Saturday’s Things To Know: Zion’s acrobatics, Markus Howard goes bonkers, Kansas State to win the Big 12

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Markus Howard, Marquette

Howard finished with 38 points on Saturday afternoon, shooting 13-for-24 from the floor and 5-for-11 from three, as the Golden Eagles knocked off Villanova, 66-65, to remain within a game of first place in the Big East regular season title race. This was the third time in the last four games that Howard has reached 30 points, and the fifth time this season he’s scored at least 37 points in a game.

TEAM OF THE DAY: TCU Horned Frogs

There was no bigger winner on the bubble on Saturday than TCU, who went into Ames and landed themselves a top 15 road win by knocking off Iowa State. The game wasn’t all that close, either. A 22-2 first half run put TCU in front, and the Cyclones never really threatened in the second half. Entering the weekend, TCU was slotted in a play-in game in the latest NBC Sports bracket. This is the kind of win that can bump them up a full seed line.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Parker Van Dyke, Utah

UCLA somehow managed to find a way to blow a 22-point second half lead to Utah, and they did it in the most dramatic way possible:

EXTRA ONIONS: Luke Maye, North Carolina

Coby White led the way with 33 points and six assists, but it was Luke Maye’s jumper at the end of regulation that allowed the Tar Heels to avoid an embarrassing home loss to what may be the worst team in the ACC this season, Miami:

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST WINNERS

KANSAS STATE, BIG 12 FAVORITE: Kansas State rolled into Baylor in a battle for first place in the Big 12, and thanks in part to some injuries to Makai Mason and King McClure, they left with a 70-63 win. With Iowa State taking a home loss to TCU a couple of hours earlier, it means that the Wildcats are now two games against of Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas in the loss column. Who saw that coming?

NEVADA’S REVENGE: The last time we saw Nevada and New Mexico play, the Wolf Pack suffered their only loss of the season … an 85-58 humiliation at the hands of the Lobos. On Saturday, Eric Musselman’s team hosted New Mexico and made a statement of their own, getting revenge and winning the season series by two thanks to a 91-62 smackdown.

CLEMSON AND TCU: TCU was the biggest winner of the day on the bubble, but Clemson landed a monster win of their won. The Tigers entered the day on the bubble despite the fact that they had not yet earned a Q1 win, and then they turned around and picked off a Virginia Tech team that is sitting in the top ten in the NET.

JON TESKE: After Ethan Happ tore up Michigan in the first five minutes of Wisconsin’s visit to Ann Arbor, Teske did a terrific job slowing him down. Happ had just four points on 2-for-9 shooting in the second half as the Wolverines knocked off Wisconsin, 61-52.

THE HYPE FOR KENTUCKY’S UPCOMING WEEK: The Wildcats held of a scrappy Mississippi State team, 71-67, thanks to 23 points from P.J. Washington and some timely buckets from Tyler Herro. This sets the table for a week that might determine the SEC regular season champion: Kentucky hosts both LSU and Tennessee. The Vols hold a one game lead in the standings over both teams.

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST LOSERS

ALL OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Duke made 13 threes.

13!

The result was a resounding win in Charlottesville over the Wahoos, a performance that made a very, very good Virginia team look rather pedestrian. If Duke is going to shoot anywhere close to this well the rest of the season, then we might as well give them the national title now and find something else to do for the next two months.

DE’ANDRE HUNTER’S THREE-BALL: That thing vanished:

PHIL BOOTH’S DECISION MAKING: I don’t think that the Villanova star has made the wrong decision at any point this season … until he had a chance to ice the Big East regular season title. Markus Howard left the ball, Booth had a lane and he dribbled into trouble, ending the game:

Look at this screenshot:

Booth has to be able to score that. He’ll regret this in film tomorrow.

IOWA STATE: The Cyclones had a chance to remain just a game off the pace in the Big 12 regular season standings, and what did they do?

They lost at home to TCU in a game that they never really threatened. That just can’t happen if you want to have any chance to win the Big 12.

LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals blew a 10 point and eventually lost on the road to Florida State in overtime.

FINAL THOUGHT

I know that the big talking point with Gonzaga right now is that Killian Tillie is out and that they cannot win the title now.

I think that’s stupid.

Gonzaga did not have Tillie when they beat Duke in Maui. They have cruised through a better-than-it-looks WCC with Tillie playing very limited minutes to date. They did not have Tillie when they beat Saint Mary’s, the second-best team in the league, by 48 freakin’ points on Saturday night.

Depth matters when it comes to injuries, foul trouble and getting 5-on-5 reps in practice. Depth does not matter all that much come March, especially when the position that Tillie plays is currently occupied by two of the ten best big men college basketball has to offer in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke.

Hell, I would go as far as to say that Gonzaga’s depth is on full display because they are still very much in the national title hunt despite the fact that Tillie — who is very, very good — has basically had a lost season.

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.