  • 11/28, No. 21 Memphis vs. N.C. State
  • 12/7, Cincinnati at No. 18 Xavier
  • 12/14, No. 21 Memphis at No. 23 Tennessee

PREDICTED FINISH

1. HOUSTON: The Cougars lose their three best perimeter players this offseason, but I’m still in on Kelvin Sampson’s group as the favorite to win the conference. Remember, we had these same questions about the Cougars after they lost Rob Gray, and all that happened was that Sampson put together a top 15 team this past season. The key, other than getting Quentin Grimes eligible, will be how much DeJon Jarreau improves. I’m expecting a big season out of him, so I have Houston winning the conference.

2. MEMPHIS: As I wrote earlier, Memphis has the upside to be a top five team this year. They also have the floor of a team that finishes the year as a No. 6 or 7 seed in the NCAA tournament. Freshmen are freshmen.

3. WICHITA STATE: The Shockers lost their top two scorers to graduation, and the guy that we thought was going to be their top scorer this season – Teddy Allen – was given the boot. I still think that the Shockers are going to be a tournament team this year. I am expecting an impressive year out of backcourt Dexter Dennis and Erik Stevenson, and I think Jaime Echenique is in line for a big senior year after an efficient junior campaign playing somewhat limited minutes.

4. USF: The Bulls are going to be this year’s version of UCF. They bring back everyone from a team that won 24 games and took down the CBI title, and while I know it’s silly to celebrate something like the CBI, I do think that it matters that this group got that many more practices in together. I love their backcourt – LaQuincy Rideau and David Collins are going to be trouble – and Alexis Yetna is the kind of player that will have a big sophomore season. I’m in on the Bulls as a tournament team this year, which is not something that I ever thought I’d say.

5. CINCINNATI: I had the Bearcats sitting at third in these rankings up until the moment that John Brannen told us that roughly everyone in the Bearcat program is dealing with some kind of injury. Cumberland is the big blow, but Trevor Moore – one of just five players coming back from last season – missing time will hurt as well. Assuming all of these health issues get cleared up by the time the season kicks off, Cincinnati is a top three team in the league. But when the best player in the conference and 40 percent of the returning players on a team with a new head coach are injured four weeks before the first game, it’s a concern.

6. TEMPLE: Outside of USF, Temple brings back more than anyone else in the league. Losing Shizz Alston will hurt, but Quinton Rose and Nate Pierre-Louis can pick up the slack. It will be very interesting to see how the Owls respond to a change in leadership, as Aaron McKie takes over for Fran Dunphy.

7. UCONN: The Huskies are, at the very least, interesting this season. They lose Jalen Adams, but Christian Vital is back, Akok Akok is eligible and they bring in a pair of talented freshmen in Jalen Gaffney and James Bouknight. With some veterans back in the frontcourt, namely Josh Carlton, there are some things to like about this group. The key, however, is going to be Alterique Gilbert. The former McDonald’s All-American point guard has shown quite a bit of promise during his three seasons at UConn, but a series of shoulder injuries has limited his playing time. If he stays healthy, he’s a difference-maker.

8. UCF: The Knights lose more than anyone else in the conference lost, and when you have to replace the amount of production that Aubrey Dawkins, B.J. Taylor and Tacko Fall provided, it’s never going to be easy. That said, there are some talented transfers getting eligible in Orlando, most notably grad transfers Dazon Ingram (Alabama) and Matt Milon (William & Mary). Throw in Collin Smith and his surefire breakout junior season, and you have a team that is going to be competitive.

9. TULSA: Frank Haith had a tough year in 2019, and that was with Sterling Taplin, Curran Scott and second round NBA draft pick DaQuan Jeffries on the roster. I’m not sure how that production gets replaced this season.

10. SMU: Three years ago, when Tim Jankovich took over for Larry Brown, he went 30-5 and won dual-AAC titles with a roster than had a number of future pros on it – Semi Ojeleye, Sterling Brown, Jarrey Foster, Shake Milton. They’ve won just six conference games in each of the last two seasons, and I have a hard time seeing where they are going to improve this year.

