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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.

John Petty Jr. returns to Alabama for senior season

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama guard John Petty Jr. is staying in school instead of entering the NBA draft.

The Crimson Tide junior announced his decision to return for his senior season Monday on Twitter, proclaiming: “I’m back.”

Petty, the Tide’s top 3-point shooter, averaged 14.5 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds rebounds last season. He was second on the team in assists.

Petty made 85 3-pointers in 29 games, shooting at a 44% clip.

Alabama coach Nate Oats called him “one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal,” Oats said.

Fellow Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. is regarded as a likely first-round draft pick.

McKinley Wright IV returns to Colorado

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McKinley Wright IV will be back for season No. 4 with the Colorado Buffaloes.

The point guard tested the NBA draft process before announcing a return for his senior year. It’s a big boost for a Buffaloes team that’s coming off a 21-11 mark in 2019-20 and was potentially looking at an NCAA Tournament bid before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wright was an All-Pac-12 first team selection a season ago, along with an all-defensive team pick. He and athletic forward Tyler Bey declared for the draft in late March. Bey remains in the draft.

“We’ve got unfinished business,” said Wright, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 assists per game last season.

Midway through the season, the Buffaloes were looking like a lock for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since ’15-16. Then, the team hit a five-game skid, including a loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament. Simply put, they hit a defensive rut they just couldn’t shake out of, Wright said. It drove him to work that much harder in the offseason.

“This is my last go-around and I’ve got big dreams,” the 6-footer from Minnesota said. “I want to take CU to a place they haven’t been in a while. We want to go back to the tournament and win high-level games.”

The feedback from NBA scouts was reaffirming for Wright. He said they appreciated his transition game, movement away from the ball and his defensive intangibles. They also gave Wright areas he needed to shore up such as assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting the 3-pointer with more consistency.

He took it to heart while training in Arizona during the pandemic. He recently returned to Boulder, Colorado, where he’s going through quarantine before joining his teammates for workouts.

“The work I put in and the time I spent in the gym compared to all my other offseasons, it’s a big gap,” Wright said. “Last offseason, I thought I worked hard. But it was nothing compared to the time and different type of mindset I put myself in this year.”

Another motivating factor for his return was this: a chance to be the first in his family to earn his college degree. He’s majoring in ethnic studies with a minor in communications.

“My grandparents are excited about that. My parents are excited about that,” Wright said. “I’m excited about that as well.”

Wright also has an opportunity to take over the top spot on the school’s all-time assists list. His 501 career assists trail only Jay Humphries, who had 562 from 1980-84. Wright also ranks 13th all-time with 1,370 career points.

NOTES: Colorado announced the death of 95-year-old fan Betty Hoover, who along with her twin sister, Peggy Coppom, became fixtures at Buffs sporting events and were season ticket holders since 1958. Wright used to run into them not only on the court, but at the local bank. “I’ve never met anyone as loving and supporting and caring as those two,” Wright said. “They hold a special place in my heart. It sucks that Betty won’t be at any games this year. Maybe we can do something, put her name on our jersey. They’re two of the biggest fans in CU history.”

Jared Butler returns to Baylor

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Baylor got some huge news on Monday as potential All-American Jared Butler announced that he will be returning to school for his junior season, joining MaCio Teague is pulling his name out of the 2020 NBA Draft to get the band back together.

Butler was Baylor’s leading scorer a season ago, averaging 16.0 points and 3.1 assists for a team that went 26-4, spent a portion of the season as the No. 1 team in the country and was in line to receive a 1-seed had the 2020 NCAA Tournament taken place.

With Butler and Teague coming back to school, the Bears will return four starters from last season’s squad. Starting center Freddie Gillespie is gone, as is backup guard Devonte Bandoo, but those are holes that can be filled. Tristan Clark, who was Baylor’s best player during the 2018-19 season before suffering a knee injury that lingered through last year, will be back, and there is more than enough talent in the program to replace the scoring pop of Bandoo. Matthew Mayer will be in line for more minutes, while transfer Adam Flagler will be eligible this season.

Baylor will enter this season as a consensus top three team in the country. They will receive plenty of votes as the No. 1 team in the sport, making them not only a very real contender for the Big 12 regular season crown but one of the favorites to win the national title.

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As MaCio Teague returns, Baylor now awaits Jared Butler’s NBA draft decision

Butler is the key.

