Gonzaga, Baylor top AP Top 25; Sooners climb; Drake in

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Baylor has overshadowed nearly everything in the Big 12 this season as it tries to complete an undefeated season.

Oklahoma has been making a statement of its own.

With a win over then-No. 9 Alabama on Saturday, the Sooners became just the second team in 25 years to beat three straight top-10 opponents. Oklahoma also is the first team since 1974 to beat four top-10 teams in the same month.

The Sooners’ run led to a big jump in this week’s Associated Press men’s basketball poll. Oklahoma moved up 15 spots to No. 9 in the Top 25 released Monday, its highest ranking since reaching No. 4 in 2017-18.

“Any time you can win a game like that is big from a resume standpoint, big from a confidence standpoint, momentum,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said after the 66-61 win over the Crimson Tide. “It’s continuing to move in the right direction. Those wins, you never take those for granted.”

Oklahoma had to replace leading scorer and rebounder Kristian Doolittle this season and was picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 preseason poll.

The Sooners got off to shaky Big 12 start, opening 2-3 after losses to Baylor and Kansas.

Oklahoma (11-4, 6-3 Big 12) has been on quite a run since then, taking down then-No. 9 Kansas, No. 5 Texas and Alabama.

The Sooners, who beat No. 17 West Virginia earlier this month, knocked off the Crimson Tide despite playing without Austin Reaves and starting guard Alondes Williams due to COVID-19 protocols.

“I thought these guys (Oklahoma), they play hard to begin with and then when they’re down two starters, they really bought in,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said.

AT THE TOP

Gonzaga and Baylor remained atop the poll for the 11th straight week.

The Zags (17-0, 8-0 West Coast) received 61 first-place votes from a media panel to hold at No. 1 after routing San Diego and Pepperdine last week. The Bears (16-0, 8-0 Big 12) received the other three first-place votes following wins over Kansas State and Auburn.

Villanova and Michigan remained at Nos. 3 and 4, with Houston rounding out the top five. The Cougars have their highest ranking since the Phi Slama Jama team reached No. 2 in 1983-84.

LOVE THE DRAKE

Drake won 24 games in its first season under coach Darian DeVries and had 20 last year before the pandemic canceled everyone’s season.

The Bulldogs have taken the next step this year, rolling through an undefeated season.

Coming off three wins last week, Drake was ranked for the first time since 2007-08 in this week’s poll at No. 25.

The Bulldogs (16-0, 7-0 Missouri Valley through Sunday) rallied from an 11-point deficit to beat Illinois State 78-76 in overtime over the weekend and are off to their best start in 13 years.

RISING

Oklahoma had the biggest jump by far in this week’s poll, but No. 7 Ohio State also cracked the top 10 by moving up six spots. The Buckeyes beat Penn State and crushed Michigan State last week.

No. 11 Tennessee climbed seven places after beating Kansas by 19. No. 12 Illinois also moved up seven spots following a five-point win over Iowa, which dropped three spots to No. 8.

FALLING

No. 17 West Virginia dropped six spots after a home loss to Florida and a one-point win over No. 13 Texas Tech. … No. 14 Virginia also fell six spots following a 14-point loss at Virginia Tech, as did No. 18 Missouri after losing to Auburn last week. … No. 19 Wisconsin dropped five spots after losing at Penn State.

IN AND OUT

Florida moved into the poll for the first time this season at No. 22 following its win over West Virginia. … No. 24 Purdue also made its season debut this week with win over Minnesota. The Gophers dropped out from No. 21. … Saint Louis fell out from No. 22 after a loss to Dayton and Louisville is out from No. 25 after losing to Clemson.

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.