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Wednesday’s Things to Know: Cincinnati gets a resume win, Georgia Tech gets blown out at home and North Carolina loses fourth straight

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It may be finals weeks for schools across the country, but there were plenty of tests on the floor Wednesday night, even if an injury to Cole Anthony sucked a lot of the drama out of one of the games that should have been a marquee matchup.

Here’s what you need to know from Wednesday:

1. Cincinnati knocks off No. 21 Tennessee

It’s been a rough go of things for Cincinnati as of late. They lost the Crosstown Shootout to rival Xavier, and then, to make matters much, much worse, they lost by one at home to Colgate because of a bizarre ending in which AAC preseason player of the year Jarron Cumberland threw up a casual halfcourt shot in a tie game with 5 seconds to play and a Colgate player was fouled on the subsequent rebound, paving the way for a game-winning free throw.

So some good news would go a long way for the Bearcats, and they got a nice dose of it Wednesday with a 78-66 win over No. 21 Tennessee.

It was a balanced affair for the Bearcats, who had six players score in double figures and a seventh lodge nine points. They shot 56.4 percent from the floor while holding the Vols to 3 of 13 from distance.

Not only was it a big win for Cincinnati just to get some good vibes after a couple of tough Ls, it was a huge resume boost ahead of AAC play, which will provide some NCAA tournament-boosting opportunities, but no one is going to be mistaking it for the ACC, Big Ten or Big 12. Beating the Vols gives the Bearcats unquestionably their biggest win of the season, which sounds a lot better than that distinction belonging to Vermont. Cincinnati gets another crack at a Power 5 team this week against a resurgent Iowa on a neutral floor.

It’s worth keeping a close eye on Cincinnati not just to see how things unfold in John Brannen’s first season, but to see what happens to Cumberland. He was expected to be a dominant player this season, but instead has seen his numbers plummet. He’s shooting 33 percent from the floor (down from 40) and 26 percent from 3 (down from 38.8) while averaging 13.3 ppg (down from 18.8). Then there was the absolutely head-scratching finish to the Colgate game.

The win against Tennessee is great for Cincinnati, but it’s hard to see it ultimately mattering a whole lot unless Cumberland gets it going.

2. Ball State thumps Georgia Tech in Atlanta

Josh Pastner was 32 years old when he coached his first game at Memphis, a plum job with an impossible task – following John Calipari. The youthful Pastner did an admirable job in the early going, going 24-10 overall and 13-3 in the CUSA in his first season that ended in an NIT bid before then going to four-straight NCAA tournaments with the Tigers. He was young, mostly successful on the court and the recruiting trail, and looked like he might be able keep Memphis relevant.

When that didn’t happen, with back-to-back NCAA tournament misses and the failure to come close to reaching anything resembling the highs under Calipari, Memphis actually paid Pastner $1.25 million to fail upward, as he took a job in the ACC with Georgia Tech. Things started well(ish) there, too, as he got the Yellow Jackets to Madison Square Garden in the NIT semifinals in an innaugural season in which they finished 21-16.

The question now, though, is will that be as good as it gets for Pastner in Atlanta? It’s certainly a question worth asking a little louder Wednesday, as Georgia Tech fell at home by 18 points to Ball State, a team that has taken losses to Evansville, Northern Kentucky, Western Illinois and Loyola Chicago this season. The Yellow Jackets are now 4-5 with that season-opening win against NC State seeming very long ago while sitting in the shadow of the last two sub-.500 seasons.

There’s time left in the season for Pastner and Georgia Tech to figure things out, but getting walloped at home by a team picked to finish third not in the MAC, but in the western division of the MAC, that’s the kind of thing that erodes whatever amount of goodwill and benefit of the doubt fans – and university decision makers – are otherwise inclined to give you, which can’t be much when recruiting violations already have banned you from the 2020 postseason and put you on a multi-year probation.

Ten years ago, Pastner took a job with a bar of expectation that probably no one could clear. He got paid to go away because doing a pretty good job wasn’t good enough. Unless things change in a hurry at Georgia Tech, Pastner could be moving on for failing to meet much more modest expectations.

