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Vassell, Williams lead Florida St. past Ga. Tech

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State knows its defense goes a long way.

The No. 18 Seminoles blocked nine shots and created 11 steals to beat Georgia Tech 70-58 Tuesday for their 15th straight home victory.

“They are very, very good defensively,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “We had 20 turnovers. Those turnovers, it’s just the difference.”

Florida State (12-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) leads the ACC with 9.6 steals a game. And that tenacity was critical for a team missing starting guard M.J. Walker (hip bruise) and backup center Balsa Koprivica (back bruise).

Coach Leonard Hamilton does not expect either injury to be long term. But even while short-handed the Seminoles had more than enough depth to pull away.

“There were periods in the second half where I thought our guys were really locked in,” Hamilton said. “We made some energy plays. That’s what happens when the quality of your depth is involved as much as it was. And our guys were a little fresher.”

Devin Vassell scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Seminoles while Patrick Williams added 12 points and Trent Forrest had eight points and six assists.

Michael Devoe scored 19 points, knocking down 6 of 8 three-point attempts for Georgia Tech (6-7, 1-2). Moses Wright added 13 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season, but he also had six turnovers.

The Seminoles led 48-45 when they capitalized on a flagrant foul on forward Jordan Usher with 10:07 to go. Usher fouled Florida State guard Anthony Polite on a drive, and Polite made both free throws. RaiQuan Gray scored on a drive on the next possession. Vassell and Williams then followed with baskets in the next two minutes as Florida State went up 56-47 with 7:59 left.

“Just being able to persevere, come down the stretch and make big shots, make big plays, it just shows the character that we have,” Vassell said.

Vassell had eight points and Dominik Olejniczak added seven points in the second half for Florida State, which shot 53% after halftime to pull away.

The 20 turnovers by Georgia Tech were one short of its season high. Pastner, however, sees improvement during a 2-2 stretch.

“We are getting better these last four games,” he said. “I like the progress we are making.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Florida State can make the case that it is capable of being a top 15 team, especially if the Seminoles win at No. 7 Louisville on Saturday.

DECADE-LONG RUN

Florida State finished the decade with a 224-110 record. That includes a 2012 ACC title, six NCAA Tournament appearances and three berths in the Sweet 16. The Seminoles are 57-3 in their last 60 home games.

TAKEAWAYS

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets managed just three bench points and wore out in the second half.

Florida State: Even without Walker and with Koprivica playing just two minutes, the Seminoles still had 10 players score points.

UP NEXT

Georgia Tech: at North Carolina on Saturday.

Florida State: at Louisville on Saturday.

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

Report: Charges filed against Josh Pastner accusers

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Charges have been filed against a couple who accused Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner of sexually assaulting a woman in a hotel room in early 2016.

According to a report from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, Ron Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley are accused of being “engaged in a plan or scheme … to allege a false, fraudulent accusation of sexual assault against Josh Pastner with the goal of obtaining an anticipated civil monetary settlement/judgment,” according to court records in Arizona.

Pendley, a partner with Bell in the scheme, tried to turn on Pastner, a former friend of Bell’s, as the duo hatched a plan to call police and accuse Pastner of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room while he was coaching Memphis more than three years earlier.

The call came before mediation of a civil lawsuit related to the accusation. Pastner’s attorney countered with a court filing that included recorded jailhouse conversations suggesting the couple fabricated the allegations.

In January 2018, Pastner filed a civil suit against the two in Arizona, alleging extortion and blackmail by threatening to release false allegations about him. A countersuit was filed by Bell and Pendley the next month alleging the sexual assault along with other times he allegedly harassed her.

A Title IX investigation conducted by attorneys hired at Georgia Tech cleared Pastner on it in June 2018.

Bell was previously linked to Pastner in a November 2017 report from CBS Sports in which he provided Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson with improper benefits. Bell paid for flights to his home in Tucson, meals in Atlanta and claimed to send the players shoes and shirts purchased online. Georgia Tech self-reported the violations to the NCAA after Pastner reported the violations to them as Okogie and Jackson were suspended for the start of the 2017-18 season.

The warrant for Pendley was issued last week when she failed to appear in court twice to be arraigned. Pendley was facing misdemeanor charges of facilitation of a fraud scheme practice, facilitation of influencing a witness and facilitation of tampering with a witness. Bell was hit with seven misdemeanor counts in March, including solicitation of a fraud scheme practice, solicitation of influencing witness, attempted tampering with a witness, use of an electronic communication to terrify, intimidate, threaten or harass and impersonating a public servant.

(H/t: Mark Schlabach, ESPN)

Report: NCAA serves Georgia Tech with notice of allegations

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A couple days after its 2018-19 season came to an end in the ACC tournament, the Georgia Tech basketball program now finds itself in the crosshairs of the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

Thursday night it was reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the school has been given a notice of allegations in connection with alleged rules violations by former assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie and Pastner’s friend-turned-adversary Ron Bell.

Per the report two of the three violations are of the Level I variety, the most severe when it comes to the NCAA rules structure.

LaBarrie is alleged to have taken a prospective recruit and a team member to a strip club during a visit in November 2016. Also, the recruit and team member are alleged to have been given $300 by another individual who was not identified.

