No. 16 Memphis beats NC State in Barclays Center Classic

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NEW YORK — No. 16 Memphis is way ahead of schedule.

“We’ve seen them grow up right before our eyes,” coach Penny Hardaway said. “I thought it was going to be around January. We’re not where we need to be but we’re growing. To see this in November is big.”

The Tigers came up big Thursday, beating North Carolina State 83-78 on Thursday in the Barclays Center Classic.

Boogie Ellis scored 21 points to lead Memphis (6-1). Precious Achiuwa added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Tyler Harris had 14.

Markell Johnson led North Carolina State (5-2) with 22 points. Jericole Hellems added 17, and DJ Funderburk had 14.

“It’s a loss but we want to build off our second half,” coach Kevin Keatts said. “The second half was way better than our first.”

Trailing by 16 at the start of the second half, the Wolfpack cut it to 75-72 on C.J. Bryce’s free throw with 3:51 left.

Achiuwa made a jumper, and D.J. Jeffries converted a putback on Memphis’ next two possessions to extend the lead to seven, only for Bryce to respond with a jumper to cut it to 79-74.

Harris missed a floater in the lane, but the ball went off a N.C. State player. Johnson then drew a blocking foul on Ellis, and made both foul shots to cut it to 79-76.

Memphis dashed any thoughts about an upset when Harris converted a three-point play, and Alex Lomax stole the ball from Johnson.

“This is a part of growth,” Hardaway said. “The best is still yet to come for this young team. They’re starting to understand more now and I’m proud of that. They’re carrying over what we’re teaching to the games.”

Memphis did not have freshman center James Wiseman (NCAA suspension) and freshman guard Lester Quinones (broken right hand), although freshman center Malcolm Dandridge played his first game after suffering a torn meniscus in February. Dandridge finished with two points and a rebound.

BIG PICTURE:

The Thanksgiving matinee was the fourth straight game Wiseman sat out due to NCAA suspension. The NCAA had ruled earlier in the month Wiseman’s mother had accepted money from Hardaway in 2017, when the former NBA star was a high school and AAU coach. Wiseman played for Hardaway’s AAU team, and would later enroll at the school where the one-time NBA star coached. The NCAA also added three games to the suspension to make up for the three games Wiseman played for Memphis (Nov. 5 against South Carolina State, Nov. 8 against Illinois-Chicago, Nov. 12 against Oregon) while being ineligible.

Memphis challenged the NCAA’s initial ruling, but the NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstate announced Wednesday that the decision was upheld. Wiseman, the nation’s top-ranked recruit coming out of high school, and the centerpiece of Hardaway’s top-ranked recruiting class, can return Jan. 12 against South Florida.

Hardaway believes the suspension won’t negatively affect Wiseman, who had averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, three blocks in 23.1 minutes in the three games. He shot 76.9% from the field, and 70.4% from the foul line. He is expected to be on the short list of players who could be the first overall pick in June’s NBA Draft.

“James is very smart,” said Hardaway, who noted Wiseman did not travel with the team. “He understands. He watches a lot of film. He’s a student of the game. I think he’ll hit the ground running when he comes back. He’s just that special because he’s willing to do whatever it takes.”

UP NEXT:

Memphis: Hosts Bradley on Tuesday night.

North Carolina State: Hosts Wisconsin on Wednesday night

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.