Rick Pitino, Wayne Blackshear, Peyton Siva

Louisville defends no. 1 ranking, pushes past UConn

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Early in the first half, Louisville, fresh off their newly-minted no. 1 team status on Monday afternoon, looked shaky. And you could hear the pundits on Twitter, wondering how the Cardinals would respond.

The second half was their response.

The Cardinals(16-1, 4-0 Big East Conference) held the Huskies (12-4, 2-2) without a point for over four minutes in the half, surged ahead, eventually making it a 73-58 final margin in Hartford.

The start for UConn was as good as they could’ve imagined, stretching their lead to 29-19 with 4:11 left in the first half. The half concluded with Omar Calhoun taking advantage of a Louisville mistake when, as the shot clock expired, Chane Behanan gave up on a rebound with two seconds left on the game clock. Calhoun laid the ball in for a 34-28 halftime edge.

However, the defensive pressure, the thing the Cardinals are known for, went up in the second half. The Cardinals got it back to a tie at 36-36 just three-and-a-half minutes into the half and, tied at 41-41 with 15:30 left, went on a 19-3 run over the next 7:36 to pull away.

The Cardinals outscored the Huskies 45-26 in second half, shooting 60.7-percent overall and 42.9-percent from three-point range. UConn shot just 16.7-percent from three in the half.

Russ Smith finished with 23 points and kept Louisville in the game early, scoring 15 of the team’s first 24 points. Calhoun had a career night for UConn with 20 points.

The first defense is the hardest, and Louisville did their job, though I’m not sure a start like they had on Monday night will be able to fly on Saturday night, when they play at home against Syracuse.

Unfortunately for UConn, this is the first time this season that I’ve seen a glimpse of last year’s Huskies. They got down during the offensive slump midway through the second half and allowed the Cardinals to pounce. I’m in no way saying this team will revert back to that form, they wont because Kevin Ollie has this team’s total focus, but they did that tonight. Though it’s easy to see why with Smith and Peyton Siva forming possibly the best backcourt in college basketball.

Gorgui Dieng finished with 16 rebounds to go along with six points.

David Harten is the editor and founder of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

SMU won’t appeal tournament ban, Brown suspension

Associated Press
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Last month the NCAA announced that due to rules violations found in their investigation of the SMU men’s basketball program, the team would be banned from postseason play in 2015-16 and head coach Larry Brown would be suspended for the first nine games of the 2015-16 season. With a team led by seniors Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy and just one player (Keith Frazier) being the subject of the investigation, it was assumed that SMU would at the very least appeal the postseason ban.

Friday, the school announced that while it will appeal some of the penalties handed down by the NCAA to the men’s basketball and men’s golf programs they will not appeal the postseason ban or Brown’s suspension.

“After careful consideration, however, we will not appeal the NCAA post-season ban on men’s basketball or partial season suspension of Head Men’s Basketball Coach Larry Brown,” SMU president R. Gerald Turner stated in the release. “Although we regret the severe impact on our student-athletes, the simple fact is that the NCAA penalty structure mandates at minimum a one-year post-season ban for the level of misconduct that occurred, in our case, when a former staff member completed an online high school course for a prospective student-athlete, committing academic misconduct.

“In addition, should we appeal this matter, the lengthy process and uncertainty during this period could harm many aspects of the program. Coach Brown and his staff also agree that it is in the best interests of the program to accept these sanctions and move forward.”

Among the penalties the school will appeal (with regards to the basketball program) are the “duration of scholarship losses” and how long the recruiting restrictions placed on the program will last, and the vacating of games Frazier played in during the 2013-14 season.

This a tough turn of events for players who had nothing to do with the violations, as they see their opportunity to return to the NCAA tournament taken away. As a result of the school’s decision, SMU’s season will end March 9 following their regular season finale against Cincinnati.

Kevin Marfo commits to George Washington

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Kevin Marfo committed to George Washington on Friday evening, announcing his decision on Twitter.

“I am grateful and appreciative to all the schools that recruited me. But I will be spending the next four years at George Washington University,” he tweeted.

This caps a successful week for Mike Lonergan on the recruiting trail. On Tuesday, GW landed a commitment from Darnell Rogers, a 5-foot-3 point guard. He is the son of former GW guard Shawnta Rogers, the 1999 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. GW ends the week by adding a tenacious rebounder to a front court that graduates top rebounder Kevin Larsen after this season. Rogers and Marfo join power forward Collin Smith in the Class of 2016. Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina will also be eligible in 2016-17.

He cut his list to 10 in August with Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Boston College, UMass, Saint Joseph’s, DePaul, Rhode Island and Providence all making the cut along wit the Colonials. He later trimmed the list to five finalists: BC, Providence, DePaul, GW and Rhode Island.

The Worcester Academy (Mass.) forward played for BABC this summer in the Nike EYBL, averaging 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.  The 6-foot-8 Marfo is listed as the No. 148 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.