Louisville beats Oregon 60-42, heads to women’s Elite Eight

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN ANTONIO — Dana Evans broke out of a shooting slump in a big way, carrying Louisville to the Elite Eight.

The senior All-America guard matched her career high with 29 points and the No. 2 seed Cardinals advanced to the regional final of the women’s NCAA Tournament for the third straight time with a 60-42 win over sixth-seeded Oregon on Sunday night.

“I knew it would end at the right time, when I needed it to,” Evans said. “My teammates didn’t need me to do what I did tonight (in) in the other games. Everybody has been stepping up. I think everything happens for a reason. My teammates were able to get their confidence and get going and now that I feel like that I’m back to my normal self, I feel like we’re going to be just fine.”

Evans had struggled late in the season and hadn’t played well in the first two games of the tournament. She hadn’t scored more than 15 points in any of the five ACC or NCAA Tournament games before Sunday.

She said former Louisville great Asia Durr had reached out to her over the last few days.

“She sent me a nice text just telling me to just relax, let the game come to me and don’t overthink it,” Evans said. “I took her words, and it worked.”

The Cardinals will face top seed Stanford on Tuesday night in the Alamo Region final.

Louisville (26-3) continued its stellar defensive play, holding Oregon (15-9) to 14 points in the first half, including six in the second quarter.

Evans provided the offense. After going scoreless in the first quarter, she started to heat up. Oregon had freshman Maddie Scherr guarding Evans in the opening period before she hurt her ankle and had to come out of the game. Evans responded by scoring 13 points in the second and ended the period with a nifty drive and dish right before the buzzer to give Louisville a 29-14 advantage at the break.

Oregon rallied in the second half, cutting its deficit to 10 after three quarters. The Ducks were down 41-33 with 50 seconds left in the third after two free throws by Nyara Sabally. But she went down with a left ankle injury 20 seconds later when she stepped on a teammate’s foot. Sabally had to be helped off the court. She didn’t return and finished with a team-leading 14 points.

The Ducks got within 43-37 early in the fourth quarter, but seven straight points by Evans – including two deep 3-pointers – started a 13-0 run that put the game away.

Evans capped her night with a fast-break layup off a spectacular behind-the-back pass from Mykasa Robinson, who stole the ball with a minute left.

“I knew she was about to do something, but didn’t know what it was going to be,” Evans said. “She doesn’t surprise me for what she does for us. Her basketball IQ is really high.”

Oregon was trying to get to its fourth straight Elite Eight and second consecutive Final Four. The Ducks had struggled heading into the NCAA Tournament, dropping five of six before getting to Texas.

“Coach (Jeff) Walz had them ready and they deserved it tonight,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “They played harder tonight and got us on our heels early. We couldn’t quite recover. We made an effort to cut it to six, then they went on a run that we couldn’t recover from. That being said, I’m proud of my team and don’t think a month ago people thought we’d be here.”

The Cardinals hadn’t played well at the start of either of their NCAA games. They trailed by nine after one quarter in the first round against Marist and by 15 against Northwestern.

Louisville didn’t light it up early this time, either, but managed a 10-8 lead after the opening quarter. The teams combined to shoot 9 for 35 in the first 10 minutes.

“I completely changed up the pregame speech. It was more of a plead, `Please play hard,”‘ Walz said. “Whatever I told you to do, just do the opposite because the last two weren’t good at all. So happy how we came out and defended, especially in the first quarter.”

MISFIRED

The Ducks missed all nine 3-point attempts in the first half and finished the game 2 for 18.

INDY BOUND

Graves will travel to Indianapolis in support of his son, Will, who is a walk-on for the Gonzaga men’s team. The unbeaten Bulldogs will play in an Elite Eight game on Tuesday against either Southern California or Oregon.

“We didn’t win a national championship, but maybe they will,” Graves said.

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.