12/27 – College Hoops Week in Review: I hope everyone had a great holiday

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Game of the Week: Missouri 75, Illinois 64

Missouri is the most exciting team in the country to watch this season. Not just because they play a hectic, up and down style — its called the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” for a reason — but because every game they play seems to come down to the wire. This is already this third time this season that we have used a game that the Tiger’s have played in as Game of the Week.

Wednesday night’s matchup was no different. Illinois jumped out to a 10 point lead early in the first half, but a 17-2 run by Mizzou that spanned the two halves gave the tigers a 35-29 lead early in the second half. Illinois answered with a 12-2 run of their own, and it was on. Both teams made big shot after big shot. It was like a boxing match between two fighters with glass jaws but not all that much skill. Illinois and Mizzou were both landing haymaker after haymaker, waiting for the other team to drop.

Eventually, Missouri took a 62-58 lead when Brandon Paul missed two free throws with 48 seconds left. Michael Dixon tracked the ball down, but it was stolen from him in the back court by Mike Davis, setting up an exciting sequence (jump to the 1:30 mark, and don’t mind the music in the back ground):

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehnd_NymN9o&feature=player_embedded]

The intentional foul called on Tisdale may have cost Illinois the game, but it was the correct call. Two handed shoves in the back of a player moving at full speed are dangerous, and they are the precise reason that the intentional foul was added to the rulebook.

That sequence is the perfect example of Missouri basketball. A potentially momentum changing three is made off of a turnover, cutting Mizzou’s lead to one with 44 seconds left. Most teams hold the ball for one shot in that situation. Missouri threw an inbounds pass to Marcus Denmon, who was already heading up the floor. He took one dribble and passed ahead to Laurence Bowers, who was wide open on a wing. Layup, foul, six point possession, game over.

It deserves to be noted: UAB 68, VCU 65

In a battle of anagrams, VCU took a 19 point with just 13 minutes left in the game. UAB was able to whittle that down to nine at one point, but eventually UAB took a 65-53 lead with just 5:08 left in the game. That’s when Jamarr Sanders took over. He hit a three to cut the lead to nine, but neither team scored until Sanders scored four points — one of two free throws and then a three — when he picked up a steal on back-to-back possessions, cutting the lead to 65-60 with 1:30 left. After Aaron Johnson picked up a steal, he hit one of two free throws. UAB grabbed the rebound off of the miss and the ball ended up in Sanders’ hands. He buried another three, and the lead was now just 65-64 with 1:15 left. VCU had possession, but they turned the ball over again, and with just 10 seconds left in the game, Sanders drove, drew a foul, and hit both free throws to take the lead 66-65. Two more Johnson free throws sealed the win.

All told, Sanders had 12 of his 29 points in the final five minutes. UAB had not been closer than nine points since the 14:50 mark of the first half. That’s not quite Jay Williams-vs.-Maryland territory, but Sanders’ performance was quite impressive nonetheless.

Player of the Week: Klay Thompson, Washington State

I know that Washington State was beaten pretty handily by Butler in the final of the Diamond Head Classic, but that does nothing to diminish the week that Thompson had. In the three games in Hawaii, he averaged 26.3 ppg, including 31 in the loss to Butler that kept things close. He was 25-46 from the floor and 13-25 from three. It was, without a doubt, an impressive performance, and Thompson’s play this week is a huge reason why Wazzu’s name is being tossed around as a potential top 25 team and a sleeper in the Pac-10.

What makes this performance by Thompson so impressive is not that he shot the ball well. We’ve known that Thompson was a good shooter. That is no secret. But, like we said after the win over Gonzaga, Thompson has become an all-around player. He’s jumping passing lanes. He’s creating for his teammates. Most importantly, however, he’s been able to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim while handling physical, one-on-one defense much better than last year. Thompson started out the 2009-2010 season on fire, but once Pac-10 play came around his numbers dropped considerably. He likely will not find defense as physical as Butler’s in the Pac-10 this season. He had 31 against Butler and kept the Cougars in the game despite subpar performances from Reggie Moore, DeAngelo Casto, and Faisal Aden.

The All-they-were-good-too team:

  • G: Darius Morris, Michigan: Granted, it came against Bryant, but Morris had 26 points and 12 assists in his only game of the week. It was the fifth time he’s reached double figure assists and his fourth double-double of the season. Morris is now averaging 15.3 ppg and 7.5 apg on the season.
  • G: Jio Fontan, USC: Fontan averaged 17.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, and 3.5 spg while leading the Trojans to a 2-0 week, including a win at Tennessee, to bounce back from a tough loss to Kansas in Fontan’s debut.
  • G: Doron Lamb, Kentucky: Lamb had 32 points on 11-12 shooting (7-8 from three) as he set the Kentucky freshman scoring record, previously held by Jamal Mashburn, in a win over Winthrop.
  • F: Travis Franklin, Colorado State: Franklin led the Rams to a win in the Cancun Governer’s Cup by averaging 22.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 2.0 spg, including a 25-point, 9-rebound performance against Gary Flowers and Southern Miss in the final.
  • F: Justin Harper, Richmond: Harper averaged 20.5 ppg and 8.0 rpg, leading the Spiders in scoring in both games, as Richmond knocked off UNC-Greensboro and Seton Hall. Harper had 24 points and hit six three against the Hall.
  • Bench: Jimmer Fredette, BYU; Justin Hurtt, Tulsa; Chris Singleton, Florida State; Matt Howard, Butler

Team of the Week: Butler Bulldogs

Butler may have given life to their chances of earning an at-large bid this season with a win in the Diamond Head Classic out in Hawaii. With wins over Florida State and Washington State, as well as Utah, Butler landed themselves two quality victories against teams that will likely be in the tournament come March. Without much in the way of a resume booster from here on out, the Bulldogs are going to want to win the Horizon Tournament to be safe, but the resume is not what was important coming out of this week.

