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Tuesday’s Things to Know: Tennessee stuns No. 6 Kentucky; Rutgers, Michigan State earn notable Big Ten wins

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Super Tuesday captured much of the nation’s attention as the schedule was light on college basketball action. Plenty of notable results still came through.

Tennessee stunned No. 6 Kentucky with a comeback road win at Rupp Arena. And in the Big Ten, Rutgers might have punched its NCAA tournament ticket with a win over No. 9 Maryland. Meanwhile, No. 16 Michigan State stayed hot with its third straight win over a top-20 team at No. 20 Penn State.

1. Tennessee stuns No. 6 Kentucky with second-half comeback road win

The night’s biggest upset belonged to Tennessee.

The Volunteers used an impressive second-half comeback to beat No. 6 Kentucky, 81-73, at Rupp Arena.

Tennessee was down by as many as 17 points. Trailing by 11 at the half, it looked like the Wildcats were completely in control. Riding an eight-game winning streak entering Tuesday night, Kentucky was a team peaking at just the right time before the postseason began. Now, after another puzzling loss to an unranked team at home this season, we just have additional question marks about how good (and consistent) this Wildcats team might actually be.

John Fulkerson deserves a massive amount of credit for Tennessee’s win. Soundly outplaying Kentucky’s talented group of big men, Fulkerson finished with 27 points and and six rebounds on 10-for-15 shooting. Fulkerson was tough to guard one-on-one and his established presence inside helped Josiah Jordan-James (16 points), Yves Pons (15 points) and Jordan Bowden (11 points) all get going.

Kentucky looked disjointed at times during the second half as they completely derailed after a promising start. Tyrese Maxey had a solid night with 21 points. But Maxey didn’t have a lot of consistent help. Immanuel Quickley (14 points on 4-for-14 shooting) and Nick Richards (12 points) both had issues scoring in the half court. And Kentucky’s bench only accounted for a handful of points as nobody else stepped up.

In the grand scheme of things, this outcome probably doesn’t have many direct implications on the NCAA tournament. Tennessee still has to likely win the SEC tournament to even sniff the NCAA tournament. And Kentucky was always going to have a difficult time catching up to the current projected No. 1 seeds — barring an unforeseen collapse.

The biggest takeaway here is that Kentucky is still capable of mental lapses against mediocre teams that can cost them games.

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2. Rutgers earns its biggest win of the season over No. 9 Maryland

The Scarlet Knights might be dancing for the first time since 1991.

Rutgers earned its biggest win of the season with a decisive 78-67 win over No. 9 Maryland. A No. 11 seed in CBT’s latest Bracketology, Rutgers was stuck in last-four-byes status before Tuesday night’s win. Losing four of five entering Tuesday, Steve Pikell’s club needed to stop its recent freefall. But with another high-quality Q1 home win, the Scarlet Knights should breath a little easier entering the home stretch.

Jacob Young (17 points), Montez Mathis (15 points) and Geo Baker (11 points) led a balanced effort for Rutgers. Shooting an efficient 7-for-16 from three-point range, the Scarlet Knights limited themselves to seven turnovers on offense.

Maryland’s cold shooting also didn’t hurt. The Terps couldn’t buy a bucket from deep, going 6-for-32 from the floor. Besides for Anthony Cowan Jr. (19 points) and a late solid stretch from Jalen Smith (16 points), Maryland’s offense had a mediocre evening.

Now that Rutgers has secured this victory, its Big Ten finale against Purdue this weekend won’t be a dreaded must-win bubble-versus-bubble game. And with Purdue winning at Iowa on Tuesday night, the Boilermakers should enter that game with plenty of confidence. Obviously, the Scarlet Knights would like to win that one and keep momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament. But now that doesn’t feel like a must-win for Rutgers as much as it did before.

But the Rutgers court storm on Tuesday was well-deserved for its long-suffering fanbase. This is a season that fans of that program have waited decades for.

CBT Bracketology

3. No. 16 Michigan State rallies to get past No. 20 Penn State

Izzo in March…

Michigan State continued its late-season surge with an impressive comeback road win over Penn State. Trailing by 15 at the half, the Spartans scored as many points the first 10 minutes of the second half (31) as they had in the entire first half. With Maryland’s loss to Rutgers, Michigan State is now tied with the Terps for the Big Ten conference lead with both teams at 13-6.

Xavier Tillman Sr. put together a monster double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds. Senior point guard Cassius Winston chipped in an efficient 14 points and seven assists. Perhaps most importantly, Michigan State’s defense showed up in the second half.

After Penn State blitzed the Spartans in the first half with 10 three-pointers, Michigan State didn’t allow a triple during the second half.

Michigan State now has four straight wins with three straight victories coming against top-20 teams. The last two of those wins came on the road.

