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Thursday’s Things to Know: Arizona can’t finish at Oregon, Wichita State takes early American lead and Michigan wins in 2OT

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Thursday night start with significant news that Washington point guard Quade Green will be academically ineligible for at least the next two months, and then things really got interesting.  Here’s what you need to know from a night of overtimes and early jockeying for conference positioning.

1. Arizona misses huge chance in Eugene

Arizona blew a massive opportunity Thursday night.

The Wildcats had a chance to firmly establish themselves as the Pac-12’s premier team, put themselves in the league’s driver’s seat and land a major NCAA tournament resume win when they led No. 9 Oregon by six with less than 2 minutes left in the game at Knight Arena. For a team whose best win was at home against Illinois in the season’s first week, that’s an opportunity you can’t miss.

Which is exactly what Arizona did.

Oregon scored six-straight points over the final 1:38 of regulation, including a game-tying jumper by Payton Pritchard with 28 seconds remaining, and the Wildcats missed two shots and then turned it over in the final possession of overtime to fall to the Ducks, 74-73, in frustrating fashion.

Arizona got a tough whistle down the stretch Zeke Nnaji maybe getting fouled on a potential game-winner with 5 seconds left without drawing a call, and then when officials blowing a play dead when it appeared Pritchard threw the ball back toward an unguarded basket before landing out of bounds. That makes it tough, but it’s a conference road game against a top-10 opponent. It’s gonna be tough.

The loss is obviously not something that’s going to hurt Arizona – a lot of teams are going to lose in Eugene over the next two months – but a win could have been monumentally helpful. Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let’s just examine it from a public perception angle. The Wildcats were ranked 24th, and, given how AP voters typically behave, will probably fall outside the top-25, even if that’s silly considering they lost on the road to a top-10 team. Arizona may have showed itself to be the best team in the Pac-12 by taking Oregon to OT and nearly winning in Eugene, but there’s a pretty good chance Arizona is playing without a number next to its name next week.

To the things that really matter. Arizona has two “good” losses – at Baylor, vs. Gonzaga – and one whatever loss, St. John’s on a neutral, and that’s why the computers like them, but their resume is pretty thin with something pretty important: Good wins. It’s been two months since they beat a perfectly fine but not particularly remarkable Illini team in Tucson, and their best win since then depends on how you feel about New Mexico State, Arizona State and Wake Forest. And no one feels that great about that trio of teams.

A win at Oregon would have not only been a statement, but a serious NCAA tournament resume builder, something that isn’t exactly in strong supply across the Pac-12.  The league once again isn’t great, and that means needle-moving wins aren’t a plentiful resource. To outplay Oregon for most of the night Thursday on the Ducks’ floor only to return home with an L is a pretty tough pill to swallow if you’re Sean Miller or his players.

Arizona’s performance made me pretty confident that they’re the best team in the Pac-12, but my opinion is worth less than the Wildcats’ Nov. 24 win against Long Beach State (KenPom No. 305).

2. Shockers knock off Memphis

Even without James Wiseman, Memphis has a roster that can compete for an AAC championship. The Tigers ripped off a series of wins without the potential No. 1 NBA draft pick, both before and after he decided to hang up his sneakers for the season. Wins against N.C. State and Tennessee are enough to believe in Penny Hardaway’s team even without the stellar freshman. These Tigers still have a chance.

But they’re not the frontrunners.

Wichita State looks to have staked a claim to that status with their 76-67 win over the Tigers on Thursday night at Koch Arena.

The Shockers led by as many as 19 points despite shooting just 32.8 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from the 3-point line. They did it thanks to 35 trips to the free-throw line and a defense that produced 18 turnovers and held the Tigers to 35.7 percent from the floor while going a ghastly 4 of 21 from 3-point range. Gregg Marshall’s team had six players score at least eight points while Jamarius Burton led the way with 16.

Wichita State is now 2-0 in the American with the best league win across the conference to date. They’re just a little more than a week away from butting heads with another – probably their chief – AAC  contender, Houston, in Wichita.