11. TULANE: At the very least, Tulane is going to be more fun this season. That’s because Ron Hunter is as entertaining as any coach in the college basketball ranks. He’s also had quite a bit of success at Georgia State, and while I think he will eventually make Tulane relevant in the AAC, I don’t think it’s happening this year. I will note, however, that the 2017-18 Tulane Green Wave had two NBA players on the roster and a third potential pro transfer to Villanova this offseason. Talent can be had in New Orleans.

12. EAST CAROLINA: The Pirates won three AAC games last season. Two of them came against Tulane, who won zero AAC games last season. Joe Dooley does return two of his top three scorers, but eight players transferred out of the program since the start of the 2018-19 season. There are 11 newcomers on the roster.

No. 15 Florida falls to UConn 62-59 on the road

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STORRS, Conn. — Christian Vital scored 15 points and made a key steal at the end of the game as UConn upset No. 15 Florida 62-59 on Sunday.

Tyler Polley also scored 15 points and Josh Carlton added 13 for the Huskies (2-1) who led by five points at halftime and never trailed after intermission.

A layup by Florida’s Keyontae Johnson with just over a minute to go cut the lead to 60-59, but those would be the last points the Gators scored.

Vital hit two free throws with 17 seconds left and Florida had a chance to tie. But Alterique Gilbert tipped the ball out of Johnson’s hands and Vital grabbed it and dribbled away, securing the win.

Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 15 points and eight rebounds for Florida (2-2), falling two boards shy of a fourth straight double-double. But he fouled out with 4:37 left in the game and his team trailing 53-49.

Andrew Nembhard scored Florida’s next four points, including a 3-pointer that brought the Gators within a point at 54-53.

Blackshear scored the game’s first two baskets, but the Gators made just four of their first 13 attempts from the floor.

But UConn had a tougher start, going without a basket for the first six minutes.

Vital got the UConn crowd into the game with a 3-pointer, a dunk and a jumper on consecutive trips down the court that gave the Huskies an 11-6 lead.

The Huskies held Florida to two Blackshear free throws over the final 4:17 of the first half and led 25-20 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

The loss ends a rough seven days for the Gators. Florida was No. 6 coming into the season but lost to Florida State a week ago and beat Towson by just six points on Thursday. The Gators offense came into the game averaging just 63.7 points per game, while giving up 60.7.

UConn: Highly touted freshman guard James Bouknight has finished serving his three-game suspension following his arrest on charges including evading police in a September car accident. Bouknight, who is due in court on Monday, is expected to suit up for the Huskies in this week’s Charleston Classic, where it’s possible the Huskies could again face either Saint Joseph’s or Florida, depending on how the early rounds pan out.

UP NEXT

Florida: The Gators face Saint Joseph’s in the Charleston Classic on Thursday.

UConn: The Huskies also travel to Charleston and face Buffalo in the first round of the tournament on Thursday.

Seton Hall placed on probation for three years for transfer tampering

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — The NCAA has placed the men’s basketball program at Seton Hall on probation for three years, taken away a scholarship for the 2020-21 academic year and limited recruiting in each of the next two seasons as part of a negotiated resolution of a transfer tampering case started in 2016.

Under terms of the agreement announced Friday, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard was given a two-game suspension he has already served, and his former assistant and current Saint Peter’s University head coach Shaheen Holloway received a four-game suspension that has two games remaining.

Seton Hall, which is currently ranked No. 12 and dropped a 76-73 decision to No. 3 Michigan State on Thursday night, remains eligible for the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA also announced Friday Seton Hall has been fined $5,000 plus 1% of the men’s basketball budget and had its scholarships reduced to a maximum of 12 in 2020-21. Willard will have to attend an NCAA rules seminar in 2020 and the program will have a two-week ban on recruiting communication this academic year and next.

Holloway, who was Willard’s assistant at Seton Hall in 2016, is prohibited from all recruiting communication for six weeks during the 2019-20 academic year. He also is required to attend a rules seminar in each of the next two years.

