No. 5 Indiana advances past No. 4 Kentucky to reach Crean’s third Sweet 16

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

What a difference three months makes.

Remember when the Indiana Hoosiers went down to Durham and got totally and utterly embarrassed by Duke? They lost 94-74, but the game was never really that close, mainly because Indiana put on one of the worst defensive displays we’ve ever seen. The Indiana that we saw on Saturday afternoon, the one that advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 73-67 win over No. 4 Kentucky, may have had the same players, but that was a totally different basketball team.

107 days ago, Indiana allowed Duke to score 1.52 points-per-possession, the highest number that a high-major team had allowed to another high-major team in five years. On Saturday, against the team that entered the tournament as the nation’s best offense, according to KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, to just 0.93 PPP.

If anyone tells you they saw this coming from the Hoosiers, slap them in the face and call them a liar.

Which is what makes the coaching job that Tom Crean has put together this season so impressive.

Tyler Ulis finished with 27 points while Jamal Murray chipped in with 16, but Kentucky’s dynamic back court finished a combined 17-for-38 from the floor while committing seven turnovers. They made some tough shots throughout the game, but for the most part the Hoosiers held them in check. There was never a point where either of them took the game over. The credit for that has to be given to Indiana’s perimeter players — O.G. Anunoby, Troy Williams, Yogi Ferrell, Nick Zeisloft, Robert Johnson. They did a fabulous job chasing Kentucky’s guards around.

Credit also has to be given to Thomas Bryant, who more than held his own defensively against a team that runs a myriad of ball-screen actions, a drastic improvement from where he was in November. He outplayed Skal Labissiere, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress, finishing with a team-high 19 points and five boards while making five key free throws in the final seconds.

The Hoosiers did a terrific job limiting Kentucky other guys as well. They didn’t help off of guys like Derek Willis and Isaiah Briscoe, instead daring Kentucky’s guards to try and beat their guys 1-on-1.

Crean’s guys were up to the challenge, and when you consider that they were doing it against the nation’s best back court — a pair of all-americans — it’s a performance that really cannot be overstated.

Both from the players and the head coach.

Look, there was no guarantee that Crean was going to get off of that December charter home from Durham with his job intact. There’s no need to rehash the details at this point, but it’s true. There were fans that wanted him gone before the season started, and it didn’t help Crean’s case to lose to Wake Forest and UNLV before allowing Duke to remind the Hoosier faithful that Indiana is no longer one of the nation’s elite basketball programs.

And now look at Crean.

Not only did he win his second Big Ten regular season title in the last four years, but he’s now taken this team to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013.

And he did it by beating John Calipari and Kentucky, the coach and the program that has been casting the biggest shadow over the Tom Crean era.

“I don’t want to stop coaching this team,” Crean said after the game in an interview on CBS.

There may be a section of the Indiana fan base that still wants Crean fired.

You can go ahead and slap them in the face, too.

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.