No. 4 Villanova routs Mount St. Mary’s in opener, 91-51

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
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VILLANOVA, Pa.- Jay Wright pulled a stat sheet over toward Collin Gillespie and whispered at the star guard for No. 4 Villanova, pointing at a couple of gaudy numbers.

Gillespie and Justin Moore combined for 12 assists and no turnovers on Tuesday in a season-opening 91-51 win over Mount St. Mary’s.

It’s the kind of numbers that will give the Hall of Fame coach a few more wins, and the kind of numbers the Wildcats will need Friday to have a shot at beating No. 2 UCLA.

Gillespie scored 13 points in his first game back since suffering a torn MCL in his left knee. Moore hit six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 27 points for the Big East favorite Wildcats. Brandon Slater and Jermaine Samuels each added 17.

Villanova needed the tune-up headed into a stacked nonconference schedule that includes the Bruins later this week. They’ll play for only the sixth time and first since 2010.

“I think we’re ready to play a team like that,” Wright said. “They’re a great team. It doesn’t mean we’re ready to beat them. But I think it’s a good time for us. This older group, they’ve been kind of beating each other up in the offseason for a while.”

Gillespie, who played on the 2018 national championship team but was injured last season on senior night, decided to return for a fifth season thanks to the rule that grants players an extra year of eligibility. He was cleared for workouts in August and made the AP preseason All-America team.

He hit an early 3-pointer on Tuesday and received the loudest ovation of the game from a raucous student section that’s back this year and locked arms and swayed during pregame introductions.

“Today was just another day playing with my teammates,” he said.

And just another Villanova beatdown in the opener. The Wildcats, who according to FanDuel Sportsbook closed as 25.5-point favorites, opened the game on a 10-0 run and were never threatened. They hit 16 3s against only six turnovers.

The Mount made the NCAA Tournament’s First Four last season on the strength of a defense that allowed just 62.2 points per game. The Wildcats hit that mark with 11:50 left in the game, as Moore got a 3 for a 62-35 lead.

“We weren’t looking for me specifically,” Moore said of his big game. “We were just trying to come play together and set the tone defensively and that helped us get into our offense.”

BIG NUMBERS

Wright won his 613th career game – and first as a Hall of Famer. Wright helped lead Team USA to an Olympic gold medal as an assistant under coach Gregg Popovich, then the 59-year-old Wright was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Not a bad summer break.

ROUT ST. MARY’S

Malik Jefferson led the Mountaineers, picked third in the Northeast Conference preseason poll, with 13 points. The Mountaineers missed nine of 12 3-pointers and only attempted eight free throws.

“They made us pay today,” coach Dan Engelstad said. “I think the lights, the crowd, we didn’t settle in for a little bit. It took us a couple of minutes. But once we settled in, I thought there was some really bright spots, some good moments. You could see what we already know, that we do have a very good basketball team that can play at a high level.”

ON DECK

Villanova has late November games in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic against No. 18 Tennessee, and then a game in the same tourney against either No. 19 North Carolina or No. 7 Purdue. Villanova also plays Syracuse in the Jimmy V Classic in December at Madison Square Garden and then a Dec. 12 rematch at No. 8 Baylor.

BIG PICTURE

Mount St. Mary’s: Its career mark against ranked teams fell to 1-33. Engelstad is 0-3 against ranked teams.

Villanova: The Wildcats moved to 20-1 under Wright in season openers and have won the last 19.

UP NEXT

The Mount: Host Washington College (Maryland) on Thursday and return to Philadelphia on Saturday for a game at Saint Joseph’s.

Wildcats: Play at No. 2 UCLA on Friday night.

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.