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UConn lands transfer guard R.J. Cole

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UConn landed one of the offseason’s most highly-recruited transfers on Tuesday night as Howard guard R.J. Cole pledged to the Huskies during a visit to campus.

The reigning MEAC Player of the Year, Cole led the conference in scoring as both a freshman and a sophomore as the 6-foot-1 guard put up 21.4 points, 6.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game this past season. A high-usage player, Cole shot 41 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three-point range as a sophomore.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Cole will have to sit out the 2019-2020 season for the Huskies before he has two years of eligibility remaining. While Cole has put up monster numbers in one of the weakest Division I conferences in college basketball, it’ll be interesting to see how he produces with high-major talent all around him.

Cole has shown an ability to score and set up teammates in the MEAC, but he doesn’t have a lot of experience going against high-quality programs. Cole did score 28 points in a blowout loss to Georgetown last season, but Howard didn’t play any other power conference teams during the season.

No. 9 Houston beats UConn 71-63 for 9th straight victory

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HARTFORD, Conn. — DeJon Jarreau had 18 points and seven assists to help No. 9 Houston beat UConn 71-63 on Thursday night for its ninth straight victory.

Armoni Brooks added 12 points for the Cougars (24-1, 11-1 American Athletic Conference). They opened the second half with a 17-4 run to take control.

Christian Vital had 15 points for UConn (13-12, 4-8). The Huskies have lost three straight since a knee injury took out scoring leader Jalen Adams.

Jarreau’s driving layup gave Houston a 17-point lead with just over 7 1/2 minutes to go. UConn cut it to 61-55 after a 3-pointer by Sidney Wilson and a free throw from Christian Vital.

Another driving layup by Jarreau, followed by a steal and two foul shots from Cedrick Alley Jr. brought the lead back to double digits.

The Huskies failed to capitalize on 21 Houston fouls, going 14 of 25 from the line.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies played without two stars. Junior point guard Alterique Gilbert missed his fifth straight game since suffering the latest in a series of injuries to his left shoulder. Adams has what may turn out to be a season-ending knee injury. The Huskies are 1-4 since Gilbert’s injury.

Houston: The Cougars’ bench, led by Jarreau, outscored UConn’s 42-9. Chris Harris Jr., Cedrick Alley Jr. and Brison Gresham were a combined 9 for 9 from the floor.

Judge dismisses ex-UConn coach Kevin Ollie’s request amid arbitration

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Former University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie has lost a bid to stop the school from unilaterally ending arbitration proceedings related to his firing if he files a racial discrimination complaint against UConn.

Federal Judge Kari Dooley in Bridgeport on Monday approved a motion by UConn to reject Ollie’s request, deciding it was filed prematurely. Dooley did not rule on the merits of the request.

Ollie and UConn officials are in arbitration related to his internal grievance over his firing last March. Collective bargaining rules say UConn can end the arbitration if Ollie files a discrimination complaint with either the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Ollie is concerned that deadlines to file a discrimination complaint will pass before the arbitration is complete, and he asked the judge to allow him to move forward with the complaint during the arbitration. UConn has said it won’t waive the collective bargaining rules if Ollie files a complaint.

The university fired Ollie in March after a 14-18 season, citing NCAA recruiting violations. The school said that because the firing was “for cause,” it did not have to pay Ollie about $10 million left on his contract.

Ollie, who is black, plans to file a racial discrimination complaint against UConn, saying the school treated him differently from former coach Jim Calhoun, who is white and wasn’t fired after being penalized for recruiting violations.

Ollie’s lawyers said Dooley’s ruling will allow Ollie to raise the same issues at a later date and that they are confident Ollie will be able to file his discrimination claims after the arbitration.

“We are obviously disappointed by the court’s decision,” Ollie lawyer Jacques Parenteau said in a statement. “We believe that the University of Connecticut’s efforts to deter Coach Ollie from pursuing and preserving his discrimination claims are sufficient to trigger the jurisdiction of the federal court. We are reviewing the decision for purposes of appeal.

“Kevin Ollie understands that fighting for his rights against the University of Connecticut is a difficult undertaking, but make no mistake about it; Kevin Ollie is playing a long game,” the statement said.

Messages seeking comment were left with UConn’s lawyers.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Bizarre double ejection in UConn/Tulsa; Iowa State, Kansas State earn huge Big 12 wins

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After Tuesday night’s craziness in college hoops, things were bound to slow down on a Wednesday that only featured a few intriguing conference games. Of course, things got weird with a double head-coach ejection in the American while the Big 12 had some enticing contests.

