No. 16 Arkansas tops fourth-ranked Baylor 83-78

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Nursing a two-point lead and hoping to pull off an upset, No. 16 Arkansas saw its chances of holding off No. 4 Baylor slipping away.

The Razorbacks (5-1) had just missed a pair of free throws, and a layup, giving the Lady Bears a slight chance with under 15 seconds left.

But Baylor missed a wide-open look at a 3-pointer, and Arkansas was able to add two free throws from Amber Ramirez to claim an 83-78 win at home Sunday.

The win was Arkansas first over a top five opponent since 2003 when the Razorbacks knocked off No. 2 LSU 82-72. Arkansas was ranked No. 10 at the time.

“We made defensive stops,” said Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors. “The free throws would have certainly made the celebration a little bit earlier and a little easier. I just passed two of our kids in the locker room they said they were going to go shoot free throws.

“We can live with those when we get to celebrate.”

Arkansas was able to secure the win by hitting 30 of 39 free-throw attempts, while Baylor shot just 18 free throws.

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said Arkansas’ ability to get to the foul line was huge.

“It was the difference in the ballgame,” she said. “There are three things that style of offense wants to do. They want to shoot threes, get the the foul line and score layups. And they did two out of the three against us well tonight.”

Ramirez scored 23 points and Chelsea Dungee added 22 for Arkansas to claim the Big 12/SEC Challenge win. The Razorbacks led by 10 early in the fourth quarter before the Lady Bears cut it to 78-76 on DiJonai Carrington’s layup with 3:06 left.

Dungee hit two free throws 10 seconds later to restore a four-point edge. NaLyssa Smith’s layup with 29 seconds remaining brought Baylor back within two. Ramirez hit the second of two free throws with 22 seconds left to give Baylor a chance to tie the game.

Caitlin Bickle’s 3-pointer from the top of the key missed and Ramirez sank two free throws to seal the win.

Baylor led 54-49 with 5:13 left in the third quarter to cap a 5-0 run after the game was tied 47-47, but Arkansas answered with a 13-0 run to take a 62-54 lead and never trailed again.

Carrington scored 24 points and Smith added 16 for Baylor (2-1).

BIG PICTURE

Neighbors, in his fourth season at Arkansas after leading the University of Washington to the Final Four in 2016. Arkansas won 24 games last year, and were a likely NCAA Tournament team until the coronavirus forced the tournament to be canceled.

“I think what it is is validation … for all these kids,” Neighbors said. “Hey why are you going to Arkansas? They haven’t done anything. So validation for all those kids that believed, and those in the locker room that buys into what we do.”

DIDI’S RETURN

Baylor guard DiDi Richards, who was injured in a freak practice accident when she collided with teammate Moon Ursin on Oct. 24, played a team-high 37 minutes and scored eight points to go along with eight assists.

Richards suffered paralysis in her lower extremities with the injury. She was cleared to return to the team last week and played against South Florida.

TIP-INS

Arkansas was just 5 of 20 from the three-point line, but the ones the Razorbacks hit were clutch. Makayla Danies hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the first half to stop a Baylor run, then Ramirez hit a big 3-pointer that gave Arkansas the 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. . Baylor center Queen Egbo played just 10 minutes and scored five points before fouling out of the game. . Arkansas sophomore Marquesha Davis gave the Razorbacks a lift off the bench with eight points, four rebouds and four steals.

HE SAID IT

“I hugged a couple kids even though it’s COVID for just believing back when we were picked 14th in our league that first year,” said Neighbors.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Lady Bears open Big 12 play at West Virginia on Thursday.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks will travel to SMU on Thursday.

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.