Pregame Shootaround 12.27.12: New Mexico’s trip to Cincinnati headlines schedule

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: New Mexico at No. 8 Cincinnati (9 PM) 

This was destined to be a matchup of ranked (and undefeated) teams…until the Lobos ran into a South Dakota State team that released those travel-related frustrations in a 70-65 win at The Pit on Saturday. The task for Steve Alford’s team is to rebound from that defeat, and in order to do so the Lobos have to keep Cincinnati off the offensive glass. The Bearcats are averaging 17.0 offensive rebounds per game, managing to grab 43% of their own misses (ranking 8th nationally). A good amount of the responsibility in that regard will fall upon the shoulders of Alex Kirk (7.5 rpg) and Cameron Bairstow (5.0 rpg), and UNM has done a solid job in this department as they’re allowing opponents to rebound just 26.5% of their missed shots.

The matchups on the perimeter should be outstanding, with UNM boasting Hugh Greenwood, Kendall Williams and Tony Snell while the Bearcats will counter with Cashmere Wright, JaQuon Parker and Sean Kilpatrick. Keep an eye on Cincinnati forward Titus Rubles (7.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg), who bounced back from a four-game slump to provide 11 points and nine rebounds in Saturday’s 68-58 win over Wright State. The better he performs as Cincinnati’s “fourth” scoring option the better the chances are of the Bearcats contending in the Big East.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Oakland at Western Illinois (8 PM) 

Western Illinois is off to a 2-0 start in Summit League play, as they picked up road victories at Kansas City and Eastern Illinois at the beginning of the month. But the return to league play brings about a significant challenge, as Greg Kampe’s Golden Grizzlies visit Macomb. Oakland may be 5-8 on the season but ten of those games have been played on the road (2-8 record) and they haven’t ducked many challenges from a scheduling standpoint either. WIU will need to slow down junior guard Travis Bader, who is averaging 20.2 points per game, but they can’t ignore Corey Petros or Duke Mondy either. Offensively the Leathernecks will counter with guard Ceola Clark III and forward Terrell Parks, and tempo will be a factor in the outcome as well (Oakland averages nine more possessions per game).

Five Things to Watch 

1) Busy night in the Sun Belt as there are three conference games on the slate. Two teams in need of a win tonight are Troy and Arkansas State, with both sitting at 0-2 in Sun Belt play. Both teams are at home tonight, with Troy hosting FAU and Arkansas State hosting Louisiana-Lafayette.

2) Texas Southern (1-11) looks to end a nine-game losing streak but the task will be a difficult one, as they visit Akron at the JAR. Omar Strong and Raymond Penn lead the way for Mike Davis’ team, but the Tigers will need to have an answer for Akron’s Zeke Marshall in the paint if they’re to win.

3) Fellow SWAC member Alcorn State plays the first of two tough games in New York tonight when they visit 8-3 Canisius. If the Braves are the end their seven-game skid one thinks they better handle it tonight, as a trip to No. 7 Syracuse on Saturday is next.

4) Saint Mary’s looks to get back on the right track (and remain undefeated at home) with Rhode Island visiting McKeon Pavilion. Matthew Dellavedova struggled in Sunday’s loss at Northern Iowa, and this week is an opportunity not only for him to get going but for the Gaels to have other offensive options step up (Jorden Page scored 26 points on Sunday) in advance of WCC play.

5) Interestingly enough the Gaels aren’t the only WCC team looking to rebound from losses last weekend, as both BYU (Northern Arizona) and Loyola Marymount (Morgan State) return to action. The Cougars would be wise to keep NAU freshman point guard DeWayne Russell under wraps, but it remains to be seen if the Lumberjacks have an answer for BYU’s Brandon Davies inside.

The Rest of the Top 25 

No games scheduled.

Other Notable Games 

Fort Wayne at IUPUI (7 PM)

Florida International at Western Kentucky (8 PM)

Northern Arizona at BYU (9 PM)

Rhode Island at Saint Mary’s (10 PM)

Stats courtesy of statsheet.com

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.