Obi Toppin scores 24 on bad ankle and No. 13 Dayton beats VCU, 79-65 in OT

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DAYTON, Ohio — An injury wasn’t going to stop Obi Toppin from closing out an impressive victory Tuesday night.

As the final minute ticked down, Jalen Crutcher dribbled toward the basket and saw Toppin getting set for one more alley-oop, bad ankle and all.

Pass. Catch. Dunk. The 13th-ranked Flyers did it one more time while finishing off a rival that’s gotten the best of them lately.

Toppin scored 24 points on a tender ankle and led a 22-point run in the second half as Dayton beat VCU 79-65 on Tuesday night, ending the Flyers’ streak of four straight losses to the Rams.

The forward who started the game in pain put his fingerprints on the biggest moments.

“He’s a competitor, man,” said Trey Landers, who had 16 points. “I appreciate him so much for that. He showed up big time.”

The Flyers (15-2, 4-0 Atlantic 10) got the better of a foul-filled match-up between the league’s top-scoring team and its peskiest defense, remaining unbeaten at home. Toppin had three dunks and a 3-pointer during the second-half run that broke it open.

VCU (12-5, 2-2) had won the last four against Dayton, all by five points or less, but faded after a back-and-forth opening half that included three technical fouls. De’Riante Jenkins and Nah’Shon Hyland led VCU with 16 points apiece.

Crutcher added 20 points for Dayton, which shot 50% from the field.

The Rams couldn’t contain Toppin, who sprained his left ankle early in the second half of an 88-60 win over UMass on Saturday and didn’t return.

Toppin moved cautiously in the opening minutes — his only shot came from behind the arc and was well off. He asserted himself out of the first media timeout, getting his first rebound and his first points on a bank shot.

“I had to go into the game not thinking about it,” said Toppin, who played 33 minutes and also had nine rebounds. “At first it was bothering me, but I got into the flow of the game and the Adrenalin kicked in.”

Toppin couldn’t get high enough for a dunk late in the first half, a reminder he was not full-strength. But he had a bank shot and two free throws as Dayton closed the half with an eight-point run for a 38-33 lead.

Toppin had three dunks and a 3, and Landers made a pair of 3s and a dunk as Dayton broke open a tied game and built the lead to 63-41. The Flyers were ahead by double digits the rest of the way.

The game quickly got chippy, with three technical fouls called in the first half.

VCU’s Marcus Evans was called for a foul as he and Chatman went to the floor while wrestling for the ball. As players gathered, VCU’s Issac Vann and Dayton’s Jordy Tshimanga exchanged words and got technicals. Less than a minute later, Jenkins also got a technical.

Evans got a technical in the second half as Dayton pulled away.

“Early in the game, you could tell there was a lot of emotion on both sides,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “The guys had a tough time finding a rhythm.”

BIG PICTURE

VCU: The Rams were the league’s preseason favorite and won their first six games but have been inconsistent, especially on offense. They had a chance to regain some of their luster by knocking off the Flyers. They led by five points in the first half but couldn’t pull it off.

Dayton: The Flyers moved up to No. 13 this week, matching their highest ranking of the season. The last time they were higher in the poll was December 1967, when they were No. 6. The convincing win over VCU left them in position for another move up.

SERIES STUFF

VCU leads the series 11-6 and is 3-5 all-time at University of Dayton Arena. The Flyers’ last win in the series was 106-79 on Jan. 12, 2018 at UD arena.

RANKINGS STUFF

VCU is 1-2 against ranked teams. The Rams beat No. 23 LSU 84-82 and lost to No. 17 Tennessee 72-69.

OVERCOMING SLOPPINESS

VCU came in leading the league in steals (9.6 per game) and forcing turnovers (18.6). The Flyers won despite a season-high 20 turnovers that set up 31 of the Rams’ points.

UP NEXT

VCU hosts St. Bonaventure on Saturday.

Dayton plays at St. Louis on Friday.

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.