Harden helps Miami women stun No. 4 Louisville in ACCs

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Miami was down big late against fourth-ranked Louisville, looking wobbly, tired and on its way out of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Then Destiny Harden took over.

Sparking one of the most improbable and stunning comebacks in the tournament’s history, Harden scored the game’s last 15 points and hit a turnaround jumper at the horn to stun No. 4 Louisville 61-59 in Friday night’s ACC Tournament quarterfinals.

The second-seeded Cardinals led 59-44 with 5:44 left, only to see the seventh-seeded Hurricanes stage a frantic rally that abruptly turned what looked set to be a Louisville win into a wild reversal.

Harden did it almost single-handedly, matching her career high with 27 points on 11-for-15 shooting with 10 rebounds for Miami.

“The performance by Destiny Harden is one for the ages,” coach Katie Meier said, herself still trying to process what had just happened. “It’s one for the ages.”

There was little sign that the Hurricanes (19-11) even had a shot to rally, to the point that even Meier thought her team looked “dead in the water” against a team that had ranked among the nation’s elite all season.

Then everything changed, thanks primarily to a redshirt senior who stayed on the attack and proved unafraid to take the big shots – and even more unwilling to miss.

“I just think it’s March basketball,” Harden said, “And you’ve got to do everything you’ve got to do to win.”

Harden had hit just one second-half shot before going 6 for 6 in the final 4:02. The first huge shot was a game-tying 3-pointer from the left wing with 31 seconds left.

Then, after the Cardinals committed a shot-clock violation, Miami got the ball back with 1.7 seconds left. Kelsey Marshall sent a one-bounce pass to Harden on the right side, with Harden catching and elevating over Hailey Van Lith for a corner shot from a step or two in front of the arc.

“The 3 definitely felt good,” Harden said. “The last shot… it felt good, but I prayed for it to go in.”

The ball caught all net as the horn sounded, with Van Lith immediately raising both hands to her cheeks in disbelief. That’s when orange-clad Hurricanes players began sprinting onto the court and right by Van Lith to run in convoy with Harden across halfcourt and to the far baseline before heading toward the locker-room tunnel.

The scene also included the team mobbing Meier as she did a postgame TV interview as they returned to the court, with players motioning to the crowd and throwing up “The U” hand signs to revel in the improbable moment.

Chelsie Hall scored 13 points to lead the Cardinals (25-4), who missed their last five shots and had five turnovers to watch the lead vanish amid Harden’s onslaught. But all-ACC performers Van Lith (2 for 10) and Emily Engstler combined for 10 of the Cardinals’ 21 turnovers, which tied the team’s season high.

“I wouldn’t say being down on ourselves is a bad thing because we have to be down,” said Louisville’s Kianna Smith, who had 10 points. “Like, that was awful. There’s no question about it.”

BIG PICTURE

Miami: The Hurricanes had won five of six to close the regular season and likely put themselves on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. They beat 10th-seeded Duke in Thursday’s second round, then followed with an even bigger win.

“Safe to say we’re off the bubble?” Meier said to start her postgame news conference.

Louisville: The Cardinals entered the tournament with a top-2 seed for the fifth straight season and with three straight wins, including last weekend’s blowout win at Notre Dame that saw the Cardinals lead 41-3. Yet for the second time this year – the other being No. 3 North Carolina State’s wild second-half comeback to win the lone regular-season meeting – Louisville proved unable to protect a big lead.

“We took some real poor shots, didn’t defend, didn’t guard,” coach Jeff Walz said. “Everything that we needed to do to allow them to come back in the game, we did.”

SEMIFINALS NOTABLES

Miami is in the ACC semifinals for the fourth time since joining the league for the 2004-05 season, most recently with consecutive trips in 2016 and 2017.

As for Louisville, this is the first time that the Cardinals have failed to reach the semifinals since joining the league for the 2014-15 season.

BLOWN LEADS

Miami trailed 52-38 entering the fourth quarter before outscoring Louisville 23-7 the rest of the way. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that matches the largest deficit entering the fourth overcome by any league team this season.

The other was N.C. State’s win against Louisville on Jan. 20 after trailing by a nearly identical score (51-37).

UP NEXT

Miami: The Hurricanes advanced to Saturday’s semifinals to face No. 20 Notre Dame, which beat No. 25 Georgia Tech on Friday night.

Louisville: The Cardinals will have to wait and see where they are seeded in the NCAA Tournament.

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.