3. Michigan survives 2OT to beat Purdue

I don’t know if anyone was actually worried about Michigan after Cassius Winston and Michigan State pretty well thumped them Sunday, but getting big performances from Zavier Simpson, Franz Wagner and Jon Teske to overcome 36 points and 20 rebounds from Trevion Williams and beat Purdue 84-78 in double-overtime might help calm some nerves.

Simpson had 22 and nine assists,  Teske had 18 points and nine rebounds and Wagner had 15 points and five boards to help power the Wolverines, who are still without second-leading scorer and 50-percent 3-point shooter Isaiah Livers. The junior wing has now missed three-straight games since suffering a groin injury in the early minutes of Michigan’s win against Presbyterian on Dec. 21.

Livers is a huge piece of the Wolverines’ puzzle, and without him their offense shrinks considering the importance of his 3-point shooting.

That doesn’t, however, explain how badly Michigan has gotten beaten inside throughout Big Ten play, with Williams’ huge night the latest in a line of big nights, as noted by The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn:

Michigan might not be the slumbering giant they appeared to be after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis (both Iowa State and North Carolina – Michigan’s first two wins in the Bahamas – are in free fall), but if they can get Livers back soon and figure out a way to contain opposing big men, they’ve got a chance to hang around in a Big Ten race that Michigan State is currently in solid control of.

Jamarius Burton leads No. 23 Wichita State past No. 21 Memphis

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WICHITA, Kan. — Jamarius Burton scored 16 points to lead No. 23 Wichita State past No. 21 Memphis 76-67 on Thursday night.

Erik Stevenson had 12 points for the Shockers (14-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference), and Tyson Etienne scored 11.

Precious Achiuwa had 22 points and 12 rebounds for Memphis (12-3, 1-1). Achiuwa was 8 of 11 from the floor. Freshman reserve Tyler Harris scored 17 points for the Tigers.

Wichita State led by as many as 19 — 56-37 after Stevenson’s 3-pointer with 12:01 remaining — but Memphis closed back within six in the final minutes.

Wichita State shot just 32.8% for the game, more than 10 points lower than its season mark.

The Shockers burst out to a 23-11 lead before Memphis fought back, holding Wichita State to two points in a nearly five-minute span and cutting the lead to 25-22 with 4:48 remaining in the half.

Memphis, third in the AAC in 3-point shooting percentage, was 1 of 13 from beyond the arc in the first half. The Tigers stayed close thanks to making 12 of 15 free throws before halftime, keeping the deficit to 37-31 at the break.

BIG PICTURE

Memphis: The Tigers lost a tough game in a challenging venue but will get a rematch with the Shockers on March 5.

Wichita State: The Shockers probably take over as conference favorites but now must prove it away from home.

UP NEXT

Memphis: At South Florida on Sunday.

Wichita State: At UConn on Sunday.

Lomax leads No. 15 Memphis past Bradley 71-56

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Alex Lomax scored 17 points, Boogie Ellis added 12 and No. 15 Memphis survived a poor shooting performance to beat Bradley 71-56 Tuesday night.

Memphis made 36.1% of its shots from the field, but the Braves (5-3) were considerably worse. They hit 26.8%, including just 2 of 23 tries outside the arc.

Tyler Harris and DJ Jeffries added 10 points each for Memphis (7-1). Precious Achiuwa had an off-night scoring with only six points, but he grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots. Lomax also had three steals.

Elijah Childs led the Braves with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Danya Kingsby added 12 points.

Bradley’s top offensive players had tough nights. Leading scorer Darrell Brown entered averaging 14 points per game but was limited to four. He missed all eight of his 3-point tries and was 1 of 16 from the field. Nate Kennell was held to two points a week after hitting 6 3-pointers in a win over Kansas State.

Memphis pulled away at the start of the second half, opening with seven straight points.

Bradley shot 25% in the first half, including missing all seven of its 3-point attempts. Memphis was only slightly better at 35.5%, converting a pair of 3-pointers.

