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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.

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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.

Tennessee loses Jordan Bone to 2019 NBA Draft

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Jordan Bone is staying in the 2019 NBA Draft as the junior guard is leaving Tennessee, he announced Tuesday night.

One of the SEC’s breakout players last season, the 6-foot-3 Bone put up 13.5 points, 5.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three-point range.

Bone is still fightin to get drafted, but his two-way ability coupled with elite speed should make him an enticing potential two-way contract prospect if he goes undrafted.

The loss of Bone signifies a new era beginning at Tennessee. The Vols have been one of the nation’s best teams the past two seasons but they lose four starters from last season’s group — including the dynamic frontcourt of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.

Tennessee survives scare from No. 15-seed Colgate

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Tennessee survived a scare from No. 15 seed Colgate as the Volunteers claimed a 77-70 win on Friday afternoon in a South Region NCAA tournament first-round game in Columbus.

The Volunteers led by 12 at the half and by as many as 14 points in the second half before Colgate responded with a furious push to take a 52-50 lead with under 12 minutes left. But Tennessee responded with scoring from a variety of sources to regain the advantage and close out the game.

Admiral Schofield (19 points) buried back-to-back three-pointers when it was a one-possession game to put this game out of reach for Tennessee. Jordan Bone (16 points), Jordan Bowden (14 points) and Lamonte Turner (13 points) also finished in double-figures while All-American Grant Williams (nine points, eight rebounds) had a quiet game.

Playing most of Friday without leading scorer and Patriot League Player of the Year Rapolas Ivanauskas (vision issues; 0 points, 0-for-4 shooting), Colgate (24-11) gave Tennessee a legitimate scare during its first NCAA tournament appearance in 23 years. Conference tournament title-game hero Jordan Burns had another great day shooting from the perimeter as he finished with 32 points on 8-for-13 three-point shooting.

Colgate was 15-for-29 from distance as a team on Friday as treys kept them in the game. Junior forward Will Rayman (10 points) and freshman guard Tucker Richardson (10 points) also finished in double-figures for the Raiders.

Tennessee advances to face No. 10 seed Iowa on Sunday in a second-round matchup in Columbus. The Vols will need to play much better in order to get past Iowa as the Hawkeyes used hot second-half shooting to get past No. 7 seed Cincinnati.

Williams had an off-day and wasn’t putting up his normal production, but it’s a positive sign for Tennessee that its guards all stepped up to contribute double-figures.

NCAA Tournament 2019: Instant Analysis South Region

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The South Region is led by some top seeds who were bounced early in the NCAA tournament last season as Virginia and Tennessee look to redeem themselves after strong seasons.

The South Region is led by No. 1 seed Virginia. Following last season’s stunning loss to No. 16 seed UMBC in the first round, the Cavaliers will get a chance to redeem themselves against No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb, the champions of the Big South.

The No. 8/9 matchup is a matchup between SEC and Big 12 as Ole Miss and Oklahoma battle. The Rebels were one of the most pleasant surprises of any team in the field this season while Oklahoma has won some games down the stretch to earn another bid.

Wisconsin draws the No. 5 seed as the Ethan Happ-led Badgers get a major test in No. 12 seed and Pac-12 Tournament champion Oregon. Although the Ducks struggled during the regular season — particularly after the loss of star freshman Bol Bol — they’re a dangerous team with two recent wins over Washington.

ANALYSIS: East | South | West | Midwest

The No. 4 seed is Kansas State as they are still hoping to get senior forward Dean Wade (foot) healthy enough to play in the NCAA tournament after he missed all of last season’s Elite Eight run for the Wildcats. They’ll face No. 13 seed UC Irvine, the champions of the Big West.

Defending champion Villanova drew no favors from the committee with the No. 6 seed. There hasn’t been a No. 6 seed in the Final Four since 1992 as the Wildcats will have an uphill battle to make the Final Four for the third time in four years. They draw No. 11 seed Saint Mary’s as the Gaels gained a lot of momentum in winning the WCC title over No. 1 seed Gonzaga.

Earning a surprising share of the Big Ten regular-season title this season, Purdue draws the No. 3 seed as they get a tough first-round opponent in No. 14 seed Old Dominion.

The committee also didn’t help No. 7 seed Cincinnati as the Bearcats had an impressive showing in an AAC title-game win over Houston on Sunday. The Bearcats will face No. 10 seed Iowa in a clash of styles and tempo.

After falling short in the SEC tournament title game, No. 2 seed Tennessee gets a matchup with No. 15 seed Colgate — a program making its first NCAA tournament appearance in 23 years. Although the Raiders feature the Patriot League Player of the Year in forward Rapolas Ivanauskas, they’ll face one of the best frontcourts in the tournament with the Vols’ veteran combo of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.