Harper injured, but Mathis lifts No. 14 Rutgers over Purdue

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers hasn’t played with a complete, healthy lineup yet this year, so the 14th-ranked Scarlet Knights knew what to do when leading scorer Ron Harper Jr. was forced to the bench.

“We just had the next-man-up mentality,” senior captain Geo Baker said.

This time, that man was Montez Mathis.

Mathis scored a career-high 25 points, including 16 in the second half, and Rutgers beat Purdue 81-76 on Tuesday night.

Harper tweaked his ankle in practice and was scratched an hour before tipoff. The Honorable Mention All-Big Ten player from a year ago has been among the top players in the conference and small forwards in the nation, shooting 56.4%, including 50% from beyond the arc, for 23.4 points per game along with 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

Harper’s injury is the latest in a season of them for Rutgers (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten). Jacob Young returned after a hard fall that sidelined him in the second half of the last game vs. No. 23 Ohio State, and Mawot Mag (ankle) had missed the last three games. Cliff Omoruyi was sidelined for the second straight game with a sprained right knee.

Baker – an All-Big Ten guard – missed three games after spraining his ankle early in the season-opener. Baker had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Young had 13 points and four assists.

Purdue (7-4, 2-2 Big Ten) punished Rutgers in the paint, led by Trevion Williams’ 21 points and 12 rebounds. The Boilermakers had 42 points in the paint to the Scarlet Knights’ 28. Purdue held the rebounding edge 33-31.

“When you play a team like this, you know, Trevion Williams is a really good passer. So if you double down, you get to kind of pick your poison with him a little bit,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “And (Zach) Ede is 7-foot-4, I mean, huge. You know, Myles (Johnson) has to wrestle with them. … Going against two of the better post guys in the league.”

Isaiah Thompson had 17 points for Purdue, and his layup with 15:19 left gave the Boilermakers their first lead, 46-44, since midway through the first half. Pikiell promptly called a timeout to break up Purdue’s 23-6 run.

Rutgers trailed by five before rallying to tie it at 53 on Paul Mulcahy’s 3-pointer and Baker’s transition layup.

The teams exchanged leads before Mulcahy hit a 3-pointer to put Rutgers up 61-59 at the 7:52 mark. The Scarlet Knights led the rest of the way.

“The ones that Mulcahy hits in the second half, nobody’s there,” Purdue coach Matt Painter. “You’re just wide open. No one’s rotating to him.”

After Purdue jumped to an 11-6 lead, Rutgers rallied to lead by as many as 15 before taking a 40-34 lead into halftime.

Sasha Stefanovic added 14 points for Purdue.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Rutgers fell a few spots to No. 14 after a loss at No. 25 Ohio State, but can move back up if it beats No. 10 Iowa on Sunday.

FREE THROWS

Rutgers had been struggling at the charity stripe, shooting 60%. That improved against Purdue, as Rutgers went 14 of 17 from the line.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: It’s the beginning of a tough road stretch in the Big Ten for the Boilermakers. They have three games against Top 25 opponents – also at No. 15 Illinois and at No. 17 Michigan State – with a home game vs. Nebraska at home in between.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are in the midst of a difficult stretch, with the Boilermakers the only unranked team during the current six-game stretch. Rutgers hosts No. 10 Iowa before traveling to No. 17 Michigan State and hosting No. 25 Ohio State.

UP NEXT

Purdue: At No. 15 Illinois on Saturday.

Rutgers: Host No. 10 Iowa on Saturday.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.