Short-handed Florida stuns No. 6 Tennessee 75-49

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
0 Comments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s best performance of the season – maybe even of coach Mike White’s six-year tenure – came without three starters.

Noah Locke scored 14 points, Tyree Appleby added 13 and the short-handed Gators stunned No. 6 Tennessee in dominating fashion, 75-49 on Tuesday night.

Tre Mann chipped in 12 points for Florida, which got unexpected help from several bench guys to offset being without guard Scottie Lewis (COVID-19 protocols) and forward Colin Castleton (ankle).

Forward Omar Payne, starting for the first time in nearly a year, finished with nine points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots for the Gators (7-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference).

“It was my opportunity to shine,” Payne said. “I’m capable of doing it, so I should be doing it every day.”

Seldom-used subs Jason Jitoboh, Osayi Osifo, Niels Lane and Ques Glover also delivered quality minutes against the SEC’s top team. Jitoboh had three rebounds, a block and a steal. Osifo finished with four points and six boards. Lane added six points and five rebounds. And Glover chipped in 10 points and three steals.

“That’s as well as this group has played,” White said. “I told them, `You’re going to get more minutes tonight. What are you going to do with it? No one shied away from it.”

The Volunteers (10-2, 4-2) had a woeful shooting performance and were equally ineffective on the other end. Florida, which spent the last month slowly tweaking its offense to overcome the loss of standout forward Keyontae Johnson – who collapsed on the court in early December and is likely out for the season – pounded Tennessee inside.

The Gators outrebounded the Vols by eight and outscored them 42-22 in the paint. Tennessee’s 49 points were a season low.

“We proved tonight we’re not good enough to go through the motions,” said Vols coach Rick Barnes, who promised lineup changes moving forward.

Florida used a 7-0 run to build a double-digit late in the first half and a 13-2 spurt early in the second to stretch its advantage to 20 points (53-33).

The result was Florida’s most surprising victory since upsetting No. 4 Auburn in Gainesville last January. This might have been even more shocking given the state of Florida’s roster. Johnson, Castleton and Lewis combined to average nearly 40 points.

Castleton tweaked an ankle in Florida’s last game and was ruled out shortly after warmups. Lewis missed his third straight game, but is expected to return this weekend.

“We have to continue to play this way,” Locke said. “We’d just be hurting ourselves if we don’t. We saw we can do this. We just got to continue to do it. We showed that we can compete with any team. It was just all about us. … I feel like if we continue to do that, we can beat anyone.”

Tennessee shot 29% from the field and hit 3 of 18 from 3-point range. John Fulkerson led the Vols with 15 points, four rebounds and five assists. But the 6-foot-9, 215-pound forward was no match for Payne and Jitoboh down low.

Leading scorer Victor Bailey Jr. finished with four points on 1-of-12 shooting.

“It hurts when you play as badly as we played tonight,” Barnes said.

MISSING MAN

The Vols were without guard Jaden Springer, who injured his left ankle against Vanderbilt on Saturday and hasn’t practiced since.

Springer, a freshman, averages 10 points. His replacements did little to slow down Florida, which continually drove into the lane for easy baskets or dishes to wide-open teammates.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Vols had won four in a row in the series and a fifth straight seemed like a lock given Florida’s injury situation. But the Gators exposed Tennessee’s biggest weakness: a lack of a post presence.

Florida: White seems to get his best from his guys against top competition. The Gators now have wins of 17, 22 and 26 points against top-10 teams during White’s six seasons.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: Hosts No. 19 Missouri on Saturday.

Florida: Plays at Georgia on Saturday.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

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

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.