Former LSU forward Fudge transfers to Florida, joins Golden

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Former LSU forward Alex Fudge transferred to Florida, becoming another key building block for new coach Todd Golden.

Fudge, a Jacksonville, Florida, native, averaged 3.3 points and 3.2 rebounds as a freshman with the Tigers last season. The 6-foot-8 Fudge has a 7-foot wingspan and was a four-star prospect. He averaged 17.9 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.7 blocked shots as a senior at Lee High.

“Alex is just scratching the surface in terms of his potential,” Golden said in a statement. “He’s already proven to be an impactful defender that makes winning plays and can guard multiple positions. Offensively, we believe he will make a big jump for us getting out in transition more and playing in the middle of the floor in the half court. We can’t wait to see his growth from his freshman to his sophomore season.”

Fudge joins a roster that includes big man Colin Castleton and rising sophomore Kowacie Reeves. Both players considered leaving Florida after former coach Mike White took the Georgia job, but Golden convinced Castleton and Reeves to remain in Gainesville.

LSU basketball star Seimone Augustus to get statue at school

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BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU’s most decorated female student-athlete will become the first in school history to get her own statue, the school has announced.

Women’s basketball legend Seimone Augustus’ statue will stand outside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and join the likenesses of Pete Maravich, Bob Pettit and Shaquille O’Neal as former Tiger greats honored in such a way, officials said Monday. Augustus’ No. 33 jersey has hung from the rafters of the center since Jan. 26, 2010, when she became the first LSU female student-athlete to have her jersey retired.

During her collegiate career, Augustus was one of the most lethal scorers in the history of women’s basketball. She is one of only five Tigers to top the 2,000-point mark, finishing her career with 2,702 points, the second-highest total in program history. In 391 regular-season WNBA games, Augustus scored more than 6,000 points and ranks among the league’s Top 10 all-time scorers.

“A Seimone Augustus statue is befitting for a student-athlete whose talents, accomplishments, and impact will forever stand the test of time,” LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward said in a news release. “Seimone came to LSU as one of the most heralded recruits in school history, and she left a legacy on our campus, our state, and the sport of basketball that will never fade.”

The Minnesota Lynx chose Augustus as the No. 1 pick in the 2006 WNBA Draft and she went on to help the franchise win four championships in her 15-year WNBA career. She was named WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2006 and MVP of the 2011 WNBA Finals. She was also an eight-time All-Star and won three gold medals as a member of the United States Olympic Team in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

“Seimone Augustus is one of the greatest players in the history of our game. She has been successful at every level of basketball and what she did for this program and this university deserves to be recognized. I am proud we are able to honor Seimone with a statue where our fans will forever be able to reflect on her impact and greatness,” LSU head women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey said.

Already cast, the statue will be unveiled in the coming months.

“Words can’t express the gratitude I feel in my heart,” Augustus said of the recognition. “To leave a timeless legacy of inspiration for generations to follow is a lifelong goal, and with this announcement, I am humbly honored. Representing Louisiana has always been and always will be a driving force in my continued pursuit to greatness.”

Sheldon paces Ohio St. to 79-64 2nd-round NCAA win over LSU

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
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BATON ROUGE, La. — Jacy Sheldon had 23 points, eight assists and three steals, and sixth seed Ohio State beat No. 3 seed LSU 79-64 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night.

Taylor Mikesell scored 18 and Rebeka Mikulasikova had 12 points for the Buckeyes (25-6), who responded to a large, loud and hostile crowd in the Tigers’ home arena by seizing momentum in the opening quarter and putting LSU in the deepest deficit it had face all season at 24 points late in the third quarter.

LSU (26-6), which overcame a 10-point deficit inside the final five minutes of their first round game against Jackson State two days earlier, lacked the firepower to climb out of a bigger hole against Sheldon and Co.

Khayla Pointer, the Tigers’ second-team All-America guard, scored 32 points, but also missed 18 of her 30 shots, her dry spells coming as the Buckeyes pulled away. Jailin Cherry scored 12 points for LSU, which hit just twice from 3-point range on eight attempts.

Autumn Newby grabbed 10 rebounds for the Tigers.

Ohio State led by eight at halftime and put LSU in a deep hole by opening the third quarter with a 13-2 run that Mikesell capped with a deep 3 to give the Buckeyes a 47-28 lead.