The case centers around current Seton Hall forward Taurean Thompson, who transferred from Syracuse to Seton Hall in August 2017.

During the investigation, the NCAA learned Holloway had approximately 243 impermissible contacts with the prospect’s mother from Nov. 16, 2016, through Aug. 28, 2017, while the prospect was enrolled at his initial institution.

The NCAA said Holloway and the prospect’s mother had 154 phone calls without written permission from the prospect’s athletic director. After Thompson informed his original university of his intent to transfer and requested permission to contact Seton Hall, the university denied the request. After the request was denied, Holloway still had 87 impermissible calls with the prospect’s mother.

Willard, who has taken Seton Hall to the past four NCAA tournaments, was penalized for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance within his program. He admitted to not taking adequate steps to report or stop the calls when he found out about them.

According to the agreement, Holloway did not report the calls with the prospect’s mother because they involved a personal relationship outside of the prospect and basketball, and he believed the communications were permissible.

“Seton Hall University, in conjunction with the NCAA, recently concluded a review of an infraction within our men’s basketball program,” Seton Hall said in a statement Friday afternoon. “Our department was proactive in our review and fully cooperated with the NCAA enforcement staff. While the violation was inadvertent, it was nonetheless against NCAA bylaws, and for that we take full responsibility.”

The case was processed through the new negotiated resolution process. The process was used instead of a formal hearing or summary disposition because the university, the head coach, the former associate head coach and the enforcement staff agreed on the violations and the penalties.

The Division I Committee on Infractions reviewed the case to determine whether the resolution was in the best interests of the NCAA and whether the agreed-upon penalties were reasonable.

Holloway is in his second season at Saint Peter’s. He will miss games against Providence on Saturday and Wagner on Wednesday. His first game will be against St. Francis, New York, on Nov. 30.

Quinones, Achiuwa send No. 13 Memphis past Alcorn St 102-56

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Despite playing their first game without heralded recruit James Wiseman, the No. 13 Memphis Tigers had little trouble with Alcorn State.

That’s what happens when you have the top recruiting class in the nation.

Freshman Lester Quinones had 21 points and 10 rebounds and fellow freshman Precious Achiuwa added 20 points Saturday, sending No. 13 Memphis to a 102-56 romp over Alcorn State.

Wiseman was sidelined because of eligibility issues, but Memphis hardly missed him in bouncing back from its first defeat of the season, an 82-74 loss to Oregon on Tuesday night.

“His presence is huge. Seven-footer in the paint. His dominance obviously wasn’t felt,” Quinones said of not having the 7-foot-1 Wiseman. “I feel like other guys stepped up.”

“We understand James is not playing right now,” Achiuwa added, “which hurts the team in a way because he’s a big part of the team. But this is an opportunity for other guys to play.”

DJ Jeffries finished with 15 points and Tyler Harris and Lance Thomas added 11 each for Memphis (3-1). Isaiah Attles led Alcorn State (1-3) with 13 points while Troymain Crosby had 10.

Wiseman was declared ineligible because Memphis coach Penny Hardaway helped with the family’s moving expenses from Nashville to Memphis two years ago when Hardaway was coach at East High School. Wiseman’s status is in limbo while the NCAA considers disciplinary action.

“We don’t want to change too much because we know he’s going to be back earlier than later,” Hardaway said after moving Achiuwa into the center spot vacated by Wiseman. “The guys can just slide over. They already understand the rotations. They understand the offensive side and the defensive side of what we want. We’re not going to change too much.”

Alcorn State’s zone initially took Memphis out of any flow, the Tigers choosing long passes across the top of the defense and struggling to get the ball inside. That kept the Braves in the game near the midway point of the first half.

The Memphis defense eventually put pressure on the Braves, leading to 16 Alcorn State turnovers in the half. Memphis put together a 24-3 run to close the half and carry a 52-24 lead into the break. The lead would swell to 53 in the second half.

“We didn’t follow the game plan,” Braves coach Montez Robinson said. “I thought if we followed the game plan – which we did in the first four-to-five minutes of the game – and stuck to that, it may have been a different outcome. Not knowing what the outcome would be, but it would have been different.

