No. 9 North Carolina runs past No. 15 Louisville for impressive ACC road win

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North Carolina gained revenge in the ACC over Louisville on Saturday as the Tar Heels came away with an impressive 79-69 road win over the Cardinals.

The No. 9 Tar Heels showed a respectable toughness in the road win over the No. 15 Cardinals, which is among three main takeaways from this one.

North Carolina showed a toughness they haven’t shown all season

This was perhaps the most impressive North Carolina win this season because of the tenacity that they showed on the defensive end and on the glass. The Tar Heels simply dominated every facet of the game to build a double-digit cushion in the first half as they outrebounded Louisville 28-12 while outscoring them 8-0 in second-chance points.

The first matchup between these two teams last month, it felt like an unranked Louisville team caught the Tar Heels napping in Chapel Hill. The Cardinals won the battle on the glass (40-31) while also bringing an intensity that North Carolina wasn’t prepared for.

North Carolina was ready for the rematch.

Even though Louisville was wearing boxing-inspired jerseys and playing a ring bell for a Muhammad Ali-inspired day, it was the Tar Heels who were prepared to slug it out for a road win. North Carolina came away with 18 offensive rebounds while finishing with a decisive 49-32 advantage on the glass.

Even though North Carolina didn’t shoot particularly well (29-for-69, 42 percent) they dominated for most of the game, and did so because of a defensive intensity they haven’t shown through a full 40 minutes this season. Despite a slow game from the perimeter (more on that below), this was a major statement in toughness for a North Carolina team not usually known for winning every hustle play and loose ball.

If the Tar Heels can play even a little bit more like this on most nights then they should be taken seriously among the upper-echelon ACC contenders.

Louisville can’t afford to get down to talented teams like UNC

Credit Louisville for doing all they could to hang with North Carolina after an ugly first half. The Cardinals have become a top-15 team this season thanks to grittiness and intensity under first-year head coach Chris Mack. Whatever talent gap exists between Louisville and college basketball’s elite this season, they can make up for it in some games by playing with toughness and consistency.

Saturday’s loss against North Carolina also showed that Louisville can’t afford to get down early to the best teams in college basketball. Even though the Cardinals made some shots in the second half while closing the gap to single digits, they could never get over the hump with enough stops to get back in the game.

While Dwayne Sutton (19 points), Christen Cunningham (15 points) and Jordan Nwora (11 points) made some plays, they didn’t have a lot of help outside of that as the Cardinals couldn’t keep up with North Carolina’s uptempo attack. For Louisville to be at their best, they need to slow down the tempo and play to their strengths and not from behind.

It’ll be interesting to see how Louisville fares over the next several weeks as February turns out to be a brutal month for them. The Cardinals have a Monday turnaround to go on the road to No. 12 Virginia Tech before another ranked road game at No. 25 Florida State. After that, it’s Duke, Clemson, Syracuse and Virginia. Louisville has been perhaps college basketball’s biggest surprise to this point in the season. We’ll see how good they are after the next six games.

The Tar Heels can still win without elite guard play

Saturday wasn’t the best game for North Carolina’s guards. One of the reasons the Tar Heels lost in the first matchup with Louisville was an abysmal shooting performance that included 3-for-22 from three-point range.

In the rematch, North Carolina didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but still managed to win. The Tar Heels were only 6-for-24 from three-point range and freshman guard Coby White (eight points on 3-for-14 shooting) didn’t have a great game.

But between the defense, offensive rebounding, timely possessions and balanced scoring North Carolina was able to keep Louisville at arm’s length despite some serious runs from the Cardinals in the second half. Luke Maye (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Cameron Johnson (19 points, 10 rebounds) both had double-doubles while Garrison Brooks (12 points) and Kenny Williams (10 points) also finished with double-figures.

Even though White wasn’t at his best, he still had two admirable second-half possessions in which he scored crucial buckets to answer big Louisville shots — an and-one lay-up, and a nifty turnaround jumper off of one foot.

It’s important that the Tar Heels can beat good, top-15 teams like Louisville on the road in conference play without strong guard play. It shows that North Carolina doesn’t have to be reliant on a young player like White while also showing the balance this offense brings while he isn’t at his best.

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.