Later in the third, Sheldon hit consecutive 3s from each side of the court to make it 57-33.

After Pointer hit a 3 on LSU’s first shot of the game, the Tigers missed 15 of their next 17 shots. That’s when Sheldon began to exert her full-court influence on the game, converting three steals into fast-break layups in a span of little more than two minutes.

The third of those baskets gave Ohio State a 12-8 lead, and then Mikesell hit her first 3 of the game to put the Buckeye up 15-8 after one period.

Rebeka Mikulasikova and Mikesell each hit two 3s as Ohio State widened its lead to as much as nine in the second quarter.

Pointer, who had 11 first-half points, helped stem the tide with a jumper and a driving, double-pump scoop off the glass.

But Rikki Harris’ offensive rebound of a missed jumper and kick out to the top of the key set up Braxtin Miller’s 3 to give Ohio State a 34-26 lead at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: The Buckeyes overcame the the Tigers’ front-court size advantage by shooting well from outside and effectively defending the paint when Pointer tried to drive. Ohio State’s 10 3s on 22 attempts were more than their average per game coming in and they shot 48.3% overall (28 of 58).

Meanwhile, Harris, a starting guard, was helped back to the Ohio State locker room with about three minutes left after falling hard along the sideline and crashing into the scorers’ table.

LSU: The Tigers eight points in the opening quarter tied for their lowest scoring quarter of the season. It was a bad omen as they struggled with their shooting all night. The Tigers finished 25 of 68 shooting (37%), committed 11 turnovers that led to 16 Ohio State points and missed 10 of 22 free throws.

Still, coach Kim Mulkey’s first season at LSU was an enormous success

UP NEXT:

Ohio State advances to the Spokane Region semifinals against second seed Texas on Friday.

Hunter scores 23 as Iowa State edges LSU in NCAA tourney

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE — Freshman Tyrese Hunter scored 23 points and Iowa State made itself at home in Milwaukee once again, using its hard-nosed defense to beat No. 6 seed LSU 59-54 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

Izaiah Brockington added 19 points as the 11th-seeded Cyclones (21-12) got their first win in the NCAA tourney since 2017 – also in Milwaukee. They held the Tigers to 37% shooting and forced 19 turnovers, stopping a three-game slide.

Hunter, who grew up in nearby Racine, made six of his seven 3-pointers in the second half, sending coach T.J. Otzelberger to one sweet victory. The 44-year-old Otzelberger grew up in Milwaukee, went to Wisconsin-Whitewater and began his coaching career at Catholic Central High School in Burlington.

Otzelberger was hired after Iowa State won just two games last season. Now the Cyclones are into the second round of the Midwest Region, where they will face the Colgate-Wisconsin winner on Sunday.

Tari Eason scored 18 points for LSU, and senior Darius Days had 14. But they didn’t get much help.

It was the first game for the Tigers since coach Will Wade was fired last weekend amid allegations of NCAA violations. Associate head coach Bill Armstrong also was let go.

An LSU fan in the stands behind the team’s bench held up a sign that read “Win For WADE” as the game got started.

Kevin Nickelberry was elevated to interim coach, and the Tigers turned in their usual stellar effort on defense. But they struggled on the other side. The team also received a technical for having too many players on the court at one point in the second half.

Iowa State, which shot 36% from the field, opened a 50-39 lead on Brockington’s 3 with 7:09 left. But LSU responded with an 11-1 run.

After Days’ foul shot got the Tigers within one, Hunter connected on a long 3 to give the Cyclones some room. He nailed another long one from a similar spot with 19 seconds left, lifting his team to a 59-54 lead.

In between all the missed shots and turnovers, each team had its moments. Hunter had an acrobatic layup early on, and then beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer for a 24-12 lead with 6:37 left in the first half.

But LSU came right back. Eric Gaines had a huge block on a driving Brockington with 4:35 left, part of a 7-0 run for the Tigers to close the first half.

The halftime numbers were bleak; Iowa State was 9 for 27 from the field, and LSU was 7 for 27 with 10 turnovers.

CLOSE TIES

Hunter played for Nick Bennett at St. Catherine’s High School. Bennett is the cousin of Virginia coach Tony Bennett and the nephew of former Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett.

