Wednesday’s Shootaround: Pitt’s upset again while Wisconsin’s still Wisconsin


No. 11 Wisconsin 64, Nebraska 40: It simply does not get more ‘Wisconsin’ than what the Badgers did to poor Nebraska in their Big Ten opener on Tuesday night. On the strength of a career-high 22 points from Ryan Evans, Wisky scored just 64 points as they dominated and demoralized a Nebraska team that never really was in the game after the first 10 minutes. What’s more impressive is that Wisconsin allowed 40 points on 51 possessions, or 0.784 PPP, on the defensive end, but that actually was a below-averaged defensive performance for the Badgers. Coming into this game, they were giving up 0.730 PPP on the season.

The beauty of this Wisconsin system has nothing to do with the skills of the individual players, however. Sure, Jordan Taylor is an all-american that finally showed some glimpses of that ability. And yes, Ryan Evans played a fantastic basketball game. Jared Berggren, Ben Brust, Mike Breusewitz — all good players. But what makes Wisconsin such a good team is that they just take you out of any kind of rhythm with the pace that they play. They don’t attack the offensive glass hard so as to prevent run outs. They don’t gamble for steals because they want to make you use clock to score. They use every second of the shot clock and hit absolutely deflating jumpers as the shot clock expires.

The Badgers are good, don’t get me wrong. But the reason they are so successful has as much to do with the frustration and impatience that their style causes in their opponents than in how good the Badgers truly are.

Notre Dame 72, No. 22 Pitt 59: I don’t think there is that much that is wrong with Pitt this season, but I think their issues are going to be very difficult to overcome. Simply put, this group just doesn’t have the same kind of toughness and ruggedness we normally expect out of a Jamie Dixon team. We probably should have expected their defense to fall off with Gary McGhee, Gilbert Brown and Bradn Wanamaker graduating, but the fact that the Panthers are currently sitting around 150th in the country in defensive efficiency is appalling. That should be helped a bit when Travon Woodall gets healthy, and his presence on the offensive end of the floor should also help Ashton Gibbs become more efficient as a scorer by moving him off the ball.

To be fair, Pitt is also just playing poorly right now. I think that we can all agree that the Panthers are a better team than what they have shown through the first two months of the season. But that lack of toughness — both mental and physical — is a problem that cannot be cured. It sounds like copping out with a cliche when I say it like that, but its true. They are making mistakes on both ends of the floor we are unaccustomed to seeing players in this program make.

Illinois 81, Minnesota 72 2OT: Minnesota is going to be a tough out all year long. They don’t have a ton of talent on their team, but they have some size, a lot of athletes and a roster stocked with kids that play hard. That is precisely why the Gophers were able to come back against Illinois, erasing what was a 13 point second half deficit, but its also why they were unable to pull out the win.

The Illini have, on paper, a starting lineup that is as good as anyone in the Big Ten outside of Ohio State. At every position in their starting lineup, they have a guy capable of going for 15-20 points on a given night. The problem, however, is that every one of those players is best-suited for playing as a complimentary option. In other words, there is no go-to player on the Illini, no one that you can give the ball to at the end of a clock and count on them to get a bucket. Without that star power, the Illini have to rely on offensive execution down the stretch to win them games. And, as we have come to expect with Bruce Weber coached team, Illinois’ late-game execution leaves much to be desired.

Illinois allowed Minnesota to get right back into the game with poor shot selection and bad offensive possessions. But the Gophers simply don’t have enough talent to take advantage of it.

Georgia 92, Winthrop 86 OT: Winthrop got robbed in a wild game. Georgia blew a 13 point second half lead, finding themselves down 66-62 with 45 seconds left. But the Bulldogs got 14 points out of Dustin Ware and Gerald Robinson — and a couple of missed free throws out of Winthrop — that opened the door for this game-tying layup:

Umm, travel much, Gerald? I counted four steps. Anyway, Robinson finished with 22 points and Ware added 20 as the Bulldogs took an early lead in OT and hung on late.

Other notable scores:

– No. 24 Virginia 69, UMES 42
– St. John’s 91, Providence 67
– St. Louis 71, Texas Southern 39
– North Texas 78, New Orleans 47

Top performers:

Moe Harkless and D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s: There have been few freshmen in the country that have been as impressive as Harkless has been early on this season. Coming into the night, he was averaging 15 points and eight boards, and Harkless (for lack of a more fitting description) balled out: 32 points, 13 boards, four assists, four steals and two blocks in a 91-67 win over Providence. Harrison added 25 points and seven assists. Combined, the two had a single turnover.

Jordan Tolbert, Texas Tech: Tolbert has been just as impressive as Harkless, especially in the past four games. After scoring 27 points and adding six boards in a win over CS Bakersfield, Tolbert has now broken 20 in four straight games. In that stretch, he has 97 points and has shot 38-54 (70.3%) from the floor.

Drew Viney, LMU: In his first game back from a foot injury, Viney had 29 points and eight boards. Granted, it was against Vanguard, but getting Viney back could end up being the turning point in what has been a very up and down season for the Lions.

Meyers Leonard, Illinois: Leonard turned in another impressive performance, finishing with 20 points, 11 boards and five blocks in Illinois’ win over Minnesota.

Andre Jones, Winthrop: Jones had 33 points as Winthrop lost to Georgia in a game that they would have won had a travel been called on the final Georgia possession.

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

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


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

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.