Brian Dutcher, SDSU stir up MWC by beating Eric Musselman’s Wolf Pack

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — A couple of coaches’ sons have a pretty good rivalry going on in the Mountain West Conference, and so far, Brian Dutcher’s San Diego State Aztecs have dominated Eric Musselman’s Nevada Wolf Pack.

San Diego State stunned the No. 6 Wolf Pack 65-57 Wednesday night , shutting down Jordan Caroline, snapping the Wolf Pack’s 10-game winning streak and prompting the reinvigorated student section to rush Steve Fisher Court at Viejas Arena, which was incredibly loud and sold out for the first time this season.

Nevada has lost only five games since late last season, including falling just a basket short of reaching the Elite Eight. Three of those defeats have been to the Aztecs. No other Division I team has beaten the same ranked opponent three times during the last year.

It was the highest-ranked opponent the Aztecs have ever beaten.

“That environment was incredible,” said Dutcher, who’s in his second season as head coach after serving as Fisher’s top assistant for 18 seasons at SDSU, and whose father, Jim, coached Minnesota for 11 seasons. “It reminded me of a few years back. It was good to have the building packed liked that. We treated the crowd to an old-fashioned Aztec win. Defense and rebounding keyed it.”

By handing Nevada just its second loss, the Aztecs tightened the MWC standings and set up what should be an exciting finish to the regular season. San Diego State has won seven of eight games, mostly behind redshirt sophomore forward Jalen McDaniels but also with help from the senior backcourt of Devon Watson and Jeremy Hemsley — who led the Aztecs with 15 points each Wednesday night — and some improving freshmen.

Nevada (24-2, 12-2) still leads the MWC, followed by Utah State (21-6, 11-3), Fresno State (19-7, 10-4) and SDSU (17-9, 9-4).

The schedule-makers gave fans a huge gift: The regular season ends with Nevada hosting SDSU on March 9. Then, there could be another enticing matchup in the conference tournament, which, like last year, the Aztecs will need to win to secure an NCAA Tournament berth.

The Aztecs won nine straight games late last season to get into the NCAA tourney, including a 79-74 home win against then-No. 21 Nevada in San Diego in the regular-season finale and a 90-74 victory against the Wolf Pack six nights later in the conference tournament semifinal. That winning streak began after a blowout loss at Nevada.

The Wolf Pack’s only other loss this season was 85-58 at New Mexico on Jan. 5.

“We have to step up on a big stage and play,” said Musselman, whose late father, Bill, also coached at Minnesota as well as in the NBA. “We’ve played in front of two really great crowds at New Mexico and here and we didn’t play like we are capable of.”

Nevada, which starts five senior transfers, had won 10 straight games by an average of 22 points before running into the Aztecs’ man-to-man defense. Dutcher had Matt Mitchell, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound sophomore forward, guard the 6-7, 235-pound Caroline, who came in averaging 18.8 points and 9.8 rebounds. Caroline had only eight points and six rebounds.

“Mostly everyone we play plays zone defense,” Caroline said. “So I think their man defense affected our offense a little bit.”

The Aztecs played zone on only one baseline out-of-bounds possession.

“I just thought we had a body in front of a body,” Dutcher said. “They get downhill so well. I don’t think they got to the rim a whole lot. They were shooting a lot of shots that were 3s in front of us. I don’t know that they got a whole lot of layups and that’s what they’re good at.”

Dutcher said the Aztecs were prepared to play zone, “but the rhythm of the game was such and we were playing so well in man that we stayed with it. So maybe in Reno, maybe we’ll play 40 minutes of zone and then by the time we see them in the conference tournament, we’ll know what we want to do.”

The victory came a day after the rebuilding Padres invigorated the city by agreeing to a $300 million, 10-year contract with All-Star infielder Manny Machado. As Dutcher walked into his postgame news conference, he quipped, “Look at all this press. Is Manny Machado in here?”

Hemsley said it was the first time he’d been involved in a court-storming.

“We just want to mean something to this city and we play for the name on the front of our jerseys,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling seeing all of those people out there rocking with you and wanting to see you do good.”

Musselman was jaw-jacking with the referees all night. At one point, official David Hall had had enough and got practically nose-to-nose with the coach.

While giving SDSU “a ton of credit,” Musselman also said: “We have to clean up a lot of stuff from tonight.”

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.