“It wouldn’t have been a 40-to-50-point game.”

BIG PICTURE

Alcorn State: The Braves did well in staying with Memphis for a while even with the Tigers employing a fullcourt press. But the Memphis defense proved intimidating, and the Braves began overpassing inside. That led to way too many turnovers — 26 for the game.

Memphis: Without Wiseman, Memphis relied on Achiuwa inside. While his 20 points and eight rebounds were impressive, his 8 of 20 from the free throw line was a detraction. Still, overall, that wasn’t a factor as Memphis controlled the final 30 minutes of the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Certainly, a rout over the Braves, who haven’t beaten a non-conference Division I team since the 2012-13 season, is not going to enhance the Tigers’ ranking. The potential impact will come from last Tuesday’s loss to Oregon in Portland.

FOUL SHOOTING WOES

Achiuwa’s foul shooting stood out enough that even the freshman forward noticed it on the stat sheet before the postgame press conference. “I’m probably one of the few dudes that can get to the free throw line at will,” he said. “My physicality and the way I play. …I’ve just got to knock them down in the game. That just tells me I have to work on that. There’s room for improvement.”

LAST WORD

“The sky’s the limit for those guys. They’re young so they’re going to continue to get better, continue to grow. – Alcorn State coach Montez Robinson on No. 13 Memphis.

UP NEXT

Memphis: Hosts Arkansas-Little Rock on Wednesday.

Bowden scores 18 as Tennessee upsets No. 20 Washington 75-62

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TORONTO — Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is a big believer in challenging his teams with tough non-conference schedules.

On Saturday, Barnes’ squad passed its first test in style.

Jordan Bowden scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half, Lamonte Turner had 16 points and the Volunteers upset No. 20 Washington 75-62 in Toronto.

“We’ve got to go test ourselves,” Barnes said. “We have to do that. We’ve always believed in that. We believe that this time of year, it’s really about trying to get yourself ready for conference play. To do that, you’ve got to play a high-level opponent like we played today.”

Yves Pons scored 15 points, John Fulkerson had 14 and Turner added seven rebounds and eight assists as the Volunteers improved to 3-0 and handed Washington its first loss in three games this season.

“We just got a little bit out-classed but we can learn from it,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said.

Pons scored in double figures for the third straight game.

“Yves is getting more and more of a feel,” Barnes said. “I think he’s getting more and more confident.”

The game was the middle feature in the James Naismith Hall of Fame Classic, an NCAA triple header at Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto, home of the defending NBA-champion Raptors.

Washington, which began its season with a neutral-site win over ranked Baylor, didn’t fare so well north of the border, falling behind by as many as 14 against the Volunteers.

“I felt like we were in sand a little bit today,” Hopkins said. “They were moving the ball, we weren’t as active and disruptive as we normally were. Our rim protection wasn’t as good as it was against Baylor.”

Nahziah Carter had 18 points and 12 rebounds, Isaiah Stewart had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Jaden McDaniels scored 15 for the Huskies.

Quade Green scored 10 points but Washington struggled with its outside shooting, going 5 for 18 from 3-point range.

The Huskies struggled for the second straight game. Washington overcome an awful offensive first half to pull away for a 56-46 win over Mount St. Mary’s Tuesday.

Stewart’s jump shot with 18:28 left in the first half put the Huskies up 3-2 but Turner answered with a 3-pointer, giving Tennessee a lead it would not relinquish.

“We knew the middle of the zone was going to be open,” Turner said. “We’ve got big guys who can make that shot.”

Pons drew cheers from his bench for a huge block on Carter’s dunk attempt midway through the first. The loose ball ended up with Huskies guard Quade Green, whose jump shot bounced off the rim. Carter, who had fallen to the court along the baseline after the block, got back on his feet in time to jump and put back the rebound, then turned and yelled at the Volunteers bench as he headed back up court.

Washington called timeout after Bowden’s 3-pointer with 8:55 left in the first capped a 7-0 run and gave Tennessee a 25-13 lead. The Volunteers stretched their advantage to 38-24 on a 3 by Pons with 1:47 left in the half. Bowden scored 15 points in the first half and Pons had 11 as the pair combined to make four of five attempts from 3-point range and 10 of 14 overall.

