Petty, No. 11 Alabama hold off South Carolina 81-78

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — John Petty Jr. wasn’t going to let another one slip away for Alabama.

The 11th-ranked Crimson Tide were coming off their first Southeastern Conference loss of the season last Saturday and were locked in a tight game with pesky, determined South Carolina.

Behind Petty’s 20 points and three 3-pointers, they came through, bouncing back from their loss to No. 10 Missouri with an 81-78 victory over the Gamecocks on Tuesday night.

“I was going to do whatever it took to get a win,” Petty said.

It took about every point he could score as the Gamecocks (5-8, 3-6 SEC) rallied from 78-70 down in the final four minutes to cut it to 79-78 with 2 seconds left.

But James Rojas preserved the win with two foul shots to keep Alabama’s best league season in more than six decades going. The Crimson Tide (16-5, 11-1) won their sixth straight over the Gamecocks.

“We’ve got a special thing going this year and we’re real motivated,” Petty said.

With South Carolina trailing 79-76, coach Frank Martin said he drew up a play with three options for a tying 3-pointer. Instead, Jermaine Couisnard connected with Justin Minaya for an uncontested layup.

The Gamecocks were forced to foul Rojas, who made his free throws.

“Instead of running what we asked to run, we just kind of … no mental connection with the situation,” Martin said.

AJ Lawson led South Carolina with 21 points, making five 3-pointers.

The Gamecocks had their chances. Wildens Leveque tied it at 59 with 11:11 left before Alabama went ahead for good on Jaden Shackelford’s layup on the following possession. Jahvon Quinerly extended the lead with a jumper.

The Gamecocks scratched back within 65-64 on Lawson’s 3-pointer and a foul shot by Bryant. But Petty, the team leader in made 3s, hit another from behind the arc and South Carolina could not rally, losing for the third time in its past four games.

Alabama, which fell behind by 22 points to Missouri before losing 68-65, trailed South Carolina 16-5 with less than five minutes elapsed.

That’s when the long-range shooting of Petty and Joshua Primo got Alabama back in contention. Primo, a 6-foot-6 freshman, had totaled seven points combined in his last three games with only one 3-pointer. This time, he hit three of his team’s six 3s in the first 20 minutes and had 10 points at the break.

Quinerly finished with 13 points for the Tide while Petty added eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

BIG PICTURE

Alabama: The Crimson Tide have shown grit and depth while building a sizeable lead in the SEC. They will be difficult for chasers Missouri and Tennessee, both with six league wins, to run down with only six games left. Alabama won its last regular-season title in 2002.

South Carolina: Point guard Seventh Woods ran into foul trouble in both halves, and without the North Carolina transfer’s steady hand, South Carolina struggled to find open shots.

TOO MANY TURNOVERS

Alabama had a season-worst 22 turnovers after entering averaging fewer than 14 a game. Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats wants that to improve, “but it’s nice to win a close one, too,” he said.

INJURY

Oats said freshman forward Juwan Gary suffered a shoulder injury that would be reevaluated when the team got back to campus. Gary fell hard to the court, grimacing and yelling in pain before he was helped to the locker room. Oats said it was disappointing for Gary, who is from Columbia and had family in the stands.

UP NEXT

Alabama plays Georgia at home on Saturday.

South Carolina hosts Mississippi on Saturday night.

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.