3. Gonzaga hands North Carolina fourth-straight loss

It’s not really losing to Gonzaga that has to have you frustrated if you’re a North Carolina fan. Dropping a game in Spokane is something every single team that visits this season is likely  to do. Mark Few may have another No. 1 seed in this year’s Bulldogs. So, a loss isn’t much to be concerned about.

It’s what comes next, now that the Tar Heels have dropped four-straight and are looking at a few weeks without Cole Anthony. Really, the real test comes over the next week when UNC gets UCLA on a neutral and Yale at home. How the Tar Heels perform in those two games will likely tell us exactly what they are, at least without Anthony: either they survive those games and live to fight in the ACC until Anthony gets back from injury or drop them, proving that this is a team that just can’t compete without its star point guard.

The good news is if it’s the former, North Carolina’s ACC schedule is backloaded, giving them the opportunity to just fight, scratch and claw their way through until Anthony returns. There’s a path for North Carolina to get right, but it’s gonna get real narrow real quickly if things go sideways against the Bruins and Bulldogs.

Editor’s note: Click here for tickets to the CBS Sports Classic

Cincinnati does damage inside, upends No. 21 Tennessee 78-66

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CINCINNATI  — Trevon Scott scored 15 points and Cincinnati recovered from back-to-back losses by knocking off No. 21 Tennessee 78-66 on Wednesday night.

The Bearcats (7-4) got the better of a back-and-forth game by getting inside one of the country’s stingiest defenses for close-up baskets. Forty-six of Cincinnati’s points came in the paint.

Keith Williams had a steal and layup during a 9-0 run that put the Bearcats in control 67-57 with 3:27 left. Williams finished with 11 points and five rebounds.

For a second straight game, Tennessee’s Rick Barnes came up short again in his attempt to get career victory No. 700. He’d be only the 22nd coach to reach that mark in Division I.

The Volunteers (7-3) were coming off a 51-47 loss to No. 13 Memphis that highlighted their offensive shortcomings. This time, the biggest problems were on a defense that hadn’t given up 70 points in a game this season.

Tennessee has lost back-to-back games for the first time in two seasons. John Fulkerson had a team-high 14 points. The Volunteers were only 3 of 15 from beyond the arc.

The Bearcats led 38-34 after a wide-open first half full of turnovers. They shot 64% from the field, with Jaevin Cumberland making four of his five shots to lead the way.

The Volunteers dug in defensively in the second half — Cincinnati missed eight of its first 12 shots — and neither team managed to get much of an advantage. There were two ties and four lead changes before Cincinnati went on its pivotal run.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers have struggled at times on offense, but their defense has been consistent. They came in fifth nationally in field goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot 36.2%. The Bearcats made 56.4%, the most by a Vols’ opponent this season.

Cincinnati: The Bearcast’ biggest questions revolve around Jarron Cumberland, the returning American Athletic player of the year. He played the last two games with a sore hip and shot only 27 percent from the field. Against Tennessee, he had 10 points and six turnovers before fouling out.

UP NEXT

Tennessee hosts Jacksonville State on Saturday.

Cincinnati plays Iowa on Saturday at the United Center as part of the Chicago Legends event. The Bearcats lost to Iowa 79-72 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Columbus, Ohio last season.

No. 18 Ohio State defeats Cincinnati

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kyle Young had a career-high 14 points and 13 rebounds and No. 18 Ohio State beat Cincinnati 64-56 in the opener for both teams Wednesday night.

Young, a junior forward, made 6 of 7 shots from the floor and the Buckeyes rallied in the second half to spoil John Brannen’s Cincinnati coaching debut.

D.J. Carton added nine points and five rebounds for Ohio State, and Kaleb Wesson had eight points and 11 rebounds. Jarron Cumberland and Keith Williams each had 13 points to lead Cincinnati.

Cincinnati led 26-19 after a slow, rough first half. Ohio State failed to score for the first 7:45 until Young got a breakaway jam off Carton’s outlet pass. Up to that point, Ohio State had missed its first seven shots from the floor as well as its first four free throws while committing five turnovers.

Ohio State tied it at 15 on an Andre Wesson rebound basket. But Cincinnati closed the half on an 11-4 run, with Williams hitting a pair of wide open 3s.

