Oral Roberts shocks Ohio State in first big upset of NCAA Tournament

© Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Ohio State’s players were dancing around in the moments before tipoff against Oral Roberts, relaxed and full of swagger.

The Buckeyes aren’t dancing anymore. The 15th-seeded Golden Eagles pulled off the first major upset of the first NCAA Tournament in two years, holding off second-seeded Ohio State 75-72 in overtime on Friday.

“When they rank them, it was only just a number at the end of the day,” said Kevin Obanor, who led Oral Roberts with 30 points and 11 rebounds. “We put our shoes on just as the other team puts their shoes on. We just had the mindset of, `Show us that you deserve to be No. 2,’ and we came out with a lot of confidence.”

Oral Roberts got poised, impeccable performances from its two stars, Obanor and guard Max Abmas, to become the ninth 15 seed to win a first-round game and the first since Middle Tennessee shocked Michigan State in 2016. Last year’s tournament was called off because of the pandemic.

Obanor scored seven of Oral Roberts’ 11 points in overtime, including two free throws with 13 seconds left. Abmas, the nation’s leading scorer, had 29 points.

“Their two players that obviously concerned us were terrific, so give them, their coaches, their players, their program, their university a lot of credit for this win,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “We had no illusions that this was going to be by any stretch anything other than a really challenging game, and it obviously was that from the very jump.”

Ohio State could have tied it in the closing seconds of overtime, but Duane Washington Jr.’s open 3-pointer from straight away bounced off the side of the rim, and Oral Roberts celebrated its first tournament win since 1974.

The Golden Eagles’ roster is full of lightly recruited players who found their way to the small, private Christian school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Summit League champions bowed their heads in a prayer circle after their victory over the Big Ten power.

“I know growing up, all my life, I was always like the underdog,” Obanor said. “The school is not a big school. Just to prove people wrong, it’s a blessing just to have people that are really committed and believe that we’re the better team.”

The Golden Eagles (17-10) will play seventh-seeded Florida in the South Region on Sunday.

E.J. Liddell had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Buckeyes (21-10). Washington had 18 points and 10 rebounds but made just 7 of 21 shots.

Oral Roberts scored the game’s first seven points, including a 3-pointer by Abmas from the logo that drew a collective “Ooooh!” from the socially distanced crowd.

The Buckeyes led by eight before the Golden Eagles rallied. Abmas hit a 3-pointer with about five minutes left in the first half to give Oral Roberts a 26-25 lead, prompting a chant of “O-R-U!” He hit another 3 moments later to force an Ohio State timeout. He made 5 of 7 3-pointers in the first half and had 18 points at the break as the Golden Eagles led 36-33.

The Summit League champions led by seven in the second half before Ohio State rallied to take a 60-58 lead on a pullup jumper by CJ Walker with just under five minutes to play.

Obanor was fouled with 14 seconds to play, and he made both free throws to tie the game at 64. Washington missed a step-back jumper in the closing seconds, and the Buckeyes had no answer for Obanor in the extra session.

“This is obviously a really, really bitter end to a terrific season,” Holtmann said. “We’ll own that and accept it and we’ll move forward.”

MAKING FREEBIES

Oral Roberts entered the game with a chance to set the Division I record for free-throw shooting percentage in a season. The Division I record is 82.18%, set by Harvard in 1984. Oral Roberts entered the game at 82.35%, but made 14 of 18 in the game to slide to 82.17%.

KNEELING

Five Ohio State players knelt during the playing of the national anthem, one of many such demonstrations during the tournament.

STAT LINES

Ohio State outrebounded Oral Roberts 49-32, but the Golden Eagles balanced that out by committing six turnovers to the Buckeyes’ 16.

QUOTABLE

Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills on getting ready for Florida: “I mean, the reality is you have to turn around and you’re about to play another one, so the celebration better be pretty quick. If you spend all your time looking back at your wedding day videos, you’re probably not going to have a very good marriage.”

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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
0 Comments

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
2 Comments

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

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
0 Comments

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.