2/21 – College Hoops Week in Review: Derrick Williams, Jacob Pullen, and E’Twaun Moore shine

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Game of the Week: Arizona 87, Washington 86

This was about as entertaining as basketball can get. Washington was down by as much as 12 points in the second half, but Isaiah Thomas and Matthew-Bryan Amaning took over in the second half. Thomas finished with 12 points and nine assists with just two turnovers, absolutely shredding the Wildcat’s half court defense with a series of gorgeous passes off of a pick and roll. Bryan-Amaning, for the most part, was the guy on the receiving end of those pick and roll passes, as he finished with 18 of his 24 points in the second half while adding nine boards, six blocks, four assists, and three steals.

The ending was just as exciting. Derrick Williams hit a contested three to give Arizona the lead, and after the two teams traded buckets, Washington had the ball on the final possession with a chance to win. Bryan-Amaning was called for a travel, but Arizona turned the ball right back over with 2.2 seconds left. It set up this finish:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA4wHQgCp6c]

Williams finished with 26 points and 11 boards and the game-saving block, but more on him later in this post.

St. John’s 60, Pitt 59: The Panthers looked as if they had taken firm control of this game, opening up a 56-51 lead late on St. John’s in the Garden. But the Red Storm was not ready to give up. After five free throws tied the game up, Paris Horne grabbed the offensive rebound when Dwight Hardy missed a free throws. He got the ball back to Hardy, who was fouled and knocked down two free throws to give the Johnnies the 58-56 lead. Travon Woodall answered with a three pointer, setting up this final possession:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxlbjXu1FuE]

Now, based on screen caps from the ESPN broadcast using the camera above the back board, it appears as if Dwight Hardy’s heels are out of bounds on that last move:


Look at the referee’s head in the video. Look at it in the picture. He is staring right at Hardy’s feet, standing three feet away. He would have seen if Hardy’s heels had touched the baseline. Hardy didn’t step out. But he did finish with 19 points and the Johnnies knocked off their fifth top 15 team at home.

Cal 76, UCLA 72 OT: Cal provided another piece of evidence to the folks that believe you should automatically foul when you are up three with under five seconds left. After blowing a 12 point lead in the second half, Cal allowed Malcolm Lee to take a tough, fadeaway three from the top of the key that hit the front of the rim, bounced two feet into the air, and fell through the hoop for the game-tying basket. In overtime it was the Jorge Gutierrez show, however, as he finished with 34 points, six assists, and three steals, including finding Brandon Smith for a three with 14 seconds left that clinched the game.

Players of the Week: Just like last week, there is more than one player deserving of getting credit in this space:

Jacob Pullen, Kansas State: For the first time all season, Jacob Pullen looked like the all-american we expected to see this season. He went for a career-high 38 points in the Wildcat’s win over Kansas, a win that thrust Frank Martin’s club right back into the NCAA Tournament. Then on Saturday, Pullen had 27 points as K-State knocked off Oklahoma.

Derrick Williams, Arizona: We already talked about the 26 points, 11 boards, and two blocks that Williams had in Zona’s win over Washington, but that wasn’t his only impressive performance this week. He also went for 26 points and eight boards in a win over Washington State. Throw in UCLA’s loss to Cal on Sunday, and Arizona now owns a commanding two game lead in the Pac-10 standings. Williams, to his credit, threw himself into the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick come June.

E’Twaun Moore, Purdue: Moore was good in Purdue’s win over Wisconsin, going for 19 points. He was great in their win over Ohio State, however, finishing with 38 points and five assists and 13-18 shooting and 7-10 from deep. More on Purdue and Moore in a bit.

The all they-were-good-too team:

  • G: Tu Holloway, Xavier: Holloway had 14 points, seven assists, five boards, and three steals in a win over St. Joe’s, but that wasn’t his most impressive stat line of the week. Against Fordham, the Xavier junior had his second triple double of the season, finishing with 26 points, 11 boards, and 10 assists.
  • G: Dwight Hardy, St. John’s: Hardy, who is making a late-season run at Big East player of the year, had 28 points, six boards, and five steals in a win at Marquette and followed that up with 19 points and the game-winning layup against Pitt.
  • F: Kenny Faried, Morehead State: The Eagles notched two road wins this week, and Faried — as usual — was a huge reason why, averaging 20.0 ppg and 13.5 rpg. He also passed Tim Duncan as college basketball’s all-time leading rebounder in the process.
  • F: Tony Mitchell, Alabama: Alabama keeps churning out wins in the SEC West and moving closer to an at-large bid. Mitchell had just 13 points and four boards against LSU, but he went for 27 points, nine boards, and about three vicious dunks in ‘Bama’s comeback win over Arkansas.
  • C: Nikola Vucevic, USC: Vucevic may be the best big man that no one ever talks about. In two road wins this week, he averaged 20.0 ppg and 12.0 rpg.
  • Bench: Ramone Moore, Temple (24 points in 73-53 win over Richmond); Norris Cole, Cleveland State (16 points, 10 assists, six boards vs. Wright State, 35 points at Old Dominion); Corey Fisher, Villanova (34 points in OT win vs. DePaul); Jorge Gutierrez, Cal (34 points, six assists in OT win vs. UCLA); Scotty Hopson (averaged 27.5 ppg in a 1-1 week); John Jenkins, Vanderbilt (21 points in final 13 minutes in win over Georgia);

