No. 1 Gonzaga wins 10th straight WCC regular-season title

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SPOKANE, Wash. – It was senior night for top-ranked Gonzaga, and seniors Andrew Nembhard and Rasir Bolton helped deliver a hard-fought 81-69 victory over Santa Clara on Saturday.

Nembhard scored 21 points, including a pair of late 3-pointers that iced it, and Bolton contributed 18 points.

“It was good for them to step up and make plays like that,” coach Mark Few said, adding that Nembhard was “delivering big time.”

Drew Timme had 23 points and nine rebounds and Gonzaga won its 10th straight West Coast Conference regular-season title.

“It means even more this year,” Few said. “The league is the best it’s been since I’ve been here.”

With the WCC possibly sending four teams to the NCAA Tournament this year, “to be undefeated is quite an accomplishment,” Few said.

Gonzaga (23-2, 12-0) won its 16th consecutive game and its 67th straight home game, a streak that dates to 2018 and is the longest in the nation. The Zags are the current front-runner for the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Freshman Chet Holmgren added 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots for Gonzaga.

PJ Pipes scored 27 points and Jalen Williams 15 for Santa Clara (18-10, 8-5), which ranks third in the WCC. The team is fighting for Santa Clara’s first postseason tournament berth since 2013.

“Pipes is really, really playing well,” Few said. “He hit a lot of tough shots.”

The 12-point margin of victory was the lowest of the season in a WCC game for Gonzaga.

The games was tied at 18 with 10 minutes left in the first half. But the Zags erupted for a 20-4 run and Santa Clara missed 10 of 11 field-goal attempts. Pipes then scored seven points to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 41-31 by halftime.

Santa Clara got within single digits several times early in the second half, but the Bulldogs led 59-46 with 12 minutes left.

Pipes’ 3-pointer drew Santa Clara to 59-53 with just under 10 minutes left, but a 13-6 run by the Zags made it 72-59.

A pair of 3-pointers by Nembhard lifted Gonzaga to a 78-62 lead with just over two minutes left, and Santa Clara did not threaten again.

“We battled all the way through until the end,” Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek said. “It’s tough playing against a team like Gonzaga but I couldn’t ask for more from my guys.”

This was the final home game of the season for Gonzaga, which honored seniors Bolton, Nembhard, Matthew Lang and Will Graves.


Former Gonzaga stars Kelly Olynyk, Killian Tillie and Jalen Suggs, who now play in the NBA, were at the game. “That’s what makes this place so special,” Few said. “It’s great they want to come back.”


Gonzaga has the highest field goal percentage in the nation, but the Zags managed to shoot only 40% against Santa Clara. The Broncos weren’t much better, hitting 41% of their shots.


Gonzaga should stay at No. 1 next Monday.


Santa Clara: The Broncos have lost 24 straight games to Gonzaga, dating to 2011. … Four Broncos starters average in double figures.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have won 33 straight conference games dating to a loss at BYU in 2020, the longest such streak in the nation. … Gonzaga leads the nation in scoring (89.9 points per game), field-goal percentage (53.5%) and scoring margin (25.5 ppg). … Since 2017, the Zags have spent 35 weeks ranked No. 1 out of 110 AP polls. Duke is second at 18 weeks in that span.


Santa Clara: At Pepperdine next Thursday.

Gonzaga: Wraps up the regular season at San Francisco on Thursday and at Saint Mary’s on Saturday.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

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

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

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.