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Alabama knocks off unbeaten No. 4 Auburn

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Alabama dropped previously-unbeaten rival Auburn with an 83-64 home win on Wednesday night.

College basketball is down to only one undefeated team with the loss for the No. 4 Tigers.

The Crimson Tide took advantage of an off-night from the Tigers to jump out to an early lead and hold on from there. It helped that Kira Lewis Jr. came through with 25 points and a strong effort on the defensive end. Lewis played in attack mode while still making strong decisions, driving the Alabama offense to a strong night.

Lewis was also a menace on the defensive end. The sophomore was tasked with guarding Samir Doughty or J’Von McCormick. Lewis came through by helping to shut both of them down. Herb Jones complimented Lewis with a strong two-way effort of his own, finishing with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The win jumps Alabama to 9-7 and 2-2 in the SEC. They’re still a long way from thinking about an NCAA tournament bid. But a rivalry win like this over a top-five team could jumpstart bigger things. Particularly if Lewis plays like this every night. At the very least, this is an early signature win for new head coach Nate Oats.

The real story in this one is the collapse of Auburn during a rivalry game. The Tigers (15-1, 3-1) started the game 3-for-18 from the field. Things didn’t get much better from there. Turning the ball over a season-high 21 times and shooting 56 percent from the free-throw line, Auburn had a terrible night completing even the fundamentals. Auburn shot a season-low 32 percent from the field.

Outside of Isaac Okoro (13 points) and Austin Wiley (10 points, 13 rebounds), nobody on Auburn really stepped up on the road Wednesday night.

Although losing a rivalry game hurts, the pressure of being an undefeated team halfway through January is also tough to deal with. The Tigers were always going to be the hunted coming off of last season’s Final Four appearance. But there’s a little extra bullseye on a team’s back if they’re still undefeated at this point in the season. This loss takes a small amount of pressure off of Auburn as they regroup for the rest of conference season.

One thing is for sure, Auburn has to come with more intensity on the road next time. A lackluster effort from the start in a rivalry game is not assuring for a team trying to make another deep run in March.

San Diego State is now the final undefeated college hoops team for the 2019-20 season.

Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith out with foot injury

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Vanderbilt guard Aaron Nesmith, the SEC’s leading scorer, is expected to miss time with a foot injury, the school announced on Saturday.

Nesmith missed Saturday’s Vanderbilt loss to Texas A&M. Before the game, Nesmith was in a boot as teammates went through warmups. According to the Vanderbilt Hustler, Nesmith sustained a stress fracture in his right foot. That injury could cost Nesmith several weeks — if not the rest of the season.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore flourished under first-year head coach Jerry Stackhouse before the injury. Nesmith produced at a high level, averaging 23.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per contest. Shooting 51 percent from the floor and 52 percent from three-point range, Nesmith became a premier perimeter shooting threat. Nesmith’s strong play has led him to become an NBA Draft prospect as early as this summer.

Injuries have crushed the Commodores over the past two seasons. Senior forward Clevon Brown is already out indefinitely with a knee injury. Vanderbilt lost lottery pick point guard Darius Garland last season just weeks into the season. The team eventually went winless in the SEC and moved on from previous head coach Bryce Drew.

Things were looking positive for Vanderbilt with a five-point loss to unbeaten Auburn earlier this week. But the loss to Texas A&M on Saturday extends an agonizingly long SEC losing streak to 22 games.

Without Nesmith and Brown, Vanderbilt will have to rely on junior guard Saben Lee and freshman guard Scotty Pippen Jr. When Vanderbilt was very depleted last season, Lee played heavy minutes. Pippen, on the other hand, is unproven in league play as a newcomer.

Down to only eight scholarship players, Vanderbilt needs to get healthy sooner than later. Stackhouse will have to handle a depleted roster lacking star power during at least the next several weeks. The goal for the Commodores will be to pick up its first SEC win since 2018.

Missouri big man Jeremiah Tilmon out indefinitely with injury

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Missouri junior big man Jeremiah Tilmon will be out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot, the team announced on Monday night.

The 6-foot-10 Tilmon is a consistent presence on the interior for the Tigers the past three seasons. This season, Tilmon is putting up 9.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 20.9 minutes per contest. Tilmon’s offensive efficiency has seen growth in his third year with Mizzou. The junior increased his field-goal percentage to a notable 63.6 percent from his career average of around 55 percent as an underclassman.

But while Tilmon is a positive on the offensive glass and protecting the rim, he’s still having issues with fouls. Tilmon’s minutes have stayed down during his career in-part due to his inability to defend without fouling.

