Smith, Arkansas hold off Texas Tech 68-66 in NCAA 2nd round

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INDIANAPOLIS — His players began spilling onto the court at the horn, and Arkansas coach Eric Musselman was right there with them – only to break away to climb atop a table with arms raised.

The moment certainly deserved a let-it-loose celebration.

The Razorbacks are going back to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 for the first time since the “40 Minutes of Hell” days a quarter-century ago.

Justin Smith had 20 points and played a key role in a final defensive stop, helping Arkansas beat Texas Tech 68-66 on Sunday.

The South Region’s No. 3 seed is off to the regional semifinals for the first time since 1996 under famed former coach Nolan Richardson, a season that marked the end of a nine-year run that included a Final Four trip in 1990, a national championship in 1994 and a runner-up finish in 1995.

Now Musselman’s Razorbacks can dream a little bit, too.

“Words can’t describe it, man,” Musselman said as he munched on a piece of pizza after the game. “Myself, the staff – I mean, we’re so excited. It’s hard to make the tournament. It’s hard to win a game. It’s hard to win two games.”

The postgame celebration came after a tense finish, which began with Smith defending Kyler Edwards beyond the 3-point arc. Edwards drove into the paint with Smith on his hip and missed a layup, with Arkansas guard JD Notae snagging the rebound and sprinting up court to run the final seconds out.

“Our big thing was we did not want to give up a 3 under any circumstances,” Musselman said.

After his table hop, Musselman stopped on his way off the court to mark the moment once more by ripping off his mask to yell to Razorbacks fans and repeatedly pump his fist in exuberance.

Next up for Arkansas (24-6) is No. 15 seed Oral Roberts, which advanced with an 81-78 win over Florida.

Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 20 points for sixth-seeded Texas Tech (18-11), which struggled with its shot for a long stretch only to regain its touch right as Arkansas seemed poised to pull away with a 13-point lead.

The Red Raiders – finalists in the 2019 tournament – also had two late chances to take the lead in the final 90 seconds. But Mac McClung missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the line with 1:15 left in a 67-66 game, and then Shannon missed a shot inside with about 30 seconds left on the next possession.

“Obviously kind of a classic NCAA Tournament game,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “It could have gone either way. I was hoping it was going to be one of the games where the team that had the ball last wins it.”


Texas Tech: The Red Raiders advanced with Friday’s win against 11th-seeded Utah State, shooting nearly 57% after halftime and scoring 28 points off turnovers for the game. But they couldn’t replicate that formula, going 6 for 35 (17%) from midway through the first half until about 8 minutes left. The Red Raiders forced just nine turnovers that led to five points.

“He said we’re going to win the game on the offensive end if we get stops and that’s what we did,” Shannon said. “But we didn’t capitalize at the end.”

Arkansas: The Razorbacks rallied from a 14-point hole in their first-round win against high-scoring Colgate, then had to come back from 10 down early in this one. Smith followed a 29-point game against Colgate by making 9 of 11 shots against the defensive-minded Red Raiders.

“It shows that we can play with anybody,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter what you throw us. We’re going to be able to compete.”


Star freshman Moses Moody scored 15 points for the Razorbacks, who got a boost from fellow freshmen Jaylin Williams (10 rebounds) in his third start and Davonte Davis (15 points). Davis also helped hold McClung to nine points, well below his 15.8-point average.

Moody also had an improbable key shot. After Chibuzo Agbo banked in a straightaway 3-pointer to bring Texas Tech within 58-57 with 5:30 left, Moody answered by banking in his own 3 off a crossover.

“They may be freshmen, but they don’t play like freshmen,” Smith said. “They’ve got a lot of a lot of swagger.”


The Razorbacks will face Oral Roberts after the Golden Eagles followed their first-round upset of No. 2 seed Ohio State with another big win.

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.