Ayala scores 23 to push No. 10 Maryland past UConn

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Mark Turgeon has seen Maryland stifle its share of opponents this season but nothing like what his team did on a big stage.

Eric Ayala scored 23 points and the 10th-seeded Terrapins clamped down on defense to snag a 63-54 victory over No. 7 UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night.

Maryland held UConn to 32% shooting to overcome the Huskies’ strong physical game. Maryland was outrebounded 40-29 – including a whopping 22-4 deficit offensively – but its defense carried the Terps to a second round matchup against No. 2 Alabama.

Asked if this was their best defensive effort this season, Turgeon simply noted the damage they prevented.

“We’ve had a lot of really good defensive efforts,” he said. “I think where we were fortunate tonight was on those 18 offensive rebounds in the first half, they hardly had any second-chance points.”

On their end of the floor, the Terps made good on their chances.

Maryland (17-13) shot 51% for the game and converted 9 of 18 from behind the arc. The Terps built a 14-point cushion that UConn cut to 53-48 with 2:53 remaining. Ayala and Darryl Morsell each made a pair of three throws to push the lead back to nine.

Hakim Hart answered another small UConn (15-8) spurt with a jumper to make it a three-possession game, and a dunk against the press with 30 seconds left ignited a celebration on Maryland’s bench.

Ayala was 8 of 14 shooting, including 3 of 5 from deep, and was among three Terps with five rebounds. Aaron Wiggins had 14 points and Donta Scott 12 for Maryland.

“It’s do or die at this point,” said Ayala, who finished a point shy of his career high. “You’ve got to leave it all out there, empty the tank. I wasn’t ready to go home today.”

James Bouknight had 15 points and Jalen Gaffney 12 for the Huskies, who won five of their last six games to earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2016.

The Huskies have been through the firing of a coach, NCAA violations and a series of transfers since winning the 2014 national title. Dan Hurley was hired in 2017 to rebuild the program and UConn posted its first winning season in four years in 2020.

The Huskies head home feeling good about this season, but also knowing there’s work ahead.

“This year was a huge success for us,” Hurley said. “It doesn’t feel like it right now because you’re devastated with the way the evening went.

“Obviously, the next hill that you must climb when you’re the head coach at UConn is to consistently be at the top of the league, consistently be in this tournament and have your team advance in this tournament. We’re not there yet.”

It was the first meeting between Maryland and UConn since Maryland won in the 2002 regional final en route to its only national championship. The Terps have reached the NCAA five of the past seven seasons – and would’ve made it last spring before the pandemic cancelled the tournament – and won their second consecutive opener.

BOARDS, BUT FEW POINTS

UConn opened quickly and aggressively on the boards, snatching five in just over a minute before the last one ended with RJ Cole’s 3-pointer for the first basket. That was one of the few times the Huskies got second-chance baskets.

“They were able to double down in the post and front the post,” UConn senior forward Isaiah Whaley said. “And we missed a lot of shots that they were able to get the rebound off our missed shots. They’re real physical, a tough team as well.”

BIG PICTURE

The Terrapins had been shooting 46% headed into the game to show the team was more than just a defensive juggernaut. Their consistency in both halves was notable and critical with baskets that stalled UConn’s momentum.

The Huskies were aggressive throughout and beat the Terrapins for rebounds and 50/50 balls. But the shots didn’t fall, in large part due to Maryland’s success in altering some of those looks. Morsell, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, had seven points and seven rebounds before fouling out late.

UP NEXT

Maryland plays Alabama (25-6) in the second round.

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.