Ohio State went on a 14-3 run to start the second half, with Kaleb Wesson stepping out to hit a pair of 3s. They surged ahead 33-29 with 13:16 left.

Carton had a reverse layup and hit a 3 from the left wing for a 49-43 lead with 7:35 left. A 3 by Luther Muhammad made it 52-43 with 7:11 left. Cincinnati twice got the lead down to two.

But Buckeyes freshman E.J. Liddell scored off a feed from Duane Washington Jr., and Carton hit a pair of free throws to make it 59-53 with 2:16 left.

Cincinnati’s Chris McNeal had a three-point play to cut it to 60-56 with 52 seconds left, and Ohio State’s Washington and C.J. Walker each hit a pair of free throws to help the Buckeyes ride it out.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: After a slow start, a good win for the Buckeyes, who were ranked in the preseason AP poll for the first time in five years.

Cincinnati: Brannen led Northern Kentucky to two NCAA Tournament appearances in the last three seasons before he was tapped to replace Mick Cronin, who left UC after 13 years to become the head coach at UCLA. The Bearcats stayed close most of the way but couldn’t finish.

INJURY UPDATE

Ohio State senior forward Andre Wesson left with 6 minutes left after being poked in the right eye on a rebound attempt. He did not return.

UP NEXT

Cincinnati: Hosts Drake on Monday.

Ohio State: Hosts UMass-Lowell on Sunday.

Three Things to Know: Syracuse scores 34; Buckeyes top Bearcats; Arizona gets promising freshman performance

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The glow of the Champion’s Classic has come and gone, but college hoops still had some entertainment in store for its follow-up act on the season’s second night.

Here’s what you need to know from Wednesday:

Virginia remains Virginia; Syracuse matches Cole Anthony’s scoring output

De’Andre Hunter is gone. Ty Jerome, too. Same with Kyle Guy.

Those are some serious departures, although the national championship trophy that now lives in Charlottesville seems like a fair trade. Still, given those losses, you wouldn’t fault Virginia if it took awhile for the Cavaliers to find themselves early this season.

Not surprisingly, the Cavs aren’t going to need a lot of self-discovery.

Tony Bennett’s team did what Tony Bennett’s program does, absolutely stifling Syracuse in a 48-34 victory.

Yes, Syracuse scored 34 points. In a regulation 40-minute game. Of basketball. In the ACC.

Which isn’t ideal.

Given that it was Virginia playing defense and slowing the pace, though, it’s at least understandable. Even if it’s unconscionable, ya know?

The Orange shot 13 of 55 from the field and 5 of 29 from 3. That’s 23.6 and 17.2 percent, respectively. They scored as many points as Cole Anthony in the freshman’s North Carolina debut. Usually, you want to outscore a freshman guard as a team. So Syracuse has some things to work on.

As for Virginia, its offense wasn’t exactly picture of efficiency. The Cavs shot 40 percent from the floor and a nasty 4 of 24 (16.7 percent) from 3. Given the new faces in new roles, it might take awhile before they get squared away on that end of the floor.

But defensively, Bennett has proven time and again that whoever is on the roster, his teams will defend. Not only defend, but defend as well as anyone in the country. This year doesn’t look any different. And just like years past, that makes Virginia a contender. Last season’s departures and tonight’s offensive ugliness notwithstanding.

Buckeyes outlast Cincy

It’s not Cincinnati-Xavier, but Cincy-Ohio State provides a nice little intrastate matchup to begin a season for the second-consecutive year. And for the second-straight season, the Buckeyes prevailed.

Ohio State outscored Cincinnati by 15 in the second half to claim a 64-56 victory over the Bearcats in Columbus.

It’s a nice win for the Buckeyes against Cincinnati, which will be competing for an AAC title this winter, with what is likely going to be a nice resume-booster come March.

Kyle Young was 6 of 7 from the floor for a team-best 14 points while adding 13 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who also got eight points and 11 rebounds from Kaleb Wesson.

Jarron Cumberland and Keith Williams both had 13 points for John Brannen in his debut on the sideline for the Bearcats.

Zeke Nnaji goes for 20 in Arizona debut

Nico Mannion, a top-10 recruit, was the prize of Sean Miller’s 2019 recruiting class, but it was another freshman who starred for the Wildcats in their 91-52 thrashing of Northern Arizona.

