Ewing, Georgetown take Big East, NCAA bid with stunning rout

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Patrick Ewing climbed the ladder – only a few steps needed for the 7-footer – clipped the last string and held the net high.

Georgetown is the Big East champion again, with the greatest Hoya of them all leading the way.

Ewing is taking his team back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015 after the eighth-seeded Hoyas completed a surprising run to a Big East crown Saturday night with a stunning 73-48 rout of No. 17 Creighton.

On the 49th anniversary of the day Georgetown hired John Thompson, the late Hall of Fame coach who transformed the program into a national power and one of the most iconic brands in college basketball, the Hoyas won their record eighth Big East Tournament title and first since 2007.

Was it fate? Destiny? Maybe Big John, who died in August at age 78, smiling down on now-Coach Ewing and his Hoyas?

“I think so,” Ewing said.

Georgetown won with a dominant performance inside Madison Square Garden, reminiscent of Ewing’s playing days at the school.

The Hoyas (13-12) closed the first half on a 23-2 run that put them up 18 at the break against second-seeded Creighton (20-8). Then they started the second half with a 16-3 spurt. Chudier Bile knocked down a 3-pointer – holding the follow through for a beat – with 14:58 left that made it 52-21.

Ewing called it a huge step for a program that’s struggled to recapture old glory, and began this season picked to finish last in the Big East.

“A lot of people discredited. Talked bad about us. We believed in ourselves. We worked hard. We fought hard,” he said.

Ewing wondered aloud earlier this week if they had forgotten him at MSG. He complained that security asked to see his credentials as he was moving around the building where he starred for the New York Knicks and his No. 33 jersey hangs from the rafters.

Ewing said this championship was “right up there” with his greatest moments at The Garden.

“Different chapter of my life,” he said.

Bile matched a season high with 19 points and Jahvon Blair had 18 for Georgetown. After missing 12 of their first 14 shots, the Hoyas finished shooting 46.6% from the floor.

Marcus Zegarowski scored 17 points to lead Creighton, which is 0-3 in Big East title games since joining the conference for the 2013-14 season.

Georgetown fans, the few dozen that were in the mostly empty building because of COVID-19 restrictions, chanted “This Is, Our House!” as the Hoyas prepared to accept the championship trophy. Ewing carried a T-shirt with Thompson’s image on it, his old coach’s fist raised high.

“Just to see how happy he is, it makes me happy,” Blair said about Ewing. “I’m just so happy for him.”

Ewing and Thompson combined for three Big East Tournament championships, three Final Four appearances and a national title in 1984 during their time together at Georgetown.

Ewing aspired to be a head coach like his mentor. He spent 15 years as an assistant in the NBA, never getting a shot to be head coach – until his alma mater came calling.

“I’m here where a lot of people didn’t think I had the ability to (be),” Ewing said. “And I’m proving everyone wrong.”

The 58-year-old Ewing is in his fourth season with the Hoyas, and up until this week there hasn’t been much to get excited about. The only postseason tournament appearance was a one-game stay in the 2019 NIT. At the start of this tournament, Ewing’s record was 58-58 as head coach.

Now he is the first person in Big East history to be the most outstanding player on a Big East Tournament champion and coach a team to a Big East Tournament title.

BIG PICTURE

Georgetown: Became the first No. 8 seed to win the Big East Tournament and the lowest seed since Connecticut did it as a No. 9 in 2011. Georgetown’s eighth title broke a tie with UConn for the most of any school.

Those 2011 Huskies went on to win a national title. That seems unlikely for these Hoyas, who entered the Big East Tournament with a losing record. But Georgetown is 10-4 since returning from a COVID-19 pause in mid-January, a run that coincided with Ewing inserting Bile into the starting lineup.

“Once you get to the NCAA Tournament anything is possible,” Ewing said.

Creighton: The Bluejays scored a season-low 48 points and shot 29% from the field.

“We’ve got a mature group and I think they understand this hasn’t happened to us very often over the course of the last couple years,” coach Greg McDermott said. “Once in a while it happens, but you hope it doesn’t happen on a night like tonight.”

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Freshman point guard Dante Harris scored 10 points, with eight rebounds and five assists, to cap a strong week that earned him MVP of the tournament.

Blair and teammate Qudus Wahab also made the all-tournament team along with Zegarowski, Adama Sanogo of Connecticut and Jared Rhoden of Seton Hall.

UP NEXT

The Hoyas likely give the Big East four teams in the NCAA Tournament along with Creighton, Villanova and UConn.

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.