What’s important is that Butler looked like the Butler we expected to see all season long. Matt Howard has really grown as a player in his four season with the Bulldogs. He’s now knocking down threes, he’s putting the ball on the floor and hitting mid-range shots and fadeaways. He’s still a terrific rebounder. He averaged 18.7 ppg and 8.7 rpg this week, upping his averages to 18.1 ppg and 8.2 rpg on the season. Shelvin Mack broke out of his slump this week, scoring 17 points on FSU and 20 on WSU. Andrew Smith looks like he is going to be a force on the block in the Horizon this year. Chase Stigall and Zack Hahn are both knocking down jumpers now. Ronald Nored and Shawn Vanzant are just as pesky and athletic as they were last season. I’m not usually a big believer in the eye test, but this team passed with flying colors this week.

A disappointing week: I don’t have an explanation for it.

The only reason I can think of is that teams that aren’t as good as they think they are were distracted by the end of the finals and the start of the holiday season.

Regardless, it seemed like every time I looked at the college basketball scoreboard this week, another team had a disappointing performance.

We’ll start with the obvious — Renardo Sidney, Elgin Bailey, and Mississippi State. What else is there to say? These two embarrassed their team and their program and managed to get themselves sent home early from a Christmas trip to Hawaii for fighting in the stands. The Bulldogs are a mess this season.

Then there was Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly, who managed to get themselves suspended for accepting discounts on clothing from a department store. The act itself isn’t all that terrible — the fact that these two are NCAA athletes is the only reason anyone is frowning upon them taking advantage of a hook-up — but it is just another example of the lack of leadership within the Kansas State program. The Wildcats lost to UNLV on Tuesday due to a lack of talent. It wasn’t, however, a lack of effort, as Kansas State, for the first time all season, looked like the Kansas State I expected — scrappy defense, aggressive to the offensive glass, win with floor burns. Now can they do the same with Pullen in the lineup?

Tennessee may have had their season saved with a jumper from Scotty Hopson against Belmont. Tennessee had lost to USC by one point earlier in the week, their third straight loss, before the Bruins came back to take a late lead on the Vols. Hopson hit a runner with 5.7 seconds left, however, and gave the Vols a win. Right now, the Vol’s problem is execution in close games. Their last three games have been decided by one point. Two of them are losses, and both of those games Tennessee had a shot to win the game late. The Vols have three games — against Tennessee-Martin, the College of Charleston, and Memphis — to get this thing figured out before Bruce Pearl’s eight game suspension kicks in.

How about Virginia Tech’s season? They have struggled all year long to find the rhythm many of us expected them to have, and over the holiday break news leaked that Dorenzo Hudson will miss the rest of the season with an injury to his foot. Seton Hall is in the exact same boat, as Jeremy Hazell — who may be out for the season with a wrist injury — was shot in an attempted robbery over the holiday break.

All told, 18 teams from the BCS conferences lost to team from outside the BCS conferences. Eight of those upsets occurred on Wednesday night. Don’t forget, this was a week when there were essentially no games played on Saturday and Sunday. Usually, there are upwards of 175 games played on the weekend. And those struggles? They don’t even count games like UCLA beating UC Irvine by one, or Arizona State losing to North Carolina A&T by 11 in the second half, or Minnesota struggling to knock off South Dakota State.

Matchups of the Week:

  • 12/27 – 8:30 pm: UConn @ Pitt
  • 12/28 – 7:00 pm: Minnesota @ Wisconsin
  • 12/29 – 7:00 pm: Georgetown @ Notre Dame
  • 12/29 – 7:00 pm: George Mason @ Dayton
  • 12/29 – 7:00 pm: Wofford @ VCU
  • 12/29 – 9:00 pm: Marquette @ Vanderbilt
  • 12/29 – 11:00 pm: Washington @ USC
  • 12/29 – 11:00 pm: Washington State @ UCLA
  • 12/30 – 7:00 pm: Temple @ Villanova
  • 12/30 – 8:00 pm: Old Dominion @ Missouri
  • 12/31 – 12:00 pm: Louisville @ Kentucky
  • 12/31 – 12:00 pm: Northwestern @ Purdue
  • 12/31 – 4:00 pm: Minnesota @ Michigan State
  • 12/31 – 4:00 pm: Xavier @ Florida
  • 12/31 – 10:00 pm: Oklahoma State @ Gonzaga
  • 1/1 – 11:00 am: West Virginia @ Marquette
  • 1/1 – 2:00 pm: New Mexico @ Dayton
  • 1/2 – 6:00 pm: Wisconsin @ Illinois
  • 1/1 – 3:30 pm: Notre Dame @ Syracuse

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.