UCONN’S DAN HURLEY AND TULSA’S FRANK HAITH HIT WITH DOUBLE DOUBLE-TECHNICALS. YOU READ THAT RIGHT. 

Strange ejections went down in the American on Wednesday night when UConn head Dan Hurley and Tulsa’s Frank Haith were both kicked out — as they were trying to shake hands to make amends for an argument. The bizarre incident occured one day after Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin was ejected, as the American has a lot of incidents like this being talked about lately.

Tulsa ended up holding on for the close 89-83 win as Jeriah Horne dropped 27 points.

Both head coaches released statements after the game, as well as the officials, as this will surely be talked about among sports talking heads for all of Thursday.

IOWA STATE WIN AT No. 8 TEXAS TECH AFTER LOSING TWO STRAIGHT

After dropping two straight games in which they had a chance to win late, a young Iowa State team showed rapid maturation in an important 68-64 win over No. 8 Texas Tech.

Falling to Baylor and Kansas State, the Cyclones avenged those losses and even held everything together once Texas Tech made a late rally. Getting multiple important stops and doing just enough offensively to finish the job, this is a great job by Iowa State to win an important Big 12 road game while staying right in the mix of a very crowded Big 12 race.

Now that unbeaten Texas Tech has fallen, every team in the Big 12 has lost at least one game in conference play as a deep conference looks like it’s going to be a bloodbath once again.

KANSAS STATE BLOWS OUT No. 20 OKLAHOMA IN NORMAN

Perhaps more than any other team going on Wednesday night, Kansas State needed a win to help its cause. With the Wildcats right on the bubble for a handful of NCAA tournament projections, an opportunity for a road win against another ranked team would be huge.

After knocking off Iowa State on the road the last game, Kansas State earned its second straight Big 12 road win over a ranked team with a convincing 74-61 win over the Sooners. The back-to-back road wins are the first true road wins of the season for the Wildcats — who appear to be gaining confidence.

Senior guard Barry Brown Jr. poured in 25 points — his third straight outing of at least 23 points — to pace the Kansas State offense as he’s looked like a consistent go-to scorer in recent wins.

UConn’s Hurley, Tulsa’s Haith ejected after confrontation ‘escalated by the officials’

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The UConn and Tulsa game turned into a mess on Wednesday night after a bizarre incident in which both head coaches, UConn’s Dan Hurley and Tulsa’s Frank Haith, were ejected after a pair of double technicals were issued..

As seen in the video below, the two coaches got into a verbal argument over a foul call. That resulted in the duo both receiving a technical foul. Then things got strange. As Hurley and Haith appeared to be mending fences with a handshake with official Pat Adams seemingly in control of the situation, another official — Marques Pettigrew — cam in from the other side of the floor and each coach received a second technical foul. It is the first double head coaching ejection in the American.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Hurley told reporters after the game. “It was surreal, I would say.

“Watch what happened on TV. It’s very clear. I was talking to the official, and then I was engaged by someone on the other sideline. They said my name, in my direction, so I turned and looked [with] kind of a look of surprise.

“I’ve known Frank for a very long time — probably 15, 18, 20 years, back to when I was a high school coach and he recruited my players. I feel as though that situation escalated because of the officials and the way they handled the situation.”

Haith agreed.

“I don’t feel like it was to that level,” he said. “There was competitive conversation. I didn’t know the both of us got a first technical. I would have hoped it would have been handled a lot differently.”

“That was embarrassing,” Hurley added. “It’s embarrassing for the conference, for both me and Frank, and on the heels of last night, it’s not a good look for our league. It’s just very disappointing the way that thing was handled.”

This comes on the heels of Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin getting ejected on Tuesday night as the conference appears to be on a hot streak with tossing coaches. Cronin acknowledged that he had never been ejected from a game before.

It is the second time that Hurley has been ejected in his first season at UConn. He was also tossed in a loss to Iowa in Madison Square Garden earlier this season.

Checking in on 2018’s biggest college basketball coaching hires

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We are now nearly two months into the college basketball season, with non-conference play just about done and the league schedule coming up on the horizon.

With that in mind, it is a perfect time to check in on how some of the biggest coaching hires around the country are doing. 

CHRIS MACK, Louisville

It’s hard to argue with the work Mack has done early on this season. The Cardinals are sitting at 9-3 on the season. They’ve knocked off Michigan State in overtime, a marquee win that is going to be at the top of their NCAA tournament resume three months from now. They won at Seton Hall, a pleasant surprise out of the Big East that could end up getting to the NCAA tournament. Their three losses have come against Tennessee, Marquette and at Indiana, all of whom are on track to go dancing; Tennessee and Marquette could win their league.

