Weekly Awards: The ACC, led by Tyus Jones and Virginia, dominated headlines this week

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Tyus Jones (AP Photo)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Tyus Jones, Duke

In the best regular season matchup that we are going to get this season, Duke put together arguably the most impressive performance of the year. The Blue Devils went into Madison, Wisconsin, and knocked off the Badgers in the Kohl Center, 80-70. They shot the ball 65.2 percent from the floor, went 7-for-12 from three and had a firm grip on the game for 40 minutes despite the fact that Wisconsin actually played well.

The star on that Wednesday night was Tyus Jones, Duke’s freshman point guard, who finished with 22 points, six boards and four assists while shooting 7-for-11 from the floor and 2-of-3 from three. He did all that while playing his first true road game in one of the toughest home courts in the country while playing a team that will spend the whole year as a one of a handful of favorites to win a national title. Do you realize how impressive that is?

And here’s the craziest part about it: Jones is one of the freshman that you forget about from Duke’s 2014 recruiting class. Jahlil Okafor is the star of the class and was the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Justise Winslow has been the trendy name in NBA Draft circles over the course of the season’s first month. Jones is the guy everyone forgets about, yet here he is, averaging 10.5 points and 5.8 assists with eight turnovers in eight games.

THE ALL-THE-WERE-GOOD-TOO TEAM

  • Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein was unbelievable in Kentucky’s win over No. 6 Texas on Friday night, finishing with 21 points, 12 boards, five steals and three blocks. On a night where Kentucky couldn’t buy a bucket from the perimeter, he was a difference-maker in the paint and in transition.
  • Georges Niang, Iowa State: Everything that makes Niang special was on display on Thursday as the Cyclones knocked off Arkansas in Ames. He had 26 point, six boards and eight assists in the win.
  • Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth, BYU: In wins over Hawaii and at Utah State, Haws averaged 32.5 points and 6.5 boards while shooting 19-for-36 from the floor, 5-for-13 from three and 22-for-23 from the line. And Collinsworth was better, following up a double-double (20 points, 10 boards, four assists and three steals) against the Aggies with a triple-double (19 points, 12 boards, 10 assists) against the Rainbows.
  • Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: Grant looked the part of an all-american in Notre Dame’s 79-78 overtime win against Michigan State, finishing with 27 points, six assists and three steals.
  • Venky Jois, Eastern Washington: Jois finished with 38 points, seven boards and three blocks in a win at Seattle on Saturday. That was the second straight game that he went for 38 points.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Virginia Cavaliers

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Justin Anderson (Getty Images)

I had my doubts about Virginia after seeing them in the Barclays Center Classic two weeks ago, and to a point, I still do. But Virginia did their best to make those concerns look foolish, as they won at Maryland and VCU within a four-day span in convincing fashion. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The biggest question that I had centered on their ability to replace Joe Harris. He required the attention of the entire defense whenever he was on the floor, and they just don’t have that guy this season. What they do have, however, is a trio of guys capable of getting 20 points on any given night. We knew that Malcolm Brogdon would be an all-ACC caliber player, and anyone that watched Virginia in March knew that Anthony Gill had a chance to be special. The difference-maker has been Justin Anderson, an athletic marvel that has turned into a dead-eye three-point shooter this season.

If those three continue to play at this level — and London Perrantes continues to be London Perrantes — Virginia will be better than I gave them credit for.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Arizona Wildcats: Arizona got key performances from T.J. McConnell and Brandon Ashley as they picked up a hard-fought, overtime win against No. 9 Gonzaga at the McKale Center.
  • Iowa Hawkeyes: Perhaps the most surprising outcome during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was Iowa going into the Dean Dome and knocking off No. 12 North Carolina in a game where they out-toughed a good team. Iowa won with their defense, which is huge not only for their confidence, but their tournament resume.
  • Utah Utes: Utah finally won a close game, surviving a visit from No. 8 Wichita State after the Shockers erased a late, nine-point deficit to force overtime. They did it without Jordan Loveridge, and since they’ll be without him during the most important stretch of their non-conference schedule, the win is that much more important.
  • Yale Bulldogs: If you paid attention in the preseason, you knew that Yale had a chance to be special this season. They proved it on Friday by going into Gampel and knocking off UConn at the buzzer.
  • LSU Tigers: Remember when we wrote off LSU? Well, they blew out UMass at home and knocked off West Virginia in Morgantown this week. Maybe it’s time we start paying attention again.

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.