Mitchell, Shackel lead No. 22 Aztecs to 10th straight win

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel came up big in their final game at Viejas Arena, putting No. 22 San Diego State in position to clinch a repeat Mountain West Conference title.

Mitchell hit two free throws with 3.3 seconds left and fellow senior Schakel made four free throws in the final 8.7 seconds for the Aztecs, who beat Boise State 62-58 Saturday for their 10th straight victory.

Schakel finished with 17 points, and Mitchell had eight points, eight rebounds and four steals.

Sweeping the two-game series against the Broncos means the Aztecs (19-4, 13-3) can repeat as MWC regular-season champions if they win at UNLV on Wednesday night.

In normal times, Saturday would have been Senior Night for San Diego State. Since fans haven’t been allowed at games all season, coach Brian Dutcher held a private ceremony for the five seniors after practice Friday.

“Some of the emotions are taken out because the fans aren’t here,” Mitchell said. “But at the same time we’re still happy for each other, especially it being Senior Night and Jordan and I, our last game in Viejas. Putting all the blood, sweat and tears that we did, I do think to some extent we do take joy out of this, getting the W on our last game on this home court. But at the same time we’re not done, we’re still going.”

BSU (18-6, 14-5) came into the series with a half-game lead. On Tuesday, the Mountain West awarded San Diego State a pair of forfeit victories over New Mexico. Those games do not count in SDSU’s overall or formal conference record, but will count for seeding and conference championship implications.

Broncos star Derrick Alston Jr. had a miserable game, scoring just seven points – 11 under his average – on 2-of-12 shooting. He went 1 for 9 from 3-point range.

Mitchell had two big plays in the closing minutes. With the Aztecs leading by two points, he stole the ball and fed Keshad Johnson for a slam dunk. A few minutes later, he fed Nathan Mensah for a layup and a 56-53 lead.

It was a grind-it-out win for the Aztecs.

“Boise’s a good team. They make things hard,” Dutcher said. “A lot of the game looked disjointed and that’s because we guard hard. It’s two good teams knowing what each other’s strengths are and doing a good job of trying to take them away. It didn’t look free-flowing or smooth, but it was beautiful to a coach.”

Schakel came up big despite being in foul trouble for most of the game. He drew his second foul midway through the first half, his third early in the second half and then his fourth with 4:17 to go.

“It’s not hard to stay locked in in a game like this, everything that’s at stake,” Schakel said.

Boise State got within one point several times in the closing minutes, including after 3-pointers from Devonaire Doutrive and Marcus Shaver Jr.

But the Broncos could never get the lead and had to foul. Schakel made two free throws with 8.7 seconds to go and two more with 5.8 seconds left, sandwiched around two free throws by Doutrive.

Doutrive made the second of two free throws with 3.8 seconds left before Mitchell sealed it with two foul shots.

Schakel also had two clutch 3-pointers on consecutive possessions midway through the second half.

After the Broncos closed to 38-36 on two free throws by Emmanuel Akot, Schakel hit a long shot from the left wing and then hit one from the right corner before tumbling out of bounds.

Shaver and Doutrive scored 13 apiece for BSU. Mladen Armus had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

“It didn’t end up the way we wanted. We didn’t make the shots we wanted to make,” coach Leon Rice said. “But we fought, we outrebounded them and did some things that show how tough we were. But in the end we’ve got to be able to make some shots.”

On Thursday night, SDSU blew a 17-point lead before winning 78-66 in overtime.

BIG PICTURE

Boise State: The Broncos are 8-58 all-time against Top 25 opponents, including 3-33 under Rice. One of those victories came at Viejas Arena on Feb. 28, 2015, 56-46 against No. 24 SDSU.

San Diego State: Dutcher started all five seniors: Mitchell, Schakel, Terrell Gomez, Trey Pulliam and Joshua Tomaic. The NCAA will grant everyone an extra year of eligibility, but Mitchell, who toyed with entering the NBA draft last before returning, almost certainly won’t be back.

UP NEXT

Boise State plays its regular-season finale Tuesday night at home against Fresno State

San Diego State ends its regular season at UNLV on Wednesday night in the makeup of one of two games that had been postponed.

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.