No. 3 Illinois gets past No. 5 Iowa, into Big Ten title game

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INDIANAPOLIS — Illinois center Kofi Cockburn learned some hard lessons dueling with Luka Garza as a freshman.

On Saturday, he stood up to Iowa’s career scoring leader – and won.

Cockburn scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half, fought through foul trouble in the second half and challenged Garza physically while leading No. 3 Illinois past No. 5 Iowa 82-71 on Saturday. The victory sends the Illini to the Big Ten Tournament championship game.

“I thought Kofi was just great,” coach Brad Underwood said. “I thought the job he did in the first half, he was just dominant and not just because he had 18 points but because of his defense.”

Illinois (22-6) has won six straight, with three coming against top-10 foes. If Illinois wins one more, against No. 9 Ohio State on Sunday, it would claim its first tourney title since 2005.

But it was the matchup between Cockburn and Garza that was one of the prime reasons why Illinois’ boisterous fans made the short trek across the state line to Indianapolis. They made themselves at home, cheering loudly each time Cockburn made a play, while booing the foul calls against Illinois.

And Cockburn made sure Garza worked for everything he got. Garza finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds for Iowa (21-7). The Big Ten Player of the Year went 8 for 21 from the field and dealt with his own foul trouble in the second half.

Cockburn, meanwhile, made 11 of 21 shots.

“It’s tough,” Garza said. “You know he’s a tremendous big man. We’re both being physical with each other. It’s just it’s what I’m going to have to deal with and I’ve been dealing with in the Big Ten for a while now.”

The difference was Cockburn’s supporting cast.

Ayo Dosunmu had 18 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Freshman guard Andre Curbelo added 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

A 9-0 run midway through the first half gave Illinois a 22-14 lead that it never surrendered. The Illini led 45-37 at the break and then opened the second half on an 8-2 spurt that featured two big baskets from Jacob Grandison.

Iowa couldn’t get closer than five rest of the way.

“I wanted to make him score through me, always putting my body on him,” Cockburn said before turning his attention on some unfinished business. “It’s that Mamba mentality, that Kobe (Bryant) mentality that we’re not through. We’ve got a long way to go.”

BIG PICTURE

Iowa: The Hawkeyes won’t go away quietly in the NCAA Tournament, as Illinois found out Saturday. The Hawkeyes will pose matchup problems for opponents who are unfamiliar with Garza’s size, versatility and supporting cast.

Illinois: The Fighting Illini might be playing their best basketball this season at the perfect time. They’ve already tied a single-season school record with five top-10 wins, and the last three all came on the road or neutral courts. They could celebrate the school record by cutting down the nets Sunday.

STAT PACK

Iowa: Jordan Bohannon had 20 points and six assists. Joe Wieskamp finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. … The Hawkeyes were outrebounded 42-35 and outscored in the paint 52-24. … Iowa had nine turnovers in the first half and finished with 12.

Illinois: Trent Frazier had nine points and five assists. Da’Monte Williams had nine rebounds. … The Illini won despite going 3 of 15 on 3s. … Sunday marks Illinois’ seventh appearance in the championship game.

HE SAID IT

“(Cockburn) is such a handful and we were so worried about Luka getting into foul trouble because we knew we needed Luka in the game,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “That changes things. It would have been nice to have had another big, no question about it.”

UP NEXT

Iowa: Will find out its next opponent when the NCAA Tournament brackets are released Sunday.

Illinois: Plays No. 9 Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.

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.