Davonte Davis’ jumper gives Arkansas 72-70 win over Oral Roberts

Kareem Elgazzar/IndyStar
0 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – The chants of Arkansas’ fans echoed from the concourse long after the players had cleared the floor.

“Wooooo, Pig! Sooie!”

It’s not quite “40 Minutes of Hell,” but the Razorbacks are back.

Davonte Davis hit a short jumper with 2.9 seconds left, and Arkansas advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in 26 years with a 72-70 win over Oral Roberts in the South Region semifinals Saturday night.

“It’s amazing just being able to be in this position right now as an individual and as an Arkansas player,” said Davis, who had 16 points.

The Muss Bus grinded its gears through the first half into the second, bad shots and even worse defense putting Arkansas in a 12-point hole against the 15th-seeded Golden Eagles.

Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks (25-6) got their Pig Sooie swagger back, turning defensive stops into early offense opportunities and offensive rebounds into points.

It came down to one final shot and Davis made it, sending Arkansas to the Elite Eight for the first time since the Nolan Richardson “40 Minutes of Hell” days.

Next up for the Razorbacks is top-seeded Baylor in what should be a fast-paced South Region final on Monday.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be in an Elite Eight in our second year,” said Musselman, who took over the program in 2019. “I really can’t describe it.”

The let-it-fly Golden Eagles (18-11) let history slip through their grasp.

Within reach of becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight, Oral Roberts stumbled with a series of turnovers and missed shots.

Max Abmas did his best to put the Golden Eagles in the Elite Eight for the first time in 47 years, scoring 25 points. His 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the front of the rim.

“We gave him a pass option, we gave him a dribble option,” Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills said. “He’s super bright and picks up things really quickly and understood and had great court awareness and had great selection on the shot. Unfortunately, it didn’t go in.”

The Golden Eagles had history on their minds. Florida Gulf Coast was the only other No. 15 seed to get this far in 2013 and lost at the regional semifinal round.

Oral Roberts knew it had a chance to top it against the Razorbacks after playing them earlier in the season. Oral Roberts led by 10 at halftime in Fayetteville on Dec. 20 before Arkansas bullied the Golden Eagles in the second half for an 87-76 win.

The Golden Eagles went chest-to-chest with the Razorbacks from the start of their first Sweet 16 game since 1974, contesting shots at the rim and chasing out to the arc to prevent open looks. Arkansas helped them out with some difficult shots, going 1 for 7 from 3 in the first half.

The Razorbacks tried to make it difficult on Abmas, trapping him in most pick-and-roll situations. The nation’s leading scorer still found a way to get his points, with 12 in the first half. Carlos Jurgens, who averages 5.7 points per game, took advantage of repeatedly being left open, scoring 11 to help Oral Roberts lead 35-28 at halftime.

The Golden Eagles continued making shots in the second half as the Razorbacks kept taking bad ones, stretching the lead to 46-34.

“We weren’t playing hard,” Davis said. “We were playing slow. We were letting them slow us down and that’s not what we needed. We’re a fast team.”

Arkansas had already been in this position once before, needing “24 Minutes of Hell” to outlast another upstart, Colgate, to open the NCAA Tournament.

Just like that game, the Razorbacks snapped out of it, playing better defense and getting to the rim instead of throwing up contested shots. Arkansas chipped the lead down to four midway through and finally caught, then passed, the Golden Eagles into the Elite Eight.

“The job wasn’t just to get to the Sweet 16,” Abmas said. “The job was to get to the national championship and win it. We came up short, but all the stuff we accomplished this season is something we’ll celebrate and remember the rest of our lives.”

REBOUNDING RAZORBACKS

Arkansas had 24 offensive rebounds in its regular-season win over Oral Roberts and owned the offensive glass again in the Sweet 16.

The Razorbacks had 18 offensive boards, leading to 18 second-chance points, and had 11 more rebounds overall.

Justin Smith had 10 offensive rebounds in the first game and grabbed 11 more on Saturday.

TATE’S LIFT

Jalen Tate kept the Razorbacks in it while they were struggling and had a strong all-around game.

The 6-foot-7 junior used his size to score 22 points. He set up Davis for the winning shot with a drive-and-kick.

“He played well and he was scoring the ball,” Davis said. “We needed that spark and he did it.”

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
1 Comment

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.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.