Texas looked great against Texas A&M, but the Aggies need a reality check


I was having some difficulty coming up with a word to describe the 81-60 win Texas picked up at home against Texas A&M on Wednesday night, so I googled ‘thrashed’ and ‘synonym’. This is what the intrawebs spit back out at me: drubbed, clobbered, creamed, obliterated, beat up, beat down, worked over, and mollywhopped.

I’ll go with the last one there.

The Longhorns mollywhopped the Aggies Wednesday night.

There is really no other way to put it. Texas dominated the Aggies inside early and often, getting eight of their first 12 points from Tristan Thompson, who finished with 18 points, six boards, and four blocks, en route to an early 20-5 lead. A Mark Turgeon technical sparked a 14-4 run by the Aggies to get within five, but that surge was short-lived. A Gary Johnson dunk sparked a 15-4 run that was capped by a Jordan Hamilton three, and the Longhorns headed into the break up 39-27.

The seal clubbing only continued in the second half.

Hamilton kicked off the second twenty minutes with a tough, turnaround three, two free throws, and a fadeaway jumper, and while there were technically still 18 minutes left in the game, this one was all but over.

After watching this performance, you’d be a fool not to pencil Texas into the No. 2 slot in the Big XII, right behind those pesky Jayhawks.

What makes Texas so good this season is not how good they are on the defensive end of the floor. Well, that’s not 100% accurate. Texas is terrific defensively. Kenpom has them sitting fifth in the country is defensive efficiency in large part because they are the best team in the country in terms of effective field goal percentage. They have tough, athletic kids at every position that are willing to get into their man’s jockstrap 50 feet from the basket. It doesn’t hurt to have a human eraser like Thompson protecting the rim, either.

Texas could have put a team like that on the floor last year, though.

The difference this season is that when Texas has their best defensive team on the floor, they also have their best — or one of their best — offensive teams on the floor. Instead of having to juggle his lineup, Rick Barnes can feel comfortable relying on his rotation. Dogus Balbay might be the best perimeter defender in the country. Cory Joseph can hold his own. And while J’Covan Brown and Hamilton will likely never be considered lock down defenders, they are certainly both better than they were a year ago.

Defensive isn’t the only place that Hamilton has shown a dramatic improvement, either. As a freshman, Hamilton was known for being a gunner, a kid that didn’t understand the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. This season, he has become a much more efficient scorer. His shooting percentages are up across the board, his turnovers are down, his assists are up, and his offensive rating is way up despite seeing his minutes, shots, and usage all increase. He had 27 points on 10-14 shooting from the field, a stat line that is not all that surprising this season.

As good as Texas looked tonight, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it wasn’t hard to see this coming.

Texas A&M is a good basketball team. They defend, they rebound the ball, and they are well coached.

But they are not one of the top ten teams in the country. The Aggies came into this game with a 16-1 record, but just two of those wins came in true road game — at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and at Oklahoma. Their three wins of note were all by a single possession. They beat Washington at home by one, Missouri at home in OT, and Temple in Orlando by three. They were also taken to overtime by Arkansas in a game that the Aggies were down double digits in the second half.

Those gaudy rebounding and defensive numbers? They built them up against mediocre competition, and the real teams that they faced are not exactly known for their boardwork. Against Texas, who is a good but far from great rebounding team, the only gathered 33.3% of their own misses (as opposed to 41.1% on the season) while allowing Texas to get 40.9% of their available offensive rebounds (they were allowing just 26.8% this season), numbers that are far off of what the Aggies are used to.

Texas A&M will be near the top of the Big XII standings all season long. They only play Missouri, Kansas State, and Kansas once. They will pile up some wins, and they will deserve the majority of them.

But don’t let their gaudy record fool you.

This is a good basketball team and probably a top 25 team, but they are not yet an elite team and certainly not ready to compete for the Big XII title.

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

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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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.