Mack could very well get this group to the NCAA tournament, and that’s to say nothing of just how good his recruiting class is coming in next season. Louisville fans are going to be very, very happy with this hire.

DAN HURLEY, UConn

In UConn’s third game of the season, the Huskies went into Madison Square Garden and knocked off then-No. 15 Syracuse. That was awesome. Since then, they’ve gotten smoked by Iowa and Villanova, lost at home to a mediocre Arizona and dropped a game in New Jersey to a really good Florida State. The 9-4 start is better than what was expected, but it’s also been something of a mixed bag.

That said, UConn is playing a new, more entertaining brand of basketball. Hurley has reinvigorated the fanbase. He’s recruiting his tail off. UConn is probably headed to the NIT, but I don’t think UConn fans are going to complain.

PENNY HARDAWAY, Memphis

The Tigers are 7-5 on the season, which is just about where we thought they would be heading into the year even if it is somewhat disappointing. The Tigers had a chance to knock off LSU on the road, Charleston and Texas Tech on a neutral court and whiffed.

But this isn’t the year that really matters, not when Penny has a young team that is going to be stocked with local talent — James Wiseman anyone? — in the coming years. The thing that matters is that he is selling out FedEx Forum again, and that’s not something that happened in recent seasons under Tubby Smith.

TOM CREAN, Georgia

Crean’s Bulldogs have not been great, but they have probably been better than what their record is. Their first three losses come on the road or neutral floors against good teams. They were up 18 points at home against Arizona State before they lost that game. They are coming off of a win at Georgia Tech, which is more about bragging rights than a resume, but a win is a win is a win. It will take time, but the early returns could certainly be worse.

JEFF CAPEL, Pitt

The Panthers haven’t really done anything this season besides land a win over Saint Louis on a neutral court. They lost at Iowa and at West Virginia. They lost to Niagara. Their two best wins are against Atlantic 10 teams. But coming off of a winless ACC season, they are 9-3 on the season. It’s hard to complain too much about that.

TRAVIS STEELE, Xavier

Steele has finished his first non-conference season, and it certainly could have been worse. The Musketeers beat just about every team they were supposed to beat, including a win over Illinois on a neutral floor. The problem is they didn’t really beat anyone of note and lost all five games against teams with a shot at an at-large — Wisconsin, Auburn, San Diego State, Cincinnati and Missouri. The silver lining is that all five of those losses came away from the Cintas Center.

KERMIT DAVIS, Ole Miss

Are the Rebels a team that we need to keep an eye on? They are currently sitting with a 9-2 record and just one non-conference game left on their schedule. They’ve beaten Baylor on a neutral, won at Illinois State and picked off a good San Diego team. Their only two losses came at Butler and against Cincinnati on a neutral court.

BEST OF THE REST

For the most part, taking over a new job is never going to be an easy endeavor. There’s usually a reason the jobs open up in the first place, and it’s not normally because the coach that was there the previous season was hired by a bigger school.

Here are four names off the beaten path that are excelling in their first year at a new program.

DARIAN DEVRIES, Drake: Devries walked into a pretty good situation. He took over for Niko Medved, a notorious program builder that was in charge for just one year before taking Colorado State, and has thrived. Drake is 10-2 on the season after wins over a pair of good teams in New Mexico State and San Diego in the Las Vegas Classic. With the Missouri Valley wide open this season, the Bulldogs are a team to keep an eye on.

JUSTIN HUTSON, Fresno State: We all thought that San Diego State would be the threat to Nevada in the Mountain — and they might be — but on paper, Fresno State is one of the two teams (we’ll get to the other in a second) that looks capable of picking off the conference’s headliner. The Bulldogs are 9-2 on the season with wins over Cal, Northwestern and Weber State, and they are still missing their best player, Deshon Taylor.

SAM SCHOLL, San Diego: Things were going better for the Toreros if they had pulled off the overtime win against Drake on Sunday night, but they couldn’t get it done. They’re now 10-4 on the season, but their first three losses came against Washington, Ole Miss and Oregon.

CRAIG SMITH, Utah State: The Aggies are the other Mountain West team that we need to keep an eye on. Off to a 9-3 start under Craig Smith, USU has a nice win over Saint Mary’s and a good mid-major foe in UC Irvine. There was a chance that the Aggies could earn an at-large bid, but they whiffed on chances against Arizona State, BYU and Houston.