BYU beats Rutgers for first upset of women’s NCAA Tournament

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SAN MARCOS, Texas – Paisley Johnson Harding and her BYU teammates were perhaps the last team to make the women’s NCAA Tournament field after a heart-breaking loss to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament.

They didn’t waste their good fortune as the 11th-seeded Cougars (19-5) rallied behind Harding’s 28 points to beat sixth-seed and 21st-ranked Rutgers 69-66 on Monday to give the tournament its first upset after the higher seeds went 16-0 on Sunday. BYU will take on third-seeded and 11th-ranked Arizona, a 79-44 winner over Stony Brook, in a second-round Mercado Region game Wednesday.

“Coming into the NCAA Tournament we just wanted to prove ourselves, and to everyone, to the nation, that that we were going to fight and not let down and that we deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament,” WCC player of the year Shaylee Gonzales said. “And we just showed that today.”

The Cougars were beaten in the WCC title game on a last-second shot by Gonzaga. They didn’t give that chance to the Scarlet Knights.

After Gonzales made the last of her six straight free throws with 13.4 seconds left and a five-point lead, Liz Martino hit a 3-pointer but Harding added another free throw and BYU had a foul to give to prevent Rutgers (14-5) from getting another shot off.

Harding scored eight straight points and Lauren Gustin the next four in a 12-0 run over 5 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter for a 57-54 lead while Rutgers was committing five turnovers. BYU held on from there, matching the one-woman offense of Arella Guirantes, who scored 13 straight Rutgers points in the quarter.

“We all just came together as a team and told each other that we’re going to win this game, that we’re not letting up and that we needed to fight,” Gonzales said. “We came together as a team and we told ourselves the we needed to pick up our defense and then transition into offense. They weren’t doing very well transitionally so we knew that we needed to push it.”

Harding was 8-of-17 shooting with four 3-pointers and consistently provided a spark on offense and defense.

“She was guarding their best player, who was probably one of the best players in the country,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “And I think that motivated her and if you know Paisley, she’s very competitive. She’s been waiting for this opportunity.”

Gonzales, who was only 3-of-17 shooting, made 10 of 11 from the line and finished with 17. Gustin scored six of her 10 points in the fourth quarter. BYU made nine 3s, including five in the third quarter to help them keep within distance after Rutgers went up by 12. BYU cut the lead to seven heading into the fourth quarter.

Guirantes scored 30 points on 10-of-18 shooting with Diamond Johnson adding 13 and Tekia Mack 11.

“We just missed shots. It’s as simple as that,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “Sometimes it happens. I don’t think it was anything they did, they were predictable the way they played. They played hard. We didn’t give up, I thought our attitude was great. Sometimes you make shots and sometimes you don’t.”

Guirantes and Johnson combined to score all the points in a 10-0 run to end the first half and take a 30-24 lead.

BIG PICTURE

BYU: The Cougars gave up 19 turnovers, including 13 steals, to the Big Ten’s top defensive team (scoring and field-goal percentage defense) but kept their poise throughout until their moment arrived in the fourth quarter. In the end, they had one less turnover than Rutgers and scored nine more points off the Scarlet Knights’ errors than they gave up.

Rutgers: Guirantes showed why she’s considered a first-round WNBA pick and the Scarlet Knights turned in a remarkable season after losing nine games to a COVID-19 pause before emerging to win nine straight then losing to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament.

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.