Texas A&M stuns No. 15 Arkansas 82-64 to reach SEC final

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TAMPA, Fla. – Surging Texas A&M isn’t leaving its NCAA Tournament hopes to chance.

With three wins in three days over favored opponents, the eighth-seeded Aggies not only have landed an unlikely spot in the championship game of the SEC Tournament but almost certainly ensured their inclusion in the NCAA field of 68, too.

The Aggies can earn the SEC’s automatic berth by beating No. 9 Tennessee on Sunday. But even with a loss in the final, they’re likely in – only weeks after looking like they had no shot.

“That’s not up to me. I just go out there, and I play my game. That’s up to the higher-ups,” leading scorer Quenton Jackson said after his 20-point performance helped the Aggies take down No. 15 Arkansas 82-64 in the semifinals on Saturday. “I try to make sure that me and my team are on the same page and we play as hard as we can every night.”

The Aggies (23-11) took down a ranked opponent for the second straight day, with Jackson also contributing six assists, five rebounds and four steals.

A&M improved to 8-1 since ending a month-long, eight-game losing streak in February.

“I think it’s really just a testament to what we’ve been preaching to each other all week. We know that for us to have a chance to win any game, it’s got to start with our energy level and how we attack the game,” the Aggies’ Hayden Hefner said.

“I would go even further and say it’s a testament of everything that we have done since the year started, all the work that we put in from boot camp, to individuals, to practices, to all that,” Jackson added. “It’s a testament of all of that.”

Hassan Diarra, whose clutch 3-pointer in the closing seconds of overtime gave the Aggies an 83-80 victory in A&M’s tournament opener, had 12 points. Tyrece Radford and Henry Coleman contributed 12 of 11 points, respectively, after playing key roles in a five-point upset of fourth-ranked Auburn in the quarterfinals.

Arkansas (25-8) split a pair of games with the Aggies in January but was no match for them Saturday after falling behind by double digits in the first half.

Stanley Umude led the Razorbacks with 20 points. Au’Diese Toney added 18, but leading scorer JD Notae was slowed by foul trouble and limited to five points – nearly 14 below his average – on 2-of-8 shooting.

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said his team “got totally outplayed.”

“I think JD, obviously the foul trouble was problematic. It wasn’t just offense. I can’t remember JD’s defense like that since we’ve been together,” Musselman said. “So it was both sides of the basketball, to be honest with you.”

The eighth-seeded Aggies opened a double-digit lead for the third straight day, leading 36-24 at halftime after squandering a 16-point lead during its victory over Florida and nearly letting a 20-point advantage slip away in a 67-62 upset of top-seeded Auburn on Friday.

This time, the Aggies didn’t waver.

Arkansas, the No. 4 seed after winning 14 of 16 games to end the regular season, used an 8-0 burst to trim an 11-point deficit to 47-44. But Texas A&M was hardly rattled, rebuilding the lead to 11 over the next three minutes and hiking it to 68-52 on Radford’s three-point play with 6:30 to go.

Aggies coach Buzz Williams emptied his bench after leading by as many as 23 down the stretch.


College basketball icon Dick Vitale was honored before Saturday’s semifinals, with the SEC recognizing his contributions to the sport, the league and his fight against cancer. The Hall of Fame television analyst lives in nearby Sarasota, Florida, and was presented a basketball signed by the league’s 14 coaches. Vitale walked into Amalie Arena amid a standing ovation – and shouts of “Dickie V!” – and accepted the autographed ball from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey at midcourt.

The 82-year-old Vitale has been public about his treatment for assorted medical issues, including at least two forms of cancer.


Texas A&M: The Aggies are in the tournament final for the second time since moving from the Big 12 to the SEC. They lost to Kentucky in overtime in 2016.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks shot 17% from behind the 3-point arc, missing 15 of 18 attempts.


Texas A&M: Faces No. 9 Tennessee. The Volunteers won the regular season meeting between the teams 90-80 in Knoxville on Feb. 1.

Arkansas: Awaits its seeding and opening opponent in the NCAA Tournament.

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.