Beekman’s 3 helps No. 16 Virginia top Syracuse 72-69 in ACCs

Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Reece Beekman hadn’t made a shot all afternoon for 16th-ranked Virginia when the ball swung his way in the final seconds of a tie game.

The freshman didn’t hesitate.

Beekman buried a 3-pointer as time expired to help the Cavaliers edge Syracuse 72-69 in Thursday’s quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, a shot that sent Beekman and his teammates sprinting around the court in celebration.

Beekman was 0 for 5 from the field when Kihei Clark penetrated to the left elbow and then zipped the ball to Beekman waiting on the right wing. He launched a confident catch-and-shoot 3 with the horn sounding as the ball hit the high point of its arc before dropping cleanly through the net for the top-seeded Cavaliers (18-6), who advanced to face fourth-seeded Georgia Tech in Friday’s semifinals.

“I was just thinking: It’s a big shot,” Beekman said. “My coaches, everybody believed in me, so they wouldn’t have me out there for no reason.”

Almost immediately, the 6-foot-3 guard started sprinting towards the other end of the court with his teammates pursuing him at full speed. They finally caught up with him and gathered at the far baseline near the Syracuse bench to celebrate.

“That’s what March is,” said teammate Sam Hauser, who confidently raised his arms signaling the 3 would be good as Beekman launched the winner.

Yet that confidence belied the fact that Beekman had made only 8 of 31 3s (25.8%) all season entering Thursday.

“Beekman’s the one guy we want to shoot it there,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We don’t want to give anybody a shot, but he’s the one guy we want to shoot it. … That’s the way it goes. He knocked it down.”

Buddy Boeheim finished with a career-high 31 points for the eighth-seeded Orange (16-9), a day after he scored 27 points in Syracuse’s tournament opener. He nearly lifted the Orange to another win to help their NCAA Tournament chances.

After Beekman’s shot fell, the Orange coach’s son stood near midcourt, hands on his knees in disbelief, while teammate Quincy Guerrier squatted down a few feet away.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse: The Orange entered the week near the cut line in most NCAA projections, though a win against fellow bubble team North Carolina State on Wednesday helped that case. Afterward, Jim Boeheim said he thought the Orange “did what we needed to do this year” but with a wait-and-see caveat. Winning this one likely would have eliminated all doubt on that front.

“It’s not up to me,” Boeheim said, adding: “There’s no doubt in my mind, and I don’t think anybody’s mind that follows the sport and knows what they’re doing.”

Virginia: The Cavaliers had won the regular-season race by beating Louisville after No. 15 Florida State lost at Notre Dame on the final day of the schedule. That gave the Cavaliers the No. 1 seed for the fifth time in eight seasons as they pursued a third tournament title under Tony Bennett. They had to rally from 11 down in the first half to advance.

“We survived,” Bennett said.

CAVS’ OFFENSE

Hauser scored 21 points to lead Virginia, while Trey Murphy III added 15 points. Murphy’s day included back-to-back 3s from near the Virginia bench in the final 4 minutes – part of Virginia’s 4-for-5 effort from behind the arc in the final 5 1/2 minutes.

BUDDY’S ROLL

Buddy Boeheim spent nearly two full games in Greensboro frustrating all defenders.

The 6-foot-6 junior made 10 of 16 shots and six 3s in Wednesday’s win against the Wolfpack, then came out hot by going for 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the first half against Virginia.

Virginia did a better job on him for the first 15 minutes of the second half, only to see Boeheim get rolling again and score 11 of Syracuse’s last 13 points. He finished 10 for 17 in this one with five 3s.

“I can’t even describe Buddy’s play,” Jim Boeheim said, adding: “I mean, you couldn’t ask anything more out of a player than what he gave us today.”

UP NEXT

Syracuse: The Orange await their NCAA Tournament fate on Selection Sunday.

Virginia: The Cavaliers face Georgia Tech on Friday.

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.