Georgetown will struggle when their guards struggle


WASHINGTON DC – West Virginia’s slow start to Big East play wasn’t necessarily due to a lack of talent or ability.

The issue was focus, attention to detail, and — simply put — doing what Bob Huggins was asking them to do.

If you’re a coach, and your team isn’t listening to or being receptive to your coaching, how do you combat that? Well, if you are Bob Huggins, you start giving your players pop quizzes on the scouting reports.

“Our attention to detail wasn’t very good,” Huggins told reporters after the game. “You put a test in there and you kind of figure out who is paying attention and who isn’t paying attention.”

And while the tests have been in place for the past three game, on Saturday the effect was finally visible. West Virginia played their best game of the season against Georgetown, getting 28 points from Casey Mitchell to carry them to a 65-59 win at the Verizon Center. Kevin Jones added 15 points, but more importantly he had five of his eight rebounds on the offensive end as the ‘Eers dominated the glass, posting a 44.1% OR% and a 81.0 DR%.

“This is the best we’ve played, without a doubt,” Huggins said. “This is the best we’ve shared the ball, its certainly the best we’ve defended. Its the best we’ve rebounded the ball.”

“I emphasize [rebounding] everyday, its just taken a while. We’re not very big. We don’t jump very good. So we have to team rebound, and I thought we did a better job of team rebounding.”

As well as West Virginia played, the story of this game will no doubt end up being Georgetown’s 1-3 start in the Big East.

We’ve all seen this movie before. In 2009, Georgetown started the season 10-1 and opened Big East play with a win on the road against then-No. 2 UConn. Everyone started talking about the Georgetown team led by a bunch of talented freshmen and sophomores named Greg Monroe, Chris Wright, and Austin Freeman. But the Hoyas collapsed, losing 15 of their last 21 games and getting bounced out of the NIT in the first round. Last year, Georgetown’s season was a roller coaster. They beat Duke, they lost to South Florida. They beat Villanova, they lost to Rutgers. They beat Syracuse to make the Big East Tournament finals (where, ironically, they lost to West Virginia) before getting knocked out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Ohio.

And now, after being dubbed the best team in the Big East by more people than just me, Georgetown’s back court has ceased to produce. Chris Wright was 3-13 from the field with five turnovers today. Austin Freeman managed to take just eight shots from the field and didn’t score until there were fifteen minutes left in the game. Jason Clark played great, going for 16 points on 7-10 shooting and making a number of big plays defensively, but he had two costly turnovers late.

Its been a trend. The Big Three combined for just twenty points against St. John’s. Wright and Clark were awful against Notre Dame, and Austin Freeman, who had 21 points, did most of his damage with the game already out of reach.

“We’re getting the same shots, they just aren’t going in right now,” Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said after the game. “Couple that with the things we have to improve and get better on.”

Its not the only problem that Georgetown has. They’ve been getting killed on the glass of late, but anyone that knows anything about the Hoyas expected that coming into the season. Look, I like Julian Vaughn and Nate Lubick and Henry Sims, but that isn’t a front line that will strike fear into Penn, let alone West Virginia.

The strength of this team is their back court and their back court’s ability to execute offensively. Simply put, this team has just not been executing, especially during crucial moments in the game. Today, Wright missed two wide open jumpers from the top of the key that could have tied the game or given Georgetown the lead midway through the second half. Georgetown had three possessions in the last two minutes where they were down three points. All three ended up in a turnover. Their final possession of the game, down by four points with twenty seconds left, also ended in a turnover.

“Its us. Its about us,” Thompson said.

Georgetown can take solace in the fact that they still have a full season in front of them. This back court is too good to continue to struggle like they have.

But the road doesn’t get any smoother, as the Pitt Panthers come to town on Wednesday.

“The good thing is we’re four games into an 18 game season,” Thompson said. “The bad news is that we’ve lost three of those four games. This is the Big East. No game gets any easier.”

Huggins reiterated the same sentiment.

“People get all giddy about beating this team or that team,” he said. “But then all of a sudden you end up losing three or four in a row. Its a hard, hard league. Its hard. We came out here two years ago, we’re playing three freshmen and we came here and won. I mean, I was giddy. To come in here and win with three freshmen, wow. I go out and sit down on the bus. I got my Jimmy John’s sandwich there, I’m eating my Jimmy John’s. They come out and drop about 12 tapes on my chair. I say ‘What’s this? I want to relax for a bit.’ They said ‘Coach, we got Pitt on Monday.’ They were No. 2 in the country.”

“That’s what this league is. You go from one really hard game to another really hard game. Sometimes you go from one really hard game to a harder game. Its brutal, and what you have to be careful of is your guys thinking that there are teams in this league that can’t beat you. Everybody in this league can.”

Did you order the Jimmy John’s today?

“No, I gotta go recruit. At least I knew coming in this time.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

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.