Memphis’ 29-19 lead at the break was its largest of the first half.

BIG PICTURE

Bradley: The Braves struggled from the field throughout, missing 10 straight during the first half and coming out of halftime on a 1-of-13 skid. The misfiring, despite the Braves outrebounding Memphis, allowed the Tigers to build the lead to double-digits.

Memphis: The Tigers improved in the second half — only slightly. Eventually, Memphis’ speed and ability to get out on the break overcame its poor shooting as Lomax provided a spark off the Memphis bench.

UP NEXT

Bradley: Host North Carolina A&T on Saturday

Memphis: Plays at UAB on Saturday

Tuesday’s Things to Know: No. 1 Kentucky upset, Oregon topples Memphis, Gavitt Games continue

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One week into the new college basketball season and we’ve already seen the No. 1 team lose in back-to-back weeks.

Last week’s Champions Classic saw No. 1 Michigan State get picked off by No. 2 Kentucky. On Tuesday, the No. 1 Wildcats fell in stunning fashion at home to Evansville.

The shocking Kentucky loss made for an surprisingly busy night in college hoops as Oregon and Memphis also played in Portland in a “neutral” matchup of top-15 teams.

1. No. 1 Kentucky suffers stunning loss to Evansville

Although Tuesday night’s slate of games was supposed to be intriguing it wasn’t supposed to give us this sort of excitement.

Evansville and Walter McCarty went into Rupp and exited with a 67-64 win as the No. 1 Wildcats suffered one of the most stunning early-season upsets in recent memory. The Purple Aces soundly outplayed a team that was favored to win by 25 points. We just never see No. 1 teams lose at home to unranked, mid-major teams.

I break down more on some of Kentucky’s early-season issues. The Wildcats are desperately seeking a consistent go-to player while the interior scoring and perimeter shooting leaves a lot to be desired. Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley were the only consistent Kentucky players on offense on Tuesday.

This loss was a big sign that college basketball doesn’t have a dominant team at this point in the season. Things are wide open.

2. No. 14 Oregon takes down No. 13 Memphis, James Wiseman

The top matchup of Tuesday saw the Ducks take care of the Tigers in Portland. Memphis star freshman James Wiseman is continuing to suit up for Memphis despite the NCAA’s claim of ineligibility.

That didn’t matter to Oregon.

This was a solid overall effort from the Ducks as Payton Pritchard (14 points, six assists) made some clutch plays to lead a balanced offensive effort. Oregon also got Wiseman in first-half foul trouble as they limited him to 14 points and 12 rebounds on only 5-for-8 shooting.

CBT’s Rob Dauster digs deeper into this one. Oregon is once again looking like a balanced team led by one of the nation’s top lead guards in Pritchard. Memphis has many exciting young players to keep tabs on but they are in for an up-and-down season.

3. Home teams win all three Gavitt Games

The Big Ten/Big East Gavitt Games continued Tuesday night with three more games. Following DePaul’s road win over Iowa on Monday, all three home teams won on the second night of the event.

No. 21 Xavier needed overtime to outlast Missouri in the closest game of the three. Michigan took down Creighton to open up the evening while Butler took down Minnesota behind a big game from Kamar Baldwin.

Tuesday’s results pushes the Big East to a 3-1 mark so far through four games as the Gavitt Games continue the next two nights. While Tuesday’s games were mediocre, Wednesday sees Villanova traveling to Ohio State while Thursday features Seton Hall hosting Michigan State.

Wiseman has 28 and 11 in winning debut for No. 14 Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After missing the preseason exhibition games with annoying aches and pains, touted freshman James Wiseman finally made his debut for No. 14 Memphis.

It was worth the wait.

Wiseman, the nation’s top-rated recruit, had 28 points and 11 rebounds as the Tigers beat South Carolina State 97-64 on Tuesday night.

The difference for Memphis with Wiseman in the game was obvious from the opening play when he scored inside. From that point on there were dunks, alley-oop finishes and offensive rebounds followed by putbacks.