Baylor was one of college basketball’s best defensive teams last year. They finished fourth nationally in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, a ranking that dropped after they Bears lost two of their last three games to TCU and West Virginia. Where they struggled was on the offensive end of the floor. The Bears would go through droughts were points were at a premium and their best offense was a missed shot. Butler’s intrigue for NBA teams was his ability to shoot and to create space in isolation. He’s the one guy on the roster that can create something out of nothing for himself.

And now he is back to try and lead Baylor to a Final Four.

Arizona State’s Martin to return for senior season

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TEMPE, Ariz. (–Arizona State guard Remy Martin is withdrawing from the NBA draft and will return for his senior season in the desert.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach Remy Martin for one more season,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said in a statement Sunday. “Remy will be one of the best players in college basketball this year and will be on a mission to lead Arizona State basketball in its pursuit of championships.”

A 6-foot guard, Martin is the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.1 points in 2019-20. He also averaged 4.1 assists per game and helped put the Sun Devils in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year before the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin’s return should put Arizona State among the favorites to win the Pac-12 next season.

Martin joins fellow guard Alonzo Verge Jr. in returning to the Sun Devils after testing the NBA waters. Big man Romello White declared for the draft and later entered the transfer portal.

Hurley has signed one of the program’s best recruiting classes for next season, headed by five-star guard Josh Christopher.

Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman will remain in the 2020 NBA Draft

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In the end, Xavier Tillman Sr.’s decision whether or not to return to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft for his senior season came down to security.

A 6-foot-8 forward that averaged 13.7 points, 10.3 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.1 blocks this past season, Tillman was an NBC Sports third-team All-American a season ago. He’s projected as the No. 23 pick in the latest NBC Sports mock draft. He was the best NBA prospect that had yet to make a decision on his future until Sunday.

That’s when Tillman announced that he will be foregoing his final season of college eligibility to head to the NBA.

In the end, it’s probably the right decision, but it’s not one that the big fella made easily.

Tillman is unlike most college basketball players forced to make a decision on their basketball future. He is married. He has two kids, a three-year old daughter and a six-month old son. This is not a situation where he can bet on himself, head to the pro ranks and figure it out later on.

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He needs something stable, particularly given the fact that we are living in the midst of a pandemic that has put the future of sports in doubt, at least for the short term.

He needs security.

He needed to know that there would be a job for him in the NBA. Not a two-way contract. Not a spot on a camp roster or a chance to develop in the G League. Hell, there might not even be a G League next season. That was an option at Michigan State. He was living in an apartment with his family that was covered by his scholarship and stipend. He had meals paid for. He was able to take food from the training room home and have dinner with his family. He was able to get to class, to the gym, to practice and back home in time to do the dishes at night. He told NBC Sports in March that the school was able to provide him with $1,200-a-month to help pay for things like diapers high chairs. That was all going to be there if he returned to school. It was a great situation, one that lacked the uncertainty that comes with the professional level.

Because as much as I love Tillman as a role player at the next level, NBA teams do not all feel the same. The tricky thing about the draft is that it makes sense to swing for the fences on the guys that can be locked into salaries for the first four years of a contract. The Toronto Raptors took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick and have paid less than $7 million in total salary in his first four years for a player that made an all-star team. Kyle Kuzma is averaging 16.0 points through three seasons and is on the books for $3.5 million in year four.

Tillman’s ability to defend, his basketball IQ, his play-making and his professional demeanor means that he can step into the modern NBA and do a job as a rotation player for just about any team in the league. But he doesn’t have the upside that other bigs in the same projected range have — Jalen Smith, Daniel Oturu, Jaden McDaniels, Zeke Nnaji — so there are teams that are scared off.

I don’t get it.

But Tillman’s decision to head to the professional ranks indicates that he does, indeed, feel confident in the fact that he will have gainful and steady employment next season. Since he would have walked at Michigan State’s graduation in May had it been held, that doesn’t leave much to return to school for.

The Spartans will now be left in a tough spot. There are quite a few pieces to like on this roster. Rocket Watts had promising moments as a freshman, as did Malik Hall. Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham are both talented players. Joey Hauser had a good season at Marquette, and the early returns on freshman Mady Sissoko are promising. But this is going to be a young and unproven group.

Izzo has had less at his disposal before, but this is certainly not an ideal situation for Michigan State.