No. 22 UConn survives, beats No. 19 Auburn 115-109 in 2OT

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Shot after shot, No. 19 Auburn and No. 22 Connecticut went back and forth at each other seemingly oblivious to pressure from a dwindling clock in an ever-lengthening game at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

It may have been an early season tournament, but it felt like a March-esque thriller – right up to the second overtime when Tyler Polley and Adama Sonogo helped the Huskies finally wrestle away a 115-109 double-overtime victory in Wednesday’s first round.

“Pretty good tip for November, right?” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.

Indeed, the first two-overtime game in the event’s 10-year history had plenty: big shots, clutch responses, frenetic sequences, even players diving on the floor for a loose rebound in the final seconds of a two-possession game with the outcome decided.

Exhausting? Chaotic? Thrilling? UConn coach Dan Hurley would choose all of the above.

“Now you have a chance to sit back and think about how many different ways it could’ve went the other way in regulation, or really from the five-minute mark all the way through to the second overtime,” Hurley said. “Just a multitude of things that went on that were mind-boggling, mind-numbing.”

Polley scored a career-high 24 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:58 left in the second overtime, and had also hit a 3-pointer for the lead with 12.5 seconds left in regulation. He finished 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

Sanogo had a career-best 30 points and stayed on the floor despite playing critical late minutes with four fouls for the Huskies (5-0), who blew a 15-point lead in regulation and squandered a lead late in the first overtime. But the two combined for UConn’s first 14 points of the second overtime as UConn finally pushed ahead for good.

“I definitely thought numerous times we could’ve had the game won,” said R.J. Cole, who had 24 points for UConn. “They weren’t going to go without a fight and we knew that. So we continued to just talk to each other and keep pushing, knowing that it’s not going to be easy and we’re going to have to fight for this one to get the win.”

K.D. Johnson and top freshman Jabari Smith had their own huge performances for the Tigers (3-1). Johnson scored 23 of his career-high 27 points after halftime, including driving baskets in the final seconds of regulation and the first overtime to extend the game.

“I was just trying to do anything to get a W,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t really focused on anything, how it was going. I was just trying to get a win.”

BIG PICTURE

UConn: Polley’s go-ahead 3 from the right wing started the decisive 9-0 run that pushed the Huskies to a 109-100 lead. Sanogo added two tough baskets in traffic as well as a pair of free throws to cap that run, part of a 12-for-12 effort at the line in the overtimes that helped UConn stay in control as Auburn tried to make a final run.

Auburn: This is the first trip here for the Tigers, who were coming off a 58-52 win at South Florida on Saturday. They looked headed for a big loss in regulation before clawing back in it, but ultimately faded by shooting just 5 of 17 from the field in the second overtime as UConn made its move to end the Tigers’ title hopes and send them to the consolation bracket.

“This one here is gone,” Pearl said. “Missed opportunity, gone. Let’s win two games.”

WHALEY’S STATUS

As the horn sounded, Polley began skipping to the UConn bench to celebrate with teammates, though the celebration froze for a moment at the sight of Isaiah Whaley laying on the sideline in front of the bench. After a few moments, Whaley got up with a smile to join the handshake line.

Afterward, Hurley said Whaley – who had played 43 minutes – had fainted and that he thought the 6-foot-9 forward “just stood up too quick” from the bench and there were no apparent concerns with dehydration.

SMITH’S GROWTH

Smith had 19 of his 22 after halftime for Auburn. That included a 3-pointer from in front of his bench with 2:39 left in regulation for a 76-74 lead after the Tigers had trailed 65-50 near the 11-minute mark.

That was part of a stretch of seven straight points for the 6-10 McDonald’s All-American, who also went 12 of 12 at the foul line.

“He’s not afraid of the moment,” Pearl said.

“In the second half, I thought he took the ball to the basket with more authority and obviously got to the foul line a lot in the second half, which shows a lot of maturity for a young player.”

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies will face Michigan State in Thursday’s semifinals.

Auburn: The Tigers will face Loyola Chicago in Thursday’s consolation bracket.

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.