Late Night Snacks: Minnesota wins at Michigan State, No. 7 Arizona and No. 13 Utah roll

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Idaho 92, Montana 87 (2OT)

While Idaho is playing to lock up a spot in the eight-team Big Sky tournament, Montana entered Thursday’s game locked in a three-way tie for first place. The two teams staged a thriller in Moscow, with Don Verlin’s Vandals managing to hang on in double overtime despite the efforts of Montana senior guard Jordan Gregory. Gregory scored a career-high 36 points, and his three-pointer in the final seconds of the first overtime forced a second extra session. Idaho was more balanced offensively, with Connor Hill leading five Vandals in double figures with 23 points. As a result of their loss, Montana (12-4 Big Sky) drops a game behind Eastern Washington and Sacramento State (both 12-3) in the loss column.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES 

1. Minnesota 96, Michigan State 90 (OT)

The “foul or defend” debate has been a popular one in recent years, with East Lansing (Michigan) HS head coach Steve Finamore having nearly three years of data on the debate. Michigan State prefers to defend when up three, but on two separate cases in regulation the Spartans committed the cardinal sin of fouling a three-point shooter. The second of those situations was on a Carlos Morris three-pointer that tied the game with 1.9 seconds remaining. Morris missed the free throw, but the Golden Gophers remained focused in the extra session and ended Michigan State’s four-game win streak. Morris scored 20 points off the bench and Joey King and Andre Hollins added 17 apiece for Minnesota, which finished the game with five players in double figures.

2. No. 3 Gonzaga 59, San Diego 39

The Bulldogs didn’t shoot as well as they’re capable of in Spokane, but they were able to buckle down defensively against the Toreros. Gonzaga ended the game on a 19-4 run, producing a somewhat deceptive final margin, and they limited USD to 29.6% shooting from the field and 1-for-11 from beyond the arc. Przemek Karnowski led four Bulldogs in double figures with 14 points, with Gary Bell Jr. adding 12 points, Byron Wesley 12 and Domantas Sabonis 11. Kevin Pangos scored three points on 1-for-7 shooting, but he contributed five rebounds and four assists. With the win Gonzaga remains in the conversation for a one-seed in the NCAA tournament.

3. No. 7 Arizona 82, Colorado 54

This one wasn’t close at all, but the takeaway is the performance put forth by Kaleb Tarczewski. On his 22nd birthday Tarczewski scored 14 points, one of five Wildcats to reach double figures (Stanley Johnson scored a team-high 15), and for a player who’s had confidence issues this season this recent stretch has been a good one. Arizona’s starting center has scored at least 14 points in three of the last four games, averaging 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. If Arizona is to make a run at the Final Four (and more), they need a confident Tarczewski in the middle. For their sake, the hope is that this recent run helps in that regard.

STARRED

1. Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes

Sykes surpassed the 2,000-point mark in the Phoenix’s win over UIC, scoring 36 points on 13-for-23 shooting from the field while also accounting for six rebounds, four steals and three assists.

2. Oral Roberts’ Obi Egemano

Egemano shot 12-for-17 from the field, scoring 34 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the Golden Eagles’ 74-58 win over North Dakota State.

3. Montana’s Jordan Gregory

It came in a losing effort, but Gregory scored a career-high 36 points and dished out five assists in Montana’s 92-87 double overtime loss at Idaho.

STRUGGLED

1. Western Carolina’s James Sinclair and Rhett Harrelson

Both players struggled in the Catamounts’ 53-49 loss at Furman, with Sinclair scoring 13 points on 4-for-23 shooting and Harrelson three points on 1-for-11 shooting.

2. Colorado’s Xavier Johnson

Johnson scored just three points in the Buffaloes’ 82-54 loss at No. 7 Arizona, shooting 1-for-3 from the field and 1-for-5 from the foul line.

3. San Diego’s Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson

The Toreros’ starting backcourt combined to score 12 points on 5-for-17 shooting in their 59-39 loss at No. 3 Gonzaga.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Nic Moore scored 16 points and dished out five assists as No. 21 SMU moved back into first place in the American with a 66-54 win at Memphis. The Mustangs have won 14 of their last 15 games.
  • No. 13 Utah closed the first half of their game on an 18-0 run, taking a 41-9 lead into the locker room. The Runnin’ Utes would go on to win 83-41, setting up their showdown with No. 7 Arizona Saturday night in Salt Lake City.

NOTABLES

  • High Point won 75-71 at UNC Asheville, and thanks to some other upsets the Panthers are in sole possession of first place in the Big South with one game remaining. The only team that can catch Scott Cherry’s squad is Charleston Southern, and the two teams meet Saturday in Charleston.
  • Wofford clinched the top seed in the SoCon tournament with a 76-72 win at Mercer. Mike Young’s Terriers can wrap up the outright regular season title with a win at Furman on Saturday.
  • Temple erased a five-point halftime deficit in beating Houston 66-54, avoiding what would have been a bad loss as the Owls look to earn an NCAA tournament bid.
  • Dan Garvin scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as Bryant won 77-69 at Central Connecticut State, clinching the right to host at least one game in next week’s NEC tournament. The Bulldogs can grab the two-seed with a win Saturday combined with a Robert Morris loss.
  • Jae’Sean Tate scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in Ohio State’s 81-57 win over Nebraska.
  • Rider locked up the two-seed in the MAAC tournament with a 60-53 win at Monmouth. Kevin Baggett’s Broncs were picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches poll.
  • Louisiana Tech moved into sole possession of first place in Conference USA with a 77-60 win over UTEP, with Raheem Appleby and Kenneth Smith scoring 17 points apiece to lead the way.
  • Murray State won its 23rd consecutive game, moving to 15-0 in the OVC with a 65-57 win over Eastern Illinois.
  • With Georgia State’s loss at UALR, there’s a two-way tie atop the Sun Belt between Georgia Southern and ULM. The Eagles moved to 13-4 with a win at Appalachian State, with the Warhawks matching that record with a win at South Alabama.
  • Saint Mary’s moved to 13-4 in WCC play with an 84-53 win at San Francisco. The Gaels are in a position where they can ill-afford a “bad loss” ahead of the WCC tournament.
  • Stanford finds itself in a similar spot, and Thursday night the Cardinal outscored Oregon State 47-18 in the second half to turn a two-point halftime deficit into a 75-48 win.
  • UC Davis’ lead in the Big West is down to a game, as they lost 74-60 at UCSB. Michael Bryson led the Gauchos with 20 points, and Alan Williams added 15 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
  • BYU came back from an eight-point halftime deficit to win 82-69 at Portland. Also of note in the win is the fact that Tyler Haws (21 points, 2,614 for his career) is now the program’s all-time leading scorer, passing Jimmer Fredette.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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.