Georgia Tech knocks off No. 15 Miami

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The start of ACC play appeared to be a manageable one for No. 15 Miami, as the Hurricanes opened with games at Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. However, after handling the Panthers on Saturday the Hurricanes ran into trouble in Atlanta. The combination of Josh Okogie and the Yellow Jackets throwing out multiple looks defensively proved to be too much for Miami, which fell by the final score of 64-54.

Here are some thoughts on Georgia Tech’s surprising win over Miami, and what it potentially means for both teams moving forward.

1. Improved health makes big difference for Georgia Tech.

There’s no sugar-coating it: the Yellow Jackets did not play well for much of non-conference play. And while there’s no excuse for some of the losses Josh Pastner’s team took, this is a group that also had to navigate suspensions and injuries. Two of the team’s key players, Josh Okogie and Ben Lammers, struggled with injuries during non-conference play while Okogie also had to miss time due to an NCAA rules violation.

Both played pivotal roles in Wednesday’s win, with Okogie scoring a game-high 30 points while also grabbing nine rebounds and Lammers adding eight points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, as Lammers was just 3-for-11 from the field and Okogie needed 23 shots to get his 30, but in a game that lacked rhythm (to Georgia Tech’s benefit) both were good enough.

Georgia Tech will have to “muddy” things up some to be successful in ACC play, especially given the fact that it’s operating with a six-man rotation right now. Wednesday night that approach worked.

2. Miami settled for jump shots far too often, struggling with Georgia Tech’s multiple defensive looks.

Despite the number of guards capable of making plays off the dribble on the roster, the Hurricanes haven’t been all too good at getting to the foul line this season. Miami entered Wednesday’s game with a free throw rate of 27.3, which ranked 304th nationally according to kenpom.com, and they were even worse in that regard against Georgia Tech. Miami posted a free throw rate of 19.6, attempting just 11 free throws on the night.

Far too often Miami settled for pull-up jumpers, being it from thee (4-for-19) or in the mid-range game. Bruce Brown finished the game 4-for-12, Chris Lykes 2-for-10, Ja’Quan Newton 3-for-7 and Lonnie Walker IV 3-for-8 as Miami struggled with Georgia Tech’s multiple defensive looks. The Yellow Jackets used man-to-man at some points, a 1-3-1 at others, which impacted the tempo at which the game was played.

3. Jose Alvarado will have better nights, but he did some good things as well.

For a point guard to have seven turnovers in a game, one would think that his team would wind up on the losing end. Luckily for Georgia Tech freshman Jose Alvarado, who turned the ball over seven times, he had help in the form of Okogie, Lammers and a team defensive effort that forced 18 Miami turnovers. The turnover count for the freshman wasn’t optimal, but he also accounted for 12 points, three steals and two blocked shots.

One of those blocks came on a Lykes three-point attempt with 1:46 remaining that could have trimmed the margin to five points. Instead, Alvarado’s subsequent layup extended the Georgia Tech lead to ten. Miami would get no closer than seven from that point forward. Alvarado, who continues to learn what it takes to play the point at a high level, has now reached double figures in scoring in four of the last five games. If he can keep the turnover count down (he had just one against Notre Dame) Alvarado should be able to have an even greater impact on a team that will need him to do so.

4. Miami now enters a difficult three-game stretch that will have a major impact on its ACC hopes.

Why was taking care of business against Pitt and Georgia Tech so important? Because Miami’s next three league games are against No. 24 Florida State, No. 25 Clemson and No. 2 Duke. The good news is that the Florida State and Duke games will be in Coral Gables, but none of those games will be gimmes by any stretch of the imagination. Florida State has the athleticism and balance to give Miami trouble on both ends of the floor, and thanks to its improvements across the board Clemson is more of a threat than anyone imagined them being before the season began. Lastly there’s Duke, one of the team on the shortlist of surefire national title contenders in the eyes of many.

Those games represent challenges for Miami, but they’re opportunities as well. And for the Hurricanes to take advantage, they’ll need to be far more efficient offensively than they were Wednesday night in Atlanta.

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.