No. 5 Texas gets Beard first win, 92-48 over Houston Baptist

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

AUSTIN, Texas- Chris Beard is doing everything he can to pump new energy into Texas basketball.

He rebuilt the lineup with all-star transfer talent. He promised a campus party if the students packed their section in the stands for the season opener.

And after No. 5 Texas routed Houston Baptist 92-48 on Tuesday night behind 13 points from Tre Mitchell – with five others scoring in double figures – Beard invited the students onto the court for a team photo.

Hundreds rushed in.

“Our guys were dialed in and played well tonight,” Beard said. “It was a great crowd. There was a buzz in our locker room. Special thank you to the students, they turned out.”

Beard came from Texas Tech, where he led the Red Raiders to the NCAA Tournament final in 2019. He took over for Shaka Smart, who didn’t win an NCAA Tournament game in six seasons at Texas.

Beard quickly dove into the NCAA transfer portal for as much talent as he could find, and what he landed quickly built big expectations. Texas’ ranking to start the season is the program’s highest since the Longhorns were No. 3 to start the 2009-10 season.

And the transfers made the immediate impact that was expected.

Point guard Marcus Carr, a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season at Minnesota, scored eight of Texas’ first 18 points and had five assists. Forward Timmy Allen, who was all-Pac-12 last season at Utah, scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds. Mitchell, first-team all conference in the Atlantic 10 at UMass last season, did most of his scoring in the second half.

Texas’ returning players from Smart’s last team aren’t forgotten, far from it. Senior guards Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones each scored 11 points and combined for six of Texas’ 3-pointers.

“It was fun to play again … Over time, I think we could grow into something special,” Ramey said. “We have a lot of leaders on this team.”

Texas led 43-27 at halftime. Jones opened the second half with a 3-pointer, then had a steal for a fast-break layup. Consecutive 3-pointers from Ramey made it 54-29 and quickly turned the game into a blowout. Texas shot 64%.

Dispatching Houston Baptist is one thing. A much bigger test awaits: The Longhorns play Saturday at No. 1 Gonzaga, which lost to Baylor in last season’s NCAA Tournament final (and beat Dixie State by 34 on Tuesday night).

“I like our shooting this year. Shot selection this year is going to be a big part of our journey,” Beard said. “I think our offense could be something special come February and March.”

Za-Ontay Boothman scored 12 points for Houston Baptist.

“Texas is everything they are advertised … deep, talented and athletic,” Houston Baptist coach Ron Cottrell said. “The days of rebuilding a program (slowly) are over. You can kiss that goodbye, It’s build a team every year. Chris has done a good job as anybody.”

STILL WAITING

One of Texas’ big transfers isn’t yet ready to play. Forward Dylan Disu from Vanderbilt led the Southeastern Conference in rebounding last season at 9.2 per game and averaged 15 points, but missed the last eight games of last season with a knee injury.

STILL AROUND

Jones is in his sixth season in the Texas program. He was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2018 and sat out the rest of that season, then played only two games of the 2018-2019 season. He was granted two medical redshirts, and because NCAA rule changes caused by the pandemic, he would still have another season of eligibility next year. He led Texas in scoring last season with 14.6 points per game. He’ll turn 24 in December.

BIG PICTURE

Houston Baptist: Cottrell is in his 31st year and will have to wait a few games to reach the 500-victory milestone. He’s still at 497.

Texas: Beard inviting the students to the court for the photo was just the latest in his efforts to engage fans who have been mostly indifferent for years. He’s also scheduled a game later this month to be played in the old Gregory Gym, the small arena in the heart of campus where Texas used to play 50 years ago. That game will be for students only. Texas has sold nearly 9,000 season tickets, a program record.

UP NEXT

Houston Baptist: Hosts Barclay College on Saturday

Texas: At No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday.

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.