No. 1 Gonzaga blows out Pepperdine 100-74 in WCC semis

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LAS VEGAS — Zach Norvell Jr. scored 18 points to lead five players in double figures, and No. 1 Gonzaga beat Pepperdine 100-74 on Monday night in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament.

Gonzaga (30-2), which has won six consecutive WCC titles, will look for its seventh straight on Tuesday, when it will face the winner of Monday’s late semifinal between San Diego and Saint Mary’s.

Rui Hachimura scored 16 points, Brandon Clarke added 15 and Josh Perkins and Corey Kispert each scored 11 for Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs — who came into the game ranked first in the nation in field-goal percentage (53.4 percent), first in scoring margin (24.9 points per game) and first in scoring offense (89.8) — went 39 for 62 (59.7 percent) from the field en route to their 21st straight victory by double digits.

Gonzaga has won those games by an average margin of 30.1 points.

The Bulldogs have won 37 straight against Pepperdine, including a 92-64 blowout in Spokane this season.

The Waves (16-18) were led by Colbey Ross, who scored a game-high 20 points. Eric Cooper Jr. added 16 points, while Jade Smith had 14.

After falling behind 8-6 early, the Bulldogs erupted for a 23-5 run to seize control.

Gonzaga, which closed as 24½-point favorite, never relinquished its double-digit lead after pulling ahead 24-13 with 9:40 left in the first half.

The Bulldogs got a boost from the return of Killian Tillie, who played for the first time since he suffered a partially torn ligament in his right foot in early February. Tillie was 3 for 4 from the field in the first half, all 3-pointers.

Gonzaga opened the second half on a 32-12 run to put the game out of reach.

BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: The return of Tillie invoked a huge roar from the sold-out crowd. The 6-foot-10 junior from France had played in only nine games this season after missing the first half of the season with a stress fracture in his ankle, and then re-injuring his foot with the ligament tear on Feb. 7. Tillie finished with nine points and six rebounds in 15 minutes.

Pepperdine: The top 3-point shooting team in the league during the regular season couldn’t find a groove. After hitting 14 of 28 from 3-point range in a 17-point upset of San Francisco in the quarterfinals and going 10 for 19 against Loyola Marymount in the second round, the Waves shot 37.5 percent (9 of 24) from beyond the arc against Gonzaga.

TWO DECADES EARLIER

Monday marked 20 years to the day Gonzaga won its first-ever NCAA Tournament game, over Minnesota. The Bulldogs ousted three major-conference teams in 1999 and became the tournament darlings before falling to eventual champion Connecticut.

MORRISON HONORED

During a first-half timeout, former Gonzaga star Adam Morrison was announced as the 2019 WCC Hall of Fame inductee. Morrison, who was courtside as an analyst for the Gonzaga radio network, led the nation in scoring and was the conference’s player of the year in 2006. He led the Bulldogs to three straight conference tournament titles.

UP NEXT

Pepperdine: Despite finishing the season two games under .500, the run to the West Coast semifinals and a notable skipper in second-year coach Lorenzo Romar could garner an invite to one of the lower-level postseason tournaments.

Gonzaga: Will play either San Diego or Saint Mary’s in Tuesday’s championship game.

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.