No. 13 Notre Dame holds off No. 18 North Carolina for huge ACC road win

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source: AP
AP

Notre Dame nearly collapsed and blew a big second half lead before rallying and coming away with a really good 71-70 ACC road win at North Carolina on Monday night.

The No. 13 Fighting Irish led for much of the game but gave up a 9-0 run to the No. 18 Tar Heels in the game’s final minutes and trailed 70-69 with just over a minute left. But junior big man Zach Auguste stopped the bleeding and cleaned up a Pat Connaughton miss and had the go-ahead putback with 1:08 left to put the Fighting Irish ahead.

On the ensuing North Carolina possession, point guard Marcus Paige missed two 3-pointers and J.P. Tokoto had two offensive rebounds before head coach Roy Williams called a timeout to draw up another look. Out of the timeout, Paige missed a contested look near the rim and Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia grabbed a defensive rebound and was fouled. Vasturia missed both free throws and North Carolina had a final shot with 1.4 seconds left. Paige missed a heavily-contested look from the left corner as time expired.

Auguste had a monster second half as he scored 14 of his team-high 18 points in the final 20 minutes. The junior also added six rebounds and two blocks and at one point had eight consecutive points for the Irish in the second frame. Senior guard and All-American candidate Jerian Grant struggled shooting the ball for much of the night, going 1-for-8 from the field, but he eight points, eight assists and four rebounds before fouling out towards the end of the game.

Others picked up the slack for Notre Dame’s offense with Grant struggling to find his shot. When North Carolina went with a big lineup to start the game, Irish forward Pat Connaughton (16 points) hurt them from the perimeter, knocking down four 3-pointers and giving Brice Johnson a tough time on the offensive end. Demetrius Jackson also added 15 points and four assists.

The Tar Heels finally made a second-half run when they went small and put Justin Jackson at the four. North Carolina continued to pound the offensive glass, out-rebounding Notre Dame, 43-26, with 18 offensive rebounds, and wore down the limited Irish rotation. Marcus Paige led the Tar Heels with 15 points, but cooled down significantly in the second half. After starting the game 4-for-6, Paige finished just 6-for-17 from the field.

But Kennedy Meeks and Tokoto provided a second-half lift on the offensive boards for North Carolina as they combined for nine offensive rebounds and 24 points in the game. Freshman wing Theo Pinson also played some of his best ball of the season with seven points and some hustle plays off the bench to help keep the Tar Heels in the game.

North Carolina’s big issue, though, continues to be getting enough perimeter shooting. The Tar Heels were 4-for-16 from distance in this one and if it weren’t for their success on the offensive glass, this game wouldn’t have been so close. Paige’s struggles continued in the second half after a strong first half and that certainly didn’t help. And why did it take Williams so long to find the proper line-up and defense to slow down Notre Dame’s offense? North Carolina was very sloppy defending high ball screens in the first half, as they differed in their approach nearly every time the Irish set a pick.

As for Notre Dame, their limited rotation almost came back to bite them on Monday night. The Fighting Irish looked completely gassed by the end of the game and weren’t even pursuing rebounds or closing out on shooters during that stretch of two Paige missed 3-pointers in the game’s final minute. Notre Dame was able to hold on and get it done and they deserve a lot of credit for spacing the floor well and moving the ball as North Carolina tried to change defensive looks.

The Irish need more consistency from their bench if they want to be legitimate ACC contenders, but this win on the road is a huge confidence booster at the beginning of conference play.

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

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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.