“Just the first few plays, you saw it,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said of Wiseman’s impact. “It was amazing. Just him running the floor and throwing it towards the rim and then him finishing. That’s such a huge luxury.”

Fellow freshman Precious Achiuwa added 14 points and eight rebounds for Memphis (1-0). Wiseman connected on 11 of 14 from the field and blocked three shots before checking out for good midway through the second half.

“The main priority is trusting my teammates,” Wiseman said of getting back into the flow of the game after injuries to his shoulder and ankle. “Just running the floor. That’s one of my strengths. When I did that, the floor opened up tremendously.”

Ian Kinard led South Carolina State (0-1) with 13 points, and Jahmari Etienne scored 11.

Memphis controlled all aspects of the game, from rebounding to defense. By the early minutes of the second half the Tigers’ lead had reached 21, and they continued to stretch the advantage while coasting the rest of the way.

In addition to outrebounding South Carolina State 42-25, the Tigers forced 18 turnovers that led to 24 points.

“Memphis is really good on capitalizing off turnovers,” Bulldogs coach Murray Garvin said. “That’s hard to compete with. Then, they also had 60 points in the paint.

“Wiseman is a heck of a basketball player. His best basketball is ahead of him, and we didn’t have the size or athleticism to match up with the big fella.”

BIG PICTURE

South Carolina State: It’s doubtful the Bulldogs will face as tough a challenge as they did in the season opener. No other teams on South Carolina State’s schedule are in the Top 25. The Bulldogs, a member of the MEAC, are picked fifth in the conference preseason poll.

Memphis: The game was the perfect opening act for a Memphis team that has plenty of promise because of the highly touted recruiting class. Hardaway started five freshmen and the Tigers worked the opening set to Wiseman and kept feeding him.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

South Carolina State was hardly a test for Memphis, so it’s hard to imagine the win will affect the Tigers’ No. 14 ranking. They have another game this week against the University of Illinois-Chicago before the next poll is released.

BLOCK PARTY

Memphis blocked 10 shots. In addition to three from Wiseman, DJ Jeffries, another freshman, had four. Lance Thomas had two and Achiuwa one.

LAST WORD

“They have great size, great athleticism, and great skilled guys. It’s a formula for success. . I think they are really, really underestimated. Being ranked 14th and having the No. 1 recruiting class, those guys should play with a chip on their shoulder for the rest of the year until they get that respect they probably deserve.” — Garvin on Memphis.

UP NEXT

South Carolina State: Hosts Bob Jones University on Friday.

Memphis: Hosts the University of Illinois-Chicago on Friday.

College basketball’s best frontcourts

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As the NBA game gets smaller and quicker and more spread out, the college game can still be beaten with big guys.

Just two years ago, in between Villanova’s two national titles, was a championship game played between a Gonzaga team built around their big guys and a North Carolina team built around their big guys.

Hell, I think you can make the argument that Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is one of the five most valuable players in college basketball, even if his potential as a pro is limited.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the best frontcourts in college hoops.



1. KANSAS (Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot, Silvio De Sousa, David McCormack, Jalen Wilson, Tristan Enaruna)

The Jayhawks have perhaps the best traditional big men in college hoops in Udoka Azubuike, who shot 77 percent from the floor in his last (and only) healthy season, but it’s unclear just exactly how this frontcourt will work as a whole. Silvio De Sousa is probably the most talented of this group with David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot the most experienced. None of those three, though, have shown the ability to step out on the perimeter to help create the space that will be critical for Azubuike to operate. Lightfoot is actually largely expected to redshirt. That leaves freshmen Jalen Wilson and Tristan Enaruna, a couple of four-star recruits.

What Bill Self does with this situation could very well determine Kansas’ ceiling. Frankly, it won’t be at all surprising if we see Self try doses of Marcus Garrett, Isaiah Moss and Ochai Agbaji at the four to alleviate the spacing concerns.

