No. 13 West Virginia rallies from 19 down, tops No. 12 Texas

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
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AUSTIN, Texas — Bob Huggins didn’t divulge exactly how he lit into his West Virginia team at halftime when it trailed Texas by 10 points.

“You wouldn’t want to print what was said,” the Mountaineers coach said.

The message registered. Sean McNeil and No. 13 West Virginia erased a 19-point deficit in the second half, then withstood a flurry of last-second misses to hold off No. 12 Texas 84-82 on Saturday.

“We were about as bad as we could be in the first half,” Huggins said. “This group will step up and try to meet the challenge.”

McNeil played only two minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls, and scored all 16 of his points after the break. He also committed two turnovers in the final 11 seconds, giving Texas a chance.

With Texas down by two, the Longhorns’ Matt Coleman III missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation with eight seconds left. The Longhorns got the ball back, but Andrew Jones’ 3-point attempt rimmed out with four seconds left – he had made a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left to beat West Virginia 72-70 on Jan. 9.

Texas had one last try, with three-tenths of a second left, on an inbounds pass after Jones missed. But Jericho Sims missed inside after taking a lob pass from Coleman.

“We had things rolling the first 25 minutes, and we let it go,” Coleman 111 said.

Miles McBride scored 17 for West Virginia (15-6, 8-4 Big 12), which was down 62-43 early in the second half. Taz Sherman, Emmitt Matthews Jr. and Derek Culver scored 14 apiece.

Courtney Ramey scored a career-best 28 points for Texas, including a career-high seven 3-point baskets in eight attempts.

Ramey’s consecutive 3-pointers gave Texas an 82-81 lead with 2:55 left, but he fouled out 28 seconds later, and the Longhorns didn’t score again. Sherman, trying to induce the fifth foul from Ramey, successfully used a pump fake and made two free throws to give West Virginia a lead it never lost.

Coleman scored 20 for Texas (13-6, 7-5) and had seven assists. Sims added 14.

Texas led by 19 Ramey made two 3-pointers and Coleman one during the first two minutes of the second half. McNeil eventually heated up for the Mountaineers, hitting a pair of 3s, the second one cutting the deficit to nine with 15 minutes left.

Texas shot 70 percent from the field while taking a 53-43 halftime lead. The 6-foot-10 Sims had four dunks and a layup in the first six minutes.

Sims left the game less than a minute later after picking up his second foul. He wasn’t the only Longhorn in foul trouble – four teammates also had two in the half, including Brock Cunningham, who was hit with a common foul and a technical after he attempted to block a shot.

The officials called 13 fouls on Texas in the half, five more than they assessed West Virginia. The Mountaineers made 15 free throws, including four after Cunningham’s foul and technical, preventing Texas from creating further separation.

After the Longhorns attained more distance in the second half, West Virginia went to work using improved shooting and tougher defense.

“We got them to take some shots that were questionable,” Matthews Jr. said.

Said Texas coach Shaka Smart, “They ramped up their defensive intensity, and we got a little tentative. And they made some tough shots.”

BIG PICTURE

West Virginia: The Mountaineers returned to competition after the postponement of two games against Baylor this week — in Morgantown and Waco — because of COVID-19 protocols in the Baylor program. They have won six of their last seven big 12 games, losing only to Oklahoma in double overtime last week.

Texas: The Longhorns also had two games postponed this week, at Oklahoma and at Iowa State, because of the winter storm that left many in Texas without power or water. Texas was only able to practice twice during the week, on Thursday and Friday, causing coach Shaka Smart to worry about possible injuries liked torn muscles. The Longhorns certainly look ready to play but tailed off considerably after taking the 19-point lead, especially on defense.

NOT THE SAME

The game Saturday turned out a lot less pleasant for Texas’ Andrew Jones, whose 3-point basket with 1.8 seconds remaining beat West Virginia on Jan. 9. Not only did Jones miss a 3-pointer with four seconds left that could have won the game Saturday, he committed six turnovers and got in an argument with Ramey with 15:52 remaining. After McNeil made a 3-point basket with Jones nearby, Ramey initiated a heated conversation during a timeout. Coleman pulled Ramey away. West Virginia outscored Texas 34-18 the rest of the game. “It had an effect on the game,” Smart said. “And those guys, they’re not okay with what happened, not okay with losing.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

West Virginia could move up after a sixth win in its last seven Big 12 games. Texas has lost five of its last eight and should lose some ground.

UP NEXT

West Virginia: The Mountaineers face TCU in Fort Worth on Tuesday. Their first scheduled meeting, on Jan.16, was postponed because of COVID-19 issues.

Texas: The Longhorns play host to No. 23 Kansas on Tuesday. Texas had its marquee victory of the season at then-No. 3 Kansas, 84-59, on Jan. 2. The Longhorns converted 12 of 26 3-point shots while limiting Kansas to 3 of 23.

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.