Houston rallies to upset No. 12 SMU, 71-68

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HOUSTON (AP) Houston trailed by 11 points early in the second half and appeared headed for its second loss to No. 12 SMU this season.

That was when they started to fight back.

Devonta Pollard scored 23 points and Damyean Dotson added 13 as Houston rallied for a 71-68 victory over SMU on Monday night, just the second loss of the season for the Mustangs.

Pollard and Dotson keyed a 21-4 run midway through the second half for the Cougars (16-6, 6-4 American), which defeated a ranked team for the first time since beating No. 25 SMU in March 2014. The win was the first over a team ranked this high or higher since beating No. 3 Memphis in January 1996.

“There were a lot of turning points in the game,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “When we got down 11, it was our fight. That is a part of our identity. Our kids stay together. They don’t back down.”

Both teams pointed to Houston’s 41-27 rebounding advantage as one of the keys to the Cougars’ win.

“We focused on defense and rebounding,” Pollard said. “Everything else took care of itself.”

Nic Moore had 16 points for SMU (19-2, 8-2), which has lost two of its last three after being the last unbeaten team in Division I. Ben Moore scored 12 points and Markus Kennedy had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Mustangs, who shot 8 of 27 in the second half and finished shooting 40 percent overall.

Houston shot 55 percent in the second half and 46 percent for the game.

“I think we have had slippage in a lot of areas,” SMU coach Larry Brown said. “In some ways I think we are worrying about things that really aren’t that important. . We won by doing a great job on the boards, and we haven’t done that recently. I have seen it, but I also understood that every game will be a lot tougher based on how we started the season.”

After Houston pushed its lead to eight points, Nic Moore scored five straight points and Ben Moore cut the lead to 66-65 with two free throws with 2 minutes left. Following a free throw by Galen Robinson, Jr., Nic Moore and Dotson traded missed shots, and Kennedy was called for an offensive foul with 59 seconds left.

Pollard made two free throws with 46 seconds left to push the lead to 69-65, and Nic Moore’s 3-pointer was blocked by Robinson. Bertrand Nkali made a free throw with 26 seconds left, but Nic Moore hit a 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to cut the lead to two.

Wes VanBeck hit one free throw with 14 seconds left, and Jordan Tolbert’s 3-point attempt missed and Shake Milton could not get a 3-point attempt off in time.

“We didn’t play like ourselves,” Tolbert said. “We got out of what we normally do. We stayed in the game down the stretch. The last four or five possessions we didn’t get the look we were trying to get.”

Trailing 49-38 with just under 16 minutes remaining, Houston responded with the 21-4 run over the next 8 minutes led by nine points from Pollard and seven from Dotson. LeRon Barnes and Pollard capped the run with consecutive 3-pointers to give the Cougars their largest lead of the game, 59-53. The Mustangs went 1 of 11 from the field during the run and went 6:07 without scoring.

SMU opened the second half with an 8-2 spurt to open up a 47-36 lead on a 3-pointer by Milton with 17:26 remaining.

TIP-INS

SMU: Milton added 10 points and Jarrey Foster had nine. … SMU shot 13 of 25 from the field in the first half. … The Mustangs hit on 20 of 23 from the free throw line.

Houston: Houston honored its football team at halftime. The Cougars went 13-1, won the American Conference and defeated Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Coach Tom Herman addressed the crowd along with Houston mayor Sylvester Turner. … Rob Gray, Jr., Houston’s leading scorer with a 17.3 average, missed the game with an ankle injury.

COOGS WIN WEEKLY AWARDS

Gray, a sophomore guard, earned the American player of the week award and Robinson, a freshman guard, earned the conference’s rookie of the week honor. Gray averaged 23.5 points in wins over Tulsa and East Carolina, while Robinson scored a career-high 19 points against Tulsa before adding 12 points and seven assists against ECU.

HE SAID IT

Tolbert on SMU’s missing effort: “To me, teams are more excited to play us than we are to play them. We have to get back (being) hungry. A lot of people are gunning for us now.”

UP NEXT

SMU is at South Florida on Sunday

Houston is at Tulsa on Sunday

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.