Friday’s Shootaround: UNC bounces back and Illinois falls back

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No. 8 North Carolina 82, Virginia Tech 68: There was a lot of good and a lot of bad to take out of the Tar Heel’s 14 point win over Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

The good? After allowing the Hokies to hang around for far to long in the first 24 minutes or so, UNC turned it on in a big way. They used a 19-0 run that they extended into a 31-5 surge to turn a 44-36 deficit into a 67-49 lead. After their debacle at Florida State last weekend, the Heels needed to make a statement in this game. Virginia Tech borders on awful this season, and while Seth Greenberg’s teams are always tough at home, UNC needed to come out and show the country that they are not the team that was beaten into submission — both literally and figuratively — in Tallahassee.

And while it took them a half to wake up (I would pay a good amount of money to see Roy Williams’ halftime speech to his team), when they finally did, the Heels put on a show. Harrison Barnes looked like the guy that is at the top of every NBA Draft board. John Henson and Tyler Zeller were dominant in the paint. As a team, the Tar Heels looked every bit the offensive juggernaut that they were supposed to be all season long, and they were playing some defense, too.

The bad? Dexter Strickland injured his knee. There has been no diagnosis yet, but the way that his knee buckled when he planted … it looked bad. Strickland is UNC’s best perimeter defender, and with Leslie McDonald already out of action with a torn acl, UNC’s perimeter depth is at a premium. If Strickland is gone for an extended period of time, it could be a huge blow to UNC.

Penn State 54, No. 25 Illinois 52: After their win over Ohio State last week, I said that the key to the Illini’s season was whether or not they would be able to find a consistent way to get production out of Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard. On Thursday night, Illinois got 20 points out of Paul and 15 points out of Leonard on a combined 23 shots. And they still lost. That’s what will happen when your supporting cast goes 6-26 from the field and scores all of 17 points.

A couple of things worth noting: Tim Frazier is one of the best point guards in the country you’ve never seen play. He had 12 points and nine assists, including the game-winner. Also, Brandon Paul hit a pair of tough threes down the stretch, including another ridiculous three off of a curl with a hand in his face. Color me impressed.

Vanderbilt 69, Alabama 59: The Commodores were incredibly impressive in their win at Alabama on Thursday night. They were down by 17-11 midway through the first half when they completely took the game over. They outscored the Crimson Tide 15-2 to end the first half and began the second half with a 15-5 surge. But as good as Vandy looked, I can’t help but wonder whether this loss says more about Alabama. I love that team, but they haven’t done anything with anything close to a modicum of consistency this season. Is it possible that their offensive woes are a bigger issue than we thought?

No. 4 Duke 91, Wake Forest 73: The story of this game wasn’t the 18 point win we all expected and it wasn’t the seven threes that Andre Dawkins hit in the first half. It was that Austin Rivers, Coach K’s star freshman guard, was benched at the start of the game. He was told on Monday, after a four point performance against Clemson, and Rivers was not happy about it. After the game, he said:

The past three days I haven’t slept. I’ve been thinking. I was so angry. You have no idea how angry I was. … But I realize that I need to mature. That’s what (Krzyzewski’s) intention was. I mean, he’s a genius. He knows what he’s doing. He’s going to make me better and this team is going to make me better.

Admittedly, I didn’t like Rivers body language on the bench. But Coach K’s tactics worked. Rivers had 20 points, 14 of which came in the second half. Rivers has the talent to be something special. Whether or not he’s able to accept the fact that, the higher the level of basketball he reaches, the fewer the number of shots he is going to get is a different story.

Loyola Marymount 82, BYU 68: There was quite a bit of speculation this season that the six game round robin between Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and BYU would determine the winner of the WCC this season, and while that still may end up being true, the fact that the Cougars dropped this game to LMU — at home, none the less — is a major blow to BYU’s chances of winning the league outright. To be fair, the Lions are finally healthy this season. Anthony Ireland was terrific as usual, finishing with 27 points, five assists and five steals, but Drew Viney showed up with 21 points in this one.

Pac-12:

Cal 69, Washington 66: The Bears are starting to look like the best team in the Pac-12. Allen Crabbe had 16 points and 10 boards and Justin Cobbs went for 14, but the most important player in this game was Robert Thurman. Filling in for the ineligible Richard Solomon, Thurman, a walk-on, went for 16 points and seven boards. Can he keep up that kind of production? I’m not terribly concerned about Washington just yet, but this is a worrisome outcome.

Washington State 81, Stanford 69: This is a bad loss for Stanford. The Cardinal came into this game tied for first place in the conference with Cal and jumped out to a ten point lead in the first half. But Stanford simply had no answer for Faisal Aden, who finally woke up by coming off the bunch for 33 points.

Oregon 65, USC 62: What do we make of Oregon? They continued their solid start in Pac-12 play, but struggling with USC at home isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for Dana Altman’s team. Garret Sim and Devoe Joseph combined for 36 points.

Oregon State 87, UCLA 84: Maybe I am expecting too much out of the Beavers this season, but I wasn’t surprised by this win over UCLA as much as I was surprised by OSU’s 1-5 start in league play. Jared Cunningham has 21 points in the win, but more importantly Devon collier had 20 and got 12 shots from the floor.

– Colorado 69, Arizona State 54
– Arizona 77, Utah 51

Other notable scores:

– No. 17 Virginia 70, Georgia Tech 38
– No. 23 St. Mary’s 61, Pepperdine 47
– Davidson 87, Charleston 69
– Charleston Southern 93, UNC-Asheville 88
– NC State 76, Boston College 62
– VCU 69, William & Mary 68 OT
– Butler 57, UIC 49
– Denver 63, Louisiana-Monroe 48
– Weber State 81, Northern Arizona 67
– Gonzaga 74, San Francisco 63

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
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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
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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.