McCormack leads No. 6 Kansas past No. 21 Texas, 70-63, in OT

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Texas coach Chris Beard made the calculated decision to take away the flotilla of Kansas sharpshooters in their showdown at Allen Fieldhouse, where the sixth-ranked Jayhawks were trying to clinch a share of the Big 12 title Saturday.

It worked for 40 minutes.

It didn’t work for the 5 minutes of overtime.

With few other options on offense, the Jayhawks turned to bruising big man David McCormack, who responded with a memorable senior night sendoff. He poured in 22 points with 10 boards, going 10 for 10 from the foul line and throwing down the clinching dunk in the extra session, as Kansas persevered for a 70-63 victory.

“You can’t take away everything,” Beard said. “If you double McCormack, the shooters are ready. There were a couple possessions we’d like to have back, but give him a lot of his credit. A lot of his field goals were just tough March baskets.”

Jalen Wilson had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Christian Braun had 13 points and 11 boards, helping to make up for an off game from Ochai Agbaji and help the Jayhawks (25-6, 14-4) clinch the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament.

They will play the Kansas State-West Virginia winner in Thursday’s quarterfinal round in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Jayhawks tied the game 61-all when Agbaji, who was 0-for-10 shooting at that point, hit his only field goal with 2:37 left in overtime. Courtney Ramey came up empty at the other end for Texas, and McCormack made two foul shots to give Kansas the lead before Wilson added two more to provide some breathing room.

McCormack’s dunk punctuated a big performance on senior night for the bruising big man.

“It was definitely a battle throughout the game,” he said. “They fought hard. We’re playing at home. We knew the stakes on the line. We did what we were supposed to do. It’s just a great feeling, all the practices and workouts we put in.”

Ramey finished with 18 points for the Longhorns (21-10, 10-8), who will be the No. 4 seed and open against fifth-seeded TCU in the league tourney. Andrew Jones added 12 points while Timmy Allen had nine on 2-for-15 shooting.

“I’m a big believer in March you need to have three or four special performances,” Beard said. “We get big games from Ramey and Jones and we’re kind of missing that third guy today.”

The Jayhawks nearly won the game in regulation.

They drew up the final play for Agbaji, their national player of the year candidate, but he was bottled up and had to call timeout with 2.2 seconds left. Kansas got the inbound to him, too, but the ball was ripped away and ended up with Jalen Coleman-Lands, whose swish from the corner in front of his own bench came just after the buzzer.

The Jayhawks didn’t let it come down to the final seconds in overtime.

“We battled one of the best teams in the country,” Ramey said, “and just ran out of time.”

Texas controlled most of the first half, going 5 of 8 from beyond the arc after a 3-for-20 performance against the Jayhawks in February. And the Longhorns held Agbaji, the Big 12’s leading scorer, to an 0-for-6 effort from the field.

Not exactly the farewell to Allen Fieldhouse that Agbaji had in mind.

Still, the Jayhawks closed on a big run to take a 35-33 lead into the break.

Braun did most of the work: He drilled a tying 3-pointer with just over 2 minutes to go, then knocked down another with a minute left, and should have added a couple free throws if not for a questionable offensive charging foul.

In fact, the officials spent most of the second half trying to wrestle control of a game trending toward a rock fight.

That was reflected in the Longhorns’ rapidly worsening foul trouble. By the time Christian Bishop picked up his fourth with 5:21 left, sending Kansas to the double bonus, coach Chris Beard had three on the verge of fouling out: Marcus Carr, his No. 2 scorer, and 6-foot-6 Brock Cunningham, who’d been forced to battle in the paint all game.

It was only fitting that a game nobody led by more than six in regulation came down to the wire.

Jones hit his only 3-pointer to knot it 55-all, then the teams traded free throws, with Ramey making the first of his two with 54 seconds left, putting the game all square and eventually into overtime.

The Jayhawks took care of things from there.

“We needed to beat Texas,” Braun said. “It didn’t matter if it was ugly.”

BIG PICTURE

Texas sent the Jayhawks to the foul line 36 times, where they made 28 shots, and that proved to be the difference. The Longhorns also committed 15 turnovers and were outrebounded, 49-42.

Kansas was playing for the third time in five days thanks to a rescheduled game against TCU, but the Jayhawks managed to gut out another senior night win. They’ve won 39 straight since the 1983-84 season.

UP NEXT

The Jayhawks and Longhorns prepare to play their quarterfinal games Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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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

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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.