Lastly, the NCAA has alleged that there was an impermissible meeting between the recruit and a person who is considered by the governing body to be a “representative of the school’s athletics interest.” Meetings of that variety are not allowed to occur during the recruitment of a prospective student-athlete.

According to reports by ESPN.com and Stadium, the recruit in question was former Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. and the representative was former Georgia Tech point guard Jarrett Jack.

With regards to Bell, who was alleged to have attempted to blackmail and extort Pastner in a lawsuit filed by the coach in January 2018, his involvement in this case comes as a result of contact with former Georgia Tech players Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie.

According to the Journal-Constitution, the NCAA states in the notice that Bell gave Jackson and Okogie $1,400 in travel expenses, clothing, shoes and meals when the tandem visited Bell in Arizona in November 2017. It was also stated that Bell purchased plane tickets for Markel Crawford, who at the time decided to transfer from Memphis. Crawford would ultimately transfer to Ole Miss instead of Georgia Tech, with Bell cancelling the tickets as a result.

It goes without saying that this isn’t a good situation for Pastner and Georgia Tech, especially when taking into consideration the program’s 2018-19 performance. Per the report the head coach is not directly blamed in the NCAA’s notice, but in recent years the governing body has placed more responsibility on coaches when it comes to knowing what’s going on in their programs.

Georgia Tech will have until May 16 to respond to the allegations in the notice.

Jerome, Hunter lead No. 2 Virginia’s rout of Ga. Tech, 81-51

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Ty Jerome scored 19 points, De’Andre Hunter had 18 and No. 2 Virginia took command with a 25-4 first-half run and beat reeling Georgia Tech 81-51 on Wednesday night.

The Cavaliers (25-2, 13-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed 11-7 before a 3-pointer by Braxton Key sparked the eight-minute surge. Hunter had nine points, Kyle Guy six and Jerome five in the burst. Virginia’s lead was 41-22 at halftime and 51-24 after a 10-2 run to start the second half as the Cavaliers won their fifth in a row in the series. Guy added 11 points and three others had eight.

Jose Alvarado scored 12 and James Banks III had 11 for the Yellow Jackets (12-17, 4-12), who lost for the ninth time in their last 10 games. Georgia Tech also got a full dose of Virginia’s all-around efficiency as the Cavaliers shot 55.6 percent (30 of 54), made nine 3-pointers and limited the Yellow Jackets to just five 3-pointers (in 17 attempts) and 37.5 percent shooting overall (21 of 56).

BIG PICTURE

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets are very young with only two seniors on the roster, and neither Abdoulaye Gueye nor Brandon Ashton contributed much until Gueye made a few baby hooks in the second half. In Josh Pastner’s third season as coach, the turnover has been significant, but the results have been slow to follow.

Virginia: Coach Tony Bennett went with a new starting five of freshman guard Kihei Clark, Jerome, Guy, Hunter and Mamadi Diakite. It’s the third game in a row Bennett has juggled combinations, with Jack Salt and Braxton Key also getting starts in that span. Salt had started every ACC game before Wednesday night.

Koumadje leads No. 17 Florida State past Georgia Tech 69-47

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ATLANTA — Christ Koumadje had 10 points and 12 rebounds as No. 17 Florida State tied a school record with its seventh straight ACC win, beating Georgia Tech 69-47 Saturday.

Freshman Devin Vassell came off the bench to score a team-high 11 while playing in his hometown for the Seminoles (20-5, 8-4).

Georgia Tech (11-15, 3-10) lost its seventh straight ACC game with another offensive struggle.

Tech guard Jose Alvarado broke out of a lengthy slump with 17 points, but the Yellow Jackets made just 8 of 36 shots from inside the 3-point arc and shot 34.8 percent overall. They’ve averaged 53.1 points in the streak. On Saturday, they put up their seventh and eighth halves in the streak scoring 25 or fewer points.

The teams were tied at 10 early before the Jackets fell into the first of multiple shooting freezes, and the Seminoles stretched their lead to 31-15 on a layup by Terance Mann with 4:27 left.

To that point, Tech had made just 6 of 26 shots, and center James Banks III — the Jackets’ leading scorer in ACC action — was off the mark on his first six.

Phil Cofer, David Nichols and Vassell each a pair of 3-pointers before Alvarado and Abdoulaye Gueye hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc for the Jackets, and Banks finally got loose for a dunk shortly before the buzzer to pull Tech within 34-23 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Florida State: The first time the Seminoles put together a seven-game ACC winning streak, in the 2011-’12 season, they went on to win the ACC Tournament. This also cemented a fourth consecutive season with 20 or more wins overall, matching a run from 2009-’12 that also was under head coach Leonard Hamilton.

Georgia Tech: The Jackets keep churning their lineup, as freshman forward Kristian Sjolund made his first start and sophomore Moses Wright returned to the lineup for the first time in more than a month. Sjolund scored 19 points in Tech’s previous two games after scoring just nine combined all season before that, and he can shoot. They were replaced to start the second half by Gueye and Brandon Alston. Sjolund had 11 points, including 3 of 7 3-pointers, and Wright scored two.