Monday’s Shootaround: Arizona, St. John’s, Miss. State all win


Mississippi State 76, Eastern Kentucky 66: See here.

Arizona 73, Valparaiso 64: The Wildcats were in a dogfight for much of the first half, but once Arizona ratcheted up their defense in the second half, this thing turned into a rout. Sean Miller’s club used a 16-3 surge to open the second half to open up a 48-33 lead, pushing the margin up to 20 before a couple of late Crusader threes made the final score more respectable. Arizona’s defense is what won them this game, and it probably will end up being what the Wildcats have to rely on early in the season. They have a solid crop of defenders on the perimeter and a couple of athletic bodies in the paint. Its tough to imagine a Sean Miller-coached team not being solid on the defensive end of the floor.

Offensively, this group has a ways to go, but you can see some flashes of potential. The good news is that Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry both appeared to have embraced the role of being the veteran leaders for this group. Fogg finished with 16 points, scoring on a number of tough drives into the paint, while Perry had 14 points and 10 boards. Jordin Mayes sparked the 16-3 run with all eight of his points and Nick Johnson added 14 points and six assists while knocking down a couple of threes.

There are also plenty of issues, however. Mayes only had those eight points and didn’t notch an assists. Josiah Turner, who is supposed to be the star point guard, finished 1-6 from the floor, only had a single assist and clearly struggled with picking his spots for attacking the basket. Kryrl Natyazkho is clearly still a long way from being an impact player at this level. His back up, freshman Angelo Chol, showed some flashes of potential on both ends of the floor, but was inconsistent defensively and on the glass. Perhaps the most concerning aspect of this game was that Arizona’s front court of Natyazkho, Chol and Solomon Hill collectively picked up 13 fouls while allowing Valpo big man Kevin Van Wijk to finish with 18 points and seven boards, five offensive.

Arizona has a ton of room to grow, but they also have a long time until Pac-12 play starts. Throw in the fact that Kevin Parrom will, hopefully, return later this fall, and Arizona should be a much improved team come January.

St. John’s 74, William & Mary 59: The Johnnies struggled early on against William & Mary. With the Tribe hitting their jumpers and St. John’s struggling to find an offensive rhythm, W&M went into the halftime break with a 33-26 lead. The second half, however, was a much different story. The athleticism of the Red Storm took over as William & Mary looked helpless against a pressuring defense. The Tribe turned the ball over 21 times — with St. John’s coming up with 12 steals — and found themselves on the wrong end of a 22-5 run, most of which came as the result of easy buckets in transition.

On the one hand, there were some promising signs to take out of this game for the Johnnies. Nurideen Lindsay, the JuCo transfer and sophomore point guard, finished with 19 points (15 of which came in the second half) and four assists. God’s Gift Achiuwa added 17 points and nine boards with Moe Harkless chipped in with 17 points, eight boards and four assists. Those three should be able to compete at the Big East level this season. St. John’s pressure, when its going right, is going to be an issue for some teams. This is a young but very athletic group. That press will be streaky, but when they get into a rhythm, they’ll be able to go on some runs. As the year goes on, those runs will become more extended.

The problem, however, is that its difficult to see how a team that plays only seven players — six of them new to the Division I level and four of those players being freshmen — will be able to press throughout the entirety of the Big East schedule without wearing down. And while William & Mary has a chance to compete for a top half finish in the CAA, they are far from the level of competition that the Johnnies are going to face in league play. Most of the Big East back courts will be more comfortable facing that kind of ball pressure. If St. John’s can get any or all of Amir Garrett, Norvel Pelle and JaKarr Sampson eligible in December, it would be a huge boost to the program.

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.