Tennessee recorded an assist on each of its 15 made baskets in the opening half and led 40-28 at the intermission. Tuner had seven assists for the Volunteers, matching Washington’s first half team total.

“We were in rhythm,” Barnes said. We were getting things done and playing at a very high percentage.”

Carter, McDaniels and Stewart were the only three Huskies players to score in the first half, combining to make 13 of 23 attempts. Six other Washington players shot 0 for 7.

Carter made his only attempt from 3-point territory, the only Washington player to connect from long range in the opening 20 minutes.

“They controlled the pace for most of the game,” Hopkins said.

After both teams went scoreless for almost three minutes in the second half, Carter made a fast break reverse layup to cut the deficit to 50-41, then made a block that led to another Washington basket, cutting the gap to seven at 50-43 with 11:22 remaining. Josiah-Jordan James replied with a 3 as the Volunteers pushed their lead back to 10 points.

“Every time we had a little bit of momentum where you could turn a switch, they made a big shot or made a big play,” Hopkins said.

CLOSE TO HOME

Washington’s Carter and Stewart are both from Rochester, New York, about 170 miles southeast of Toronto.

BIG PICTURE

Washington: The Huskies recorded a season-low four blocks after averaging an NCAA-best 11 over their first two games.

Tennessee: The Volunteers opened their season with home wins over UNC Asheville and Murray State before heading north to Toronto. Tennessee has games against Florida State, No. 13 Memphis, and Wisconsin ahead before the SEC schedule gets underway in January.

KEY STAT

Tennessee finished with 19 assists on 25 made baskets.

UP NEXT

Washington hosts Maine on Tuesday.

Tennessee hosts Alabama State on Wednesday.

Bey’s 19 points lead No. 10 Villanova over Ohio 78-54

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PHILADELPHIA — Less than 72 hours after a humbling loss to one team from Ohio, Villanova used two of its young standouts to win against another squad from the Buckeye State.

Saddiq Bey scored 19 points and Justin Moore added 18 to lead No. 10 Villanova past Ohio 78-54 on Saturday.

The win came after a 76-51 road loss to No. 16 Ohio State on Wednesday night. Villanova fell behind the Buckeyes early and never recovered.

“In that game, we kind of backed down,” Moore said. “We learned that you have to come out and you have to keep fighting. That’s what Villanova does and that’s what we were able to do today.”

After a sluggish start Saturday, Villanova (2-1) broke the game open with a 27-4 run in the final 6:36 of the half, turning a one-point deficit into a 43-21 lead.

Bey and Moore combined for 9-for-12 shooting and 4 of 6 from beyond the 3-point line for 26 points in that run. The Wildcats finished 14 of 31 from long range.

“I thought we had just two or three bad three-point attempts today,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I think the numbers are a reflection of Justin and Saddiq moving the ball and getting good shot opportunities.”

Ohio shot 3 of 20 from behind the arc, with its first conversion from Ben Vander Plas three minutes into the second half after a 0-for-10 start. The Bobcats committed 16 turnovers.

Vander Plas led the Bobcats (3-1) with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Jason Preston added 16 points and eight assists.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Colin Gillespie scored 10 points for Villanova.

“I told our guys that with the exception of that seven-minute stretch at the end of the first half, we played pretty even with them” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. “Against a team like (Villanova), the margin for error is pretty small. It was a good teaching moment for our guys.”

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: After losing by 25 at Ohio State on Wednesday night in the Gavitt Games, Villanova is likely to take a slight dip in the next AP rankings.

Ohio: After starting the season 3-0 with road wins against St. Bonaventure and Iona, the Bobcats had trouble dealing with Villanova’s forwards.

UP NEXT

Villanova: Plays Middle Tennessee on Thursday in Myrtle Beach Invitational in Conway, South Carolina.

Ohio: Plays No. 24 Baylor on Thursday in the Myrtle Beach Invitational.