Kansas beats West Virginia 88-74 to reach Big 12 finals

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dedric Lawson transferred to Kansas in part to win championships.

He’ll have that chance Saturday night.

The former Memphis standout scored 24 points and the No. 17 Jayhawks, who failed to win a share of the Big 12 regular-season title for the first time in 15 years, roared into the conference tournament title game with an 88-74 victory over West Virginia on Friday night.

“It wasn’t our best game,” Lawson said, “but looking forward to going out there and playing for a championship. Looking forward to going out there and winning something meaningful.”

Quentin Grimes added 18 points before leaving late with cramps, Devon Dotson had 13 and Marcus Garrett 11 for the third-seeded and reigning champion Jayhawks (25-8). They advanced to the final for the third time in four years and will face fifth-seeded Iowa State.

“We need to learn how to close something out, and we get that opportunity tomorrow,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “They have the same opportunity. It’s going to make for a great game.”

The 10th-seeded Mountaineers (14-20) led much of the first half and hung tough early in the second, but three games in three days finally caught up to them. Tough wins over Oklahoma and No. 8 Texas Tech left them with tired legs — probably minds, too — and the Jayhawks eventually went on a 13-2 run midway through the second half to seize control.

The lead reached 20 with 7 1/2 minutes to go, and the Jayhawks cruised the rest of the way.

Lamont West led West Virginia with 16 points. Derek Culver had 14.

“I don’t want to blame fatigue,” Culver said. “Just lack of paying attention to what is going on around you. I’ll be the first one to blame. We just got to go back to the drawing board.”

Kansas has won the tournament 11 times, and Iowa State is unbeaten in four championship trips, but the two teams have met in the finals just once: The Cyclones won 70-66 in 2015.

Grimes has struggled with his shot most of the season, to say nothing of living up to his five-star status out of high school. But the freshman guard found his stroke from the opening minute, when he buried the first of five first-half 3-pointers to get the Jayhawks off and running.

West Virginia pulled ahead midway through the half, but Grimes added three more 3s to regain the lead, then hit a buzzer-beater from 30 feet to give the Jayhawks a 48-40 advantage.

“He was the reason for the run,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “He was very good.”

Lawson fueled their clinching run, getting it started with an easy basket and added another bucket and a 3-pointer during the 13-2 charge. By the time Garrett finished it off, a crowd heavily in favor of Kansas was buzzing about the opportunity to face the Cyclones.

“I bet Iowa State has 70 percent of the building tomorrow,” Self said. “You play that first game and you win, you can hustle the tickets off the team that doesn’t win. And they’re pros at hustling tickets in Kansas City. It’ll be the first time in a long time we haven’t had a comparable home court, I’d predict. It should be a fun game.”

OOPS MOMENT

The Jayhawks were ahead 75-58 with 6:33 left when West hit a pair of free throws. Freshman big man David McCormack gathered the ball while standing out of bounds and tossed it to Garrett for the inbounds. But when Garrett stepped over the out-of-bounds line, it wound up being a turnover, and Self immediately called timeout to lay into his team on the bench.

BIG PICTURE

West Virginia lost four players to injuries, transfers and dismissals, and it left them with very little depth. That appeared to play a factor in the second half, when the Jayhawks began to get up and down the floor and the Mountaineers were unable to keep up.

Kansas has played this week with a chip on its shoulder after failing to win a share of the regular-season title. Now, the Jayhawks have a chance to match the 1999 team by winning the tournament as a No. 3 seed, and perhaps help their NCAA Tournament seeding on Selection Sunday.

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.