No. 1 UConn ends regular season by beating Marquette 63-53

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STORRS, Conn. — Top-ranked UConn hasn’t had to grind out many conference wins this season, making Monday’s regular-season finale a valuable learning experience for the Huskies.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Aaliyah Edwards added 16 points and eight boards as UConn held off Marquette 63-53 to finish undefeated in conference play for the eighth straight year.

Freshman Paige Bueckers, who came in averaging 20 points, scored 13 on Monday, but just four after halftime.

“We can’t go into every game needing 30 from Paige to win,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I don’t know that that’s possible. We need our perimeter players to step up and make their share of plays, make their share of shots to enhance whatever it is that Paige is doing.”

Camryn Taylor scored 19 points to lead Marquette (17-5, 14-4 Big East), which lost for the first time in six games and will be the No. 2 seed in this weekend’s Big East Tournament.

Lauren Van Kleunen had 12 points and Jordan King added 11 for the Golden Eagles, who were blown out by the Huskies 87-58 last month at home.

Bueckers had 30 points in that game.

UConn (21-1, 18-0) came in averaging 83.5 points a game and beating its conference opponents by an average of 35 points. But Marquette slowed the Huskies down, limiting UConn to two fast-break points.

“I thought our defense was much improved from the first game,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said. “We did a much better job of communicating and being in the right position to prevent some easy baskets. We did a good job of keeping them in the half court.”

Bueckers had nine points in the first quarter and and the Huskies led 22-11 after 10 minutes, outscoring the Golden Eagles 12-2 in the paint.

But Van Kleunen also scored nine first-half points to keep Marquette within striking distance. The Huskies led 37-25 at halftime thanks to 11 offensive rebounds and 15 second-chance points over the first two quarters.

Marquette kept it close in the second half, twice pulling within single digits after UConn built its lead to 15 points.

“It’s good preparation for the NCAA Tournament, where you never know what’s going to happen,” Nelson-Ododa said. “One night can be completely different from the next game and I’m glad we got a taste of it now.”

STATS OF THE GAME

UConn dominated the paint behind Nelson-Ododa and Edwards, outscoring Marquette 40-22 down low and outrebounding the Golden Eagles 43-25, including 18-7 on the offensive end. They had 24 second-chance points, while holding Marquette to seven.

BIG PICTURE

Marquette: The Golden Eagles had not lost since early February when they dropped back-to-back games to UConn and No. 25 DePaul.

UConn: The Huskies, who spent the previous seven years in the American Athletic Conference, are 157-0 in league games since falling to Notre Dame in the Big East championship game in 2013.

INJURIES

UConn guard Anna Makarut hasn’t played since Jan. 21 with a stress injury in her right leg, but participated in warmups on Monday. … Guard Evina Westbrook headed to the locker room after taking a hard fall on a layup attempt in the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT

UConn and Marquette are the top two seeds in the conference tournament, which will be held this weekend at Mohegan Sun Arena, about 30 miles south of the Connecticut campus in Uncasville.

“We’ll go back (to Milwaukee) and get our players back in classes for a few days,” Duffy said. “We’ll be able to recharge before flying out to the Mohegan Sun bubble.”

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.