No. 3 Kansas upends No. 4 Baylor

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Landen Lucas hit two free throws with 11.5 seconds left to cap a game-ending, 8-0 run as No. 3 Kansas all-but clinched the outright Big 12 regular season title in Waco on Saturday, winning 67-65.

Frank Mason III played one of his best games of the season, finishing with 23 points and eight assists, consistently getting to the foul line on an afternoon where the rest of the Jayhawks roster wasn’t scoring the ball all that effectively. He was 7-for-12 from the floor and 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.

Johnathan Motley had 19 points, nine boards and four assists for the Bears, but he finished just 8-for-21 from the floor with six turnovers. Lucas, who had eight points, eight boards (seven offensive) and three blocks on the afternoon while playing 31 minutes with four fouls, did an excellent job of keeping the Baylor all-american in check.

With the win, Kansas moved three full games in front of Baylor for first place in the Big 12 with four games remaining, meaning that the Jayhawks have all-but locked up their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title.

Here are

1. If Baylor can’t beat Kansas at home, just how worried should we be about the Jayhawk front line?: I’m not sure there is a title contender that relies on more heavily on pounding the rock into the big boys on their front line more than Baylor does. Wisconsin might. Maybe Purdue, as well. Ethan Happ and Caleb Swanigan are Player of the Year candidates and they are decidedly low-post threats, but Baylor is right there in that conversation.

There’s a reason that Motley is Baylor’s all-american candidate. That’s who Scott wants to get the ball to, and we saw it on Saturday. He took 21 shots, he had four assists and he had six turnovers. Factoring in offensive rebounds and free throws, that’s roughly 30 of Baylor’s 65 possessions, or 46.2 percent, that Motley had a hand in.

In theory, that would be a bad sign for Kansas, right? We all know the issue with this team: Lucas is the only big man on the roster that is ready for the level of basketball that we saw on Saturday. Carlton Bragg Jr. may be, but playing him at the five, totally out of position, has hurt his confidence enough as it is. Dwight Coleby may or may not actually be healthy. Mitch Lightfoot is young. Udoka Azubuike’s season is over. And yet, it was Lucas who was the most impressive big man on the floor. His ability to wall up and defend without fouling while also getting to the offensive glass – again, without fouling – is the difference between Kansas being good and Kansas being disappointing.

Which brings me back to the initial point: If Kansas isn’t affected by their lack on interior depth playing on the road against a top five team, when are they going to be affected by their lack of interior depth?

Yes, I know, Kansas is one sprained ankle or a couple of bad whistles away from being without Lucas, but it’s not like you can plan for that. They’re probably screwed if Mason or Josh Jackson sprains an ankle in the tournament just like UCLA is screwed if Lonzo Ball twists an ankle and Kentucky is screwed if Malik Monk fouls out of a game with 10 minutes left.

As far as the things that you can plan for, Kansas looks better than fine.

2. Kansas is the most battle-tested team in America: The Jayhawks have won 12 games in the Big 12. Nine of them are by seven points or less. Seven are by five points or less. They came from 14 points down in the final three minutes to beat West Virginia. They won at Baylor in a game they trailed by 12. They beat Kentucky on the road by six points. They beat Duke by two. They lost to Indiana in overtime.

Some of that is luck – Svi’s travel against Kansas State, the legal illegal screen at Texas Tech – but a lot of it is some combination of talent, mental toughness and Bill Self. The bottom-line is this: No one will be more prepared to handle a close game in March than Kansas because no one has been through more this season than the Jayhawks.

3. Turnovers, transition defense killed Baylor: That’s where this game was lost. The Bears were up by 12 late in the first half and had control of the game early in the second half, but six turnovers in the first ten minutes of the second half helped turn things around. At one point, Kansas went on an 11-0 run to turn a six-point deficit into a five-point lead, and that run was almost entirely a result of the Kansas transition game.

Turnovers have been an issue for this team all season long, which is what happens when your starting point guard is a converted shooting guard. On the season, Baylor ranks 287th nationally in turnover percentage, and on Saturday, they turned the ball over on 16 of their 65 possessions, just under 25 percent.

4. Scott Drew probably got the last play wrong, which is why people make ‘Scott Drew can’t coach’ jokes: I don’t know what was drawn up on the final possession by Baylor. I wasn’t in the huddle. What I do know, however, is that after Drew called a timeout with 8.5 seconds left to draw up a play, the ball ended up in Manu Lecomte’s hands.

Lecomte has been one of the more clutch players in the country this season, but today was different because Lecomte had hurt his leg earlier in the game and did not have much burst. He was limping around on defense and sent two jumpers careening off the back board earlier in the half. The final possession of the game ended up with Lecomte taking an off-balance 18-footer between two Kansas defenders, a shot that never really had a chance.

It’s plays like that that get people making jokes about Drew and his ability to coach, which isn’t entirely fair. Everyone gets it wrong from time to time, especially when Bill Self is the man on the other sideline, and it doesn’t take into account the fact that the Jayhawk defense took Baylor out of what they wanted to do. He’s a favorite for National Coach of the Year, but people still make those same, played out, can’t coach jokes. If you’re wondering why, there you go.

5. 13 straight Big 12 titles: It’s not officially official yet, but it’s done.

13 straight.

There are going to be kids heading to high school next year that have never known a world where Kansas hasn’t won the Big 12 regular season title.

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.