No. 1 Gonzaga stays unbeaten, tops LMU 86-69

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SPOKANE, Wash. — At this point in its long run of success, it’s hard to find a new accomplishment for Gonzaga to check off.

The top-ranked Bulldogs completed one of those unfinished tasks on Saturday night, closing out an unbeaten regular season with an 86-69 win over Loyola Marymount.

Corey Kispert made six 3-pointers and finished with 24 points, and the top-ranked team remained the only unbeaten in the country after No. 2 Baylor lost earlier on Saturday.

The Bulldogs (24-0, 15-0 WCC) won their 51st straight home game to set a school record, and finished off the first perfect regular season in program history. Gonzaga has won 28 straight games dating to last season and is the first team to finish the regular season unbeaten since Kentucky in 2014-15.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find something that’s never been done in this program. There’s very few things left,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “For this group to be able to notch that is amazing, and when you factor in they didn’t have `The Kennel’ to rely on at all to me is just remarkable.”

Normally the final home game of the season for Gonzaga would have been a wild celebration of the Zags two seniors – Kispert and Aaron Cook. And while both were acknowledged before tip off, the game itself was just another obstacle in the Zags attempt for perfection.

“It did just feel like another game,” Kispert said of likely his final home game. “That’s just kind of the theme of the whole year. We got to be professional about this kind of stuff. I know, whether we like it or not, there’s nobody in the building so you know it hasn’t hit me yet.”

Gonzaga had five players finish in double figures. Drew Timme scored 16 points, Joel Ayayi 13, Jalen Suggs 12 and Anton Watson 11.

Eli Scott had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead Loyola Marymount (12-8, 7-5), and Mattias Markusson added 19 points and 10 rebounds. LMU coach Stan Johnson felt the Lions had opportunities to keep the game closer, but turnover problems late in the first half changed the momentum.

“If you’re going to play a team like that, to give them that many possessions back, your chances of winning are minimal,” Johnson said. “That really changed the game. Our turnovers led to easy baskets and got them in transition.”

Kispert rediscovered his shooting touch from deep that had been a bit off of late. Kispert was 6 of 20 on 3-pointers during a five-game span earlier this month. But he hit 3 of 8 in the Bulldogs win over Santa Clara on Thursday and was even better against LMU.

Kispert made 6 of 10 shots from deep against the Lions, and the Bulldogs shot 53% from behind the arc.

“Our guys really deserved to have Gonzaga fans in the stands with as hard as they’ve played, as well as they’ve played, as spectacularly as they played,” Few said. “This team deserved to have fans screaming and yelling and it would have really made for an even more incredible year and experience.”

For the second straight game, the Bulldogs were pushed early. Loyola Marymount led by as many as five points midway through the first half before Gonzaga closed the half on a 12-3 run to take a 40-30 lead at the break.

The Lions saw the lead evaporate after Keli Leaupepe picked up his third foul with 5:59 left and LMU leading 23-22. Gonzaga outscored LMU 63-47 over the final 26 minutes.

THE TAKEAWAY

Loyola Marymount: The Lions needed to be perfect to hang around with the Bulldogs, but were far too sloppy. LMU committed 19 turnovers, leading to 29 points for Gonzaga. LMU did well using its size to bully the Bulldogs on the interior, but were careless with the ball.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs won their 21st straight game by double-digits as the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25. That sets a record for consecutive double-digit wins by a No. 1 team, topping the 20-game streak of UCLA during the 1971-72 season.

UP NEXT

Loyola Marymount: The Lions will play in the WCC tournament next week.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs will be the No. 1 seed in the WCC tournament and have a bye to the semifinals.

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.