BIG PICTURE

LSU: The coaching search is on. Look for athletic director Scott Woodward to try for another big name after hiring football coach Brian Kelly from Notre Dame, Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey from Baylor and baseball coach Jay Johnson from Arizona.

Iowa State: It wasn’t pretty, but the Cyclones will take it. They very nearly squandered their big lead down the stretch.

LSU fires Wade, citing NCAA probe and ‘shroud of negativity’

Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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LSU has fired men’s basketball coach Will Wade for cause amid “serious” allegations of NCAA violations, the university announced Saturday in a joint statement from its president and athletic director.

The firing comes the day after LSU was bounced from the Southeastern Conference Tournament by Arkansas, 79-67, in a quarterfinal game Friday night.

“For more than four years, the University has patiently allowed the NCAA investigative process to unfold, jointly working with the NCAA Enforcement Staff and, subsequently, with the Complex Case Unit (CCU), to ensure the evidence collected was as thorough and fair as possible,” said the statement signed by President William F. Tate and athletic director Scott Woodward. “Throughout that time, the University and its men’s basketball program have operated under an exhausting shroud of negativity.”

Wade did not immediately return a message left on his personal phone by The Associated Press. The allegations against him stem from a wide FBI investigation into corrupt practices in college basketball that has implicated major programs including Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, Oklahoma State, North Carolina State and Auburn.

The Complex Case Unit this past week issued LSU a formal notice of allegations, which “contains serious allegations, including multiple charges alleging Coach Wade’s personal involvement in – or awareness of – Level I misconduct,” the LSU statement said. “We can no longer subject our University, Department of Athletics, and – most importantly – our student-athletes, to this taxing and already-lengthy process without taking action. Our responsibility to protect and promote the integrity and well-being of our entire institution and our student-athletes will always be paramount.”

Level I violations can include a head coach’s lack of oversight on compliance matters; failure to cooperate in an NCAA investigation; unethical or dishonest conduct; or prohibited cash or similar benefits provided to recruits.

LSU’s statement, however, stressed that Wade’s firing was “not an acknowledgement of agreement with any of the allegations. The University will determine its positions on the allegations after an exhaustive and objective examination of the relevant facts.”

The university also fired associate head coach Bill Armstrong and named assistant coach Kevin Nickelberry as interim head coach. LSU went 22-11 this season (9-9 in the SEC) and appears likely to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Suspicion of wrongdoing has followed Wade since 2019 reports about leaked excerpts of an FBI wiretap that captured Wade speaking with a person convicted of funneling illegal payments to the families of college basketball recruits.

In transcripts of the phone call, Wade discussed presenting a “strong” offer to an apparent third party who represented then-LSU player Javonte Smart, who has since turned pro.

Wade was suspended for LSU’s 2019 regular-season finale and the postseason before being reinstated later that spring with an amended contract stating that LSU could fire him for cause if he was found to have committed serious NCAA violations.

It was not clear from the leaked transcripts whether Smart himself knew about the offer, and after being held out for LSU’s regular-season finale, he was cleared to play in the SEC and NCAA tournaments. Wade, meanwhile, was replaced for the regular-season finale and the postseason on an interim basis by assistant Tony Benford.

Wade, 39, was hired by LSU in 2017 after a successful two-year stint at Virginia Commonwealth. He went 105-51 at LSU (not counting games for which he was suspended).

LSU won the 2019 SEC regular-season crown in just Wade’s second season. Last season, the Tigers advanced to the SEC Tournament final for the first time since 1993, narrowly losing to Alabama.

Six of Wade’s recruits are playing or have seen playing time in the NBA: Naz Reid (Minnesota), Cameron Thomas (Brooklyn), Smart (Miami), Trendon Watford (Portland), Skyler Mays (Atlanta) and Tremont Waters (Boston, Toronto, Washington).

Wade’s departure comes as part an apparent housecleaning by Woodward, a Louisiana native who was lured away from Texas A&M in April 2019. Since then, he has plucked football coach Brian Kelly from Notre Dame to replace Ed Orgeron, Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey from Baylor to replace Nikki Fargas, baseball coach Jay Johnson from Arizona to replace Paul Mainieri and now is launching a men’s basketball coaching search.

