Bacot, Davis help UNC top No. 22 Virginia Tech 81-73 in ACCs

Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
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GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina coach Roy Williams wants his team to relentlessly attack the boards in a withering style that wears down opponents, draws fouls and leads to easy buckets.

Once they did that Thursday, the Tar Heels wrestled control of a physical game away from No. 22 Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Armando Bacot had 17 points and 13 rebounds to help UNC beat the Hokies 81-73 in the quarterfinals, a win that came only after a second-half surge built on the Tar Heels finally getting to the glass.

“What I hope (is) that we’re just going to keep coming, and keep coming, and keep coming, and keep coming,” Williams said.

It wasn’t until Bacot led that effort that the sixth-seeded Tar Heels (18-9) earned a semifinal matchup with No. 15 Florida State. He scored 13 of his points after halftime, including a run of 10 in a row as UNC used a 11-2 run to break a 49-all tie. Bacot’s flurry included three second-chance baskets, the last a putback of a missed Caleb Love drive for a 68-58 lead near the 5-minute mark.

A night earlier, the Tar Heels had 25 offensive rebounds and 27 second-chance points in a rout of Notre Dame. This time, UNC didn’t do its best work until after halftime, pulling down 13 offensive boards and scoring 15 second-chance points.

“I think they got bigger, if that’s possible, at the half,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said.

Bacot finished with nine second-half rebounds, part of the Tar Heels’ 27-17 rebounding edge in the final 20 minutes.

“He knows how to get under my skin,” Bacot said of Williams’ halftime push for more effort, adding: “He just uses the word soft a lot, and I don’t like when he’s saying it.”

Justyn Mutts scored a season-high 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting for the third-seeded Hokies (15-6), who were playing their first game since Feb. 27 after having their last two regular-season games canceled due to contact tracing.

Tyrece Radford added 20 for Virginia Tech, which shot 47% and made 8 of 18 3-pointers. But the Hokies went from allowing just two offensive rebounds and two second-chance points in the first half to letting Bacot and Day”Ron Sharpe get loose on the glass as the game wore on.

“You combine some conditioning issues and then you’re banging with – it’s like they’ve got seven people,” Young said. “That’s hard. My guys did everything they could. We just didn’t have quite enough to win it.”

BIG PICTURE

UNC: The Tar Heels entered after lopsided wins against rival Duke and Notre Dame, with Wednesday’s 42-point margin against the Fighting Irish the program’s biggest in any ACC Tournament game. Things were tougher in this one. It helped that freshman guard RJ Davis had 14 of his season-high 19 points after halftime – including three of his four 3-pointers – to complement the Tar Heels’ work inside.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies had played just twice in five weeks but were effective offensively and in keeping the Tar Heels off the glass for a half. The Hokies were trying to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2011 and fourth time overall.

“We’re not going to blame the loss on the pause or anything,” guard Wabissa Bede said. “That was just us. We were very capable of winning that game regardless. Next time we will.”

MOVING PAST KNIGHT

It marked Williams’ 903rd career victory, breaking a tie with Bob Knight for third on the Division I men’s list to trail only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim.

Former Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, now at Division III St. Joseph’s, has won 873 as a Division I coach and 917 overall.

TIP-INS

Leaky Black scored all eight of his points after halftime for UNC, including two 3s. … Nahiem Alleyne had all 12 of his points after halftime for Virginia Tech, all on 3s. … Hokies leading scorer Keve Aluma (15.9 points) finished with nine on 4-for-13 shooting. … UNC senior Garrison Brooks had five points after missing the Notre Dame win with an ankle injury. Williams said Brooks is “still a little hampered.”

UP NEXT

UNC: The Tar Heels face second-seeded Florida State in Friday’s semifinals. The Seminoles advanced when their quarterfinal matchup with Duke was canceled after the Blue Devils withdrew due to a positive COVID-19 test within their program.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies will wait to learn their NCAA Tournament seeding.

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.