Tuesday’s Shootaround: Syracuse and Kansas win, Iona blows another lead

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No. 4 Syracuse 60, Cincinnati 53: Coming off of an embarrassing, 76-67 loss to Notre Dame — a loss that was no where near as close as the final score indicates — Syracuse was looking to make a statement on Monday night. People have begun to speculate that the Bearcats may actually be the second best team in the Big East, and while that may end up proving to be true in the long run, the Orange made a statement on Monday night as they went into Fifth Third Arena and left with a win.

There were a few things to take note of in this game. For starters, it was nice to see Kris Joseph go into take over mode for a while. I’m not one of those people that harps on the fact that they don’t have a go-to player (I think they do, but that’s another post for another time), but I do believe that if they are going to make a run to the Final Four, they need Joseph to be more assertive offensively. His combination of size, athleticism and slashing ability makes him a difficult cover for anyone, and he showed that tonight as he finished with 17 points on 8-11 shooting from the floor. Scoop Jardine also deserves credit as he finished with 13 points and six assists without turning the ball over.

The other good sign was the play of Rakeem Christmas. After a pitiful showing against Notre Dame, he finished with nine boards (four offensive), three blocks and simply was a presence in the paint. True, Yancy Gates finishes with 16 points and 10 boards, but they didn’t come easy and, frankly, Gates should be putting up double-doubles against a freshman.

With or without Melo, Syracuse is head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in this conference, regardless of what happened in South Bend.

No. 5 Kansas 64, Texas A&M 54: I’ll have a lot more coming from this game, but there are a couple of things that are worth mentioning that I probably won’t get to in the writeups.

For starters, has there been a more surprising performance from anyone in the country this season than the play of Jeff Withey? He went from a question mark heading into the season to a defensive centerpiece. He’s arguably the best shot blocker in the country, and that includes that lanky freshman from Lexington. Perhaps his most valuable attribute is that Bill Self can use him to defend an opposing team’s best low-post scorer, which allows Thomas Robinson to save his legs for the glass and the offensive end of the floor.

I was also impressed with Dash Harris. I’ve been as critical of Harris as anyone in the country, and based on what this Texas A&M team has on their roster right now, I think it’s a fair assessment. Look, Harris can wreak havoc defensively. He can break down a defense off the dribble and create for his teammates. He does some good things on a basketball court. The problem is that, with the team that Billy Kennedy currently fields, he just doesn’t fit. There are not enough offensive weapons on the floor, particularly with Kourtney Roberson and Khris Middleton injured. The Aggies need a guy that can score when the offense breaks down. That ain’t Dash.

Siena 65, Iona 62: For the second time in the span of 11 days, the Gaels blew a big lead and ended up losing to a league foe. In this game, Iona jumped out to a 20-2 lead just four minutes into the game, but the Saints locked down defensively. The high-powered Gael offense managed just 42 points the rest of the way. With nine minutes left, they still held on to a 57-46 lead, but Kyle Downey capped a 12-0 with a three at the fine minute mark to give Siena their first lead. After trading baskets for four minutes, Downey hit another jumper with 51 seconds left to give the Saints their final lead.

Iona is now in a three-way tie for first in the MAAC with Manhattan and Loyola (MD). If they could hold on to double-digit leads, however, they would own a two-game lead. Of note: Scott Machado had as many turnovers (three) as he did assists.

Of more note: Siena’s OD Anosike has a double-double in 15 straight games. He’s had one game this season where he didn’t get double figure rebounds, and that was when he went for 13 points and nine boards in the fourth game of the year. What makes this stretch all the more remarkable is that in the first three games of the season, he scored a total of nine points. That’s just … wow.

Loyola Marymount 74, Santa Clara 62: The Lions kept themselves relevant in the WCC by going into Santa Clara and beating the Broncs. At 5-2 in the league with a win over BYU and no bad losses, this is a group to keep an eye on since they are finally healthy. They host St. Mary’s on Thursday in a game that will allow us to gauge just how much of a menace this team can be.

The CAA: There was quite a bit of notable action in the CAA last night. Ryan Pearson went for 20 points and 12 boards as George Mason survived an ugly start to improve to 8-1 in the league with a 67-61 win over UNC-Wilmington. The Patriots now own a one game lead over VCU, who beat Hofstra 61-49, and Drexel, who won 64-48 against William & Mary. Georgia State is two games back, bouncing back from consecutive losses to knock off James Madison.

The Atlantic Sun: There is still a tie atop the conference as Belmont beat East Tennessee State handily and Mercer knocked off Jacksonville.

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.