Baylor becomes fourth No. 1 in last 4 weeks in AP Top 25

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Baylor won the national championship last season without ever reaching No. 1 in the AP Top 25.

The Bears are there now.

Baylor took advantage of Purdue’s last-second loss to Rutgers last week to become the fourth different team at No. 1 in the past four weeks. The Bears earned every vote from a 61-member national media panel Monday to reach the top spot in the poll for the first time since a four-week run ended on Feb. 17, 2020.

“Every coach tells you that the goal is at the end of the year to be No. 1,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said, “but I will tell you that it always means something. It means something to your fans. It means something to your coaches, your players and everybody. It’s a great sign of respect for other people that have come before you, the work they put in.”

The Bears (9-0) were followed by former No. 1s Duke and Purdue along with UCLA and Gonzaga, which began the season atop the poll and spent the first two weeks there before losses to the Blue Devils and Alabama in a span of three games.

Baylor has won a nation-leading 15 consecutive games, none by fewer than eight points, including its memorable 86-70 win over Gonzaga in April for the national title. The Bears also had wins over Stanford, Arizona State and Michigan State to start this season before suffocating then-No. 6 Villanova in a 57-36 victory on Sunday.

“That team was great last year,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I think this team is really good and could be as good.”

Never mind the fact that Baylor lost their standout backcourt of Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler and MaCio Teague along with do-everything forward Mark Vital. Arizona transfer James Akinjo and freshman guard Kendall Brown have picked up some of the scoring and returning forwards Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Flo Thamba have dominated inside.

“When you lose dudes like that, people think you’re going to go into a rebuilding phase,” Akinjo said. “But our coaches did a great job of putting this team together, not just with the talent but in ways that we would mesh.”

The Crimson Tide led the second five in the AP poll Monday, climbing three spots after beating then-No. 14 Houston on Saturday. They were followed by Kansas, unbeaten Arizona, Villanova and undefeated Southern California.

“I can’t be too upset if we haven’t lost, but there’s always things to clean up and get better at,” Trojans coach Andy Enfield said. “Our goal is to be an elite defensive team, but we’re not there yet. I’m happy with the team. We’re excited to be 10-0.”

Iowa State, another of the seven remaining Division I unbeatens, climbed six spots to No. 11 after the Cyclones romped past Iowa and avoided a letdown against Jacksonville State. They were followed by Michigan State, Auburn, Houston and Ohio State with Seton Hall, Texas, Tennessee, LSU and UConn in the top 20.

Kentucky, Xavier, Colorado State, Arkansas and Texas Tech rounded out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Michigan State and Seton Hall made the biggest moves this week, the Spartans climbing seven spots to No. 12 after wins over Minnesota and Penn State and Seton Hall jumping to No. 16 after beating Texas on Thursday night.

The Longhorns dropped 10 spots to No. 17. Kentucky fell 11 to No. 21 after the Wildcats lost to Notre Dame on Saturday.

HELLO AND GOODBYE

Xavier entered the poll at No. 22 with Colorado State right behind after the Rams ran their record to 10-0 for the second time in program history. The Red Raiders moved into the poll at No. 25 after their overtime win over Tennessee.

“(Mississippi State) has visions of going to the NCAA Tournament and contending in the SEC. We have those kinds of visions, too,” Colorado State coach Nico Medved said after a win over the Bulldogs. We scheduled these games and knew we had to win some of them. So far, guys have been able to step up to the challenge.”

Wisconsin was No. 22 last week but lost to Ohio State and was first outside the Top 25 receiving votes this week. Also dropping out were BYU, which lost to Creighton on Saturday, and Florida, which was 20th before bookending a win over North Florida with losses to Maryland and then-winless Texas Southern.

CONFERENCE WATCH

SEC: 6 (Nos. 6, 13, 18, 19, 21, 24)

Big 12: 5 (Nos. 1, 7, 11, 17, 25)

Big East: 4 (Nos. 9, 16, 21, 22)

Big Ten: 3 (Nos. 3, 12, 15)

Pac-12: 3 (Nos. 4, 8, 10)

ACC: 1 (No. 2)

West Coast: 1 (No. 5)

American Athletic: 1 (No. 14)

Mountain West: 1 (No. 23)

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.