Political pundit James Carville, an LSU graduate and New Orleans resident who knows Woodward personally, predicted that the Tigers’ next coach “will have won a lot of basketball games somewhere else.”

Woodward, Carville added, is a “proven commodity type of guy.”

Howard scores 26, Kentucky beats No. 6 LSU in SEC quarters

Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rhyne Howard shook off a right ankle issue in the opening minutes and losing her right shoe in the fourth quarter to keep the Kentucky Wildcats streaking.

Howard scored 32 points, and Kentucky never trailed beating No. 6 LSU 78-63 Friday night in the Southeastern Conference women’s tournament quarterfinals for their eighth straight win.

“Usually I don’t have that much space to get my shot off,” Howard said. “So when I see it, I’m taking it and it was just going in tonight.”

Kentucky (17-11) reached the semifinals for the second time in three seasons and 17th overall. The Wildcats will play either No. 18 Tennessee or Alabama in the semifinals Saturday.

Dre’Una Edwards scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Kentucky. Treasure Hunt also had 13 points, and Robyn Benton added 11.

LSU (25-5) saw its eight-game winning streak snapped.

The Tigers will have to wait for the NCAA Tournament bracket announcement after Kentucky spoiled coach Kim Mulkey’s SEC Tournament debut. She came dressed for the occasion in a sparkling top with a tiger face after overseeing a 16-win improvement in her first season as LSU earned its highest seed since 2008.

“They just came out on fire,” Mulkey said. “I watched them play the previous games, and they have all their parts back. They have everybody healthy.”

Mulkey drew a technical with 1:36 left. She came onto the court yelling at an official as players went back up-court, insisting Jazmine Massengill fouled LSU guard Khayla Pointer on a 3-point attempt. Howard hit both free throws, then hit a short jumper on the ensuing possession to pad Kentucky’s lead to 74-58.

The LSU coach explained afterward she believed Pointer was fouled after the shot. Mulkey said that’s been a point of emphasis called on her Tigers two or three times this season.

“I thought after the contest she just laid on top of Khayla,” Mulkey said. “And that’s what I saw. I haven’t seen the replay.”

Pointer led LSU with 27 points, and Ryann Payne added 13.

Kentucky opened with a bang, scoring the first six points. When Howard came up limping, the Wildcats’ hopes looked in danger. She got her right ankle re-taped on the sideline. Once back on the court, the two-time SEC Player of the Year started shooting away. Howard knocked down a trio of 3s.

“She’s pretty tough,” Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy said. “For her at this juncture of her career, she’s going back in the game if she’s capable. But I’m glad. I thought she stepped up in a big way and got us started early, and we needed it.”

Benton capped the spurt with a 3 of her own. Howard capped the 14-2 run with a pullup jumper, and Kentucky led 25-13 after the first quarter. The Wildcats kept shooting and outscored LSU 20-12 in the second quarter, taking a 45-25 lead into halftime.

“They came out and punched us in the mouth really,” Pointer said. “They were pretty much hitting every shot they took.”

LSU outscored Kentucky 21-12 in the third. Pointer scored nine points as the Tigers finished the quarter on a 13-4 run that had former LSU coach Nikki Fargas cheering her niece from behind the bench. Edwards’ layup kept Kentucky up 57-46 at the end of the third.

Kentucky opened the fourth with a 9-2 run capped by Howard’s sixth 3. LSU never got closer than 11 down the stretch.

NO MORRIS

The Tigers played without guard Alexis Morris who averages 15.8 points a game, 10th-best in the SEC. Morris sprained a knee ligament in the first quarter against Florida on Feb. 20, and LSU is hoping to have her available for the NCAA Tournament.

Morris played all 40 minutes and scored 20 points when LSU beat Kentucky 78-69 on Jan. 30 in Baton Rouge.

TREYS AWAY

Kentucky jumped to the early lead thanks to shooting so well from outside the arc. The Wildcats hit 7 of their first 10 3s and wound up 8 of 13 for the first half. Howard led the way, knocking down 5 of 6. They finished 9 of 19 (47.4%) for the game, shooting better than LSU did from the floor (26 of 66 for 40.6%).

UP NEXT

LSU now waits until the NCAA bracket announcement on March 13. Mulkey said hopefully it’ll be a great atmosphere in Baton Rouge with Morris back by then.