Durham hits clutch 3 to send No. 11 Providence past Butler

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

NEW YORK — Al Durham has made plenty of big shots for Providence this season – at the foul line. He was about the last guy anyone would expect to sink a critical 3-pointer.

That’s just how this charmed season has played out for the 11th-ranked Friars.

Durham drained a go-ahead 3 with 41 seconds left for his first basket of the game, and Providence barely got past pesky Butler 65-61 in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals Thursday.

“It was a little rough there for a second,” Durham said. “But, like you said, the last shot went in.”

Nate Watson scored a season-high 26 points for the top-seeded Friars (25-4), who avoided an early exit at Madison Square Garden after winning the first regular-season conference championship in school history.

Jared Bynum, the league’s sixth man of the year, added 16 points off the bench and defensive specialist Justin Minaya made two huge blocks as Providence advanced to the Big East semifinals for the first time since 2018 and fifth since the 2013-14 realignment.

“We didn’t do a lot of things great but we did enough to win,” said Ed Cooley, the Big East coach of the year. “And I think today was a microcosm of the type of season we’re having.”

The gritty Friars, playing for the first time in nine days, improved to 11-2 in games decided by five points or fewer. They will face No. 4 seed Creighton, a 74-63 winner over fifth-seeded Marquette, in the opener of Friday night’s doubleheader.

“Wasn’t pretty out there. We definitely showed some rust,” Cooley said. “I think a lot of that credit goes to the way Butler defended us. But just like the season has gone, I guess we saved our best for last.”

Chuck Harris had 14 points and Bryce Golden scored all 13 of his points in the second half for the ninth-seeded Bulldogs (14-19), who rallied late to beat No. 8 seed Xavier in overtime in the first round Wednesday.

Bo Hodges added 10 points and a career-best 15 rebounds. Butler, however, finished 3 for 19 from 3-point range and shot 36% overall.

“You know, it’s March, so the ball bounces one way or the other,” coach LaVall Jordan said. “A lot of credit to Providence. They’ve been doing this all year in close games. They’ve had guys that have made the shot or made the play. They’ve been surviving and advancing way beyond now. But proud of our guys for the effort and the fight.”

In the first of four sold-out quarterfinals, a boisterous crowd was decidedly in Providence’s favor.

The score was tied 55-all late in a back-and-forth second half before Simas Lukosius sank two free throws and Golden made a layup to give the Bulldogs a three-point lead with 2:38 left.

Watson snagged a loose ball out of the air, dropped in a layup and drew a foul with 1:20 remaining. But he missed the free throw that could have tied it.

Minaya blocked a shot by Harris and the ball went out of bounds to Providence. A.J. Reeves found Durham in the left corner and the Indiana transfer knocked down a clutch 3 that gave the Friars a 61-59 lead and left him 1 for 8 from the field.

It was the first 3-pointer since January for Durham, who is 20 for 96 (21%) from behind the arc this season.

“I would laugh at that, too,” Cooley said. “But you know what? He made it. And I trust him. He’s made some big shots for us the whole time.”

Cooley has called Durham his “closer” because of the lefty guard’s proficiency at the foul line – especially down the stretch. He began the week leading the Big East with 153 made free throws.

Minaya came up with another huge block at the other end flying off the weakside and Hodges missed a contested layup. Bynum hit a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds to go before Hodges scored quickly on a drive.

Providence had trouble getting the ball inbounds cleanly, but Bynum finally secured it and passed to a wide-open Durham for a dunk at the buzzer.

Golden made four straight layups, two on smooth passes from Lukosius, to account for all the points in an 8-0 run that gave Butler a 51-45 lead with 9:13 to play.

“I just try to play with a will,” Golden said. “I knew this could be our last game. And I was just trying to give it everything I had for for the dudes that don’t get any college experience after this.”

There were 26 fouls – 15 on Butler – in a tightly called first half that ended tied at 31. The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Watson bullied the Bulldogs down low and went into the break with 15 points.

“Nate was a monster the whole night,” Cooley said.

BIG PICTURE

Butler: A disappointing season ended with a heartbreaking defeat for the Bulldogs, but they certainly were a tough out in New York. Butler led for more than 21 minutes in a game that featured 11 ties and 12 lead changes. Since joining the Big East in 2013-14, their only appearance in the tournament semifinals came in 2018.

“It’s hard to look at all those guys in the locker room and know we don’t get another practice and we don’t get another road trip together,” Jordan said.

Providence: A founding member of the league in 1979, the Friars are seeking their third Big East Tournament title (1994, 2014).

UP NEXT

Providence clinched the Big East regular-season crown with a 72-51 win over Creighton at home on Feb. 26 in their only meeting. The other one was canceled because of COVID-19 protocols.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

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
0 Comments

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

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

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

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Getty Images
0 Comments

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.