Zeke Nnaji, a 6-foot-10 four-star prospect from Minnesota, was 9 of 12 from the floor for 20 points in his Tucson debut.

Mannion, meanwhile, went 2 of 6 from the floor to finish with nine points along with four assists. Josh Green, another top-50 freshman in the class, joined Mannion and Nnaji in the starting lineup and finished with 10 points, six rebounds, two steals and two assists.

Miller might not have the best freshmen core in the country, but it looks like there’s a nice foundation of talent there.

No. 10 Iowa rallies past No. 7 Cincinnati

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Iowa rallied from a slow start to get past No. 7 seed Cincinnati with a 79-72 win on Friday in a South Region NCAA tournament game in Columbus.

Cincinnati generated an early 18-5 lead in the first half as they fed off of the Bearcat-friendly Columbus crowd only to see the No. 10-seed Hawkeyes get hot in the second half.

Things turned in Iowa’s favor about midway through the first half when the Hawkeyes started working the ball more inside. Behind sophomore big man Luka Garza (20 points, 8-for-11 shooting), the Hawkeyes were able to establish an inside presence while opening up the team’s perimeter-shooting options.

In the second half, freshman Joe Wieskamp (19 points) and the Hawkeyes started to make an abundance of threes as they finished 11-for-22 (50 percent) from the perimeter — including a blistering 7-for-10 mark in the second half. Junior guard Jordan Bohannon also tallied 13 points while Nicholas Baer added 10 points as Iowa outscored Cincinnati 48-36 in the second half.

Using the hot shooting of senior point guard Justin Jenifer (19 points), Cincinnati appeared to be completely in the driver’s seat in the first half. But once Iowa started responding with a flurry of second-half threes, the Bearcats struggled to play from behind in the final minutes. Jarron Cumberland (18 points) didn’t get rolling as a scorer until the second half while big man Nysier Brooks (11 points) fouled out with a few minutes left. Tre Scott also finished with 10 points on the afternoon for the Bearcats. Cincinnati struggled to match Iowa’s hot perimeter shooting as they were 6-for-27 from three-point range (24 percent) on the day.

This is a great comeback win for Iowa, as they overcame the bad start by working to take better shots. Forcing a lot of early looks, once the Hawkeyes started getting Garza comfortable on the block, it opened up looks for their shooters. It’s also notable that junior forward Tyler Cook, one of Iowa’s best players, was limited to only five points on 1-for-9 shooting.

Iowa was playing sluggish basketball the final three weeks of the regular season. Friday’s second half was a reminder of how dangerous the Hawkeyes can be if they are hitting shots. And for Iowa to rally when Cook was playing this poorly is yet another positive sign that the Hawkeyes are not to be taken lightly going forward.

With Iowa’s win, the Big Ten now moves to 6-0 in the 2019 NCAA tournament after a 5-0 start on Thursday. Iowa advances to face the winner of No. 2 seed Tennessee and No. 15 seed Colgate on Sunday in Columbus.

2019 NCAA Tournament: Who will be the breakout star of this year’s tournament?

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What makes a breakout star is a subjective thing. Zion Williamson could average 50 and 25 as Duke cruises to a national title, but the only thing he’d be breaking is records.

Ja Morant plays for a mid-major, but he’s going to be a top-five pick come June’s draft.

So there’s a sweet spot of either being a role player thrust into prominence, an OK team who advances because of its best player or an unknown star for a mid-major.

That’s at least the criteria we’ll be looking at here.

LONGSHOTS

Amir Coffey, Minnesota

Coffey was a major prospect before an ACL tear in high school kept his recruitment a bit lower-key, and he ultimately stayed home to play for the Gophers. At 6-foot-8 with athleticism and guard skills, Coffey  is super talented and productive. He has the ability to absolutely go off, too, having scored 30-plus three times against Big Ten opponents. The trouble for him will be sticking around long enough to get noticed with Minnesota drawing the 10 seed in the east with No. 7 Louisville first and then potentially No. 2 Michigan State, which beat the Gophers by 24 in the teams’ only meeting this year.

