Agbaji scores 25 as No. 3 Kansas beats Stony Brook 88-59

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LAWRENCE, Kan.- Bill Self knew that Ochai Agbaji was within one point of 1,000 for his career, so the Kansas coach reminded his star player of the milestone in the gentlest way possible during a late timeout against Stony Brook.

“Coach told me that if I didn’t shoot he was going to take me out,” Agbaji said with a smile.

Well, he shot. And he didn’t score.

So despite 25 points from Agbaji in an 88-59 victory over the Seawolves on Thursday night, he remains sitting precariously on 999 as the third-ranked Jayhawks prepare to head to the ESPN Events Invitational in Florida next week.

“Really my main focus has been consistency,” said Agbaji, who opened with 29 points against Michigan State and had 26 against Tarleton. “Not going out with a total in mind or anything like that. Just being assertive and consistent every night.”

David McCormack added 12 points and eight rebounds, and Christian Braun and Zach Clemence scored 11 apiece for the Jayhawks (3-0), who only led by six at halftime before heating up from beyond the arc. They were 2 of 10 in the first half but hit seven of their first nine 3s in the second, finishing 50% from the field for the game.

“I thought we guarded better the second half,” Self said, “but their guards walked into way too many shots. I thought guarding their actions we did fine; guarding their players we didn’t do a very good job.”

Tykei Greene had 11 points and nine rebounds to lead the transfer-heavy Seawolves (0-2), who hadn’t played in nine days since their season-opening loss to George Mason.

For long stretches of the first 20 minutes, Stony Brook seemed to be making every shot it took, particularly those that the small school from Long Island hoisted from beyond the 3-point arc.

They led by seven early and continued to keep the Jayhawks at bay through most of the first half.

It wasn’t until McCormack checked back in with about 6 minutes to go that Kansas finally went on a run. His bucket was followed by one from Agbaji, then the 6-foot-10 forward followed a miss by Agbaji with another hoop before Dajuan Harris Jr. picked the pocket of Jahlil Jenkins and cruised in for a layup that forced Stony Brook to call timeout.

Still, the Jayhawks led just 38-32 at halftime.

Agbaji had 10 points in the first half, then 10 in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the second: two 3s, an easy bucket and a dunk in four trips down floor. On the fifth, Agbaji merely assisted on McCormack’s basket as the lead stretched to 52-40.

It eventually surpassed the 20-point mark when Agbaji converted a circus-style three-point play with about 10 minutes to go, allowing the Jayhawks to coast the rest of the way to their 21st straight nonconference win at home.

“I don’t know that I envisioned (Agbaji) leading the country in scoring, which I think he is,” Self said, “but he’s prepared to have a good start to the year. He’s playing with confidence. I think that first game did probably wonders for his confidence and he’s playing well. He’s not forcing anything and playing within himself, and he’s very efficient.”

INJURY NEWS

Jayhawks guard Remy Martin tweaked his back a few days ago, Self said, but tried to play through it. Martin missed his only two shots with four rebounds and two assists in 18 scoreless minutes. “He’ll be fine,” Self said.

THE TAKEAWAY

Stony Brook is going to give fits to the rest of the America East, which it was predicted to win for the first time since the 2015-16 season. The Seawolves have enough size to deal with bigger teams, plenty of scoring punch on the perimeter and, perhaps most importantly, weren’t awed by their first trip to Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas showcased remarkable depth against the Seawolves, and that should only increase when Jalen Wilson returns next week. He’s been suspended the first three games after he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. Wilson declared for the NBA draft after last season before returning for his sophomore season.

UP NEXT

Stony Brook returns home to play Sacred Heart on Monday night.

Kansas plays North Texas to open the ESPN Events Invitational next Thursday.

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.