Duke beats Texas Tech 78-73 to send Coach K to Elite 8

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN FRANCISCO — Mike Krzyzewski has spent more than four decades at Duke telling his players what to do, with championship-level results.

With his Hall of Fame career in danger of coming to an end, Krzyzewski let his players dictate the game-closing defensive strategy of switching from an uncharacteristic zone defense into Duke’s famous man-to-man.

The key defensive stops and two late baskets by Jeremy Roach moved Krzyzewski within one win of his record-setting 13th trip to the Final Four in his farewell season with a 78-73 win over Texas Tech on Thursday night.

Krzyzewski said the players came to him during a late timeout like a “Catholic boys’ choir,” asking in unison for the switch to man that led to three straight stops and turned the game in Duke’s favor.

“With this team they’re so young and they’re still growing,” Krzyzewski said. “Whenever they can own something, they’re going to do it better than if we just run it. When they said that, I felt they’re going to own it. They’ll make it work, and that’s probably more important than strategy during that time. So that’s the way I looked at it.”

Roach did the rest with two jumpers during a 7-0 run as the steady sophomore came through in the clutch for a second straight game to send second-seeded Duke (31-6) into an Elite Eight matchup against fourth-seeded Arkansas.

Paolo Banchero led Duke with 22 points, Mark Williams scored 16 and Roach added 15 as the Blue Devils made their final eight shots from the field to hold off third-seeded Texas Tech (27-10) and give Coach K his record 100th NCAA Tournament victory.

“I would say all year in the biggest moments we’ve always stepped up, and there’s no bigger moment than this,” Banchero said. “I don’t know about these guys, but I’ve never played in a basketball game like that.”

As compelling as the action on the court was in this taut West Region semifinal, the story of this Blue Devils run has surrounded the farewell tour of their Hall of Fame coach.

Krzyzewski announced last June he would retire after this season. After missing the tournament last year, Duke was back with a roster filled with NBA prospects and capable of delivering Krzyzewski his sixth title.

Duke played from behind for much of the first half but was much sharper offensively in the second half. Williams got free for three easy baskets early in the half to get the Blue Devils rolling.

Then the vocal Duke contingent on hand for the first NCAA Tournament games in San Francisco since 1939 made its presence known midway through the half when A.J. Griffin tied the game at 47 with his third 3-pointer and Banchero followed with a jumper that gave Duke the lead.

But a Red Raiders team featuring four super seniors and five players with more than 120 career games didn’t go away and the game stayed tight as Duke used the zone to negate Texas Tech’s strength advantage.

“They have a Hall of Fame coach in Coach K over there and he was trying to find a way to slow us down because we were scoring,” guard Adonis Arms said. “I just think if we would have just recognized it a little quicker, it would have been fine. But it was a great adjustment from Coach K.”

Kevin McCullar and Banchero traded 3s with Banchero’s long-range shot putting Duke up 69-68 with less than three minutes to play.

That’s when Duke made the switch back to man defense. Roach made two jumpers and the defense did the rest with Krzyzewski even throwing in a patented Duke floor slap for good measure. Bryson Williams had a shot blocked by Mark Williams, committed a turnover and shot an airball.

“The slapping the floor, what the hell? Why not?” Krzyzewski said. “Our guys really wanted that because it’s kind of like a cross the bridge to the brotherhood. They can now say they did that.”

Griffin’s two free throws with 12.9 seconds to play gave Duke a 77-73 lead. Arms then missed a 3-pointer and Krzyzewski gave an emphatic fist pump to celebrate his 17th trip to the Elite Eight.

Bryson Williams scored 21 points to lead Texas Tech and McCullar added 17. Kevin Obanor had 10 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double in six career tournament games.

BIG PICTURE

Texas Tech: Coach Mark Adams’ first season has been a remarkable one as he brought in four senior transfers after taking over what had been a thinned-out roster following Chris Beard’s departure for Texas. The Red Raiders made it to their third Sweet 16 in the past four tournaments.

“I thought it was an unbelievable year,” Adams said. “It’s just a team that just reached all kinds of heights no one ever thought was possible.”

Duke: The Blue Devils have been carrying a heavy responsibility trying to cap Krzyzewski’s final season with a championship. The young players showed some nerves early, missing four of five shots and committing three turnovers, leading to a quick timeout by Krzyzewski. They quickly steadied things and got right back into the game but struggled to generate any consistent offense until the second half.

BLOCK OR CHARGE?

There was a lighthearted moment in the first half when Roach came up with a loose ball and was trying to take it up court in transition. Roach stepped on the sideline and then ran into an official before falling down right next to Duke’s bench.

The official ruled for the ball to go back to Texas Tech but Krzyzewski jokingly signaled for a block on the referee instead.

UP NEXT

Duke will play Arkansas on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four. The only previous tournament meeting between the schools came in the 1994 title game that Arkansas won 76-72.

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.