No. 20 Arkansas’ big run flusters No. 6 Alabama

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It had been nearly a quarter-century since Arkansas had played a ranked team at home, let alone beaten one there.

No. 20 Arkansas ended both those droughts Wednesday night, beating sixth-ranked Alabama, 81-66.

The Razorbacks, once staples atop the Southeastern Conference standings, hadn’t beaten a ranked team in Fayetteville while they, too, had been ranked since Nolan Richardson was coaching in the late 1990s. That was five coaches and 23 years ago.

Coach Eric Musselman, in his second year with the Razorbacks (18-5, 10-4 SEC), had to change clothes after the game. The celebration was that wet after the Crimson Tide had won the teams’ first meeting by 31 points in January. Arkansas hasn’t lost an SEC game since.

“We’ve run eight in a row and we lost a home game that we didn’t even get to play and we play well at home. I would say this team is playing really good basketball,” Musselman said.

A 17-2 run in the second half was the death blow. Freshman Jaylin Williams scored 10 of his season high 13 points during the stretch and Arkansas (18-5, 10-4 SEC) held Alabama (18-6, 13-2) to the lone two points, a John Petty Jr. jumper, over a stretch of almost nine minutes, turning a six-point deficit to a nine-point lead with less than 10 minutes to play.

Williams grabbed another eight rebounds and finished plus-30 in his 22 minutes. Musselman said he ran more plays for Williams and fellow freshman Moses Moody on Wednesday than he had in any other game all year.

“(Williams) is a really confident freshman who keeps getting better. There’s not many teams that are relying on three freshmen the way that we are,” Musselman said. “We’re not just relying on them in the SEC, we’re relying on them to win, we’re relying on them to score baskets.”

Moody finished with a game-high 22 points, 16 of which came from the free-throw line. Justin Smith (11), J.D. Notae (12) and Jalen Tate (12) joined them in double figures.

All of Tate’s points came in the first half and he didn’t get to finish the second. Arkansas’ big run clearly flustered Alabama, resulting in Petty picking up a technical foul after arguing a no-call with 6:55 left. Tate and Alabama’s Javon Quinerly picked up coincidental technicals for what appeared to be excessive chatter a couple minutes later and then Tate and Petty were called for their second each with 1:01 remaining, resulting in dual ejections.

A lot of the frustration came from Alabama’s hot and cold nature throughout the game. The Crimson Tide missed their first nine 3-pointers but would follow by making eight of its next 10, including the first basket of the second half, giving them their first lead since the opening five minutes of the game. Arkansas countered with its big stretch to put the game away.

Jordan Bruner led Alabama with 14 points, 12 of which came in the first half. Petty finished with 12.

“We stunk last game (against Alabama),” Musselman said. “You gotta bounce back. I thought we bounced back. You play the sixth-ranked team in the country and you beat them, it’s a heck of a win for the program, I can tell you that.”

IT’S BEEN A WHILE

The game was the first in Fayetteville between Arkansas and a ranked opponent since the 1997-98 season. The Razorbacks had spent parts of five seasons since ranked, but had not faced a fellow Top-25 team at Bud Walton Arena a single time since. Wednesday’s win was also the first Arkansas has had over a Top-10 team since 2016.

BIG PICTURE

Alabama still sits comfortably atop the SEC standings with a two-game lead over the next closest team, Arkansas. The Crimson Tide may be troubled, however, as the defeat drops them just 1-3 against ranked opponents this year.

Arkansas is all but officially in for the NCAA Tournament after a middling January. The Razorbacks haven’t lost in SEC play since falling at Alabama by 31 points on Jan. 16

UP NEXT

Alabama travels to Starkville to play Mississippi State in the penultimate game of the regular season.

Arkansas hosts LSU on Saturday. The Tigers won the first meeting Jan. 13 in Baton Rouge.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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.