Team of the Week: Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue avenged losses to both Wisconsin and Ohio State when they visited Mackey Arena this week. Against the Badgers, Purdue got 20 points and 10 boards out of JaJuan Johnson, but the star was Lewis Jackson, who outplayed Jordan Taylor with 18 points, five assists, and no turnovers in the win. Against Ohio State, it was the E’Twaun Moore show, as he went for a career-high 38 points.

Purdue did two things this week. They threw themselves right back into the mix for a Big Ten regular season title. They are now just a game behind the Buckeyes. Ohio State has a much easier road down the stretch — they get three games at home while Purdue has to go on the road three times — but being one game back with four games left is a much easier task than sitting three games back with four games left.

Purdue also legitimized this argument I made back in the preseason. This is still a team that can make the Final four. They have two all-americans on their roster, Lewis Jackson and Kevan Barlow are both developing into quality role players, and guys like Ryne Smith, DJ Byrd, and Travis Carroll are playing more and more valuable minutes. The Boilermakers aren’t going to be able to power through opponents to make a Final Four like the top four or five teams in the country, but with some favorable matchups, this is absolutely a team with the horses to make the Final Four. (Do I even need to make the mention of how nasty this team would be with Robbie Hummel? I dont? Good.)

Teams deserving of a shoutout:

  • Kansas State: The Wildcats are now right back into the thick of the NCAA Tournament race, as they blew out both Kansas and Oklahoma at home this week. Not only is Jacob Pullen finally playing like the Jacob Pullen we all expected to see this season, the rest of the Wildcats are doing the same. They are playing with energy, they are defending, they are diving on the floor, and they are finally getting some production from their front court. The question will be whether or not this holds up the rest of the season. If you are a college basketball fan, then you hope that it does.
  • Utah State: The Aggies picked up an enormous win against St. Mary’s on Saturday in Bracket Busters. The Gaels, believe it or not, are the first top 90 win that Utah State has earned this season. They are certainly not a lock for the NCAA Tournament yet, but if they win out in the regular season and avoid being upset early in the WAC Tournament, Utah State should be able to feel pretty comfortable about getting an at-large bid.
  • CAA: Obviously, the headline of this group is George Mason, who extended their nation’s-best win streak to 13 games with a 20 point win at VCU and then going into Northern Iowa and knocking off the Panthers. They have all but locked up an at-large bid as well. A big part of that is that during Bracket Busters, the Colonial separated themselves from the rest of the mid-major leagues. Old Dominion put themselves into a good position to get an at-large bid by knocking off Cleveland State despite a 35 point outburst from Norris Cole, while VCU got a bit lucky in their win over Wichita State on the road. Its possible that the CAA can get three bids into the NCAA Tournament.
  • Nebraska: The Cornhuskers may have gotten lucky twice this week, but in the end a win is a win, and Nebraska notched two of them. Against Oklahoma, a game-tying three by Cade Davis turned out to only be a two when his toe was on the line. In a win over Texas, the Huskers were able to hold on despite doing their damnedest to give away a late 11 point lead with turnovers, missed free throws, and fouled three-point shooters. Regardless, the Huskers are now officially in the bubble picture, which is more than anyone expected this season.
  • Temple: After knocking off Richmond by 20 points and getting a bit of help from Dayton when the Flyers beat Duquesne, a 2-0 week from the Owls put them all alone in second place in the Atlantic-10.

Matchups of the Week:

  • 2/21 – 7:00 pm: Syracuse @ Villanova
  • 2/22 – 7:00 pm: Illinois @ Ohio State
  • 2/22 – 9:00 pm: Tennessee @ Vanderbilt
  • 2/22 – 9:00 pm: Michigan State @ Minnesota
  • 2/23 – 7:00 pm: Temple @ Duke
  • 2/23 – 8:00 pm: Colorado State @ BYU
  • 2/24 – 9:00 pm: West Virginia @ Pitt
  • 2/24 – 7:00 pm: Marquette @ UConn
  • 2/24 – 7:00 pm: Georgia @ Florida
  • 2/26 – 12:00 pm: Syracuse @ Georgetown
  • 2/26 – 12:00 pm: Missouri @ Kansas State
  • 2/26 – 1:00 pm: Wichita State @ Missouri State
  • 2/26 – 2:00 pm: BYU @ SDSU
  • 2/26 – 2:30 pm: St. John’s @ Villanova
  • 2/26 – 4:00 pm: Florida @ Kentucky
  • 2/27 – 2:00 pm: Pitt @ Louisville
  • 2/27 – 7:45 pm: Maryland @ UNC

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.