No. 1 Tar Heels hold down UNCW in opening win

north carolina basketball
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
0 Comments

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Players for No. 1 North Carolina provided reminders that this was just the beginning Monday night.

Caleb Love and RJ Davis scored 17 points apiece and the Tar Heels started a season of grand expectations by pulling away from UNC Wilmington with a 69-56 victory Monday night.

“I think we all came out a little rusty,” senior forward Armando Bacot said. “It’s not easy winning games. I’m glad it’s the first game and not later on in the season.”

Bacot added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Tar Heels, who were perhaps most impressive at the defensive end. UNCW shot just 29.8 % from the field.

The Tar Heels, who were the NCAA Tournament runner-up in April, began the new season with the top ranking for the first time in seven years. It’s a record 10th time that North Carolina has been ranked No. 1 to start a season – one more than rival Duke.

“We didn’t hit our stride last year til January, February,” forward Leaky Black said. “It’s a win. It’s Day 1, literally. I’m excited for the potential that we have. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Trazarien White scored 19 points for UNCW, which faced a top-ranked team for the first time in program history. Skykeim Phillips had 11 points and Donovan Newby added 10. The Seahawks went 4-for-16 on 3-pointers.

“For us to stick to the process is important,” UNCW coach Takayo Siddle said. “I think that’s something to build on.”

After an incredible NCAA tournament run for the Tar Heels last spring, second-year coach Hubert Davis knows it will take time to return to that level.

“It gives us a really good baseline on what we need to work on and improve at,” Coach Davis said. “My hope is that it was first-game anxiousness and nervousness.”

North Carolina led 32-21 at halftime behind Davis’ 11 points, but it wasn’t easy.

“We were rushing and taking bad shots,” Bacot said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the first game.”

It was tied 17-17 with six minutes to go in the first half before a 12-2 run for the Tar Heels, who missed 10 of their first 14 shots prior to that spurt.

The Tar Heels have won their first game of a season for 18 years in a row. North Carolina has won 21 consecutive Smith Center openers.

North Carolina reserves managed only six points. UNCW held a 37-32 rebounding edge.

“They held me to nine rebounds,” said Bacot, a preseason All-American. “I would say that’s probably a bad game for me.”

PLEASE PASS

North Carolina was credited with four assists, matching its lowest total since a double-overtime loss to Texas A&M in the 1980 NCAA Tournament.

“One of the things that we pride ourselves on is passing up good shots to get great shots,” Coach Davis said. “That just wasn’t there.”

That was all part of an awkward offense.

“At times, we couldn’t even catch the basketball,” Coach Davis said. “I know we have a veteran group, but it was a first game.”

On the flip side, UNCW’s three assists were the fewest for a North Carolina opponent since December 1975 vs. Kentucky.

BIG PICTURE

UNCW: The Seahawks were competitive for most of the game and provided a good deal of physicality in the game. They pulled in 16 offensive rebounds, though they had lots of opportunities for those considering their horrid shooting touch. It was probably a good barometer for the Seahawks while they fell to 0-6 all-time vs. North Carolina.

“We emphasize rebounding,” Siddle said. “That’s part of who we are with offensive rebounding. I wish we could have made a few more shots.”

North Carolina: This wasn’t the smoothest performance for the Tar Heels, but they’ll have time to address glitches as they’ll play their first four games at home. With four starters returning from last season’s team, there’s plenty of experience in the lineup. Northwestern transfer Pete Nance completed the starting five. This was the 47th straight win against in-state, non-conference competition for the Tar Heels.

UP NEXT

UNCW: Friday at home vs. Allen

North Carolina: Friday at home vs. College of Charleston

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
2 Comments

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

tennessee basketball
Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

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

michigan state basketball
Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
3 Comments

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

virginia tech basketball
Erica Denhoff/Getty Images
2 Comments

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

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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.