Ohio State poleaxes Purdue — so when will Buckeyes lose? Ever?

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The stage was set for a great night of hoops.

Florida and Georgia had just finished a double overtime classic, giving way to a matchup between the two best teams in the Big Ten. There was undefeated Ohio State and player of the year candidate Jared Sullinger. There was visiting Purdue, who sat alone just one game behind the Buckeyes for first place in the Big Ten with their own player of the year candidate in JaJuan Johnson.

The game was ESPN. All the national writers were in the house. The crowd was buzzing. Twitter was fired up. And when ESPN was finally able to cut to the game … Ohio State was up 19-5?

It got worse.

Much worse.

At one point, the lead surpassed 30 points. The final was 87-64, but even Matt Painter admitted after the game that “We got five of six calls in the second half that were just mercy calls” and that “it really should have been 30 or 40 points.”

The Buckeyes built their lead by playing off of Sullinger in the post. When the freshman would get the ball, Purdue would immediately double. He was able to get it out quickly, and Ohio State’s ball movement resulted in a number of open looks from three.

Then Ohio State started to attack the basket. First, it was Aaron Craft. Then David Lighty joined in the mix. By the time Sullinger had capped Ohio State’s first half scoring with a jumper with his toe on the three point line, the Buckeyes had opened up a 46-26 halftime lead. The Boilermakers couldn’t stop anyone tonight.

Simply put, Purdue just didn’t come out of the gates ready to play on Tuesday night. There really isn’t much else to it. This isn’t a bad Boilermaker team, but they allowed the Buckeyes to land their first haymaker and never responded. Commence poleaxing.

Ohio State remains one of just two unbeatens left in the country, and with San Diego State set to play BYU at the Marriott Center tomorrow night, the Buckeyes may be heading into the weekend as the nation’s lone undefeated team.

Can they go undefeated for the entire regular season?

Personally, I doubt it. They play four of their next six games on the road, including trips to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and their rematch with the Boilermakers in West Lafayette. They also host Michigan State during that stretch. I’ll go on record now as saying I don’t think the Buckeyes will make it through that stretch unblemished.

But I won’t say that it isn’t possible. Minnesota has the size up front to battle with Sullinger, but with Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph both gone, I don’t know if they have enough offensive firepower to score on a very good Buckeye defense. Michigan State is in shambles, and the Buckeyes just embarrassed Purdue.

That leaves their trip to Wisconsin and later home dates with Illinois and the Badgers. The Kohl Center is always a tough place to play, and you can rest assured that Bo Ryan will have a game plan in place to try and neutralize The Sullinger Effect.

Only time will tell if they can go undefeated. But as of now, I think it is safe to say we know who the nation’s best team is.

One more note on the Boilermakers. I said this isn’t a bad Purdue team, and I stand by that, but I think it is time we start questioning just how good the Boilermakers are. Their 6-1 start in the Big Ten was a bit of a mirage. They only played two of the top six teams in the conference in that stretch, losing at Minnesota and beating a Michigan State team that is crumbling. They’ve also lost to West Virginia and Richmond, and their only quality win came at Virginia Tech in an ugly, 58-55 overtime game.

Purdue has to play five ranked teams in their next six games. That stretch should tell us whether or not the Boilermakers are going to be in the mix at the top of the Big Ten by the end of the season. Hopefully, this was just an off night.

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.