Although Michigan State was sluggish at times during the season after being ranked No. 1 this preseason, this is currently one of the most dangerous teams in college basketball. The Spartans will get yet another ranked matchup in their regular-season finale when they host Ohio State this weekend.

Tennessee stuns No. 6 Kentucky with comeback road win

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Fulkerson scored a career-high 27 points, and Yves Pons made several key jumpers down the stretch as Tennessee rallied from a 17-point deficit to upset No. 6 Kentucky 81-73 on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (24-6, 14-3 Southeastern Conference) appeared in control leading 51-34 early in the second half before the Volunteers (17-13, 9-8) outscored them 29-9 over 10:09 to lead 63-60. Kentucky tied it at 63, but Pons answered with a 3-pointer and Fulkerson added two free throws to stay ahead.

Pons then added consecutive jumpers to make it 72-66 with 1:48 left. Nick Richards’ two free throws cut the lead to four, but Josiah-Jordan James put back his missed jumper to make it a six-point game again with 1:05 left.

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James then made three free throws and Santiago Vescovi added two more in the final minutes to seal Tennessee’s second consecutive victory and just its sixth at Rupp Arena. Pons finished with 15 points.

Fulkerson made 10 of 15 from the field and all seven free throws to top his previous best of 25 against South Carolina on Feb. 15.

Tyrese Maxey had 21 points and Immanuel Quickley 15 for Kentucky.

UP NEXT

Tennessee seeks a season split at home Saturday against No. 17 Auburn, which is tied for second with LSU.

Kentucky aims to complete a season sweep on Saturday at Florida, which looks to regroup from a loss to the Volunteers.

‘I trust the SEC office will do the right thing,’ says Tennessee coach Rick Barnes after bump from official

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Tennessee 63-58 loss to Texas A&M wasn’t without some controversy.

In the final seconds of the game, official Mike Nance appeared to bump into Vols coach Rick Barnes, who was standing stationary on the sideline, and the two exchanged words.

“I really have a lot of confidence in the SEC office that they are going to look at that,” Barnes said after the game about the incident, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I believe they will look at this game and take it apart. I just think they will do that. That shouldn’t happen in any way shape or form. I would like to say what I want to say, but I won’t because I trust the SEC office will do the right thing.”

Nance was headed to the monitor to review a call when the bump occurred, and Nance appeared to ask Barnes if the coach initiated the contact.

“Coach (Bob) Knight told me a long time ago that in a game officials are going to miss seven to nine or 10, 11, 12 calls,” Barnes said. “He kept going up every year. He said, ‘You just hope things aren’t egregious at any point in time.'”

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.

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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. 21 Tennessee tops Florida A&M for 31st-straight home win

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — John Fulkerson scored 15 points to lead five Tennessee players in double figures as the 21st-ranked Volunteers trounced winless Florida A&M 72-43 on Wednesday night for their 31st consecutive home victory.

Tennessee (7-1) owns the longest active home winning streak of any Division I team. The Vols haven’t lost at home since falling 94-84 to Auburn on Jan. 2, 2018.

The Vols’ latest victory improved Rick Barnes’ coaching record to 699-365 in 32 seasons at George Mason (1987-88), Providence (1988-94), Clemson (1994-98), Texas (1998-2015) and Tennessee (2015-present).

Barnes will try to become the seventh active head coach to earn 700 career Division I wins when Tennessee hosts No. 15 Memphis on Dec. 14. The fraternity includes Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, Coastal Carolina’s Cliff Ellis and Kentucky’s John Calipari.

Fulkerson’s 15-point performance came four days after the junior forward scored a career-high 17 in a 72-69 victory over VCU, which was ranked No. 20 at the time.

Yves Pons scored 14 points and Olivier Nkamhoua had 11 for Tennessee. Lamonte’ Turner and Josiah-Jordan James added 10 points apiece.

Evins Desir scored 11 points for Florida A&M (0-7).

Tennessee took control with an early 14-0 run that opened a 16-3 advantage. The Vols stayed in front by double digits the rest of the way.

Florida A&M shot just 35.6% (16 of 45) from the floor. Tennessee hasn’t allowed any of its first eight opponents to shoot better than 41.1%.

BIG PICTURE

Florida A&M: This game continued the early-season travels for Florida A&M, a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference program that won’t play its first home game until it hosts Morgan State on Jan. 11. The Rattlers are opening their season with 11 road games and two neutral-site contests.

Tennessee: The Vols won easily despite not getting much scoring from Jordan Bowden, who entered with a team-high 15.4 points per game. Bowden scored just three and shot 1 of 7. Tennessee will need to play better to beat Memphis after the exam break. Tennessee had an equal number of turnovers and baskets (10) in the second half.

UP NEXT

Florida A&M is at Portland on Dec. 16.

Tennessee hosts Memphis on Dec. 14.