No. 7 Arizona pulls away in 2nd half to beat N Arizona 76-63

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TUCSON, Ariz. — It wasn’t the greatest offensive start of the season for preseason All-American guard Aari McDonald, who watched her first four shots clang off the rim and her Wildcats fall into an early hole.

But she found other ways to affect the game, adding a couple assists and also a few steals. By the end of the afternoon, her high-scoring ways had returned and No. 7 Arizona was well on its way to a 76-63 victory over Northern Arizona on Sunday.

In the process, McDonald learned she doesn’t have to be a superhero every game for the Wildcats to win.

“My teammates this year are making my job much easier,” McDonald said. “I can focus on other things, like I can communicate, I can lockdown on defense. But I’m not satisfied about my performance today or the whole team’s. We’ve definitely got some improving to do.”

Cate Reese scored a game-high 21 points and McDonald added 18 and Arizona won its only scheduled non-conference game of the season.

McDonald scored in double figures for a 67th straight game, which is the nation’s longest active streak. She made just 6 of 17 of her shots but finished with eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals.

The Wildcats struggled from long range, missing their first seven 3-pointers before McDonald knocked one down late in the third quarter. But Arizona compensated with a dominant performance inside, scoring 60 points in the paint. The 6-foot-2 Reese shot 9 of 13 from the field.

“I thought she played really good,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “I’m not surprised at all. Cate’s improved so much. She played today like she does every day in practice.”

Northern Arizona (1-1) was playing its second game after beating UNLV 79-75 in the opener. The Lumberjacks jumped out to a 13-8 lead midway through the first quarter but Arizona recovered to take an 18-15 lead by the end of the period and didn’t trail again.

McDonald had a steal at mid-court to open the second quarter which led to a layup for her first field goal of game. The 5-foot-6 senior averaged more than 20 points per game last season.

Arizona led 30-24 at halftime. Northern Arizona shot just 3 of 20 (15%) from the field in the second quarter.

McDonald had another steal and layup on the first possession of the second half which helped jump-start a 31-point third quarter that led to a 61-46 advantage.

Northern Arizona was led by Jacqulynn Nakai’s 17 points. Emily Rodabaugh added 14 points and eight rebounds. The Lumberjacks slowly fell behind in the second half, unable to stop Arizona from getting close-range baskets.

NAU coach Loree Payne she was pleased her team was fearless and came out aggressive.

“They’re just a little bigger, stronger and faster,” Payne said. “You can’t match size when you don’t have it. They have some All-Americans on that team. We just wore down at the end a little.”

Arizona is trying to build off last year’s breakout season when the Wildcats finished with a 24-7 record, including a 12-4 mark in the Pac-12. It’s an experienced team that returns more than 6,000 career points, which leads the nation.

This was Arizona’s only scheduled non-conference game before 22 straight games against Pac-12 opponents.

BIG PICTURE

It was a solid effort by the Lumberjacks, who should be one of the better teams in the Big Sky this season. Arizona was a little sloppy in its opener and McDonald had a off-day shooting, but she’s a proven scorer and should bounce back quickly. Reese and others were there to pick up the slack on Sunday.

“The first game was very rusty, but we haven’t played in 266 days, so I have to keep that in the back of my mind,” Barnes said. “I’m just blessed that we’re able to play. I look all around the country, and I honestly was nervous until we went in to warm up.”

UP NEXT

NAU starts Big Sky Conference play with back-to-back road games at Eastern Washington on Thursday and Saturday.

Arizona begins its Pac-12 Conference schedule with a home game against UCLA on Friday.

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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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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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.