Azubuike leads No. 3 KU to 60-53 win over No. 16 West Virginia

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Udoka Azubuike had 17 points and 11 rebounds, Devon Dotson and Marcus Garrett made crucial plays down the stretch, and third-ranked Kansas rallied to beat No. 16 West Virginia 60-53 in its Big 12 opener Saturday.

Dotson added 16 points and Garrett finished with 12 points and six assists for the Jayhawks (11-2), who won their 28th straight conference opener by overcoming a sluggish first half. Kansas trailed by as many as 10 before leaning on defense and dunks to beat the Mountaineers (11-2) for the seventh time in their last eight meetings.

Oscar Tshiebwe had 17 points and 17 rebounds for West Virginia, though almost all his production came during a big first half. Fellow freshman Miles McBride added 13 points, most of that coming as the Mountaineers tried to close the gap in the final minutes of their eighth consecutive loss in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas won despite shooting 3 of 17 from beyond the arc — mostly because West Virginia wasn’t any better. The Big 12’s best defensive team couldn’t solve the Jayhawks’ own defense in the second half, when the Mountaineers shot 28 percent from the field and missed all of their 3-point attempts.

It was a much different story from the first half, when Kansas was fortunate to trail 30-24 in the locker room.

It wasn’t that West Virginia dominated the game. It was that Tshiebwe dominated it.

The bruising McDonald’s All-American was 6 of 8 from the field, scored 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, all while flexing and strutting to the jeering of a sold-out field house. On the defensive end, the 260-pound freshman proved to be one of the few players in the Big 12 who could match the Jayhawks’ own big man with brute strength.

Azubuike had 10 points and seven rebounds, but he wasn’t the game-changer the Jayhawks have come to expect.

Those roles reversed early in the second half, though, when Tshiebwe suddenly looked like a first-year player. He committed a foul when Azubuike slammed an ally-oop dunk — and completed the and-one — and committed another foul on the next possession, when freshman guard Christian Braun finished over Tshiebwe for another three-point play.

Azubuike slammed a second alley-oop over Tshiebwe to cap an 8-0 run later in the half, giving the Jayhawks a 45-38 lead and sending a once-subdued crowd packed inside the Phog into a frenzy. Then, the senior center did it a third time to give Kansas a 49-42 lead as the game approached the final media timeout.

The Mountaineers got within 52-49 on a jumper by Taz Sherman with 1 1/2 left, but Garrett answered with a scooping layup. And when McBride made two foul shots for West Virginia, the junior guard added two of his own.

Dotson took care of the rest with a series of foul shots that put the game away.

BIG PICTURE

West Virginia’s only other loss this season came St. John’s in early December, so coach Bob Huggins’ team came into Lawrence with a bunch of momentum. And while the Mountaineers carried that through a bruising first half, they seemed to wilt the minute they emerged from the locker room for the final 20 minutes.

Kansas has won high-scoring affairs this season, but this time the Jayhawks proved they could win a game that had all the finesse of a couple dump trucks playing bumper cars. They forced West Virginia into 16 turnovers while allowing just seven assists, but they also gave up 15 second-chance points while getting just four themselves.

UP NEXT

West Virginia makes another long trip to Oklahoma State on Monday night.

Kansas heads to Hilton Coliseum to face Iowa State on Wednesday night.

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.