No. 24 North Carolina handles No. 12 Ohio State

source: AP

CHICAGO — North Carolina has struggled to get Marcus Paige going on the offensive end this season and its part of the reason the Tar Heels sat at No. 24 in the country entering Saturday’s game against No. 12 Ohio State.

Even though the junior guard didn’t have a big game against the Buckeyes at the United Center, North Carolina used a balanced attack, shared the ball and dominated on the interior in an 82-74 win over Ohio State.

Paige scored 16 points on 4-for-12 shooting on the afternoon, but because the Tar Heels had solid performances from other guards and moved the ball well around the perimeter, they were able to crash the offensive glass and find open looks for other players in spots where they were effective.

Junior forward Brice Johnson finished with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting while freshman Justin Jackson pitched in 11 points. Despite only shooting 3-for-13 from the three-point line, North Carolina was able to crack Ohio State’s 2-3 zone and extended second-half pressure because they have so many talented passers who can get easy looks for teammates.

“When we make the easy play, that’s a good thing for us,” Paige said. “Some games we’ll try to thread the needle and be too cute with the ball.”

J.P. Tokoto led the Tar Heels with six assists — to go along with eight points and eight rebounds — and he was one of four North Carolina players with at least four assists. The Tar Heels had 29 field goals and 23 of them came off of assists, including their first nine field goals of the game. Perimeter shooting is still a major weakness for North Carolina, but if you don’t pressure their guards and let them work it around while spacing the floor, they’ll find a way to get Johnson a short-corner jumper or work the ball into a good shot by getting the ball in the middle of the zone.

“We had good movement. Movement of the ball and movement of bodies. Always say move the ball and move the ball intelligently and we did that,” North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said.

While Paige once again seemed to have an invisible lid on the basket — he missed two open, point-blank layups on the afternoon — because backup point guards Nate Britt and Joel Berry II played so efficiently, Paige was able to play off of the ball more and draw a lot of defensive attention from Ohio State. Britt and Berry II combined to score 11 points (on 3-for-3 shooting), had five assists and only one turnover. If those two provide a steady presence with the ball in their hands, it lets Paige be aggressive when hunting his own offense and forces defenses to pay more attention to more perimeter threats.

“I’m more aggressive when I have the ball in my hands, but obviously playing shooting guard allows me to be [aggressive too],” Paige said. “I just feel that I have to attack better when I’m the point guard and when I’m the shooting guard I tend to settle for jump shots, so I’m trying to attack more [off-the-ball].”

It didn’t help that Ohio State’s interior play was atrocious. The Buckeye big men midway through the second half had more fouls than points or rebounds and Amir Williams, Trey McDonald and Anthony Lee all gave Ohio State next to nothing.

Even with the Buckeyes getting productive efforts from D’Angelo Russell (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists), Marc Loving (19 points), Shannon Scott (10 points, eight assists) and Sam Thompson (17 points), without any kind of interior presence on either end of the floor, Ohio State had no real chance on Saturday.

Ohio State only led for 22 seconds of the game and played most of the game behind by 8-to-15 points.

It’s hard to say if North Carolina is an improved team or if Ohio State’s lack of interior play just made for a real mismatch, but this was a comfortable win for the Tar Heels while the Buckeyes have yet to win against a legitimate opponent in 2014-15.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

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

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.