In Tilmon’s absence, Missouri should turn to senior big man Reed Nikko. Over the past few weeks, Nikko’s minutes have gone up to begin with. Forward Mitchell Smith could also see more time at the five if the Tigers opt to go for a faster and more athletic lineup.

At 8-5 on the season, the Tigers have been playing much recently better as they were on a recent winning streak until an SEC loss to Kentucky. The loss of Tilmon will certainly hurt Missouri’s chances in the SEC and making the NCAA tournament as he’s a vital member of their interior rotation.

Three Things to Know: Florida routs Providence; Creighton’s new piece does well in debut

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Tuesday night didn’t have a lot of big matchups in college basketball. Only four top-25 teams even played. There were minimal matchups between power-conference teams.

But there were still some results to monitor for the future, including an SEC team earning a blowout win, the debut of a potential key rotation piece for a Big East team and 

1. Florida routs Providence at Hall of Fame Invitational

On a slow Tuesday night, Florida ran past Providence for an 83-51 win at the Hall of Fame Invitational in Brooklyn. The Gators used four double-figure scorers to gain an early big advantage as they coasted from there. Keyontae Johnson paced Florida with 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Gators shot 44 percent (8-for-18) from three and got scoring from multiple sources.

Perhaps most importantly, Florida avoided a landmine. Providence isn’t very good this season as they fall to .500. For a team with a lot of talent on paper, the Friars aren’t gelling together. So for the Gators to go into a neutral site and get a win on a slow December night is important for a team that already has three losses in non-conference play.

Florida’s fates weren’t swayed by a win over a floundering Providence team. But they gained some confidence by pounding a Big East opponent before a more important game against Utah State this weekend.

2. Creighton holds off Oklahoma in second half

In another matchup of power conference teams Creighton held off a second-half charge from Oklahoma for the 83-73 home win.

The trio of Marcus Zagorowski (20 points), Mitch Ballock (17 points) and Ty-Shon Alexander (19 points, 11 rebounds) led the way for the Bluejays as they combined for 56 points.

But most notably for Creighton in the win was the season debut of Denzel Mahoney. The Southeast Missouri State transfer hasn’t played since the 2017-18 season when he averaged 19.3 points per game. The 6-foot-5 Mahoney made his presence immediately felt in the Creighton lineup with 14 points in 29 minutes on Tuesday night.

Creighton already has the No. 15 offense in the country with a trio of talented players combining to put up 48 points per game. And now they’re adding a double-figure scorer who came off of a year and a half absence and scored double-figures on a Big 12 team? The Bluejays are an interesting wild card team in the Big East with their ability to put up points.

The matchup this weekend featuring Creighton traveling to Arizona State just got a lot more intriguing.

3. Miami wins back-and-forth game over Temple

In the second game of the Hall of Fame Invitational, Miami won a back-and-forth game over Temple with a 78-77 thriller.

Point guard Chris Lykes made two free throws after getting fouled with four seconds left to give the Hurricanes the win. Only 30 seconds before, the Owls had buried a three-pointer to take the lead as De’Vondre Perry looked like a potential hero.

But Miami pulled out the win making for a significantly more exciting outcome in Brooklyn than the opening contest. The Hurricanes still don’t have any sort of tournament-worthy profile. They still don’t look like an easy out after a recent road win at Illinois and this close win on Tuesday.

Baldwin scores 31 as No. 24 Butler beats Ole Miss 67-58

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OXFORD, Miss. — Another big performance from Kamar Baldwin kept No. 24 Butler unbeaten after an early-season test in an SEC arena.

Baldwin scored a season-high 31 points and the Bulldogs opened a large lead in the second half before holding off Mississippi 67-58 on Tuesday night in a game they never trailed.

“We swung first. Then we held on,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “We showed poise on the road and we executed. And what can you say about Kamar? He’s playing at a really high level.”

Baldwin shot 11 of 16 from the field, including 4 for 5 from 3-point range, to lead the Bulldogs (8-0). He added six rebounds and three assists.

Jordan Tucker and Bryce Nze each had eight points for Butler, and Nze grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.

“My teammates did a great job of finding me when I got to the open spots,” Baldwin said. “When they come to me, I’m supposed to hit the shots.”

Breein Tyree scored 22 points and Khadim Sy added 12 for Ole Miss (5-3).

After trailing 31-22 at halftime and 50-34 midway through the second half, the Rebels pulled to 52-48 on Tyree’s layup with 9:11 left. Butler answered with an 8-3 run, highlighted by six points from Baldwin, and the Rebels never got closer than seven again.