Matt Mooney, Texas Tech

The Red Raiders, along with Kansas State, ended Kansas’ 14-year reign over the Big 12, and with Chris Beard the architect of their defense, there’s a real shot at a deep run here. Jarrett Culver draws the headlines and NBA scouts, but Mooney, a South Dakota transfer, is a decent bet to outperform expectations. He’s shooting 50 percent on 3s in the last month and if Texas Tech is going to be a true Final Four threat, they’ll need to give Culver some help offensively.

GETTING CLOSER

Anthony Lamb, Vermont

The Catamounts’ star is a high-scoring, rebound-grabbing, sweet-shooting and major-usage player in the form of the 6-foot-6 Rochester, N.Y native. Lamb averages 21.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.9 blocks per game. He shoots 37 percent from 3 and 52.1 percent overall. He shoots a ton – taking nearly 35 percent of his team’s attempts while he’s on the floor – and sometimes volume is the key to Big Dance stardom. The only way to make a bunch of shots is to take a bunch of shots. The draw is a little tough with Florida State in Round 1, but then a sinking Marquette team or good-but-not-daunting Murray State team between them and the Sweet 16.

Matt McQuaid, Michigan State

The 6-foot-5 senior is an absolute sharpshooter for one of the country’s best teams. Shooting from 3 at a 43.3 percent clip, McQuaid is going to be tasked with taking and making big shots for the Spartans, who are looking to get back to the Final Four after three-straight first-weekend flameouts. Cassius Winston is the Spartans’ star, no doubt, but here’s betting McQuaid finds himself in a situation or two where he can be a hero on a big stage.

Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s

Ponds is an electrifying guard that can take over a game – the NCAA tournament loves players like that – and he averaged 19.5 points per game for Chris Mullin and Co. He can really fill it up, and it’s fun to watch him cook when he’s at his best. The problem is, he can run hot and cold, plus there’s the issue of St. John’s being exiled to Dayton and the First Four. Ponds has the game and the role to breakthrough, but there’s plenty working against him, too.

ONE SHINING MOMENT HEROES

Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati

The Bearcat junior is a name hoop-heads know well, but isn’t on the radar of NBA draftniks or casual fans by virtue of playing in the AAC. Cincinnati is a basketball brand, though, and that could help Cumberland capture hearts and minds. The 6-foot-5 AAC player of the year averaged 18.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. His shooting percentage is ugly at 40.4 percent overall, but that’s because he struggles inside the arc, shooting just 41.3 percent on 2s. Outside the arc, it’s a strong 39.1. He’s another high-usage player, who if he gets hot will put up monster numbers. The path isn’t horrible either, with No. 10 Iowa in the opening round and then a Tennessee team that’s great but  also just took a 20-point L to Auburn.

Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga

Clarke shouldn’t be on this list. He plays for one of the best programs in the country and is having an absolutely astounding season. Honestly, it’s been fantastic. He wasn’t, however, names as a Naismith semifinalist or on the final watch list for the Karl Malone power forward award (or the Abdul-Jabbar for center if you see him as a five). So, apparently, he’s not getting the due he deserves, whether it’s because Gonzaga basically stops being part of the conversation for two months in the WCC, the discussion on Killian Tillie’s health sucked up the oxygen or playing next to Rui Hachimura just makes it hard to get noticed. The truth, though, is that Clarke is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country, and one of it’s most versatile and productive defenders. Maybe March is the time for the public to learn all that.

Corey Davis Jr., Houston

The senior guard is the best player on the team we don’t talk about enough after they went 31-3 in the regular season. Davis averaged 16.7 points per game and shot 38 percent from 3-point range. With Georgia State in the first round and then either an inconsistent Iowa State team or a mediocre Ohio State awaiting them, Houston’s path to the Sweet 16 isn’t overly formidable. Then it’s an excellent-but-beatable Kentucky and then maybe the field’s weakest 1-seed in North Carolina away from the Final Four. If it happens, bet that Davis will be a big reason why.

THE PICK

Brandon Clarke

Given the stage he’ll be given provided the Bulldogs take care of business, Clarke is going to make it wildly apparent how good he is and how early we’ll hear his name from Adam Silver later this summer.