Rhode Island upsets No. 21 Nebraska, 66-62, in overtime

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Rhode Island upset No. 21 Nebraska, 66-62, in overtime on Saturday night in front of a sold-out, on campus crowd at the Ryan Center in South Kingstown.

Jared Terrell began overtime with an open three from E.C. Matthews. A poor shooting night as a team from behind the arc (3-for-19) didn’t shake Terrell’s confidence to take a step-back baseline three on the next possession — following two Shavon Shields free throws — to give Rhode Island a two-possession lead at 59-55, marking the first time either team held a lead larger than two since 7:20 left in the second half.

Terrell’s quick rally helped the Rams go on a 9-2 run to start overtime en route to a marquee non-conference win three games into the 2014-15 season, the third under head coach Danny Hurley.

The last time Rhode Island had knocked off a ranked opponent was Dec. 2, 1998 when the Rams defeated No. 25 Utah. That team included Lamar Odom. Almost a full sixteen years later, students on campus are more prone to associate Odom in his supporting role with the Kardashian clan than with their basketball program.

“It was a great night for a fans,” Hurley said in the post-game press conference. “It was a night our fans were waiting for for a long time. We’ve got a great group of young guys here [with] senior leaders. This isn’t going to be our last moment like this. This is a big step forward for us in terms of our confidence and knowing what we’re capable of doing, finishing a game like that against that quality of an opposition. It was an enormous moment for our program.”

There had been smoke in South Kingstown for quite some time now ever since the arrival of Hurley in 2012. He came in having rebuilt Wagner with a 20-win turnaround in just two seasons. He also saw early success on the recruiting trail with his first recruiting class consisting of Matthews and Hassan Martin, both rated in the Rivals150. The next class was headlined by the late addition of Terrell. Matthews shared A10 Rookie of the Year honors last season, a year in which the Rams endure a laundry list of close calls with 11 of 18 losses decided by single digits.

But now, after an upset win over a ranked opponent, there is fire in this upstart Rhode Island program.

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Rhode Island’s E.C. Matthews, Nebraska’s Shavon Shields (AP)

Saturday night served as the first tangible evidence that Rhode Island is ready to make the jump to the top of the Atlantic 10 Conference standings aside the likes of VCU, Dayton, George Washington and UMass. This was Rhode Island’s first competitive contest after double-digit wins over Pace and UMass Lowell. The former is a Division II school out of New York, and the latter is a Division I newbie, a ex-conference rival of Pace just two years ago.

The Rams have one of the conference’s top guards in Matthews, who scored 22 of 26 after halftime, getting to the line 14 times, sinking 11 of his attempts. He had struggled to get open looks, but remained steadfast in the second half, something that may not have happened a season ago as a freshman.

“I say my demeanor,” Matthews said when asked what changed in the second half. “Last year, I’d probably hang my head. But I have a great coach and great teammates. They believed in me and told me to stay aggressive.”

That confidence isn’t limited to the star shooting guard. You could see Terrell’s confidence grow as the game wore on, even when he missed 2-of-4 free throws down the stretch, that didn’t deter him from stroking two 3-pointers that sparked the overtime victory.

Terrell was relentless against Nebraska’s Terran Pettway. The all-Big Ten wing did finish with 15 points, but it was off 5-of-18 shooting with three of those buckets coming in transition and another being an uncontested dunk. Terrell provided him little space for Pettway to operate and closely contested every jump shot.

That toughness was also found on the glass where the Rams held a 49-36 advantage, holding Nebraska to seven offensive rebounds on the night compared to Rhody’s 16.

“I think Rhode Island is a pretty good team,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles added. “I haven’t seen the whole A10 so I can speak to that, but Coach Hurley has a physical group.”

For the Rams, they’ll have little time to bask in Saturday night’s win, which included the first court storming of the college basketball season. Rhode Island travels to Florida for the Orlando Classic, where it is pitted against No. 5 Kansas in the quarterfinals.

“I thought they canceled that tournament. I thought we we’re getting Thanksgiving off,” Hurley joked.

“Those guys are a blue blood program, but we’re going to enjoy this tonight. Everyone should. It was magical night here, this did a lot for our brand. We have a lot of work to do. We have a huge, huge tournament against one of the best teams in the country. They probably aren’t in a great mood after their game against Kentucky, but our preparation is going to be good. We’re going to practice the right way and we’re going to have a game plan to be in the mix with them.”

The Rams will have their work cut out for them in Orlando, but Saturday’s win was another step in the right direction. Rhody is rising, maybe sooner than expected.

“First year was a huge task,” Hurley said. “Last year, you start to see it coming together with E.C. and Hassan coming into the mix; these dynamic young players. You start to be more confident and bring in the next class of kids with Jared and Jarvis [Garrett] and Earl [Watson].

“We going to go through ups and downs and growing pains this season. We’re a young, young team relative to college basketball. So they’re will be bumps in the road, but I know these young guys were building this thing with, this core group here, how can you not know what’s coming?”

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.