Depth, guard play make the difference for No. 12 Arizona

Associated Press
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TUCSON, Arizona — After winning 35 games and reaching the Elite Eight last season, No. 12 Arizona had to address the fact that four starters from that team had moved on.

And with three of those players currently in the NBA, addressing those losses would not be a simple task for Sean Miller and his coaching staff. But what will help in that quest is Arizona’s depth, and that attribute was on display Thursday night as they beat Boise State 88-76 in an unbracketed game in the Wooden Legacy.

On a night that saw senior center Kaleb Tarczewski account for just four points and nine rebounds and Ryan Anderson (15 rebounds) finish with only eight points on 4-for-13 shooting, other players managed to step forward. Dusan Ristic gave the Wildcats a valuable eight points and five rebounds off the bench, and Arizona’s guards stepped forward on both ends of the floor as well.

Of those perimeter players Gabe York led the way, scoring his 23 points (7-for-12 FG) on multiple levels and being a tough cover for Boise State’s guards. But the looks York managed to connect on would not have been present without the help of his teammates.

“Everyone did a great job of trying to find me, and when I took a bad shot, no one was upset because I think I shot the ball pretty well tonight,” York said after the game. “Parker (Jackson-Cartwright) found me a lot in transition. Kadeem (Allen) did a great job of finding me, and I was able to knock down shots.”

The 6-foot-3 senior guard is a prime example of what can happen when a player sticks to the process, steadily honing his skills and earning more playing time ahead of a final campaign in which the opportunities to score would be plentiful. After averaging 9.2 points per game as a junior York entered Thursday’s game as one of four Wildcats in double figures, and his performance was one reason why Arizona was able to gain some separation in the second half as the visiting Broncos became stagnant offensively.

York was one of four guards to finish the game in double figures Thursday night, but it could be argued that the most important of those contributions (with an eye towards the future) came from Jackson-Cartwright and Allen.

Those two have the difficult task of stepping into the lead guard role left vacant by the departure of McConnell, who was a floor general in every sense of the phrase. But for Arizona to be successful they don’t have to be McConnell, because Allen and Jackson-Cartwright’s respective games differ from the current Philadelphia 76er.

Against Boise State Jackson-Cartwright provided the early spark, coming off the bench to score 12 of his 14 points in the first half and providing a much-needed supplement to York’s offensive output. Allen grabbed the baton in the second half, tallying eight points (he finished with ten) and five assists (six for the game) with just one turnover. Add in Trier scoring 11 of his 13 in the second half, and Arizona had enough production to hold off Boise State’s two-headed front court monster of James Webb III (27 points, nine rebounds) and Nick Duncan (21 points).

“Parker was a big reason we won the game and so was Alonzo,” Miller said. “I talked to both guys after the game…I was disappointed in the way we finished the game with both of them in, because in my opinion if we didn’t have the performance from either one of them we would not have been in the winner’s circle.”

It is early in the season, but it’s apparent that instead of having that single stalwart to call upon at the point Arizona has two players capable of shepherding the team. Before the season began Allen was labeled by some as the “scoring” point guard with Jackson-Cartwright filling the role of distributor. But Thursday night both showed the ability to do things outside of the labels affixed to them, and that can only benefit the Wildcats moving forward.

“(Kadeem) makes me better every day, and I try to do the same with him,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “He is a bigger, stronger guard. He can get into the pain as well as shoot. Going against him every day has been tremendous in making me better.”

On a night in which their leading scorer entering the game shot 4-f0r-13 from the field, Arizona managed to shoot better than 54 percent from the field and 10-for-21 from beyond the arc. Add in a 38-3 edge in bench points, and it’s easy to see why the Wildcats were able to pull away from a game Boise State squad.

At this point in time Arizona may not have the decisive answers at some positions that are generally demanded in college basketball, but they do have a lot of options. And that’s a good “issue” to have if you’re Sean Miller.

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.