Thursday’s Shootaround: Akron lands year’s first upset


No. 16 Arizona 67, Duquesne 59: Josiah Turner showed up late for a shootaround Wednesday afternoon, and that gave Jordin Mayes the start over him. That decision would end up being a blessing in disguise for Arizona, as Mayes scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half and sparked a late 12-0 run that gave Arizona a 61-48 lead. The Wildcats would go on to win 67-59, but the lead certainly wasn’t safe; Arizona had one stretch where they turned the ball over on four straight possessions while trying to put the game away.

In fact, Arizona finished the game with 21 turnovers, the most they’ve had in a game since February of 2010. And that’s where there conundrum of Jordin Mayes comes into play. For the second straight game, Mayes provided Arizona with the spark they needed to blow the game open; on Monday, he scored eight straight points to give the Wildcats control against Valparaiso. The problem? Mayes isn’t a pure point guard. After Wednesday’s game, Mayes now has one assist and three turnovers in Arizona’s first two games. Last season, he averaged just 1.2 apg despite playing 14.3 mpg.

He may be the best option at the point right now. Josiah Turner has loads of talent, but he has even more learning — and maturing — to do before he gets to the point that he can maximize that talent. Decision-making is not Turner’s strong suit. (Seriously, how do you show up late to the shootaround for the second game of the season?) Nick Johnson is talented and can be a playmaker, but he’s not a point guard. Kyle Fogg is the leader for this team, but he, too, is not a point guard. Mayes is the best option, but if Turner is able to put it all together this year, it will be interesting to see what, exactly, Sean Miller does with his back court rotation.

St. John’s 78, Lehigh 73: You would have thought that the surprising return of Steve Lavin, who is still recovering from treatment for prostate cancer, would be enough of an emotional boost to get St. John’s to come out on all cylinders on Wednesday night. Instead, it was Lehigh that had the hot hand early, knocking down their first five three pointers and eventually surging to a 32-16 lead. But like they did on Monday night, the Johnnies used a pressuring defense to create turnovers and get opportunities in the full court, where their athleticism took over. A 12-0 run cut the lead to 60-58 with five minutes left before God’sgift Achiuwa gave the Johnnies the lead for good with a running hook with under two minutes remaining.

Achiuwa finished with 21 points and eight boards — going 6-6 from the field and 9-9 from the free throw line — and Nurideen Lindsay and Moe Harkless both chipped in with 15 points.

This win was a good sign for St. John’s. Lehigh is not a bad basketball team. They have one of the best mid-major players in the country in CJ McCollum and came out completely unphased by St. John’s pressure. The Johnnies were able to regroup, made a comeback and then made enough plays in crunch time to win the game. No one — not even the most die hard St. John’s fan — should truly expect this team to contest for an NCAA Tournament bid this season. I don’t care is this game was at home and against an over-matched opponent, seeing such a young team rally from 14 points down and win a game when they didn’t play well for 30 minutes is a good sign.

Akron 68, Mississippi State 58: I touched on Renardo Sidney here, but there is more to this loss than just The Big Enigma.

Arnett Moultrie grabbed 15 rebounds (seven offensive), which was nice, but he shot 2-13 from the floor, many of which were shots around the rim. Granted, a lot of that can be attributed to the defensive presence of Akron’s Zeke Marshall, but that shooting percentage is still a problem. Dee Bost also had a tough game. He finished with 13 points, he was just 2-9 from the floor and 1-6 from three, he had four of Mississippi State’s 19 turnovers and he played far too quickly for a guy that is a point guard on a team with a terrific front line. And all you have to do is search Rick Stansbury on twitter to get a feel for his coaching job.


But the biggest thing you should take away from this game? Akron’s pretty good, bro! They played very well defensively, forcing Mississippi State into some ugly offensive possessions. They not only forced turnovers, they created ‘pick six’ turnovers — jumping passing lanes and making open court steals that led directly to easy buckets at the other end. Zeke Marshall made things very difficult in the lane before he fouled out, Alex Abreu was a terror defensively (six steals), Quincy Diggs scored 19 points and made a lot of plays in transition and Nikola Cvetinovic made a lot of little plays that don’t show up in the score book.

Akron is a well-coached, experienced team coming off of a trip to the NCAA Tournament. This loss is not a good sign for Mississippi State, but its also not as bad as it looks on paper.

No. 19 Texas A&M 81, Liberty 59: This game was over early. Despite playing without head coach Billy Kennedy, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the Aggies were stifling defensively early on, holding the Flames to just 14 first half points. They shot 65.4% from the floor for the game and cruised to the win. Ray Turner was great, scoring 20 points on 9-11 shooting while Elston Turner and David Loubeau chipped in with 16 and 14, respectively. The best news? The Aggies were this impressive despite getting only 10 minutes from Khris Middleton, who left the game with a hamstring injury and is currently day-to-day.

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.