Tuesday’s Shootaround: Missouri survives, Pitt wins again


No. 4 Missouri 67, Texas 66: I’ve said this before and I truly believe it — the sign of a good team is that they can go on the road, play poorly and still come away with a win. That’s exactly what Missouri did on Monday night. They didn’t shoot all that well, they made poor decisions down the stretch and they blew a 10 point lead with four minutes left in the game. And they still won.

They can thank Michael Dixon for that. The nation’s second-best sparkplug (sorry, Mike, Dion Waiters still has you beat right now) finished with 21 points, hitting his first eight shots from the floor and closing out the game on a driving, left-handed layup with 31 seconds left in the game after Texas had gone on a 13-2 run to take a 66-65 lead. He doesn’t look all that smooth when he’s dribbling and his jump shot is far from what you would call textbook, but he simply gets it done. Its such a weapon for Frank Haith to be able to bring in a scorer that is that potent off the bench.

The bigger issue for the Tigers is that, for what feels like the 20th game in a row, shot poorly from the floor. Serious question: when was the last time Marcus Denmon had a good shooting game? Answer: he hasn’t shot over 50% from the floor since a January 3rd win over Oklahoma. Prior to that, the last time he was over 50% from the field was in mid-December. The Tigers have enough weapons to get by when he’s not shooting well — especially when he is able to get to the line and knock down his free throws — but if the Tigers are going to be a threat in March, they need their star to find that rhythm again.

Pitt 72, West Virginia 66: What a difference a Tray makes.

(That was bad.)

In all seriousness, with a healthy Tray Woodall in the mix, Pitt is a different basketball team. He had 24 points, four boards and three assists to pace the Panthers as they won their third straight game. I hate to harp on this same point, but it cannot be overstated. With Woodall handling the ball, it allows Ashton Gibbs to move off of the ball full-time. Defenses have to key on him running off of screen after screen, which opens up penetration lanes for Woodall and allows guys like Nasir Robinson and Lamar Patterson a chance to showcase their versatility. I’d put money on Pitt making a run to the NCAA Tournament down the stretch of the season.

For West Virginia, this is their third straight loss. They were blown out by St. John’s on the road and lost at Syracuse by two points, both of which were “acceptable” losses. The Johnnies like to press, which throws off a team like WVU that doesn’t have great point guard play, and Syracuse is Syracuse. But the inability to defend their home court, particularly against a rival, makes this three game losing streak a major concern.

Penn 82, Princeton 67: Penn got 28 points and five assists from Zack Rosen, one of the nation’s most underrated stars, as they were able to keep pace with Harvard in the Ivy standings (Penn is now 3-0 in the league while Harvard sits at 4-0). They loss drops the Tigers two games off the pace and, for better or worse, out of contention for a league title.

Other notable scores:

– Mississippi Valley State 77, Grambling State 59
– Belmont 83, North Florida 69

Top performers:

Kevin Murphy, Tennessee Tech: Murphy set a school-record by scoring 50 points on Monday night, besting the 44 points that Doug McDermott had earlier this season. Murphy went 16-21 from the floor, 6-9 from three and 12-14 from the line.

Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State: O’Quinn went for 27 points and 18 boards, but Norfolk State lost their first game in MEAC play 87-82 to Coppin State. This was one of the weirder box scores you’ll ever see. NSU lost despite scoring 69 points in the second half. How? They were down 35-13 at the break.

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.