The Bulldogs finished 27 of 47 (51%) from the floor, including 8 for 17 on 3s (47%), and forced 17 turnovers.

“I saw some positive things tonight and I was proud we made a great comeback,” Mississippi coach Kermit Davis said. “Their best player just took over the game. It’s that simple. We missed shots down the stretch and Butler is way too good for that.”

The Rebels shot 22 of 55 (40%) from the field, including a combined 14 for 25 from Tyree and Sy. Ole Miss was 7 of 22 (31%) from beyond the 3-point arc and a season-low 7 for 15 (46%) at the free throw line.

BIG PICTURE

Butler: This was an NCAA Tournament resume-building road win. Picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason coach’s poll, the Bulldogs appear to be much better than predicted. They raced to a 22-8 lead and never trailed as Baldwin had 12 points in the first half while missing only one shot from the field.

“I thought that 22-8 start was huge,” Jordan said. “We challenged our group coming in to get off to a good start and we prepared well. We got contributions from everybody in that fast start.”

Ole Miss: Sy, a 6-foot-10 junior college transfer, had his best performance of the season — including three dunks in the first half. … Since starting swingman Luis Rodriguez was injured, the Rebels have lost two of three games. A broken left foot will keep Rodriguez sidelined for eight weeks.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Butler: Winning on the road against an SEC opponent coming off an NCAA Tournament berth last season should at least be enough to keep the Bulldogs ranked.

UP NEXT

Butler: At home against Florida on Saturday, the third SEC opponent in a four-game stretch.

Ole Miss: Will host CSU Bakersfield, coached by former Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes, on Saturday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

No. 18 Auburn routs Richmond to win Legends Classic

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NEW YORK — Auburn is first and foremost a school that’s known for its football program.

Which is fine with Bruce Pearl, who believes the Tigers are “a pretty good basketball team right now.”

And he has the school’s first in-season tournament championship since 2004 to make his argument for him.

“Our guys came to Auburn to make history,” Pearl said after No. 18 Auburn to a 79-65 win over Richmond in the championship game of the Legends Classic on Tuesday night at Barclays Center.

“That was important to our team.”

Samir Doughty scored 22 points to lead the Tigers. Austin Wiley, who was named the tournament MVP, scored 18 points. He joined Doughty on the all-tournament team, along with Wisconsin’s Nate Reuvers, and Richmond’s Jacob Gilyard and Grant Golden.

Daniel Purifoy chipped in with 13 for Auburn, which improved to 7-0 overall, and 3-1 in four all-time meetings against the Spiders.

“Guys are beginning to see the dimensions that we have,” Pearl said. “We have a lot to be thankful for, a lot to be blessed (with).”

Following a five-game winning streak, Richmond dropped to 5-1 with its first loss of the season.

Golden led the Spiders with 14. Gilyard and Nick Sherod finished with 12 each.

“I just thought we didn’t have quite enough energy for shotmaking to hang in longer in the second half,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. “They’re a very good team.”

Trailing 35-34 at the half, Auburn opened the second half with an 11-4 run in a span of 4:27 to take a 45-39 lead. The advantage grew to 53-41 on Jamal Johnson’s layup at 13:10.

After Richmond cut the deficit to 56-49, Wiley finished the next two possessions with a two-handed dunk and a tip-in, causing Mooney to call a time out.

“Hats off to them,” Mooney said.

Auburn’s lead grew to as much as 22 in the final minutes.

“One of their players–I’m not going to say who–came up to me and was like, ‘(You guys) are killing us right now,’ Doughty said. “Each and every team we’ve been playing throughout the year has been saying that in the second half. Once he said that, I just told my guys, ‘Let’s keep that foot on the pedal, let’s run the score up a little bit more, let’s get those guys who are not really playing into the game.'”

Gilyard’s running floater at the buzzer gave Richmond a 35-34 lead to cap a first half that the Spiders started quick and finished fast. Richmond scored 15 points in the first 12:34 and ended the first half by scoring 16 points in the final 7:48.

INJURY REPORT:

Golden suffered an ankle injury landing after a basket with 1:44 left. Golden laid on the court for more than five minutes while he was being tended to by trainers, before behind helped to the Spiders’ bench. Mooney said Golden twisted his ankle “in the first game of the year. It’s the same ankle. Structurally it seems to be okay but it’s probably something else he’ll have to be dealing with during the course of the next few days.”

UP NEXT:

Auburn: Hosts Furman on Dec. 5.

Richmond: Hosts Boston College Saturday.