No. 19 Kentucky beats No. 3 Louisville, 78-70, in OT

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Kentucky beats Louisville in overtime, 78-70, on Saturday thanks to a career-high 27 points from Tyrese Maxey.

Nick Richards chipped in with 13 points and 10 boards, playing the best basketball of his young career down the stretch.

Maxey caught fire early, scoring 13 points in the first half and making nine of his first 12 shots, but it was the play of Richards down the stretch that won this game for the 19th-ranked Wildcats. The oft-maligned 7-foot junior center picked up his fourth foul with 12 minutes left in the game. He played almost the entirety of the final eight minutes and overtime with those four fouls, drawing two key charges and picking up a couple of critical offensive rebounds, to lead the Wildcats to the win.

Jordan Nwora once against struggled for No. 3 Louisville. He had eight points and hit a huge three with just over two minutes left in overtime, but he did not take a single field goal in the entire second half and finished the night with just eight points on 2-for-11 shooting from the floor.

Immanuel Quickley had a career-high 18 points in the wing for Kentucky. Steve Enoch scored 18 points to lead the way for the Cardinals while Dwayne Sutton chipped in with 14 points and 10 boards of his own.

(AP Photo/James Crisp)

Here are the three things we can take away from a night where Kentucky beat Louisville in overtime:

1. IS KENTUCKY FINALLY PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER?

We’ve seen this story before.

Kentucky struggles for the first six or seven weeks of the season, they start playing elite competition as the fears start to build and then, in a marquee game on national television against an elite opponent, they pick up a massive, statement win.

That’s precisely what happened here.

Kentucky did not look like themselves during the early part of the season, lost back-to-back games in Las Vegas and then headed into Christmas break with the college basketball-loving world wondering if this team had the ability to put it all together and play up to their preseason ranking.

Saturday should be the answer that you need.

What’s significant about this win isn’t just that Tyrese Maxey looked awesome, or that Ashton Hagans was locking everyone up, or that Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards (more on him in a second) got it going. It’s that they were able to add another marquee non-conference win to a resume that isn’t going to look all that impressive with losses to Evansville and Utah to their name. With the SEC looking like it is going to be a two-team race, that matters for seeding in March.

Now, don’t mistake that for me saying Kentucky is a finished product. Kentucky really needs to figure out what they’re going to do at the four. E.J. Montgomery isn’t the answer. Keion Brooks and Nate Sestina both are fine in specific matchups – which, frankly, might be enough – while Kahlil Whitney needs more seasoning.

There is still plenty of room for them to grow.

But the point here is that we are always seeing some of that growth, the proof being that …

2. … NICK RICHARDS PLAYED THE BEST GAME OF HIS LIFE

I have never considered myself a Nick Richards fans. Even on the AAU circuit I never understood why anyone thought that he was more than simply that was tall and long and athletic.

Through four games against high-major competition in what was supposed to be his breakout junior season, Richards was averaging 6.5 points and 3.0 boards while spending more time on the bench in foul trouble than on the floor impacting the game.

Then Saturday happened.

And while he still dealt with the foul issues – albeit with a couple of ticky-tack calls that weren’t entirely necessary – he was a monster. Richards had 13 points and 10 boards, but more importantly, he made four massive hustle plays down the stretch while playing with those four fouls. He drew two offensive fouls on big possessions and he freed up two offense rebounds while battling with Louisville’s bigs.

He was a monster, and given that Coach Cal is at his best when he has big, athletic fives that can do all of the things that Richards did on Saturday, I think the important of his breakout game is self-explanatory.

3. THIS WAS ACTUALLY A PROMISING PERFORMANCE FROM LOUISVILLE

The biggest knock of Louisville this season is that they are a team that is forced to ride or die with Jordan Nwora because they don’t have anyone else on the roster that is capable of creating for themselves. This is why they looked so bad offensively against Michigan and Texas Tech, and why they struggled so much in the first half against Kentucky. Through the first 100 minutes that the Cardinals have played against elite defenses this season, they had mustered a total of 139 points in 171 possessions, or 0.813 PPP. For reference, the best defenses in college basketball hover around the 0.850 PPP allowed range.

It’s not a coincidence that, in that same time frame, Jordan Nwora was 14-for-47 from the floor and 3-for-17 from three.

That’s relevant because, in the second half and overtime on Saturday afternoon, Nwora more or less played as a decoy. Kentucky face-guarded him wherever he was on the floor, and he simply got out of the way. That’s when he wasn’t actually on the bench. Louisville erased a 12-point second half deficit against the Wildcats on Saturday, and the run to regain a foothold in the game came when Nwora was out.

Steve Enoch finished with 18 points, knocking down a three and getting his back-to-the-basket game going. Dwayne Sutton had 14 points and 10 boards, making some key defensive plays and picking up a few critical loose balls.

But the most important performance came from Fresh Kimble, a grad transfer point guard from St. Joe’s that currently backs up Darius Perry. He had 12 points and four assists, making some crucial plays in the second half to keep the Cardinals moving in the right direction. Point guard play has been the biggest concern for Louisville this season, and playing arguably the best team in what was definitely the toughest venue they’ve seen this year, Kimble had his best game. Someone needs to be able to make plays to create easy offense for people not named Nwora, and Kimble – along with Sutton, Enoch and even Darius Perry, to a point – were able to do that and bring Louisville back.

That’s big, even if it comes in a loss.

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.