No. 17 Kansas ends No. 2 Baylor’s perfect start with 71-58 win

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — After its record streak in the Top 25 came to an end, Kansas spent the past the past three weeks quietly getting better, ripping off five consecutive wins before taking No. 14 Texas to overtime in a close loss on the road.

Baylor spent most of that same stretch mired in a COVID-19 shutdown.

So when No. 17 Kansas walked into Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, it had reason to be confident it could end the Bears’ perfect start. And by the time David McCormack finished pouring in 20 points, and Marcus Garrett added 14 on his senior night, the Jayhawks walked out with a 71-58 victory that left No. 1 Gonzaga as the nation’s only undefeated team.

“We had three weeks where they got worse and they had three weeks where they got better,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team led Kansas wire-to-wire in a 77-69 victory last month in Waco, Texas. “Even Superman has kryptonite and I guess COVID protocols are ours.”

Kansas (18-8, 12-6) had something to do with it, too.

The Jayhawks held the nation’s top 3-point shooting team to 6 of 26 from beyond the arc. They had a 48-28 advantage on the boards. They forced Baylor (18-1, 11-1) into early foul trouble and proceeded to go 18 of 26 from the foul line.

They also made sure Baylor would need to wait at least a few more days to clinch its first conference title since 1950.

“There were a lot of naysayers saying whatever they would like,” said McCormack, who fouled out in the final minutes. “We had our ebbs and flows, but we’re continuing to rise, and we’re going to continue to rise into March.”

MaCio Teague scored 18 points and Davion Mitchell added 13 for the Bears, but leading scorer Jared Butler was 2 of 9 from the field and managed just five points while Garrett – one of the nation’s best defenders – hounded him all night.

The result was just the Bears’ second loss in 12 games against ranked opponents over the past two years, and an end to the best start in school history – though one that still has them positioned for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s a huge win for us. It’s not going to get you a ring on your finger or anything like that, but it’s a big win,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We could have easily won in Austin and really finished strong, but I’m really happy with the way we played.”

Baylor got off to a lousy start, just like it did in its return from its long COVID-19 pause, when it struggled to a comeback win over Iowa State. The Bears had nearly as many air balls (three) as points (four) over the first 6-plus minutes, and foul trouble sent Butler, Mark Vital and Matthew Mayer to the bench for long stretches.

Baylor eventually got on track, only for Kansas to close with seven straight points and lead 33-30 at the break.

The Jayhawks kept stretching their lead early in the second half. Ochai Agbaji finally knocked down a 3 after missing his first six tries, and McCormack followed Garrett’s miss with an easy put-back to make it 41-33 at the under-16 timeout.

Thus began a back-and-forth tussle between what has become the two premier programs in the Big 12.

Seldom-used guard Dajuan Harris scored five straight points for Kansas. Teague answered with back-to-back 3-pointers for Baylor, getting fouled on the second one and turning it into a four-point play. Christian Braun drove the lane and drew fouls for the Jayhawks, then Vital began getting shots to go in the paint for the Bears.

Kansas was still clinging to a 57-52 lead with 5 minutes to go when Braun made a pair of free throws. That began a 10-2 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes, most of the offense coming at the foul line, effectively putting away the game.

“Our guys, we didn’t quit. We had chances,” Drew said. “It was down to five or seven, I thought we were right there. They drew a foul and I thought that was the turning point as far as our comeback.”

SO LONG, SENIOR

Garrett was the only player honored on senior night, which proceeded despite the late addition of UTEP to the schedule Thursday night. Fellow seniors Mitch Lightfoot and Chris Teahan plan to use COVID-19 rules to return next season.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor committed just three turnovers the entire game. But the Bears had seven shots blocked, struggled from the field and the foul line and led for less than 5 minutes the entire game.

Kansas is starting to hit his stride – Self said as much following the game, when he addressed the roughly 2,000 fans allowed in the Phog due to COVID-19 restrictions. That momentum is a big reason why the Jayhawks added an extra game against UTEP this week, preventing them from a long layoff before the Big 12 Tournament.

UP NEXT

Baylor visits No. 10 West Virginia on Tuesday night. Kansas plays the Miners in its final regular-season game.

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

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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.