Seton Hall into Big East semis, beats St. John’s 77-69 in OT

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — With its NCAA Tournament hopes likely on the line, Seton Hall dug in and took a huge step toward sticking around in March.

Jared Rhoden hit six free throws in overtime to finish with 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, and the Pirates got past St. John’s 77-69 in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals Thursday to snap an untimely four-game skid.

Sandro Mamukelashvili had 20 points and 11 rebounds in 44 minutes for the fifth-seeded Pirates (14-12), who desperately needed a win to boost an NCAA resume that seemed pretty solid not so long ago.

“Obviously, we knew that the tournament was at stake,” Rhoden said. “You can’t think about that tournament. We are trying to win this one first.”

Myles Cale added 16 points and eight boards, and Ike Obiagu blocked seven shots before fouling out as Seton Hall advanced to face Georgetown in the first semifinal Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The eighth-seeded Hoyas upset top seed and No. 14 Villanova 72-71 earlier in the day.

“We feel like this is our second home,” Pirates coach Kevin Willard said.

Big East scoring champ Julian Champagnie led St. John’s with 16 points on 7-of-21 shooting and nine rebounds. Rasheem Dunn scored 15 for the fourth-seeded Red Storm (16-11), who went cold after halftime and shot 33% from the floor overall – including 6 of 25 (24%) from 3-point territory.

St. John’s hasn’t reached the Big East semifinals since winning the 2000 tournament – long drought for one of the league’s charter members.

In a possible NCAA Tournament eliminator, Seton Hall avenged an 81-71 road loss to its Hudson River rivals five days earlier in which the Pirates blew an 18-0 cushion. Now, they probably represent the Big East’s best chance to get a fourth team in the NCAA field along with Villanova, Creighton and UConn.

“They just wanted it more than us,” Dunn said.

St. John’s tied it at 60 on a 3-pointer by Marcellus Earlington with just under two minutes left in regulation. Dunn’s two free throws put the Red Storm ahead before Cale pulled the Pirates even on a driving layup with 54 seconds remaining.

Champagnie and Mamukelashvili had late looks but couldn’t convert.

Rhoden’s foul shot 30 seconds into overtime put the Pirates ahead to stay. Rhoden added two more free throws, Cale hit a turnaround in the lane to make it 70-64 with 1:45 to play and Seton Hall closed it out from the line.

“I love Jared. How hard he plays is off the charts. Today I saw that Jared who is a dog,” said Mamukelashvili, co-Big East player of the year. “Definitely the player of the match.”

It was the first time St. John’s played at Madison Square Garden since that bizarre ending to last year’s Big East Tournament, abruptly called off because of the emerging coronavirus pandemic with the Red Storm leading top-seeded Creighton 38-35 at halftime of the initial quarterfinal – negating the first-half statistics.

Normally, the Red Storm schedule high-profile matchups at The Garden, but virus restrictions put all their home games this season on campus at a virtually empty Carnesecca Arena in Queens.

Seton Hall was glad to be back at MSG, too, even if there was a different atmosphere than usual. Each school in the quarterfinals was given 100 tickets to Thursday’s games.

“Man, I walked into this building, I got on the elevator, and I haven’t felt that good in years,” Willard said. “It’s very emotional for the fact that I love this tournament. I love this league. We’ve had some great games in this building and to be back was just an absolutely energizing feeling.”

COMING AND GOING

Point guard Posh Alexander, the Big East freshman of the year and co-defensive player of the year, returned to the Red Storm after missing two wins with a sprained right thumb. But he wasn’t sharp. Alexander came off the bench and played 33 minutes, finishing with three steals and six points on 2-for-8 shooting.

St. John’s was without 6-foot-10 forward Isaih Moore, which hurt inside. Moore was required to quarantine due to contact tracing after a member of the program’s support staff tested positive for COVID-19.

BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: After stopping their losing streak perhaps just in time, the Pirates hope a strong performance at MSG can get them in the NCAAs. Seton Hall is the last program besides Villanova to win the Big East Tournament, taking the 2016 title.

St. John’s: If not for February lapses against No. 10 seed Butler and last-place DePaul, the Red Storm would be eyeing an at-large NCAA berth right now. But they still have postseason aspirations after a resurgence under second-year coach Mike Anderson. Picked ninth in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, St. John’s earned a tournament bye for the first time in six years and its highest seed since No. 3 in 2000.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: Split two meetings with Georgetown this season, with the home team winning each one.

St. John’s: Could be a candidate for a pretty high seed at the NIT in Texas. Pairings for the reduced field of 16 will be announced Sunday night.

“We will continue to play. These guys deserve it,” Anderson said. “If given the opportunity, I think it would be beneficial for this team here.”

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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
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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.