Alabama stuns No. 7 Tennessee 71-63 in physical battle

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It took Nate Oats a season and 10 games to finally get a big one.

The second-year Alabama coach devised a solid game plan and got his players to execute it to finally claim a Top 10 victory Saturday night. In fact, it was the program’s first true road win over a team ranked in the Top 10 since 2004.

John Petty hit three critical 3-pointers and finished with 19 points, leading Alabama to a stunning 71-63 victory over No. 7 Tennessee.

“Attitudes are all great right now,” Oats said. “I really like where we’re at. Petty’s all about the right stuff.”

The Crimson Tide (7-3, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) turned a two-point halftime lead into a double-digit advantage midway through the second behind Petty’s trio of 3s and two more long-range makes by Joshua Primo.

“Primo just turned 18 before SEC play,” Oats said. “We’re 2-0 since he’s 18, and he’s played two pretty good games.”

Primo and Herbert Jones finished with 11 points, and Jahvon Quinerly scored 10.

“This was good for us,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Everything we had talked about the last two weeks happened tonight. We had to guard the 3-point line because they can really get it going.

“We didn’t deserve to win tonight and they did.”

Tennessee (7-1, 1-1) struggled from the field the entire game, hitting 21 of 66 shots (32%).

Victor Bailey Jr. scored 16 points and Santiago Vescovi had 13 for the Volunteers. Keon Johnson added 12 points. Yves Pons had five second-half blocks when Tennessee clawed its way back to single digits late in the game, but never got closer than six points.

“Alabama did what it wanted to do,” Barnes said. “Still, we had a chance if we would have executed in the last 3 minutes.”

“Defense the last 8 minutes was great,” Oats said. “We won the game on the defensive end.”

The first half was painful on both sides.

Alabama’s 31-29 lead at the break happened with the Crimson Tide shooting 39% (12 of 31), while Tennessee struggled shooting 33% (11 of 33). Tennessee hadn’t trailed at halftime in any game this season.

The Vols had three turnovers and two missed shots before they scored their first points, almost 3 minutes into the game.

With 8:46 left in the first half, the score was tied at 14 as both teams labored to make anything happen.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well at all in the first half, still up two at the half,” Oats said. “(That) speaks to our defense.”

BIG COMBO

Primo and Petty combined to hit 7 of 9 3-pointers, most of which came in the stretch early in the second half. They were instrumental in a 17-4 run that gave ‘Bama the breathing room it needed. As a team, the Crimson Tide hit 10 of 20 3-pointers.

BLUE COLLAR BASKETBALL

This season’s Alabama team has adopted the moniker “Blue Collar Basketball.”

It was the type of game that Tennessee couldn’t handle.

The Vols didn’t have any fastbreak points and had nine turnovers compared to seven assists, numbers far below what they’re used to posting. Alabama outscored Tennessee, 18-16 in the paint.

“Sometimes you just have to throw out the scouting report and buck up,” Barnes said. “We have to make them shoot as difficult a shot as we can.”

BIG PICTURE

Alabama: It’s still early, but the SEC campaign is already starting to shake itself out. The Crimson Tide will rely on this game, as well as quality wins over Ole Miss, Providence and UNLV, to be prepared for the grind ahead.

Tennessee: Freshman guard Jaden Springer, who has made an impact early this season, missed most of the game with an apparent injury to his left knee. How he responds from the injury will have a lot to do with the Vols’ chemistry down the road. Barnes did not elaborate on Springer’s condition.

UP NEXT

Alabama: The Crimson Tide will be home Tuesday to face Florida, which beat LSU on Saturday.

Tennessee: Last week, the Vols handed Missouri its first loss. Saturday, Mizzou knocked Arkansas from the ranks of the unbeaten. Wednesday, Tennessee will entertain the Razorbacks.

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.