No. 7 Arizona women hold off No. 9 UCLA 68-65

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona had stretches of offensive consistency, struggled keeping UCLA off the offensive glass and had some defensive breakdowns in transition.

The Wildcats made up for it with a dominating third quarter and some big plays down the stretch to beat a top-10 team.

Not a bad way to kick off the Pac-12 season, no matter how it looked.

Trinity Baptiste had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Aari McDonald added 17 points and No. 7 Arizona held off No. 9 UCLA 68-65 on Friday night.

“It was a very ugly win,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “Normally, you play these type of games another month from now, so it’s a big difference playing in early December. Both teams, you’re not as sharp, less cohesiveness.”

Arizona (2-0) went up eight on a 3-pointer by Baptiste, but the Bruins rallied with a 9-1 run, pulling within 67-65 on Charisma Osborne’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.

Arizona’s Cate Reese made 1 of 2 free throws to give UCLA (1-1) a last chance and the Bruins worked the ball around to Osborne. Her 3-pointer with 5 seconds left hit the back of the rim and UCLA couldn’t get off another shot after Michaela Onyenwere grabbed the offensive rebound.

“We got a good look, I just missed the shot,” Osborne said.

Arizona labored early against the physical Bruins and shot 6 of 25 from 3-point range. The Wildcats made up for it with stifling defense in the third quarter and some big shots late to win the first meeting with both teams in the top-10 since 1998.

UCLA used an 18-4 run spanning the first and second quarters to go up nine, but missed 17 of 18 shots in the third quarter as Arizona surged into the lead. Osborne led UCLA with 15 points, and Onyenwere finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds.

“We’re going to look at the film and there’s going to be a lot of little things we didn’t take care of that allowed them to make the run that they, did,” said UCLA coach Cori Close, who was denied her 200th career win.

Both teams entered this pandemic-shifted season with lofty expectations.

Arizona had highest ranking ever at No. 7 in The Associated Press preseason poll with the return of McDonald, a preseason All-American, Reese and Sam Thomas.

The Wildcats opened the season with a 16-point win over Northern Arizona.

UCLA had four players return from a 26-win team last season and opened at No. 9 in the AP Top 25. The Bruins crushed Cal State Fullerton 98-59 in their opener before having Sunday’s game against Pepperdine postponed due to coronavirus concerns.

Defense dominated early in the desert showdown.

UCLA led 14-12 after the first quarter despite going more than six minutes without a field and opened the second with an 11-2 run to go up nine. The Bruins led 38-32 at halftime.

The Bruins went cold again in the third quarter, missing 16 straight shots during a scoreless drought of nearly 6 1/2 minutes. Arizona took advantage, going on a 9-0 run to go up 48-42.

“We sort of panicked and started going one on one,” Close said. “Against a team with the athleticism and defensive prowess of Arizona, that’s not a good idea.”

UCLA began hitting shots again in the fourth quarter to pull within 58-56 with three minutes left. McDonald followed with a putback and Baptiste hit a straight-on 3-pointer to pushed the lead back to eight.

The Bruins rallied, but came up just short.

THE TAKEAWAY

UCLA rallied after an abysmal third quarter, but couldn’t make it all the way back to miss a chance at a top-10 road win.

Baptiste dominated at times, McDonald came alive in the second half and Arizona held off UCLA’s late rally for a big confidence-boosting victory.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Barring a loss to Southern California on Sunday, the Wildcats should remain at No. 7 in next week’s poll, if not move up. The Bruins could still stay in the top 10 without a loss to Arizona State on Sunday.

UP NEXT

UCLA: At Arizona State on Sunday.

Arizona: Hosts Southern California Sunday.

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.