Kentucky stuns No. 1 South Carolina to win SEC women’s title

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Kentucky Wildcats came to the Southeastern Conference women’s tournament needing a great run to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Thanks to four wins in as many days, their berth is secure as SEC tournament champs.

“Nope! We are not on the bubble,” second-year Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy said. “We have our ticket punched! We are going!”

Dre’una Edwards hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left, and the Wildcats rallied from 15 points down to upset top-ranked South Carolina 64-62 on Sunday to win their first SEC tournament championship since 1982.

Kentucky set up the shot out of a timeout with 11 seconds left. Pass the ball to whoever was open, then catch and shoot. South Carolina tried, but couldn’t foul in time.

“I had to let it fly,” Edwards said.

Elzy started running up the sideline as soon Edwards’ shot went up, knowing it was good. Kentucky senior Rhyne Howard watched as the ball went through the air and compared it to a moment in the movies.

“We knew it was game,” Howard said. “We knew we just won.”

Kentucky hadn’t even reached this game since 2014. These seventh-seeded Wildcats (19-11) won their 10th straight game with this the biggest yet after knocking off sixth-ranked LSU and No. 18 Tennessee to get to this championship.

It marks a dramatic turnaround for a program that started SEC play 2-8 with Elzy suspending Edwards for four games only to become the first to knock off this tournament’s top three seeds to win the title. Kentucky is the first No. 7 seed to win with ninth-seeded Auburn in 1997 the only lower seed to ever win this event.

The Wildcats not only snapped South Carolina’s 18-game winning streak this season, they also ended the Gamecocks’ search for a third straight SEC tournament title for the regular season champs.

“Hats off to Kentucky,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “They’re hot. They’re streaking. We’ve been on both sides, this side and the other side, and super happy for Kyra and her program and their ability to weather some storms early on and find themselves as our SEC Tournament champions.”

South Carolina (29-2) led 45-30 with 4:45 left in the third quarter seemingly minutes away from cutting down the nets again. But the Gamecocks didn’t score after Aliyah Boston’s jumper with 5:04 remained that put them up 62-53.

“I didn’t really feel like we took our foot off the gas in the fourth quarter,” Boston said. “I think we were playing, and they just found different ways to score.”

The Wildcats closed the game on an 11-0 run. Howard lost the ball with no foul called when she went down in the lane with 18.3 seconds left, giving the ball back to South Carolina. Zia Cooke missed both free throws with 16.4 seconds left to set up the final sequence.

After Kentucky took the lead, Destanni Henderson threw up the ball from just past mid-court and hit just right of the rim, setting off a wild celebration by Kentucky.

Edwards finished with 27 points, 12 in the fourth quarter with three 3s including the game-winner. Howard finished with 18 points.

South Carolina should still go into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.

Boston posted her 24th straight double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Cooke finished with 15 points.

South Carolina led 21-18 after the first and 30-21 at halftime after holding Kentucky to three points in the second. The Gamecocks were up 55-43 at the end of the third.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: Kentucky set a program record making 12 3-pointers in its semifinal upset of 18th-ranked Tennessee, shooting 50% from beyond the arc. Against the nation’s fourth-stingiest scoring defense, the Wildcats finished 6 of 14 (42.9%) after knocking down 5 of 8 in the second half.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks had only a 32-26 edge in scoring in the paint even though they outrebounded Kentucky 44-32. … They missed their final seven shots of the game. Staley was more concerned with their defense: “We gave up 21 points in the fourth quarter.”

MORE SEC HISTORY

A year ago, Staley joined Georgia coach Joni Taylor as the first Black women to coach in a Power Five tournament championship. This time, Kyra Elzy in her second season at Kentucky joined Staley to make it two straight for the SEC and Elzy took home the title this time.

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.

STAYING IN SCHOOL

TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.

GOING PRO

KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.