Northwestern women beat UCF 62-51, 1st tourney win since ’93

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SAN ANTONIO – Lindsey Pulliam scored 25 points to lead seventh-seeded Northwestern to a 62-51 win over 10th-seeded UCF on Monday, the Wildcats’ first women’s NCAA Tournament victory in 28 years.

Northwestern (16-8) is in the tournament for the first time since 2015 and just the third time since 1993, when the Wildcats beat Georgia Tech before falling to Tennessee in the second round.

“I didn’t come here to play one game, obviously … it’s one game down and now time to focus on the next one,” Pulliam said. “I’m beyond confident. I’m taking us over anybody.”

Pulliam carried the team while top scorer Veronica Burton struggled. Burton, who came in averaging 16.9 points per game, scored four points before fouling out with about six minutes remaining.

Northwestern coach Joe McKeown was elated to see his team in the tournament again after the Wildcats missed out on a trip last season when it was canceled because of the pandemic.

“We played so hard and just really proud of them,” he said. “It’s great to be at Northwestern and be a part of something like this.”

Northwestern will face either No. 2 Louisville or 15th-seeded Marist in Wednesday’s second round.

The Knights (16-5) sustained a huge blow midway through the second quarter when they lost second-leading scorer Diamond Battles to what appeared to be a right knee injury.

“Having Diamond Battles go down, our captain, our leader, our best of everything, that was tough kind of to overcome without her,” UCF coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “We were up when she went out. Like every team, sometimes when your teammates go down, you’ve got to step up. We didn’t really step up like we should have.”

Masseny Kaba led UCF with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

UCF made the tournament for the second straight time and sixth since moving up to Division I in the 1984-85 season.

UCF scored nine straight points in the fourth quarter, five from Courtajia Sanders, to get within six. Pulliam ended the run with a three-point play that made it 53-44.

The Knights cut the lead to six again with about two minutes to go and Pulliam came through again, making a layup to make it 57-49 with a minute left.

Northwestern wrapped up the third quarter with an 11-4 run to make it 43-33. Courtney Shaw had four points each in that stretch and the Wildcats took advantage of three turnovers.

Battles, who scored six points, was injured while fighting for a rebound. She remained on the court for some time writhing in pain before being helped to her feet. She couldn’t put any weight on her right leg and tried to hop off the court with the help of two UCF staffers, but finally gave up and was carried off by the two men. She returned to the bench before halftime on crutches.

Abrahamson-Henderson did not have an update on Battles’ condition after the game.

LINDSEY 2K

Pulliam has 2,021 points in her career. She is the third Northwestern player to reach 2,000 points, joining Nia Coffey and Anucha Browne.

“It means the world to be a part of that club and be in a group with those two great players,” Pulliam said.

BENCH CONTRIBUTION

Northwestern’s bench outscored the UFC reserves 18-7, led by Shaw, who had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.

“She’s fearless,” McKeown said. “She went right at their bigs.”

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.