Martin, Kansas hold off Creighton 79-72 for another Sweet 16

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Remy Martin hadn’t led Kansas in scoring all season coming into the NCAA Tournament.

The fifth-year senior transfer from Arizona State is 2 for 2 on the big stage.

Martin scored 20 points, Ochai Agbaji put the Jayhawks ahead for good with his first basket early in the second half, and Kansas held off Creighton 79-72 on Saturday to advance to the Sweet 16.

A sore knee had Martin in and out of the lineup before he missed almost a month during Big 12 play. His first two double-figure games since December came in the Big 12 Tournament, helping the Jayhawks (30-6) win that title.

Now he’s led them to their 32nd Sweet 16, where they will play either Richmond or Providence.

“With the guys and my family, the group, they’re a pretty tight-knit group,” Martin said. “They keep my confidence going. They keep my mental going. I always felt like I had something in me, but there’s nothing to it. I just keep it simple.”

The short-handed Bluejays (23-12) stayed close with an uncharacteristically hot showing from 3-point range. One of the worst teams in the country from beyond the arc, ninth-seeded Creighton went 12 of 28. Arthur Kaluma was 4 of 10 and scored 24 points.

The biggest 3 came from freshman Trey Alexander, who swished an off-balance heave from well behind the line as the shot clock was about to expire for a 73-70 deficit with 2:25 to go. Keyshawn Feazell’s bucket soon after got Creighton within one.

The Bluejays had a chance to go ahead in the final minute, but Alexander’s errant pass went off Alex O’Connell’s hands. Agbaji scooped up the loose ball and took for a breakaway dunk, the last of his 13 second-half points.

Agbaji finished with 15 points, Christian Braun added 13 with a big 3 late in the second half and Jalen Wilson had 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Creighton, which reached the Sweet 16 last year, used just six players after losing 7-footer Ryan Kalkbrenner to a knee injury late in overtime of a 72-69 win over San Diego State on Thursday.

Point guard Ryan Nembhard, the Big East freshman of the year, was lost to wrist surgery late in the season, forcing the Bluejays to lean more on Alexander.

“Just to be resilient to come back and keep getting up every time you get knocked down, it’s just a silly little game, but I think it teaches you a lot about life in that regard,” senior Ryan Hawkins said. “I think this group’s got a lot of fire in them. I couldn’t be prouder of how we finished the season out.”

Hawkins drained a 3-pointer from well behind the arc 13 seconds into the game for Creighton and finished 3 of 6 from distance with 14 points. O’Connell was 3 of 8 and scored 16. Alexander finished with 14 points.

Martin, the 6-foot guard who scored 15 points in a blowout of Texas Southern in the opening round, had 16 in the first half off the bench. The Bluejays gave him room to shoot, and he went 2 of 4 from 3 and 6 of 9 overall before the break.

“You’ve got to have guys take some marginal shots and make them,” coach Bill Self said. “And Remy obviously took good shots, but you don’t expect a guy … you don’t expect point guards to do that. But that kept us in the game. We’re a different team with him.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: The Bluejays wouldn’t go away in the second half despite having three players on the court the entire 40 minutes and another for 38. They struggled to get closer than six points before the surge that gave them a chance to pull the upset.

“It was a good chess match in that regard,” coach Greg McDermott said. “The only difference is (Self) had nine or 10 guys down there to choose from, and we had seven.”

Kansas: The go-ahead bucket by Agbaji early in the second half came after the Big 12 player of the year missed all four shots in the first half. He was 1 of 7 from the field when he soared for an offensive rebound and hit the putback. His only 3-pointer came later.

FIT TO BE TIED

Kansas tied Kentucky in all-time wins and 30-win seasons. Each program has 2,353 wins and 16 seasons with at 30 victories. The milestones came two days after Kentucky lost to Saint Peter’s 85-79 in overtime as the second seed in the East Region.

ALLEY-OOPING PAIR

O’Connell and Kaluma connected on alley-oop dunks twice, with O’Connell feeding Kaluma both times. The first was late in the first half. The second came soon after halftime, and drew a smile from O’Connell as he glanced toward his teammate on their way to the other end of the court.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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