2. DUKE (Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt, Javin DeLaurier, Jack White)

Coach K’s use of his frontcourt last year was one of the more scrutinized tactical decisions, with Zion Williamson, a singular force in the sport, splitting his time between power forward and center, when more time at the five probably would have unlocked a little more firepower for the Blue Devils. That won’t be the case this year with Duke’s roster flipping over, but how its frontcourt performs will go a long way in determining if it can get where last year’s team didn’t – the Final Four.

Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt are both five-star recruits and potential one-and-done lottery picks as top-15 prospects. The pair should, well, pair well with Carey at the five and Hurt stretching the floor at the four. Javin DeLaurier got a lot of run for the Blue Devils last year, and will help provide experience and depth up front.

3. MEMPHIS (James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa, Isaiah Maurice, DJ Jeffries, Malcolm Dandridge)

Just how good Penny Hardaway’s frontcourt is will go a long way in determining if the Tigers are as good as their recruiting class. 

It starts with James Wiseman, the 7-foot-1 top-rated freshman and potential top-NBA draft pick come June. If he’s All-American good, then that sets Memphis up for success more than anything else. There’s that pesky ankle injury that’s kept him sidelined in the preseason, which is concerning but not cause for a full panic now.

It’s not the only thing, though. Precious Achiuwa was the other five-star Hardaway collected in his No. 1 recruiting class, which also included Isaiah Maurice, D.J. Jeffries and Malcolm Dandridge.

4. GONZAGA (Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev, Drew Timme, Pavel Zakharov)

Killian Tillie is one of the more intriguing forwards in the country. People have been raving about his talent for years, but he’s been stuck behind great college players and future pros while also dealing with injuries. He even had knee surgery this offseason that has his immediate availability currently in question. If he’s healthy, the deck has been cleared in Spokane for him to be featured.

Six-foot-11 Filip Petrusev played in 32 games last year for the ‘Zags but wasn’t a huge piece of the rotation. He did have a big summer playing for Serbia at the FIBA U19s, putting up nearly 20 points a game and shooting 66 percent from the floor. He and Tillie could make for a dynamic duo.

Coach Mark Few also has some highly-rated freshmen he can mix in with Drew Timme and Pavel Zakharov, but they did get dinged when Oumar Ballo was forced to redshirt..

5. WASHINGTON (Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart, Naz Carter, Hamier Wright, Sam Timmins)

Memphis’ recruiting deservedly got a lot of love this summer, but Mike Hopkins got the job done, too. Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels are both top-10 recruits that will immediately make the Huskies’ frontcourt formidable. Both are 6-foot-9, but Stewart weighs in at 245 pounds and McDaniels 185. Nahziah Carter averaged 8.1 points and 2.4 rebounds while Hameir right played nearly 18 minutes per game. Sam Timmins played sparingly, but shot 62 percent.

6. LOUISVILLE (Jordan Nwora, Steve Enoch, Malik Wiliams, Aidan Igiehon, Jaelyn Withers)

The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Nwora blossomed into an All-American candidate last year, averaging 17 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting 37.4 percent from the floor. He’s an ACC player of the year frontrunner, and the cornerstone to both the Cardinals’ frontcourt and their Final Four aspirations.

Steve Enoch was effective both inside and out last season while Malik Williams is a top-level shotblocker. Aidan Igiehon is a four-star, top-75 recruit while Jaelyn Withers is a top-150 prospect from 2019.

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

7.  MISSISSIPPI STATE (Reggie Perry, Abdul Ado, Elias King, Robert Woodard II, Prince Oduro, KeyShawn Feazell, E.J. Datcher, Quinten Post)

Reggie Perry is a first-team all-SEC pick after he averaged 9.7 points and 7.2 rebounds last season while Abdul Ado is back after shooting 61.4 percent from the floor and blocking 1.8 shots per game last season. Robert Woodard played 17 minutes per game last year while Prince Oduro is eligible after a promising freshman season for Siena.

