Wahl helps No. 10 Wisconsin beat Northwestern 68-52

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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said his team was better defensively in the second half. That was a bit of an understatement.

Tyler Wahl paced a balanced attack with a career-high 14 points and the 10th-ranked Badgers pulled away in the second half for a 68-52 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night.

Wisconsin allowed just 18 second-half points in holding the Wildcats to their lowest point total of the season.

“I thought we did a better job of stopping the ball and not letting them get in the paint,” Gard said. “I thought the first half, we didn’t execute well enough in some of the ball-screen situations. Second half, we were better. We talked about some of those things at halftime. The second 20, I thought we were more aggressive in the ball screens and eliminated some of that dribble penetration.”

The Badgers gained control with a 12-0 run midway through the second half. Micah Potter’s 3-pointer put Wisconsin up 56-39.

Northwestern went scoreless for almost six minutes until Chase Audige’s 3-pointer made it 56-42 with 10:26 left.

D’Mitrik Trice added 12 points, Brad Davison 11 and Potter 10 for Wisconsin (12-3, 6-2 Big Ten).

Audige had 16 points and Miller Kopp 10 for Northwestern (6-7, 3-6), which has lost six straight.

“I thought we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds tonight, that every time we kind of had a chance to maybe get back into the game or maybe make a little push, we had just some critical breakdowns on either end, some costly turnovers, a couple breakdowns late in clocks defensively,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “That’s how Wisconsin is. They make you pay for your mistakes. That’s why they’re a really good team.”

Wahl opened the second half with a three-point play to put Wisconsin up 44-34, but the Badgers missed their next nine shots before Wahl hit a 3-pointer from the top to make it 47-39.

“I feel very comfortable,” Wahl said. “I feel confident. It’s kind of like my second season running through the offense, knowing the plays and having that connection with my teammates. So, yeah, I feel very comfortable and confident in our offense this year.”

The Wildcats failed to capitalize during that stretch, missing four shots and committing three turnovers.

Northwestern, which scored 18 points in the paint in the first half, managed just four after the break. The Wildcats shot just 6 of 22 in the second half.

“I feel like the first half, they were getting buckets right at the rim and in the paint,” Wahl said. “That was kind of an emphasis that we had, keep them out of the paint. That’s our emphasis when we go into the games, and we tightened that up and that was kind of able to help us out.”

Wisconsin took its biggest lead of the first half at 29-17 when Jonathan Davis scored on a layup to cap an 11-4 run. Northwestern rallied within 36-32 on Audige’s 3-pointer.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The victory over Northwestern might not move the needle for the Badgers as much as Saturday’s game at home against No. 15 Ohio State.

BIG PICTURE

Northwestern: After a grueling stretch of seven consecutive games against ranked opponents, the Wildcats next face Penn State, which is 0-5 in the Big Ten and has lost five straight.

Wisconsin: Even without fans in the stands, the Badgers remain tough at home, improving to 25-2 at the Kohl Center over the last two seasons. They have won 17 of their last 18 home games.

UP NEXT

Northwestern is at Penn State on Saturday.

Wisconsin hosts No. 15 Ohio State on Saturday.

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.