Walton carries Michigan past Minnesota and into Big 10 final

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WASHINGTON (AP) Seconds after his coach told Michigan players to quit bickering, Derrick Walton Jr. had his own message to deliver.

The senior point guard huddled his teammates at midcourt and told them they couldn’t let the game get away. Then Walton backed up those words by having a hand in 18 consecutive points – scoring 14 of those himself and assisting on the others- down the stretch as eighth-seeded Michigan beat Minnesota 84-77 Saturday to earn a spot in the Big Ten Tournament final against Wisconsin.

Walton finished with 29 points, nine assists, five rebounds, two steals and just one turnover and took over the game for the Wolverines (23-11), who have defeated Illinois, No. 13 Purdue and Minnesota since their plane skidded off the runway earlier in the week and delayed their arrival in D.C. They have Walton to thank for getting them to their first conference championship game 2014.

“The game presented me opportunities to make plays,” said Walton, who was 8 of 15 from the floor and made all 10 of his free throws. “I just take what the game gives me. … My job is easy: just make sure to get the ball in the right spot.”

For more than seven minutes the ball was in Walton’s hands as he navigated big German forward Moe Wagner’s foul trouble and quarterfinal star D.J. Wilson’s off day and took over.

Wagner, who made his first six shots and finished with 17 points, wasn’t surprised by Walton’s dominance. Neither was the teammate who has known him since fifth grade.

“When he gets that look in his eye, I know when he’ll get it going,” backcourt mate Zak Irvin said. “At that point, just get him the ball and he’ll take care of it.”

In a tradition adopted for each win this week, players celebrated by dousing coach John Beilein with water and jumping up and down screaming, “Hey, hey, hey!” They’d love to do it one more time Sunday.

On the court, Beilein has gotten to the point that he trusts Walton to run the show, especially in pressure spots. After Minnesota tied the score at 55, Beilein let Walton settle things down.

“When I see him talking, I just shut up and sit down,” Beilein said, “because I know he sees what’s going on out there much better.”

Walton saw Minnesota’s Nate Mason, who finished ahead of him in all-conference voting, scoring 23 points and outdueled him. The Golden Gophers (24-9) couldn’t make up for the loss of injured guard Akeem Springs or handle Walton’s surge.

“We knew he’d be a threat,” Minnesota forward Reggie Lynch said of Walton. “It’s something we have to shore up down the road, covering great point guards.”

As Walton walked down the court to shoot free throws late in the game, a fan yelled out, “That’s what a first-team all-Big Ten point guard looks like.”

“He definitely played with a chip on his shoulder,” Michigan forward Mark Donnal said. “We’ve seen it plenty of times this season where he’s just taken over games and been that go-to guy.”

SPRINGS OUT

Springs tore the Achilles tendon in his right ankle in Minnesota’s quarterfinal win Friday against Michigan State and is out for the season. New starter Dupree McBrayer had 14 points and played all 40 minutes along with Mason, but only two bench points showed the potential for problems in the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re a totally different team now with Akeem out,” coach Richard Pitino said. “We’re going to have to start teaching some guys some different positions. That was a huge blow.”

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Playing far better than its seed, Michigan showed it has a ton of offensive options and can compensate if one or two players doesn’t have it. That’ll come in handy in the NCAA Tournament. “People can have bad days and miss shots, but we know somebody’s there who will carry us,” Wagner said.

Minnesota: Will have to make up for the loss of Springs moving forward, but the team knows it can count on Mason to shoulder the load.

UP NEXT

Michigan: Looks to cap off an incredible week with a Big Ten Tournament title. Will face No. 24 Wisconsin, which beat Northwestern 76-48 in the other semifinal, in the final Sunday afternoon.

Minnesota: An NCAA Tournament bid that’s an impressive accomplishment after going 8-23 last season.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

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.