8. MARYLAND (Jalen Smith, Ricky Lindo, Chol Marial, Makhi and Makhel Mitchell)

Bruno Fernando is gone, but Jalen Smith was nearly as productive as him last season as a freshman. The 6-foot-10 Smith blocked 12.5 percent of opponent shots while on the floor while shooting 56.2 percent from 2-point range. He shot just 26.8 percent from distance, but hoisted 71 attempts, at least an indication he could potentially be a floor-spacer. The Terps are also adding twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, the former a top-75 recruit and the later a three-star prospect. Chol Marial is a 7-foot-2 freshman that could contribute if he gets healthy.

9. BAYLOR (Tristan Clark, Mark Vital, Freddie Gillispie, Flo Thamba)

Tristan Clark was on his way to first-team all-Big 12 honors last year before his knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season in January. He’s back this year, and he’ll anchor one of the best frontcourts in the country. Mark Vital, Freddie Gillispie and Flo Thamba all were contributors last season, and should be more effective with Clark by their side this season.

10. MICHIGAN STATE (Xavier Tillman, Marcus Bingham, Thomas Kithier, Malik Hall, Joey Hauser*)

Nick Ward and Kenny Goins are gone, but Xavier Tillman returns after a productive sophomore campaign that has him blossom on both ends of the floor, albeit not his 3-point shooting. Marcus Bingham and Thomas Kithier will be in line for more minutes after being seldomly used as freshmen while Malik Hall is a top-75 recruit.

The wildcard here is Joey Hauser. The Marquette transfer has already seen his request for an immediate-eligibility waiver denied by the NCAA, but Michigan State has appealed. If the NCAA reverses course, the Spartans’ frontcourt will suddenly look much more formidable.

11. FLORIDA (Kerry Blackshear, Keyontae Johnson, Gorjok Gak)

The Florida frontcourt got a massive boost when the 6-foot-10 Kerry Blackshear decided to grad-transfer over this past offseason. Blackshear averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Hokies last season while also shooting 50.8 percent from the field. He’ll join Keyontae Johnson, who put up 8 and 6 last year, and Gorjok Gak, a 6-foot-11 center who missed last season with injury.

12. VIRGINIA (Jay Huff, Mamadi Diakite, Braxton Key)

The national champs lost a lot from last year’s team, but their frontcourt remains somewhat intact, although De’Andre Hunter is a major loss, no doubt. Getting Mamdi Diakite, Braxton Key and Jay Huff all to return is a help, though.

Diakite averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 22 minutes per game while blocking more than 10 percent of opponent shots while he was on the floor. Braxton Key and Jay Huff were smaller contributors last year, but still important ones. They’ll help Tony Bennett bridge the gap to the post-title era.

13. NORTH CAROLINA (Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, Justin Pierce, Sterling Manley, Brandon Huffman)

Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson are both gone, but Garrison Brooks is back from his junior season and five-star center Armando Bacot comes into the fold. So, too, is William & Mary graduate transfer Justin Pierce, a third-team all-CAA honoree who averaged 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game last season as a junior.

14. UTAH STATE (Neemias Queta, Justin Bean, Diogo Brito, Kuba Karwowski, Roche Grootfaam)

Neemias Queta, a 7-foot sophomore, averaged 11.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in his rookie campaign while shooting 61.4 percent, putting him among the country’s most productive centers. Justin Bean saw more time late in the season and was productive against MWC competition. Diogo Brito is a floor-spacer when he’s at the four. Kuba Karnowski and Roche Grootfaam are a pair of junior college transfers that could contribute.

15. PURDUE (Matt Haarms, Trevion Williams, Aaron Wheeler, Evan Boudreaux)

Matt Painter and the Boilermakers have made a habit of having one of the nation’s best frontcourts, and that won’t be any different this year. Matt Haarms will anchor the group after the 7-foot-3 center averaged 9.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 63.2 percent from the floor. Two freshmen that saw time last year – 6-foot-9 forwards Aaron Wheeler and Trevion Williams – will step into bigger roles up front, too.