No. 3 Illinois beats No. 9 Ohio State to take Big Ten title

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INDIANAPOLIS — No. 3 Illinois accomplished one major goal. The next one will be even more difficult.

As the Fighting Illini celebrated their first Big Ten Tournament title since 2005 with a 91-88 overtime victory over No. 9 Ohio State on Sunday, they quickly turned the focus to their No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the opportunity it presents.

“It was crazy, thinking about all the things we’ve accomplished and knowing how I came on my visit with coach (Brad) Underwood and I told him these are the things we can accomplish,” Ayo Dosunmu said after being named the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player. “So to get up there, cut that net down and see that No. 1 seed come up there, it’s just an unreal feeling.”

Especially given the oddities of this season.

Despite playing the regular season in front of minimal fans, the Illini (23-6) hoisted the trophy underneath the mid-court video board and watched the selection show with a throng of loud, orange-clad fans inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

It all seemed perfectly aligned for the deep and versatile Illini.

Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn and Andre Curbello all scored 16 points. Cockburn and Dosunmu each had nine rebounds and they made the key plays in overtime. Cockburn sank the go-ahead free throws with 1:39 to go, Dosunmu followed that with a back-breaking 15-footer with 50 seconds left to make it 84-81 and Illinois finally sealed it at the free-throw line.

Illinois will start its next quest against 16th-seeded Drexel on Friday, having won seven straight overall and 14 out of 15 with six consecutive wins over top-10 foes.

Duane Washington Jr. had a career-high 32 points and Justice Sueing added 22 as the Buckeyes refused to go away despite the numerous times Illinois appeared to be in control.

Instead of withering in their fourth game in four days and being without forward Kyle Young for the second consecutive game, Ohio State (21-9) continually fought back. Coach Chris Holtmann expected that reaction from his team, which earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“They have that resiliency, they have it, this group has that,” he said. “If you’ve followed us, you know that.”

After missing their first nine shots and falling into an early 27-10 deficit, Ohio State got within 40-35 at the half and as close as 47-45 early in the second half. When Illinois answered with a 10-1 run to make it 57-46, the Buckeyes again rallied and even took a 67-65 lead with 5:35 left in regulation.

The Illini answered with seven straight but still couldn’t put it away. and Sueing’s three-point play with 23.6 seconds left tied the score at 77. Two big defensive plays forced overtime and then Cockburn and Dosunmu delivered, ending one chapter of this season and beginning another.

“It’s time to make history,” Dosunmu said. “It’s time to dig deeper, to focus in a little more, but winning this Big Ten championship is great.”

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: They didn’t win the title but the fifth-seeded Buckeyes overperformed expectations. They snapped a four-game losing streak by winning three games in three days, beat regular-season league champ Michigan and head into the postseason with lots of momentum.

Illinois: The Illini are big, fast and strong – making them a legitimate national title contender. And after being shut out of the regular-season crown, they were on a mission to earn some hardware in Indy. Now that they have, they want to add a few more to the collection before leaving town.

STAT PACK

Ohio State: C.J. Walker had 16 points, six assists and four rebounds. E.J. Liddell had 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists. … Holtmann said he didn’t know if Young will play in the NCAAs. He was hit in the head by an inadvertent elbow Friday. … The Buckeyes fell to 4-1 all-time at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Illinois: Curbello also had six rebounds and five assists and Giorgi Bezhanishvili had 12 points. … Da’monte Williams made three 3s and finished with 12 points while Trent Frazier had 10. … Illinois broke the single-season school record with six wins over top-10 teams.

ALL-TOURNEY TEAM

Dosunmu and Cockburn were joined on the all-tournament team by Washington and Liddell from Ohio State and Iowa’s Luka Garza, the league’s player of the year.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: Takes on No. 15 seed Oral Roberts, the Summit League champion, Friday in the South Region.

Illinois: Opens NCAA Tournament play Friday against 16th-seeded Drexel, the Colonial Athletic Association champ.

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.