Three Takeaways from Miami’s big ACC win over No. 9 North Carolina

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Miami continued the early chaos in the ACC on Saturday as the Hurricanes jumped out to a huge early lead and cruised past No. 9 North Carolina for a 77-62 win.

1. This is the big ACC win Miami needed for its NCAA tournament cause

Entering Saturday’s home game, Miami owned three wins in the ACC but none of them had come against top-tier teams. The Hurricanes had beaten N.C. State, Pitt and Boston College. Marquee non-conference wins looked even worse for Miami. They had only beaten Stanford and George Washington. Not exactly an inspiring group of wins…

Saturday’s trouncing of No. 9 North Carolina changes all of that. Miami put a beatdown on a top-10 team and made the Tar Heels look relatively helpless for most of the game. The Hurricanes passed the look test and it legitimately felt like they belonged in the NCAA tournament for the first time all season.

Miami’s defense and North Carolina’s shooting woes led the a season-low 22 first-half points from the Tar Heels and junior point guard Joel Berry was held to only two points on 0-for-8 shooting. The Hurricanes beat North Carolina on the glass 40-35 and also outplayed the Tar Heels inside.

Miami’s perimeter performance was particularly special. Freshman Bruce Brown poured in a career-high 30 points (more on him below) and junior Ja’Quan Newton had 18 while Davon Reed chipped in 14 points. That group soundly outplayed North Carolina’s guards and also helped limit the Tar Heels to 29 percent (7-for-24) three-point shooting.

2. Should we be worried about Joel Berry?

North Carolina needs junior point guard Joel Berry to be the engine that makes this team go. He was arguably the team’s best guard during the stretch run for last season’s Final Four team and Berry has had some great games earlier this season.

The last four games, however, Berry has been sluggish as it all came to a head with his two-point outing on Saturday. Over his last four games, Berry is only putting up 9.0 points and 2.7 assists per game as his offense has drastically declined. Berry hasn’t looked like he’s been within the flow of the game for some of the time despite handling the ball.

Saturday’s effort was even more disturbing for Berry when you consider how well the Miami backcourt played. Brown and Newton both had big days to combine for 48 points. Some of this, obviously, also falls on Berry’s teammates since they struggled to show up — besides Justin Jackson — on Saturday.

If the Tar Heels are going to become an elite team again, they need Berry to regain his All-ACC form. There are still plenty of games to make that happen. The good news for North Carolina is that the next game for them is at home against reeling Pitt, which can hopefully help Berry break out of his funk.

3. Bruce Brown is the key to Miami’s success this season

Miami freshman Bruce Brown had a career day on Saturday as he finished with 30 points, five assists and four rebounds. We’ve had so many other freshmen play well across college basketball this season that it is easy for a guy like Brown — who is averaging double-figures for an NCAA tournament team in the ACC — to get lost in the national shuffle.

This dude is hooping right now.

Brown’s elevated play gives the Hurricanes another high-octane perimeter weapon. Senior Davon Reed and junior Ja’Quan Newton are still the leaders of Miami and the most consistent double-figure scoring options. Having Brown play better over the last three games just makes it even tougher to stop the Miami offense.

Over the last three games, Brown is averaging 19 points and five assists per game. That kind of production might not be sustainable for Brown over the rest of the schedule but if he’s even close to those numbers on some nights it helps Miami out a lot and makes them a much tougher opponent.

 

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.

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.